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Difference Between Carbine and Rifle

gun-728958_640Carbine vs Rifle

If you’re new to firearms, you’ll find yourself asking about the differences between various guns, specifically the carbine and rifle. This isn’t really surprising since the two look a bit alike in appearance. However, once you use them, you’ll find that the carbine and rifle operate differently.

First of all, the most obvious difference between the carbine and the rifle is in their length. A carbine comes with a shorter barrel and is therefore lighter. Hence, some officers like to utilize a carbine during a skirmish because it’s easier to handle. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a carbine is more accurate or effective than the rifle. In fact, with proper handling, there’s no reason why a rifle will be less accurate than the carbine.

Physics, however, plays a big part in the amount of power that backs up a bullet when fired from either a carbine or a rifle. Since the rifle is longer, expanding air has more time to produce energy to increase the impact of the projectile. Hence, not only is a rifle heavier, but the handler could actually feel more power coming from the rifle when they shoot.

The term “rifle” also refers to the fact that the barrel of the firearm is “rifled” or grooved. This means that when the projectile leaves the gun, it adapts a particular spin that enhances the power behind the shot. For this reason, the projectile becomes more stable as it whizzes in the air, enhancing accuracy. Of course, the “spin” of the bullet also means that it would travel a predictable route towards the target. More specifically, a bullet shot from a rifle travels 1-2 centimeters for every 100 meters as long as there is no wind that would change the course of the bullet. For this reason, individuals who carry a rifle have much more of a chance of predicting where the bullet would hit.

On the other hand, bullets shot from a carbine travel slower through air and are, therefore, exposed longer to outside factors making their path less accurate. As mentioned above, though, the difference of accuracy between the two is not that big and could be overcome through proper handling of the firearm.

Some examples of a carbine include the American M4, the Israeli Galil SAR, and the Indian MINSAS.

In earlier years, rifles did not really have lines in their barrels which reduced the accuracy of the firearm. For this reason, soldiers were usually told to form a line and simply start shooting. This way, they can be sure to hit enemy soldiers even if they are not sure about the accuracy of their shots. Some examples of rifles include the American .30-06 M1903 rifle and the Mauser M98. Earlier rifle weapons actually came with bayonets at one end allowing the handler to “stab” enemies when they were low on ammunition.

Most people mistake an AK-47 – one of the most popular firearms used in movies today – as a rifle. However, the device is actually an assault rifle which is remarkably different from a regular rifle specifically on the size of the cartridge with the regular rifle having a bigger one.

Essentially, the difference between a carbine and a rifle is the length. Some would even go so far as to say that carbines are shorter versions of a rifle. In fact, some carbines are simply modeled from well-known rifle types.


1.A rifle comes with a longer barrel than a carbine.

2.The barrel of a rifle has grooves in it producing a “spin” on the bullet.

3.Carbines are lighter due to the shorter design.

4.The difference in accuracy between the rifle and the carbine is minimal and would usually depend on the skill of the handler.

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  1. “Most people mistake an AK-47 – one of the most popular firearms used in movies today – as a rifle. However, the device is actually an assault rifle which is remarkably different from a regular rifle specifically on the size of the cartridge with the regular rifle having a bigger one.”

    This is absurdly wrong. The AK47 is a regular rifle and fires a round commonly used for hunting. To go by your definition, the Vepyr and SKS are both ‘assault’ weapons. I’m hoping you didn’t rely on ‘facts’ presented by Wikipedia or another source not entirely factual.

    • No, thats not right . the sks has a longer barrrel then the ak….so,…that would make it a rifle too.
      iI dont know the vepyr.
      But, my mini 14 ranch ~rifle ~has a 16 in. barrel.

      • Wrong. The K in SKS stands for “karabin” or carbine. Samozaryadnyj Karabin sistemy Simonova, Simonov’s system for a Self-loading Carbine.

