recoilless rifle, light artillery piece, without recoil, usually operated by two men. An American invention, it was used as an infantry weapon for attacking fortifications such as pillboxes and bunkers during the last months of World War II and later in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Unlike standard artillery pieces it does not need a recoil mechanism and thus is light enough to be carried by one man. Recoilless rifles use a perforated artillery cartridge case that allows a portion of the propellent gases to escape through vents in the breech of the gun, thereby greatly reducing the recoil.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.