Firearms have been around as early as 1250, which is when black powder was invented. From the early advent of hand cannons to the variety of modern guns that are available, guns have certainly come a long way in their evolution.

When were guns first introduced? What were the earliest types of firearms available? How have they changed and evolved over the years to become the modern weapons of today? Read on to learn about the history of firearms!


The Earliest Models of Firearms

Hand Cannons: The hand cannon originated as far back as 1364. These devices were handheld and had a burning wick that was connected to a touch hole. Gun powder and a projective[CC1]  would be loaded in through the muzzle. The shooter would use one arm to fire and the other to keep the hand cannon steady. By 1380, hand guns had become well known in Europe.

Firelock or Matchlock Gun: In the 1400s, another weapon appeared on the scene: the matchlock gun or firelock gun. This was ignited by a piece of burning rope that was touched to the gunpowder using a special mechanism. The shooter would activate this by pulling the trigger with his finger. Prior to the matchlock, the shooter had to touch the match directly to the gunpowder by hand, similar to a cannon. Early matchlock guns are quite rare.

Wheel Lock Gun: In 1509, the wheel lock came into existence. The wheel lock generated a spark mechanically. Since there was no wick that needed to remain lit, it was more reliable and easier to use than the matchlock was.

Flintlock Gun: In 1630, the flintlock was introduced. In the late 1500s, the flash pan design had a lid, which had to be manually moved in order to expose or protect the powder. The flintlock mechanism could push back this lid and spark a flint at the same time. This flintlock ignition system remained popular for two centuries, with almost no changes being made to it.

Dueling Pistols: In about 1750, guns became a popular weapon to use in a duel. In 1777, a dueling pistol became the standard. This was a 9- or 10-inch, barreled, smooth bore flintlock with a 1-inch bore. These pistols were often decked out with lavish decoration.

Percussion Cap Guns: The percussion cap system was introduced by Reverend Alexander John Forsyth in the early 1800s. Rather than use a flash pan, these firearms used percussion caps that were placed over cones. As the trigger was pulled, the hammer ignited the primer in the percussion cap. This was more reliable than a flintlock mechanism, and eventually became more popular.

Colt Revolver: Developed by Samuel Colt, the colt revolver was the first of the mass-produced, multi-shot revolving firearms. They were the first to use Industrial Age machining tools in their development.

Shotguns: In 1850, shotguns were a commonly used firearm. The fowling piece, which is considered the forerunner of modern shotguns, was developed to hunt birds.

Gatling Gun: Invented by Richard Jordan Gatling in 1861, the Gatling gun was rapid-firing and had more than one barrel. It is considered an early machine gun, and its invention led to the modern electric motor-driven rotary cannon.

Winchester Rifle: Introduced in 1873, Winchester rifles were inexpensive and manufactured in high numbers, so that they became the generic rifle. In 1887, Winchester introduced its first repeating shotgun. In 1903, it introduced the first automatic rifle.

Handguns: In 1892, Joseph Laumann created the first automatic pistol. This was followed by more automatics, which were established firmly by the turn of the century.


Belt-fed Weapons and Their Uses

Belt-fed weapons use an ammunition belt to package and feed cartridge to the weapon. This is commonly used for rapid-fire automatic weapons, such as machine guns. This type of system allows for higher rates of continuous fire without having too many magazine changes.



Did guns exist in the 1500s?

The early guns were introduced in China as early as 1250, which is when the Chinese invented black powder. One of the earliest guns was introduced in 1364 and was known as a hand cannon. Throughout the following centuries, more models and types of firearms were introduced. By the 1500s, the wheel lock firearm had come into existence.

What was the first rifle made?

The first rifle ever made was the Whitworth rifle, which was introduced in the late 1800s. This was considered by many to be the world’s first sniper rifle.

What are magazines?

A magazine is a device the stores and feeds ammunition for repeating firearms. An internal magazine is integral within the gun, while a detachable magazine is externally attached and can be removed.

What are cartridges?

A cartridge, also known as a round, is a pre-assembled type of firearm ammunition that packages a projectile (such as a bullet), a propellant substance, and an ignition device within a case that is precisely created to fit inside the barrel chamber of a weapon for the purpose of transportation and handling while shooting.