Personal weapon

From Academic Kids

A personal weapon is a weapon that can be carried and employed by a single person, although their use may be restricted to specialist members of attack or defense teams. Some weapons are usually operated by two man teams, an aimer and a loader.

Personal weapons are employed by:

  • Infantry in pursuit of objectives of war, both defensive and offensive.
  • Military officers and aviators for self defense.
  • Police forces on patrol.
  • Hunters.
  • Private guards.
  • Bodyguards.
  • Individuals for home defense.
  • Participants in various martial arts.
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Reproduction Personal Weapons at the Great Wall of China

Some examples and applications of personal weapons:


Antipersonnel weapons

These are intended to be used against other combatants.

Limited lethality weapons

These may be used to subdue an opponent with a lower risk of death when properly used.

Edged Weapons


Used where stealth is required or as a last resort.

The knife is used to inflict damage on an opponent by penetrating the body and destroying or damaging function. Vital organs may be destroyed or blood vessels may be severed causing degradation of function due to loss of blood and possibly death from the same.


Obsolete, these are now used for ceremonial and martial arts purposes.

Batting Weapons

War Hammer

See war hammer.


A club is an asymmetrical stick of moderate length, swung from the light end, similar to a bat used in games. Easily formed from a tree branch this was probably one of the first weapons. May be relatively light for primary use as a walking stick. Also known by various ethnic names such as knobkerry or shillelagh.


A Mace is a club with spiked enancements.

Chopping Weapons


May be thrown or used offensively or defensively at close quarters (obsolete in modern warfare)


Now used mainly as a tool for constructing defenses (obsolete in modern warfare).


The halberd combines features of a spear and an axe (obsolete in modern warfare).

Penetrating Weapons


This may be thrown or thrust (obsolete)


Used for shanking (stabbing with something not intended for stabbing).


The pike is essentially a very long spear not intended to be thrown, this was used by pikemen to defend archers, infantry, musketeers etc. against horse cavalry (obsolete)


Attached to a rifle, this allows the rifle to be used as a short spear for thrusting.

Bow and Arrow

This has the advantage of relatively long range and quiet (stealthy) operation. Obsolete as a mass use weapon but still useful in stealthy covert operations. For such operations a complex compound bow may be used that includes special sighting devices. A modern crossbow may be used for the same tasks.


The crossbow may be used where Bow and Arrow are appropriate. It is especially suitable for use by less skilled or weaker weaponers and in confined spaces. This became an effective medium range weapon for use against metal plate personal armour. Also used in massive numbers as an area defense weapon in the protection of fortifications, propelling short arrows called bolts or fletchettes (fr. "little arrows"). In this use it was not aimed at a specific target but sent on a high, arcing path into masses of opponents. The crossbow is obsolete as a mass use weapon but is still used by some hunters, usually during special seasons that prohibit firearms. It is also an effective stealth weapon for special operations, though of limited range.


Generally used by officers and guard captains for short range self defense in combat, rather than as an attack weapon. Historically a revolver this is now generally an automatic pistol. The seven shot Colt 45 Automatic (model 1911, 11.43mm) is exempliary of this type, although modern types tend to carry a greater quantity (more than a dozen) of the lighter 9mm rounds. Even when automatics were preferred for general military use during the 1960's U.S. Navy pilots were equipped with more reliable 38 cal. revolvers for self defense, loaded with tracer rounds for distress signaling.

Long Guns


The musket fires a round lead ball from a smooth bore and is loaded from the discharge end (and is so called a muzzle loader).

Early Long Rifle

Similar to the musket this fires a spherical or cylindrical bullet, but has a spirally groved barrel to spin the bullet to maintain its orientation through gyroscopic forces. With a cylindrical bullet there is less air resistance and so greater range. Muskets, smooth bore pistols and early rifles are classified by the ignition mechanisim (called the lock) used to fire the weapon. These include matchlock, flintlock and wheellock types.

Breech Loader

The successor to the muzzle loader was the breech loading rifle. This has a much higher rate of fire.


A lightweight repeating rifle typically used in guard duty.

Long Rifle

The Garand .30 caliber (7.65mm) of World War II is typical of this type. This has automatic loading from clips with automatic clip ejection. The German Mauser and U.S. Springfield were typical of earlier multi-shot clip loaded bolt action rifles.

Assault Rifle

The assault rifle was born in WW2 when the Germans developed the STG44, thus revolutionizing the battlefield. The main characteristic of the assault rifle is the usage of an intermediate cartridge, smaller and less powerful than those used in the Battle Rifle but with greater speed and power than those used in pistols and submachine guns. Depending on the model, an assault rifle's effective range can go from 300m to 800m. The assault rifle is now the standard weapon used by infantry in the greatest part of the planet.

The main characteristics of Assault Rifles compared to Battle Rifles are : Less Recoil, Less Weight, Less Penetration, Less Range, Bigger magazine capacity, Faster Rate of Fire

Compared to Submachine Guns : More Recoil, Heavier, More Penetration, More Range

The two most well known Assault Rifle in history are probably the Russian AK-47 designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov and the American Colt M16, originally designed by Eugene Stoner.