        • Was in the 3rd Marines, 3rd Recon for 8 years. Been all over. Seen on this post’s that the K, in SKS stands for Carbine. No, does not. It’s the middle of rifle. Difference between Carbine rifle and regular rifle is really just the length or the barrel. Carbine is shorter making it more light. And more easy to conceal in battlefield. Shorter barrel means less accurate. Due to the muzzle energy not able to fully expand fully due to a short barrel. Personally, I would choose a M-4 Carbine, with a M203A1 launcher underneath. I’ve used both M16A4 rifle and my black ops rifle the M-4 Carbine. Rather have the Carbine. Lighter rifle, easier to work with. 5.56mm NATO round is a good accurate round. Of course, this is just my opinion. We all have ours. Also, HK416 is a wonderful kick ass rifle. Check out the new HK rifles online, for all your rifles lovers. H&k M7 is a small version of the M5.

  2. You should not list rifling or “barrel twist” as a distinguishing feature of a rifle when camparing to a carbine.
    This article leaves the reader with a strong impression that a carbine barrel is not rifled. Which, of course, it is on most – if not all – modern platforms.

  3. Just a guess, are you about 15?

  4. Neither of you have a clue. #1- an AK47 as we can legally buy is NOT an assault rifle, it’s just a semi auto rifle. In the real world we cannot, by law, own an assault (full auto) AK47. You both need to go back to school and take Guns 101. I guess by you dimwits definition my semi auto 30.06 deer rifle is an assault rifle if I put a larger capacity mag in it. Where do you people come from?

    • Not sure you were referring to me or not, but I come from Connecticut, where we are amidst the strictest tightening of gun laws in years. CT has recently decided to “Crack Down” on Assault rifle bans, by not only increasing the difficulty in legally obtaining one, but by also requiring mandatory registration of “assault rifles” and high(more than 10 rounds) capacity magazines. If that wasn’t enough, they also went as far as re-defining the “assault rifle” Which in CT was already being defined by cosmetic features more than by function. The features they define as qualifying are: Any fully automatic, burst or select fire rifle or any semi-automatic rifle with more than one of the following features: The ability to accept a detachable magazine that could hold more than ten rounds, collapsible stock, pistol grips below the action of the rifle, threaded barrels and flash suppressors, and an attachment point to which a boyonet may be fixed. (They also do not seem to know the difference between muzzle breaks and flash suppressors incidentally and include anti-recoil breaks as if they are also flash supressors – which they are not).

      They also went as far as to redefine their feature “pistol grips” to also now include thumb-hole stocks. And where the definition according to CT used to allow for two of the above mentioned features, it now only allows one.

      This led to many firearms that did not previously fit the states definition of an assault rifle to now fit that definition and thus be required to be registered. I myself had to register a match target rifle, a Ruger 10-22!! Clearly not an assault rifle, but according to the state law, it has enough of the features (detachable magazines, threaded barrel with compensator, thumb-hole stock, and semi-auto.) that it now qualifies.

      The point I’m making here is you are correct that the AK-47 which is semi-auto is not what a knowledgeable gun owner would call an “assault rifle” but since the government has changed the definition of assault rifle to include cosmetic or comfort features, as well as function, we are now forced to register any gun the uneducated population deems too “scary looking” unfortunately their votes outnumber ours. Also unfortunately, by complying with registration, we are reinforcing and accepting their definition, as if it actually makes sense. Which it clearly does not. next thing you will see is any gun painted black will also be included.

      Unfortunately what they the gov, and uneducated public) don’t seem to realize is that the mentality that allows us to discriminate between “good” or “bad” rifles primarily based on cosmetic features rather than pure function, is the exact same mentality that perpetuated racism for so long. “If it looks scary to me, it must be vanquished.” Problem is – while we can resist, and try to educate the average person that an AR-15 and a Mini 14 are effectively the same rifle, the one that “looks like Grampa’s rifle” will always be accepted by the general public as less harmful than the one that looks like a military or swat team rifle. They will never accept that form does not dictate function, and Ruger 10-22 plinking or target rifles – if they look right- will be called “Assault” rifles.

      Until people realize “assault” is something you do, not a way something looks, we will lose the battle.

    • In the real world you can own a full auto weapon. Please be knowledgeable in what you say lest you look the fool saying it.

      • Yes, you can own a fully automatic weapon, but, in the U.S., you have to obtain a Federal Class III Firearms permit to do so legally.

