Understanding The History of Firearms
Guns were first introduced in the early ninth and tenth centuries. They began with such primitive instruments as the fire lance and hand cannon and have evolved over the years into the sophisticated modern weapons that we know today.
Guns have a long, rich history, with a wide variety of different guns being introduced throughout their evolution. What began in China has now spread throughout the world and become a very popular form of weaponry.
Read on to discover the complex history of firearms and learn how they got started and what they look like in more recent times. You’ll also learn about some of the rarest historical guns that are considered collectibles today.
The First Primitive Firearms
The very first primitive firearms are widely believed to have come from China in the ninth and tenth centuries. They invented something called “fire-spurting lances” in the tenth centuries. These were composed of a bamboo or metal rod to hold the gunpowder, also known as “huo yao” or “fire-chemical.” Huo Yao was originally used by the Chinese for indigestion, but they accidentally stumbled upon this black powder’s explosive properties.
These fire lances were put to use during the Jin-Song wars that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. These lances were typically operated by one person to hurl fire or lead balls at their enemy.
The Hand Cannon
The hand cannon was the next primitive weapon to increase in popularity. It wasn’t long before Europeans began receiving gun powder from the Chinese through the Silk Road trade route. They began to use gunpowder in their cannons. Cannons grew in popularity as they could easily annihilate the enemy soldiers. Pretty soon, the concept of hurling a ball of fire at the enemy began to take shape. This resulted in the invention of hand cannons.
Hand cannons were comprised of a long barrel, which held the projectile, and a handle that could be held on to by whomever wielded the weapon. To fire a hand cannon, the wielder would hold a flame to the end of the barrel to set the gunpowder ablaze and fling the projectile into the air. Because ammunition was hard to come by, sometimes other projectiles would be used in place of an iron ball. This could include stones or nails.
Hand cannons became very popular in the 13th century. This weapon was able to be used with less training than other weapons, and it could pierce through the armor of the day, making it useful for destroying the enemy’s morale. Hand cannons were also inexpensive to produce.
The Invention of Gunpowder and Firearms Around The Globe
Gunpowder and firearms originated in China and spread rapidly across the globe. Read on for a brief history of gunpowder, as well as the spread of guns throughout other parts of the world.
History of Gunpowder
Early gunpowder originated with the Chinese invention called Huo Yao, and it soon spread throughout Europe. Before guns appeared on the scene, it was put to use in gunpowder-based weapons such as fire arrows, bombs, and the fire lance. The fire lance was eventually replaced by the gun, but bombs and other explosive weapons that made use of gunpowder continued to be utilized.
Eventually, the use of gunpowder spread throughout the Islamic world, India, Korea, and Japan. The use of gunpowder during the 19th century decreased due to the invention of smokeless powder. Today, gunpowder is often known as “black powder” to separate it from what is used in today’s firearms.
History of Guns for the Middle East
Firearms appeared in the middle east in the late 13th and early 14th century. It is believed that invading Mongols first introduced gunpowder to the Islamic World. Early gunpowder weapons were not always accepted as military weapons in the Middle East.
By 1465, the first muskets were introduced in the Ottoman Empire. The Turks also developed an early pivoting matchlock mechanism. This was later modified and became the first mechanism that used a rack-and-pinion.
History of Guns In South Asia
Guns and gunpowder originated in China and spread throughout Asia shortly thereafter. The first recorded use in battle for South Asia was at the Battle of Adoni in 1368.
When Portuguese travelers visited India in 1498, they brought with them firearms, including the matchlock musket and cannons. But these travelers observed that early firearms were already in use in the country. Some peasants were using inexpensive handguns made by local blacksmiths.
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, firearms continued to increase in usage and they had a crucial part in the Mughal military. The Mughal emperor Akbar brought many improvements to the matchlock gun.
It was in the 18th century that significant improvements to firearms were made. Previously, they were considered inferior to longbows, but this was no longer the case.
The First Guns in the West
The first guns appeared in the west in the late 14th century, or around 1330. Gunpowder was introduced by the Chinese through the trade route known as Silk Road, and cannons were well-established. Most evidence suggests that gunpowder was introduced by the Chinese, rather than independently invented. Development of guns began shortly after the introduction of the hand cannon.
The Invention of the Modern Handgun
The modern handgun was brought into the picture with the invention of the lock. The lock was an internal firing mechanism that made using the weapon much safer, easier, and efficient. The first was known as the matchlock.
The first gun to use a matchlock was the French arquebus. This was a rifle that was held at the shoulder and small enough to be operated by one person. They worked by means of a gunpowder-soaked corn, which burned at both ends until it touched a pan of flash powder. This sent a small ball flying toward the opponent. These could only be fired once every two minutes.