Submachine Gun

A submachine gun is a weapon designed to fire a pistol cartridge in automatic mode and is employed in close quarters battle, where an assault rifle would be too bulky or may have too much penetration. The best examples of submachine guns are the WW2 Thompson_submachine_gun (firing the same .45 inch round used in the model 1911 automatic pistol), the HK MP5 and the FN P90.

Light Machine Gun

An example of the light machine gun would be the M249 Minimi used in Iraq by the U.S. army. Light machine guns will usually use a long rifle round, rather than a pistol round and while easily carried are operated using a bipod steady rest or a light tripod swivel mount A light machine gun (LMG) is used to fire rapid bursts at the enemy to provide covering fire to manuvering friendly troops.

Sniper Rifle

Sniper Rifles are weapons designed to fire at an enemy with extreme precision. Sniper rifles usually fire a more powerful cartridge than the assault rifle to gain more range and penetration. Examples of those sniper rifle would be the M24, M40, Barrett M82 and the Dragunov SVD. Sniper rifles are employed by specialist operators selected for their competency. They are often also trained in covert and stealthy operations and frequently are employed as a one-person unit.


Useful only at short range this is used in close quarter assaults such as employed in trench warfare or in urban assault situations. The principle advantange is that due to the short range and the conical scatter of shot, precise aiming is not required, while shot is less likely than bullets to penetrate lightweight plaster walls, limiting unintended casualties (collateral damage).

Grenade Launcher

This may be an auxiliary barrel on an assault rifle or may be an accessory for use with a rifle. In the latter case, a blank round (a cartridge without a bullet) is used to generate the propelling gas to launch a grenade.

Hand Grenade

Hand grenades are thrown. A soldier will typically carry two or more of these. A fuse with several second's delay is activated when the weapon is released.

Fragmentation Type

An explosive charge is contained within a rigid shell scored so that it breaks into small fragments propelled at high speed. This increases the effective radius of the weapon. The standard U.S. military M67 fragmentation grenade kill radius is 5 meters, wounding radius 15 meters and danger radius up to 150 meters.

Concussion Type

An explosive charge is intended to shock with a concussive pressure wave. This may be combined with high intensity flash powders with the intent of disorienting the opponent. The limited effective range offers greater safety to the person employing this weapon.

Antimateriel weapons

Anti-materiel rifle

An anti-materiel rifle is a very large caliber weapons used primarily to destroy lightly armored or unarmored targets, or unexploded ordnance. It is similar to sniper rifles.

Flame thrower

The flamethrower propels a burning stream of flammable fluid. Primarily used against occupied fortifications.

Improvised weapons

  • Booby trap. This is typically left by retreating forces to cause death or injury to advancing forces or to re-occupying civilians. A typical employment would be to place a grenade, with the pin removed, under an object expected to be displaced by the new occupier, such as in a desk drawer or a can to be pulled free with a trip wire. Movement of the object or pulling on the wire frees the fuse mechanism on the grenade. The U. S. Army employs specialized equipment and provides training in the use of such devices against civilians (in contravention to international treaties), although the use of such methods by any opposing party is usually criticized as inhumane or uncivilized.
  • Improvised explosive device. A modern term describing bombs employed by terrorist forces in Iraq against liberating forces. A typical device may be constructed using an artillery round, some type of detonating mechanism, and a wired or radio operated triggering device such as a cellphone or garage door control. These are employed against road traffic and triggered by a nearby observer. During the Viet Nam War anti-tank mines would be constructed by villagers supporting the the Viet Cong using explosive compounds removed from unexploded aerial bombs.
  • Molotov cocktail. A thrown device, this uses flammable fluid in a breakable container and an ignition source which may be contact operated or ignited before throwing.

Anti-aircraft weapons

The sophistication of an infra-red tracking missile has been miniaturized to produce the FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missile and others of similar light weight and short range. Other types include the Soviet SA-7 and the British Javelin.

Anti-structure weapons

Satchel charges

Explosives intended to be placed or thrown at short range against defensive structures or to destroy materiel useful to the enemy.

Antitank weapons

Present Day

Rocket propelled grenade

The rocket propelled grenade was designed as an anti-tank weapon, but nowadays it is often used as a general purpose weapon. In addition to ground vehicles, it has been effectively used against infantry and even helicopters.

Recoilless rifle

A recoilless rifle fires a large shell that resembles an artillery shell, propelled a by a rocket. The rocket stops burning when it leaves the tube, so the operator isn't injured. It vents out the back of the weapon, eliminating recoil. While recoilless rifles were invented in World War 2, one variant, the Carl Gustav rifle, is still in use today.

Anti-tank weapons no longer in use


A bazooka is an unguided rocket, launched from a long shoulder carried tube, carries a shaped charged to the target. This is not strictly a personal weapon as it is operated by a team of two — a loader and a sighter-operator. It was used by United States forces in World War II and the Korean War.


A Panzerfaust is similar to a rocket propelled grenade but carries a shaped charge, intended to penetrate substantial armour. It was first used in 1943 by Germany.


Developed by Germany, by copying the bazooka, the panzerschreck had much greater armor piercing capability.


The "Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank" was used by the United Kingdom from 1943 to 1950. It was notable in that it propelled its charge with a spring instead of a rocket.

Anti-tank rifle

An anti-tank rifle is a large rifle designed to penetrate tanks, used in World War I and World War II. In World War II, they were only useful against lightly armored vehicles.

See also



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