        A couple of other points:

        Both rifles and carbines, as well as pistols, are “rifled”. Only shotguns have non-rifled barrels.

        “Assault rifles” are military hardware. “Assault weapons” are scary looking civilian firearms that well-intentioned ignoramuses try to ban.

        In choosing between the AK 47 style semi-automatic and the AR 15, you should consider the fact that, for home defense, most firearms exchanges take place within 25 feet of the perpetrator, making long range accuracy a moot point.

        • you, sir, are WAY wrong!!!

          the ignoramuses are NOT well intentioned!!! not well intentioned at all (unless you’re referring to the liberals who blindly follow them in their pursuit of gun bans… theyou may be well intentioned ignoramuses…)

  5. Why you all choose to bicker over what is, or is not considered an assault rifle (Besides, there is no such thing as an assault rifle, it is/was a term made up by the media.) when the real issue concerning this article is the fact it is completely inaccurate and contains only small truths concerning only some carbines. Who ever is moderating these comments should be more concerned about the “facts” presented in the article. You have the emails of everyone who has commented on your lack of facts or a plethora of falsehoods, why don’t you either delete the entire article, as you are only further confusing people looking for information, or contact one of the people who are telling you, you are no where near what makes a carbine different from a rifle!

    • Could not agree more. The article really confuses the issue and those that are not familiar with this type of firearm. I do not call it an “assault weapon” just because that may be the definition in some states (although it is becoming to be the norm unless somehow we put a stop to it).

    • Not quite. Assault WEAPON is the term made up by the media. An assault RIFLE is defined as:
      1. any weapon shooting a cartridge larger and more powerful than a pistol cartridge but less than a full sized rifle cartridge, called: an intermediate round
      2. using a detachable, large capacity magazine
      3. possessing the capacity for fully automatic fire.

      Since what the media refers to as assault WEAPON S, do NOT, in fact, possess criteria number three, they needed to make up a similar term in order to keep the sheep confused and frightened. Thus the similar, misleading, terms.
      OFC, we agree that this article was obviously written by a person who knows near zero about the subject. It is so full of glaring errors that it would take more space to just list them all than this piece is long.

      • Those of you trying to correct the difference between an assault weapon and assault rifle… You seem to have all plucked your information from different erroneous articles.
        Wikipedia defines an assault rifle in one article as a: fully automatic selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. etc. (you can read it for yourself) This definition has mixed errors and is based on the following reference materials:
        “Assault rifle.”
        Encyclopedia Britannica. 2010. .
        Taylor The Fighting Rifle: A Complete Study of the Rifle in Combat
        F.A. Moyer Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook
        R.J. Scroggie, F.A. Moyer Special Forces Combat Firing Techniques
        Musgave, Daniel D., and Thomas B. Nelson, The World’s Assault Rifles, vol. II, The Goetz Company, Washington, D.C. (1967)

        Although I’ve never read the Encyclopedia Britannica, (we had the World Book encyclopedias as a kid.)
        I have read 3 of the other books, and seen many quotes from The World’s Assault Rifles, vol. II. The problem is none of these books sans the Encyclopedia Britannica were making any attempt to define the term Assault Rifle.

        In another Wikipedia the “definition” of an Assault Weapon is: Standard Service Rifles in most modern armies with selective fire and uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.

        If one actually is going to take the rifles listed, or included in the books as an example of a definition, then every semi-auto with a removable clip or magazine on the market, including your grandpa’s wooden stock Marlin .22 is an assault rifle.

