Military history

Portal  v · d · e

A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm (either physical or mental) to living beings or artificial structures or systems. In human society weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, fighting, self-defense, crime, law enforcement, and war.

Weapons are employed individually or collectively. A weapon can be either expressly designed as such or be an item re-purposed through use (for example, hitting someone with a hammer). Their form can range from simple implements such as clubs through to complicated modern implementations such as intercontinental ballistic missiles and biological weapons. Weapon development has progressed from early wood or stone clubs through revolutions in metalworking (swords, maces, etc.) and gunpowder (guns, cannon), electronics and nuclear technology.

In a broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary on land, sea, air, or even outer space.




An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools.

Very simple weapon use has been observed among chimpanzees,[1] leading to speculation that early hominids began their first use of weapons as early as five million years ago.[2] These would have been wooden clubs, spears, and unshaped stones—none of which would leave an unambiguous record.

Some of the earliest unambiguous weapons were throwing sticks and spears dated to around 400,000 years ago. The Schöninger Speere, eight wooden throwing spears from the Lower Paleolithic era, are thought to be the earliest known example of weapons used by the genus Homo.[3]

Ancient and classical

A four-wheeled ballista drawn by armored cataphract horses, c. 400.

Ancient weapons were evolutionary improvements of late neolithic implements, but then significant improvements in materials and crafting techniques created a series of revolutions in military technology:

The development of metal tools, beginning with copper during the Copper Age (about 3,300 BC) and followed shortly by bronze led to the Bronze Age sword and similar weapons.

The first defensive structures and fortifications appeared in the Bronze Age,[4] indicating an increased need for security. Weapons designed to breach fortifications followed soon after, for example the battering ram was in use by 2500 BC.[4]

Although early Iron Age swords were not superior to their bronze predecessors, once iron-working developed - around 1200 BC in Sub-Saharan Africa,[5] iron began to be used widely in weapon production[6] because iron ore was much more readily available than the copper and tin required to create bronze.

Cavalry developed once horses were bred to support the weight of a man . The horse extended the range and increased the speed of attack, but was not a weapon as much as it provided an enhanced capability.

Domestication of the horse and widespread use of spoked wheels by ca. 2000 BC,[7] led to the light, horse-drawn chariot. The mobility provided by chariots were important during this era.[citation needed] Spoke-wheeled chariot usage peaked around 1300 BC and then declined, ceasing to be militarily relevant by the 4th century BC.[8]

Ships built as weapons or warships such as the Triremes were in use by the 7th century BC.[9] These ships were eventually replaced by larger ships by the 4th century BC.

Middle Ages

Ancient Chinese cannon displayed in the Tower of London.

European warfare during the middle ages was dominated by elite groups of knights supported by massed infantry (both in combat and ranged roles). They were involved in mobile combat and sieges which involved various siege weapons and tactics. Knights on horseback developed tactics for charging with lances providing an impact on the enemy formations and then drawing more practical weapons (such as swords) once they entered into the melee. Whereas infantry, in the age before structured formations, relied on cheap, sturdy weapons such as spears and billhooks in close combat and bows from a distance. As armies became more professional their equipment was standardized and infantry transitioned to pikes in conjunction with smaller side-arms (short sword).

In Eastern and Middle Eastern warfare similar tactics were developed independent of European influences.

The introduction of gunpowder from the Far East at the end of this period revolutionized warfare. Formations of musketeers, protected by pikemen came to dominate open battles, and the cannon replaced the trebuchet as the dominant siege weapon.

Early modern

The European Renaissance marked the beginning of the implementation of firearms in western warfare. Guns and rockets were introduced to the battlefield.

Firearms are qualitatively different from earlier weapons because they release energy from combustible propellants such as gunpowder, rather than from a counter-weight or spring. This energy is released very rapidly and can be replicated without much effort by the user. Therefore even early firearms such as the arquebus were much more powerful than human-powered weapons. Firearms became increasingly important and effective during the 16th century to 19th century, with progressive improvements in ignition mechanisms followed by revolutionary changes in ammunition handling and propellant. During the U.S. Civil War various technologies including the machine gun and ironclad warship emerged that would be recognizable and useful military weapons today, particularly in limited conflicts. In the 19th century warship propulsion changed from sail power to fossil fuel-powered steam engines.

The bayonet is used as both knife and polearm.

The age of edged weapons ended abruptly just before World War I with rifled artillery. Howitzers were able to destroy masonry fortresses and other fortifications. This single invention caused a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and established tactics and doctrine that are still in use today. See Technology during World War I for a detailed discussion.

An important feature of industrial age warfare was technological escalation - innovations were rapidly matched through replication or countered by yet another innovation. The technological escalation during World War I (WW I) was profound, producing armed aircraft and tanks.

This continued in the inter-war period (between WW I and WW II) with continuous evolution of all weapon systems by all major industrial powers. Many modern military weapons, particularly ground-based ones, are relatively minor improvements of weapon systems developed during World War II. See military technology during World War II for a detailed discussion.


The Vickers was the successor to the Maxim gun and remained in British military service for 79 consecutive years.

