Rifleman is a private soldier in a rifle unit of infantry.
Originating with the 16th century handgunners and the 17th century musketeers and streltsy, special units equipped more modernly than the bulk of the pikemen, the rifleman from the 18th century has become the archetypical common soldier. The last pike regiments were dissolved by the 1720s, and the bayonet in some ways replaced the pike, some commanders ordering concentrated close-range bayonet attacks until the early 20th century, often with devastating effects for their own troops.
Romanticized as the underdog, the cannon-fodder, the nameless grunt whose war-time heroics and peace-time antics are celebrated in military ceremony, literature, film and television, riflemen came to symbolize the bulk of a nation's armed forces.
As a general rule, riflemen are armed with long rifles meant to cover a good medium range, unlike the "gunman" (or Sub-machinegunner), who are armed with shorter-range weapons for close combat. Riflemen are the basic modern soldiers from which all other soldierly functions stem. Though by tradition certain infantry units are based on the rifleman, they employ a variety of other specialized soldiers in conjunction with the rifleman.