Repeating arms is a term that describes what are most commonly known as repeating rifles. Repeating rifles represent a fascinating history in firearms all on their own, contributing significantly to the innovation of many of the weapons that would follow. Repeating rifles feature a single-barrel that is capable of continuous discharges with a single ammunition reload. This is facilitated by the inclusion of multiple cartridges stored in a single magazine, either attached or within the firearm, which is then directed into the chamber by the bolt mechanism, whether manual or automatic. The chambering action of the repeating rifle typically readies the firearm for the next discharge.

When you hear someone referring to a "repeating rifle," they are likely referring to a manual, as compared to a self-loading rifle. Self-loaders utilize the blowback and recoil from the prior discharge to load for the next round. It is the ability to fire continuously that made the repeating rifle the new standard bearer for proficiency and speed in firing for subsequent firearms of a similar utility.


The concept of repeating arms is prevalent in many of the most important and innovative firearms in history. For repeating arms with a manual mechanism, there are a variety of types of action: revolver action, lever action, bolt action, pump action and falling block action. Autoloading mechanisms for repeating rifles can be categorized into the following: blowback, gas operated or recoil operated. Here’s a list of some of the most historic and important repeaters:

  • - The Henry Rifle – The original 1860 model
  • - Marlin Model 1894C lever-action
  • - Winchester Model 1894
  • - The Jennings Magazine Rifle
  • - M1941 Johnson Rifle
  • - Spencer Repeating Rifle
  • - Colt Lightning pump action
  • - Thomson Rifle
  • - Savage 99
  • - Winchester Model 1895
  • - Cookson Repeater
  • - Colt Revolving Rifle
  • - Krag-Petersson
  • - Spencer Rifle


Before the advent of repeating rifles, you might say that things were a lot different in terms of what firearms were capable of accomplishing. Repeating rifles, in many ways, changed the entire game when it came to what would be expected of “modern” firearms. Repeaters represented a critical advance over the preceding, single-shot breechloaders, which were utilized for military combat at the time. Repeating arms made possible a far greater rate of discharge, lending to more efficiency in the arena of battle.

Early repeating rifles were used during the American Civil War, with the Windbuchse Rifle having the distinction of the first repeater to see official duty. The early and historically significant Henry rifle was initially manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company and served as the basis for the Winchester Model 1866 lever-action. It was the introduction of the Winchester Model 1866 that saw the New Haven Arms Company become the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The invention of the repeating rifle is arguably one of the most critical in the history of firearms design. It is one of those landmark innovations that gave birth to countless innovations as a result. The history of firearms design and manufacture would never be the same.

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