In the last
decade, an increasing number of accessories have been developed for military
rifles and machine-guns, and most of them would not have appeared were it not
for the development of the "Picatinny Rail." This is a standard for a metal
rail, with crosswise grooves, that make mounting accessories (scopes, lights,
and so on) easy to do. Just snap them on, or tighten a few screws. The
Picatinny Rail is a development of the Weaver Rail, which has been around since
the 1930s. Items built to attach to a Weaver Rail can be attached to a
Picatinny Rail, but not vice versa.
The war in Iraq and
Afghanistan has created a demand for weapons accessories, and caused hundreds
of new items to be invented for attachment to weapons via the Picatinny Rail.
Such rails were originally found just on the top of the rifle (forward of the
breach), but are now often found underneath the barrel as well, forward of the
magazine. Here, for example, the Grip Pod device is mounted. This 11 ounce,
$125 device provides a hand grip for better accuracy when firing from the hip.
But the Grip Pod also contains a bi-pod, which is very useful when firing from
the prone position. Several hundred thousand of these Grip Pods have been sold
in the last few years, as have similar numbers of other useful gadgets that
snap on to the rifle via the Picatinny Rail.
Most people have never heard
of the Picatinny Rail, but anyone who handles an assault rifle or light
machine-gun, knows all about them, and can't imagine going into combat using a
rifle without rails.