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Top 10 Battle Rifles

by J. Scott Rupp   |  September 9th, 2011 36
U.S. soldiers on patrol with M4 rifles

U.S. troops carry the M4 rifle, a shortened version of the M16—second on the list of all-time battle rifles. Photo courtesy Department of Defense.

Last night on the Military Channel they showcased their list of Top 10 battle rifles. It was a pretty cool episode. Here’s the channel’s list, with country of origin and chamberings

  1. AK-47, Soviet Union, 7.62×39
  2. M16, U.S., 5.56×45
  3. Lee Enfield SMLE, United Kingdom, 7.7×56
  4. M1 Garand, U.S., .30-06
  5. FN FAL, Belgium, 7.62×51/.308
  6. Mauser K98k, Germany, 7.92×57
  7. Steyr AUG, Austria, 5.56×45
  8. 1903 Springfield, U.S., .30-06
  9. Sturmgewehr 44, Germany, 7.92×33
  10. M14, U.S., 7.62×51/.308

What do you think? Do you agree with Military Channel’s ranking?

  • Armando

    I would personally put M16 on rank #1 and M1 Garand as the 2nd best, AK47 cannot even come close to accuracy of either one of these. sure even a kid can just pick-up and start using an AK47 and that's just what it's meant for. people with brain would rather arm themselves with a highly accurate M16 and plenty of ammo to last longer in a firefight, rather than an inaccurate AK47 with a more powerful but limited/heavier ammo to carry in combat.

    • Don

      I personally wouldn't classify any of the 5.56mm "poodle shooters" as a "battle rifle", especially those Mattel Toy M-16's and variants. I carried one and traded it for a M-60 the first chance I got. Other than that, GOOD LIST!

    • VDV

      Ak-47 started in 1947 and M-16 in 1963. If to compare accuracy of Ak-74 vs M-16, M-16 does not have any chances.

    • Ken

      Armando, if it was accurracy, then the M16 would have been at the top together with the G3 and HK91. Battlefield demands total reliability, in all conditions, worldwide and in that instance the AK47 has no equal. History shows that. Only gun I know that you can pick up out of the mud, rack it and it empties the magazine, without being cleaned every time! Unfortunately, its not a US design, otherwise it would be top of all Americans lists. The US has excellent rifles and battlefield rifles today, no doubting that.

    • Toby

      I don't care about a highly accurate M16 if it can't fire in harsh environment, when it gets dirty. How many US soldiers were killed due to malfunction of their rifle?! Better a working AK-47 than an jamed M16! My personal choices would have been a HK G3A4 and HK417. No compromise! ;-)

      • Ram

        M16 works. Mine fired every time in country.

    • Austin

      I completely agree with you even if the M1 have the ping solders used that to their advantage.

  • Powalgarh

    The Mauser should be #1. It is still in the contest after 113 years. The Springfield was just a copy.

  • Mack Missiletoe

    Can't really put them in any order due to the time period specification in my opinion. Good list.

    My Top 3 Favorite BR/ARs are:

    1) 1903 Springfield

    2) M4

    3) M1Garand

    If I went to war today: M4

    If I needed to protect myself as a civilian: M15

  • dicka

    I personally agree if mauser K98 is placed on top position, because it is master piece and modeled on the basis on weapons at the moment

  • Goatman

    A Battle Rifle, For those lacking skills in selection criteria, these are The Right Arm of the Free World..Fn-Fal, The American M14, The German G-3{HK-91}, Ar-10 Series, Anything from SR25EMC, To LMT MWS, LWRC REPR, to Robinson Arms M..308 Rifles if it ever debuts, ..first 4 battle rifles, M1Garand qualifies as a Battle Rifle, Ak-47, Ar15, Styer AUG, are not but they are assault rifles, if they have a selected fire capability…

    • Nomadman

      You, my good man, are 100% correct. BIG difference in a Battle rifle, and an assault rifle, mainly the size of the round.

  • Keith

    I agree with Armondo 100% but the Sprinfield should have been up there with the best rifles.

    I work in Springfields and make tack drivers,its not a real big investment when you make a Rifle that can shoot as good if not better than the new rifles on the Matket.