        The problem is the “new” term for assault rifle and assault weapon are extremely muddied. So grabbing articles or books from 40 or 50 years ago and stating the definitions or references make your argument factual, no matter what your opinion or definition might be, is erroneous at best and ignorant at worst. Federal and State laws do not even agree on what an Assault Weapon nor Assault Rifle is. So to state unequivocally your definition, or my definition is correct is not helping the situation. The term Assault Weapon has made it’s way from a Media Catch Phrase into law books across the country, and introduced as Bills in nearly 50% of our States. The problem with the term Assault Weapon is it includes other weapons besides rifles, and seems to be why politicians have begun to favor the term.
        Minnesota, has introduced measures to confiscate certain rifles, pistols and shotguns deemed to be “assault” weapons based primarily on their appearance.
        Missouri has introduced several Bills to CONFISCATE rifles, and shotguns deemed to be “assault” weapons based entirely on their appearance.
        Lawmakers in Washington State are pushing a measure that would require annual inspections of those who own “assault” weapons to ensure they are sufficiently secured. Who they will deem owns assault rifles will be interesting to say the least, and frightening when one considers this is clearly a violation of the 4th Amendment.
        Iowa state Rep. Dan Muhlbauer (D-Manilla) recently stated semi-automatic weapons should be banned, and proposed confiscating them from law-abiding citizens. His ignorance on the subject is clear from his description: “We cannot have big guns out here as far as the big guns that are out here, the semi-automatics and all of them,” he told the /newspaper/. “We can’t have those running around out here. Those are not hunting weapons.” “We should ban those in Iowa,” he added. (again, if you want to delve into the plethora of ignorance Mr. Muhlbauer demonstrated you can read it for yourself)
        So in general, according to lawmakers that want to take away Assault Weapons/Assault Rifles, black rifles with a detachable magazine are in their sites along with any definition they deem necessary to ban the guns they want to ban, or worse confiscate.

        While we argue about what is or is not an assault weapon, a politician somewhere is thinking up ways to ban our guns, so if you want to write something, write to your representatives and express your concern about banning weapons from law abiding citizens and to make them understand criminals are not going to give a hoot about any of the proposed bans, confiscations, registration laws etc. Laws already on the books concerning weapon ownership by felons are not being enforced, let’s start there.

        As far as the definition between a rifle and a carbine? In reality a carbine is a type of rifle. Often manufactures differentiate a carbine as a shorter lighter version of their other rifles. In general that definition works but is far from a good definition. And “short”, when compared to other non-carbine rifles often doesn’t add up, and neither does the “light” aspect in similar comparisons. In general it is up to the gun manufacturer to decide if their short light rifle is a Carbine or just a short light rifle… Clear as mud eh?

    • Assault rifle is a real term, and is the definition of a select fire small arm that traditonally fires a rifle cartridge and accepts a detachable box magazine,. It is NOT a semiautomatic weapon of same design or pattern, as our sensationalist media and government control advocates have labled them. An AKM, the M16 series used by our Armed Forces, the SCAR, Galil and many others are assault rifles. The AK’s that are available to the public, AR-15’s and other semiautomatic rifles patterned after assault rifles are just rifles. Cosmetics be damned.

    • The name actually was not made up by the media, but is simply the English translation of the official German designation for the SG (Sturmgewehr) 44, which was the first gun of this type introduced. It was designed to be used during an assault on enemy positions and close combat situations, where the capability to rapidly fire was more important than accuracy. Thus it’s design features.

  6. Excuse me for one moment. Did you even bother to research this? An M1903 IS rifled and IS very accurate, especially when compared to other rifles of the day. It was commonly used as a sniper rifle after it was no longer a main infantry rifle. Similar goes for the 98, and M1891 Mosin Nagant.

    Your description of colonial battle formation dates back to the civil war (1861-1865 since you clearly can’t use google). It was used by almost All major armies of the time and was the preferred method for exactly the reason mentioned, however they used percussion (or earlier flintlock) muzzleloaders, which, until civil war era, were smooth bore. Rifling was introduced around the time of the civil war and revolutionized firearms technology of the time, allowing shorter barrels and infinitely better accuracy.

  7. Ok, both carbines and rifles have groves called rifling, hence where the term rifle comes from.
    In earlier years those firearms were called muskets.

  8. I agree with the folks that point out that this article is terribly inaccurate and misleading, and leaves the reader with the impression that carbines don’t have a rifled barrel.

    It also leaves the impression that soldiers lined up with M1903’s, Mausers due to inaccuracy, which is false. All rifles and carbines have rifled barrels. Those long arms that don’t have rifled barrels are muskets, and _those_ are the ones that soldiers “lined up with” due to inaccuracy.

    Further, the physics and accuracy portion of this article leaves something to be desired. The author should research this topic more and correct the text.