Since the mid-18th century North American French-Indian war through the beginning of the 20th century, human-powered weapons were reduced from the primary weaponry of the battlefield yielding to gunpowder-based weaponry. Sometimes referred to as the "Age of Rifles",[10] this period was characterized by the development of firearms for infantry and cannons for support, as well as the beginnings of mechanized weapons such as the machine gun, the tank and the wide introduction of aircraft into warfare, including naval warfare with the introduction of the aircraft carriers.

World War I marked the entry of fully industrialized warfare as well as weapons of mass destruction (e.g. chemical and biological), and weapons were developed quickly to meet wartime needs. Above all it promised to the military commanders the independence from the horse and the resurgence in maneuver warfare through extensive use of motor vehicles. The changes that these military technologies underwent before and during the Second World War were evolutionary, but defined the development for the rest of the century.

World War II however, perhaps marked the most frantic period of weapons development in the history of humanity. Massive numbers of new designs and concepts were fielded, and all existing technologies were improved between 1939 and 1945. The most powerful weapon invented during this period was the atomic bomb, however many more weapons influenced the world in different ways.

Nuclear age and beyond

Since the realization of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the nuclear option of all-out war is no longer considered a survivable scenario. During the Cold War in the years following World War II, both the United States and the former Soviet Union engaged in a nuclear arms race. Each country and their allied blocks continually attempted to out-develop each other in the field of nuclear armaments. Once the joint technological capabilities reached the point of being able to ensure the destruction of the entire planet (see Mutually Assured Destruction) then a new tactic had to be developed. With this realization, armaments development funding shifted back to primarily sponsoring the development of conventional arms technologies for support of limited wars rather than nuclear war.[11]


By user

- what person or unit uses the weapon
  • Personal weapons (or small arms) - designed to be used by a single person.
  • Hunting weapon - primarily for hunting game animals for food or sport
  • Infantry support weapons - larger than personal weapons, requiring two or more people to operate correctly.
  • Fortification weapons - mounted in a permanent installation, or used primarily within a fortification. Usually high caliber.
  • Mountain weapons - for use by mountain forces or those operating in difficult terrain. This includes modifications of existing weapons for paratroopers.
  • Vehicle weapons - to be mounted on any type of combat vehicle.
  • Railway weapons - designed to be mounted on railway cars, including armored trains.
  • Aircraft weapons - carried on and used by some type of aircraft, helicopter, or other aerial vehicle.
  • Naval weapons - mounted on ships and submarines.
  • Space weapons - are designed to be used in or launched from space.

By function

- the construction of the weapon and principle of operation
  • Antimatter weapons (theoretical) would combine matter and antimatter to cause a powerful explosion.
  • Archery weapons operate by using a tensioned string and bent solid to launch a projectile.
  • Artillery are firearms capable of launching heavy projectiles over long distances, which can explode on impact.
  • Biological weapons spread biological agents, causing disease or infection.
  • Chemical weapons, poisoning and causing reactions.
  • Energy weapons rely on concentrating forms of energy to attack, such as lasers or sonic attack.
  • Explosive weapons use a physical explosion to create blast concussion or spread shrapnel.
  • Firearms use a chemical charge to launch projectiles.
  • Improvised weapons are common objects, reused as weapons, such as crowbars and kitchen knives.
  • Incendiary weapons cause damage by fire.
  • Non-lethal weapons are designed to subdue without killing.
  • Magnetic weapons use magnetic fields to propel projectiles, or to focus particle beams.
  • Mêlée weapons operate as physical extensions of the user's body and directly impact their target.
  • Missiles are rockets which are guided to their target after launch. (Also a general term for projectile weapons).
  • Nuclear weapons use radioactive materials to create nuclear fission and/or nuclear fusion detonations.
  • Primitive weapons make little or no use of technological or industrial elements.
  • Ranged weapons (unlike Mêlée weapons), target a distant object or person.
  • Rockets use chemical propellant to accelerate a projectile
  • Suicide weapons exploit the willingness of their operator to not survive the attack.
  • Trojan weapons appear on face value to be gifts, though the intent is to in some way harm the recipient.

By target

- the type of target the weapon is designed to attack
  • Anti-aircraft weapons target missiles and aerial vehicles in flight.
  • Anti-fortification weapons are designed to target enemy installations.
  • Anti-personnel weapons are designed to attack people, either individually or in numbers.
  • Anti-radiation weapons target sources of electronic radiation, particularly radar emitters.
  • Anti-satellite weapons target orbiting satellites.
  • Anti-ship weapons target ships and vessels on water.
  • Anti-submarine weapons target submarines and other underwater targets.
  • Anti-tank weapons are designed to defeat armored targets.
  • Area denial weapons target territory, making it unsafe or unsuitable for enemy use or travel.
  • Hunting weapons are civilian weapons used to hunt animals.
  • Infantry support weapons are designed to attack various threats to infantry units.