  • Cliff Russe

    In all fairness, I would like to know what criteria was used in the Military Channel's selection. Might better explain why they chose what they did, and their rankings.

  • Brian

    I don't think you can argue against the AK47. But I do believe the 1903 Springfield should be in the top 3. As far as I know it was the first realilistic 1000yd rifle.

  • Don

    They forgot the decendants of the Stg 44, the CETME, and the HK G3. But I agree with the Garand, '03 Springfield, FAL, SMLE, M14/M1A1, Mauser and AK47 not 74. And would add the Arisaka 7.7Jap

  • timber

    dependabilty ! I gotta go w/ the AK

  • http://N/A Burt

    Top 5 Battle Rifles,



    Mauser 98

    Enfield 303

    Springfield 03

    • Sal

      Yea, that's more like it, how they could put the M1A1 or the M-14 on the bottom of the
      list is way beyond me, a fine rifle………yes it's a bit heavy, but a great rifle and an even
      greater caliber

  • Bill Smith

    Battle rifle must be robust (able to hit people with it in a desperate moment), reliable (NATO mud and sand test pass), easy and convenient to operate and clean, how does the M16 appear on the list at all? Add in fire power (semi auto minimum) and ammunition capacity (30 rds)/capability (must incapacitate up to 500 yds), moderate accuracy (optics if pos) so first rank, G3, BM 59, M14, FAL, AK just but a little more oomph wouldnt go amiss) etc, second rank SMLE then any well made military bolt action magazine rifle.

  • soldier

    THE M-16 has never work well in vietnam, Many died because of this weapon. and now many complants are coming out of the middle east about the weapon jaming too much..

  • Shadow Warrior

    M16/M4/AR variants are OK for urban tactical LE work, but not a robust BR. Unless the AR is in the 6mm/.308 platform with piston system, I'd stick with the AR for varmit shooting.
    AR variants with long barrels in 8mm scoped packages would be great LD shooter and stand up to most harsh conditions with proper maintenance.
    The M14/M1A would come behind that in an all weather finish and furniture. The M24 would be my choice. Finnish M39 or upgraded Mosin Nagant with good furniture and barrel are also excellent LD shooters beside a tight K98.
    Bullpups aren't quick reloaders when the rotating occilator is distributing bovine scatology in your direction. They do have a place on the Personal Protection Details if you need that kind of firepower, since shooting from confined spaces is their forte.
    I would think reliability, stopping power, ease of operating and accuracy would be at the top of any BR list.

  • Kase

    Give me an, M40A1 OR A M14 any day. the AK is a turd for a rifle.

  • JackD

    M14, FN FAL, G3, SMLE, Mauser, AK, Springfield.

    M16/AR15 should not even be considered a MBR.

  • ccmm

    Har har. Funny seeing so many people voting with their flag rather than any experience.

    I don't claim much experience as I was only a clerk in the South African Army (1980s). At the time the army had just transitioned from R1 (SA version of FAL 7.62 NATO) to R4 (SA version of Galiel 5.56) as an assault rifle, Many of the special forces guys – who had a choice – used neither of these and rather used captured AK47s as assault rifles and FAL for longer distance "grunt".

    I only had one incident when I used, but did not have to fire. I was on guard duty in a city when someone came by shooting. I had a choice between grabbing the 5.56 or the 7.62. No question: I grabbed the 7.62 because it can stop a car with a single shot in the engine. It has enough grunt to penetrate a vehicle. 5.56 won't get though reliably.

    FAL is fine in clean environments but is fussy as hell if you get any dust on it.

  • Sam

    Ask a Russian – you'll get Russian rifle/s
    Ask an American – you'll get American choices
    Ask a Brit – British picks.
    One is always biased by ones frame of reference (culture).
    Define "best". Each one of the guns listed could be the top dog if you changed the "best" criteria. It's all relative…..but it's still fun. Bottom line – we have some really cool guns to enjoy!!