    AK-47’s are not “remarkably different” from other rifles, they just shoot an intermediate power cartridge. There are examples of fully automatic and semi-automatic AK-47’s. The former of which is an assault _rifle_ and the latter is not. Since the term assault _weapon_ is ill-defined, one cannot reliable determine whether an AK-47 falls within that definition or not.

    For the other commenters:

    * Assault _Rifle_ is actually a thing, it is defined as a fully automatic firearm that fires an intermediate cartridge, including (but not limited to) the 5.56×45 (for which the M4/M16 is chambered for) or the 7.62×39 (for which the AK-47 are chambered for).
    * Assault _Weapon_ is the “made-up term by the media, politicians, gun-control advocates” and has no solid definition beyond “firearms that the aforementioned entities don’t like”.
    * It is legal to own a fully automatic firearm _manufactured before 1986_. However, it is quite onerous/expensive to go through the government mandated paperwork and since the supply is small, these firearms command fantastic prices that are typically outside the reach of most people. Thus, most firearms owned by the general public are semi-automatic as opposed to fully-automatic.

    For completeness, a fully-automatic firearm is defined as a firearm that can fire more than one cartridge with a single trigger press, while a semi-automatic firearm is defined as a firearm that is capable of only firing one cartridge per trigger press.

  9. Rule #1 when writing about guns, KNOW ABOUT GUNS!

    This article is just plain sad when viewed by an educated firearms instructor. Just get a real firearms person to write on such subjects in the future, please.

  10. This is one of the most inaccurate “articles” I’ve ever read, just for firearms, but ANY article. It is so full in inaccuracies and outright “wrongness” I won’t even bother to list them. If you want real information, please search elsewhere

  11. All of the subsequent comments are far better and educational than the article itself and if you wish to be positive, means that having the bad article has been “worthwhile” in the end.

    However… What is the difference between a rifle and a carbine?

    • “Carbine” means different things to different people, but at its core:

      A carbine is a smaller version of a rifle, where “smaller” might mean a shorter barrel or shoots a smaller cartridge (most likely pistol-caliber).

  12. U guys are babbling on when the question has been hardly answered ( the differents between carbine and rifles ) u are off the point subject

  13. Who knows what to believe with all this googled BS!? This fella has no business trying to tell anybody anything about a firearm.

  14. I live in California (or Kalifornia, kalbakistan, etc) This state is completely nuts. The politicians and media run around telling everyone that the AR in AR15 stands for Assault Rifle or Automatic Rifle instead of ArmaLite Rifle or just ArmaLite. I’ve written to these people to correct them and to explain the differences between the AR15 and M16. Then my state passed a stupid law that made you have to use a tool to eject the magazine because criminals would surely put this on their weapons and not switch over to a normal button if they buy/steal a weapon that has this button that needs a tool to eject the magazines. This button is usually called a bullet button since you can use the point of a bullet as the tool. Then Senator Feinstein goes on TV because she wants to ban Assault Rifles because they have bullet buttons that select the rate of fire. So the law she passed that required the damn bullet buttons now added fully automatic and burst firing options to my semi automatic carbine? We should send her to prison for converting all of the legal ARs into full autos. Lol. It just really amazes me how stupid people are. Oh and don’t forget we can only have 10 round magazines unless you had regular capacity magazines before the law was passed. State is now trying to outlaw the old ones too. Plus you can’t use lead ammo to hunt with because it might hurt the environment. And they are trying to make you have to have a license to buy ammo with all ammo being tracked. And they want micro serial numbers on the ammo. All guns should also have biometric locks. Guns must be stored in a safe (please Mr criminal, can you hold on a sec while I unlock and load my gun). If you suffer from depression or have in the past, they can take your guns, even if you’ve never showed any signs of wanting to hurt yourself or others. So people like me, who have depression because of chronic pain, will not go get the help they need because they will be treated like a felon and not be permitted to keep their guns. Effectively losing our 2A rights through discrimination. Plus many other really stupid laws and bills up for becoming laws.

  15. I meant model of SKS. Not middle. Gotta love Google’s spell checker. Not!

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