In the European Union, the Council Directive 91/477/EEC of 18 June 1991 on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons. defines 'weapon' as any firearm as defined in the Directive and weapons other than firearms as defined in national legislation. The European firearms pass is a document which is issued on request by the authorities of a Member State to a person lawfully entering into possession of and using a firearm. It shall be valid for a maximum period of five years. The period of validity may be extended. The 'European firearms pass' is a non-transferable document, on which shall be entered the firearm or firearms possessed and used by the holder of the pass. The pass must always be in the possession of the person using the firearm. Changes in the possession or characteristics of the firearms shall be indicated on the pass, as well as the loss or theft of the firearm.[12] .

See also


  1. ^ Jill D. Pruetz1 and Paco Bertolani, Savanna Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, Hunt with Tools", Current Biology, March 6, 2007
  2. ^ Rick Weiss, "Chimps Observed Making Their Own Weapons", The Washington Post, February 22, 2007
  3. ^ Lower Palaeolithic hunting spears from Germany. Hartmut Thieme. Letters to Nature. Nature 385, 807 - 810 (27 February 1997); doi:10.1038/385807a0, Nature.com
  4. ^ a b Gabriel, Richard A.; Metz, Karen S.. "A Short History of War". http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0001.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  5. ^ Duncan E. Miller and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Early Metal Working in Sub Saharan Africa' Journal of African History 35 (1994) 1-36; Minze Stuiver and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Radiocarbon Chronology of the Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa' Current Anthropology 1968.
  6. ^ Gabriel, Richard A.; Metz, Karen S.. "A Short History of War - Iron Age Revolution". http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0001.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  7. ^ "Wheel and Axle Summary". BookRags.com. 2010-11-02. http://www.bookrags.com/research/wheel-and-axle-woi. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  8. ^ "Science Show - 13/11/99: The Horse in History". Abc.net.au. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ss/stories/s70986.htm. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  9. ^ "The Trireme (1/2)". Mlahanas.de. http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/war/Trireme.htm. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  10. ^ p.263, Hind
  11. ^ "Funding for new nuclear weapons programs eliminated". 2004. http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/monitor/mond04f.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-14. [dead link] Report on congressional refusal to fund additional nuclear weapons research.There was a guy named Henry Bond he was around 74 years old
  12. ^ "Council Directive 91/477/EEC of 18 June 1991 on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons". Eur-lex.europa.eu. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31991L0477:EN:HTML. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 

Further reading

  • U.S.Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Improving the prospects for future international peace operations: workshop proceedings, OTA-BP-ISS-167, Washington DC, US Government Printing Office, September 1995
  • Hind, Edward, My Magazine: Being a Series of Poems, Tales, Sketches, Essays, Orations, Etc.,: The Present Age - An oration J. and H. Clarke, London, 1860

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • weapon — index bomb, cudgel, gun Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 weapon …   Law dictionary

  • Weapon X — Organisme de fiction apparaissant dans Weapon X Membre(s) Malcolm Colcord …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Weapon — Weap on (w[e^]p [u^]n; 277), n. [OE. wepen, AS. w[=ae]pen; akin to OS. w[=a]pan, OFries. w[=e]pin, w[=e]pen, D. wapen, G. waffe, OHG. waffan, w[=a]fan, Icel. v[=a]pn, Dan. vaaben, Sw. vapen, Goth. w[=e]pna, pl.; of uncertain origin. Cf.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • weapon — [wep′ən] n. [ME wepen < OE wæpen, akin to Ger waffe, ON vāpn, Goth wēpna: base found only in Gmc] 1. an instrument or device of any kind used to injure or kill, as in fighting or hunting 2. any organ or part of an organism used for attacking… …   English World dictionary

  • weapon — O.E. wæpen instrument of fighting and defense, from P.Gmc. *wæpnan (Cf. O.S. wapan, O.N. vapn, Dan. vaaben, O.Fris. wepin, M.Du. wapen, O.H.G. waffen, Ger. wafen (neut.), waffe (fem.)), from *webno m, of unknown origin with no cognates outside… …   Etymology dictionary

  • weapon — [n] arm, armament ammunition, anlace, arbalest, archery, arrow, assegai, atlatl, ax, axe, backsword, ballista, banderilla, barong, bat, baton, battle ax, bayonet, bazooka, billy club, blackjack, blade, blowgun, bludgeon, bomb, boomerang, bow and… …   New thesaurus

  • weapon — ► NOUN 1) a thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage. 2) a means of gaining an advantage or defending oneself. DERIVATIVES weaponry noun. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • Weapon X — This article is about the clandestine government anti mutant project, for the reality jumping team of antiheroes, see Weapon X (Exiles); for the individuals called Weapon X, see Wolverine (comics) or Garrison Kane; for the Weapon Plus Project,… …   Wikipedia

  • weapon — weaponed, adj. weaponless, adj. /wep euhn/, n. 1. any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon. 2. anything used against an opponent, adversary, or victim: the deadly weapon of… …   Universalium

  • weapon — n. 1) to load a weapon 2) to fire a weapon 3) to brandish; carry; draw; handle a weapon 4) to calibrate; zero in a weapon 5) to lay down, throw down one s weapons 6) a concealed; deadly weapon 7) automatic; defensive; heavy; light; offensive;… …   Combinatory dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”