Rifles are considerably more leathal than pistols, to
the extent that they are often not included in discussions of firearms
lethality, because their capabilities are almost a given. Rifles have several
advantages over handguns
Rifles are meant to be held rather than carried,
and are shoulder fired weapons rather than being fired using the hand as
a platform. They are thus longer, heavier, and can be more sturdily built.
Cartridges desigend for rifles do not have the same
constraints as those meant for handguns.
The cartridge case: The cartridge case of a rifle is larger than
that of a pistol, but it is larger in a special way. All modern rifle cartridges
are designed around bottlenecked cartridge cases. The bottle necked cartridge
has two significant effects on performace. The first, and most obvious,
is that it allows a larger amount of powder to be loaded. This can be a
significant factor, particularly when mated to heavier bullets, and longer
barrels. The second is that where the cartridge bottlenecks, the path taken
by the gasses which propel the bullet constricts.
A rifle is more leathal than a pistol by a whole magnitude
of order. If leathality were the only factor considered in firearms design,
there would be no pistols, only rifles. A pistol is comprised of a series
of compromises designed to make it concealable, and handy to carry. Most
rifles are not so hampered.
The Bullet: Rifle bullets, as a class, are much heavier than pistol
rounds of the same caliber. This has several implications for bullet leathality.
The first is that the bullet will be heavier. Rifle bullets are roughly
twice as heavy as pistol bullets of the same caliber. This has obvious
implications for energy, and also for the ability of the bullet to hold
it's energy and velociy as it travels through the air. A bullet of a given
caliber will have a different profile as it's weight increases. Heavier
bullets are longer than lighter bullets.