  • D.P.H

    Well thought out list. I personally do not care for the AK-47 but it is a tough battle rifle. I am really getting tired of people badmouthing the AR-15/M-16/M4 platform. I have shot close to 500 different variation over the years & have only had 1 that was not accurate. It was an early version that did not have a forward assist handle &when I broke it down it had very little rifling left in it. I prefer to carry a M-14 but it is too heavy for most to carry in combat with even a basic load. Every one has their own opinion.That is what we as servicemen have fought for. GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bob johnson

    the ak-47 got its rightful place on this list. it is so much better then the m-16, the m16 is unreliable, flimsy, and a overall poor weapon, i dont understand why the best country in the world uses the worst rifle it could, bring the garand up to #2 at least it"s reliable. as for accuracy the ak is not as accurate but these are combat rifles not sniper rifles. if your shooting at 500 yards get a sniper rifle!

  • NVY S3AL

    All I have to say is: SOCOM doesn't like the M4 as it is right now… Its reliability can be improved ( as many people know) and after that action is taken by the United States DoD the M4/M16 only needs a slightly more powerful cartridge… Not like a 7.62×51 or anything but maybe something similar to the 6.8 SPC or 6.5 Grendel
    Just my "knowledgeable" opinion.

  • bob johnson

    i dont understand why sooooooo many people love the m16/ar-15. it has so many flaws such as blowing carbon filled gas back into the bolt and causing jam ups. who cares if it gets 1 inch groups. a 2 moa ak is al that is needed. ak-47 got its rightful place on this list, m1 garand should be 2nd.

  • Matt

    I'm shocked that the G36 wasn't mentioned, just as accurate as the m4/m16 with the high carrying capacity of the 5.56, and the reliability of the AK47…. HK hit a home run

  • Neto

    In my humble opinion:
    Best semi automatic & full auto battle rifle – FAL
    Best bolt action battle rifle – Mauser 98k

  • whit

    AK-47/AKM should be number 1.

    M16 at 2 makes sense.

    I would put the Mauser over the Lee-Enfield. But, both are excellent.

    The Garand and FAL are legit.

    The AUG doesn't have much of a battlefield history, I would not include it.

    The M1903 is essentially a Mauser, it should not have made it.

    The Sturmgewehr should be higher.

    The M-14 is an awesome weapon but is still essentially a Garand.

    I would have put the Mosin-Nagant, the H&K G3, and the Simonov SKS on the list rather than the 03', AUG, and M14. The former three guns are more used and more historically signifigant than the latter 3.

  • Jeff N

    Don’t care too much for semi-autos myself. I like bolt action rifles, and I’m a big fan of the Mauser 98. This was the rifle that produced the blue prints for all the modern bolt actions. Mauser rifle cartridges were and are still some of the best in the world and they’ve been used in warfare and as hunting cartridges all over the world. The 6.5×55 Swedish mauser first appeared in the Swedish M96 rifle and was carried by the Swedish military for many years and has been used worldwide to take almost every type of game on the planet much like the .30-06 or the .303. The 7×57 Mauser cartridge was the first Mauser cartridge to take advantage of the spitzer bullets and smokeless gunpowder and was used for many years by armies all over the world from the 1890’s to the first world war as well as a reputable big game hunting cartridge the world over used by people like Jack O’Connor. The 8×57 Mauser was used by the german military in both world wars and was a formidable cartridge in combat much like it’s predecessors and is still capable of taking big game the world over much like a .30-06, .303, .308, etc.

  • Delf

    A true battle rifle is an ar-10 scar-17 xcr-m fn fal m14 etc. it’s just like an assault rifle but with a bigger round most are chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO rounds(not to be confused with the ak47 7.62x39mm round) most of these are assault rifles used in battle a better title would be to swap battle rifles to combat rifles… Sorry to be a grouch I just saw that lil mistake and couldn’t let everyone not realize that this was worded wrong

  • Joe

    Guys…none mentioned the K31 (karabiner 31) Schmidt-Rubin Swiss Military rifle.
    Do a bit of research on this magnificient weapon & should conclude that it should be in the top ten. Ammunition is 7.5mm (can use standard .308) non-corrosive…barrels in much better shape than the norm. Accurate up to 1500 meters…that’s damn fine quality shooting. This particular model came out in 1935 & were standard issue well into the 1950’s for the Swiss, a nation of citizen soldiers. I could go on and on but do the research. Other than that, the aforementioned list is pretty sound.

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