Guns slowly began to replace older weapons, due to the fact that less training was required in order to operate them efficiently.
The Invention of Machine Guns
The modern machine gun was first introduced in 1884 by Hiram Maxim. A machine gun is a gun that can produce rapid, repeating fire to repel an enemy. The maxim machine gun was first used in combat on October 25, 1893. This took place in Zimbabwe, and five Maxim guns were used to kill approximately 1,500 warriors.
While other similar guns were produced, including the Colt M1895 “Potato Digger” in 1889, the Hotchkiss 1897, and the Skoda M1893, none were as powerful or reliable as the Maxim machine gun, which became the standard for machine guns. The Maxim enjoyed almost universal use in the early 20th century.
The Invention of the Assault Rifle
The assault rifle appeared on the scene during World War II, and the term “assault rifle” is believed to have come from Adolf Hitler. This type of gun arose from the need to produce weapons with better accuracy at greater distances. The resulting German-invented weapon was one that could fire 600 bullets per minute. It had less kick and was easier to control than its predecessors. It also had a much shorter barrel. The Soviets, the British, and the U.S. soon followed suit by developing their own similar weapons.
Looking Back: The Rarest & Most Valuable Guns to Collect
Historical guns are a popular collectible item, and there are certain rare finds that are considered especially collectible. Here are eight rare historical guns that you should know about.
The Infernal Machine: This is a homemade 25-barrel gun that was used in an attempt to assassinate King Louis Phillip I. The gun’s designer and builder was Guiseppe March Fieschi. He built the weapon to fire multiple barrels at the same time. When the gun was fired at the king’s convoy, four barrels misfired, four ruptured, and one was not loaded. 18 people were killed, but the king survived with only a minor injury. This gun is stored at the state museum of French history in Paris.
30-Shot Revolver: This revolver has over and under barrels, as well as a double layer cylinder with 30 chambers. Each chamber must be loaded individually, and the weapon is very heavy, making it impractical. Only one of these guns is known to exist, and it was auctioned off for $11,500 in 2014.
Magpul FMG-9: This gun never actually went into production, and is actually just a prototype. It was originally designed as a folding submachine gun and was made with polymer rather than metal to make it lighter to carry. It was made for the ease of concealed carry.
Treeby Chain Gun: This .54 caliber percussion rifle was uniquely designed and often considered the ancestor of modern machine guns. It was patented by Thomas Wright Gardner Treeby. The gun could fire 14 shots rapidly in succession.
Singer M1911A1 Pistol: This pistol was born out of World War II, when manufacturing companies across the US used their factories to produce weapons. This particular pistol was produced by Singer, the manufacturer of sewing machines. The US government performed a test run with Singer to see if they could produce 100 handguns per day. While Singer delivered the pistols, they couldn’t keep up with that pace. They were not contracted to produce any more guns.
The Apache Revolver: This revolver has a revolver, a knife, and brass knuckles, and was originally used by French gangsters. The first concept was developed in 1860 by Louis Dolne. There is no record of how many of these guns were in circulation.
Colt Walker: This pistol was designed to be very powerful at a close range. Ranger Captain Samuel Walker approached Samuel Colt to develop the original design, based on Walker’s specifications. Just 1100 of these guns were ever produced. Because of the gun’s weight and size, it was difficult to manage.
Nock Gun: This was a seven-barreled flintlock firearm created by James Wilson. It fires from all barrels at once, and was used for ship-to-ship fighting. The gun was authorized for naval use, but not for the army.
The Importance of Insuring Historical Firearms
If you own a collection of historical firearms, it’s important to have a solid insurance policy protecting them. Many homeowners insurance policies don’t offer enough coverage, especially if your guns are valuable or you have multiples. For peace of mind, be sure to purchase a comprehensive insurance policy.
Who is the inventor of the first gun?
The Chinese first introduced primitive firearms called fire lances, which could hurl a projectile at the enemy. These used an early form of gun powder. The Chinese fire lance is widely considered to be the first gun by historians.
Gun powder was then introduced to the Europeans, who began to develop the early hand cannon. A hand cannon could hurl a fiery projectile at the enemy, and was able to pierce through the armor of the day.
Did guns exist in the 1400s?
Yes, primitive guns did exist in the 1400s. The fire lance and hand cannon are widely considered to be the earliest guns, and they were invented prior to 1400.
When were guns introduced in America?
It is widely believed that the pilgrims were the first people in America to use guns. The first gun most likely arrived in America in 1607, when the pilgrims first landed.
When did revolvers become obsolete?
In the military, revolvers have been obsolete for about 100 years. However, many people still own and collect revolvers.