A general purpose rifle is a rifle that does a great many things equally well, but is not particularly suited to any one task. You have 3 gun rifles, fighting/duty/patrol rifles, NRA high power/CMP rifles, hunting rifles, precision rifles, the list goes on. These rifles are all built in such a way to be well suited to that task. 3 gun rifles are fast, fine-tuned, accurate rifles that handle a lot of things but don’t handle practical field use too well. Duty rifles tend to be short rifles only realistically useful to a few hundred yards, but are great for urban combat.
A general purpose rifle can be used to meet all of these jobs. It may not be a race gun, but you can compete in 3 gun with it. It may not be a match service rifle, but you could shoot high power with it. It may not be a 2,000 yard precision rifle capable of hitting a gnat on a fence post at that distance, but it could absolutely hit a man size target at, say, 600 yards.
A rifle that meets this definition is not the same for everyone. To Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, the father of the modern handgun technique, this rifle took the form of the Scout Rifle, intended primarily for hunting and defensive use. Randy Cain, a Gunsite instructor, is associated with the term “practical rifle”, which he defines as a lightweight, handy rifle capable at ranges from 0-400 yards. These usually take the form of bolt action or lever action rifles equipped with low powered optical sights in the 1-4 or 1-6x range.
So that still leaves us with a pretty undefined answer for our question:
What *is* a general purpose rifle?
Ultimately, I think the answer falls to the individual shooter. What do you need your rifle to do for you? Your general purpose rifle’s form will follow its function.
If you’d like to know what that form took for me, please feel free to read my overview of my personal AR-15 which was built to be a general purpose rifle for me.
For some other great examples, check out these couple of links to some fantastic rifles.
For a great General Purpose AR15 in a few different configurations, check out this thread on Arfcom – New Build, AR15GP (General Purpose)
For some carbines well suited to general purpose usage, check out this here.
~ The Pennsylvania Rifleman
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