History of firearms

History of firearms

Gunpowder was discovered in China in the 9th century. [Harvnb|Buchanan|2006|p=2 "With its ninth century AD origins in China, the knowledge of gunpowder emerged from the search by alchemists for the secrets of life, to filter through the channels of Middle Eastern culture, and take root in Europe with consequences that form the context of the studies in this volume."] [Harvnb|Needham|1986|p=7 "Without doubt it was in the previous century, around +850, that the early alchemical experiments on the constituents of gunpowder, with its self-contained oxygen, reached their climax in the appearance of the mixture itself."] Its discovery in the 800s and the subsequent invention of firearms in the 1100s both coincided with long periods of disunity during which there was some immediate use for infantry and siege weapons.Harvnb|Chase|2003|pp=31–32]

East Asia

The direct ancestor of the firearm is the fire-lance, a gunpowder-filled tube attached to the end of a spear and used as a flamethrower ; shrapnel was sometimes placed in the barrel so that it would fly out together with the flames.Harvnb|Chase|2003|pp=31–32] Harvnb|Crosby|2002|p=99] The earliest depiction of a gunpowder weapon is the illustration of a fire-lance on a mid-10th century silk banner from Dunhuang. [Harvnb|Needham|1986|pp=8–9] The "Tê-An Shou Chhêng Lu", an account of the siege of De'an in 1132, records that Song forces used fire-lances against the Jurchens. [Harvcolnb|Needham|1986|p=222]

In due course, the proportion of saltpeter in the propellant was increased to increase its explosive power. To better withstand that explosive power, the paper and bamboo of which fire-lance barrels were originally made came to be replaced by metal. And to take full advantage of that power, the shrapnel came to be replaced by projectiles whose size and shape filled the barrel more closely. With this, we have the three basic features of the gun: a barrel made of metal, high-nitrate gunpowder, and a projectile which totally occludes the muzzle so that the powder charge exerts its full potential in propellant effect. [Harvnb|Needham|1986|p=10]

The earliest depiction of a gun is a sculpture from a cave in Sichuan dating to the 1100s of a figure carrying a vase-shaped bombard with flames and a cannonball coming out of it. [Harvcolnb|Lu|Needham|Phan|1988] [Harvcolnb|Chase|2003|pp=31-32] The oldest surviving gun, made of bronze, has been dated to 1288 because it was discovered at a site in modern-day Acheng District where the "Yuan Shi" records that battles were fought at that time; Li Ting, a military commander of Jurchen descent, led foot-soldiers armed with guns—including a Korean brigade—in battle to suppress the rebellion of the Christian Mongol prince Nayan.Harvcolnb|Needham|1986|pp=293–294]

Firearms in the Middle East

The Arabs obtained firearms in the 1300s.Harvcolnb|Chase|2003|p=1 "The Europeans certainly had firearms by the first half of the 1300s. The Arabs obtained firearms in the 1300s too, and the Turks, Iranians, and Indians all got them no later than the 1400s, in each case directly or indirectly from the Europeans. The Koreans adopted firearms from the Chinese in the 1300s, but the Japanese did not acquire them until the 1500s, and then from the Portuguese rather than the Chinese."] Al-Hassan claims that "the first cannon in history" [cite web |url= http://www.history-science-technology.com/Articles/articles%2072.htm |title= Transfer of Islamic Technology to the West: Part III |last=Hassan |first=Ahmad Y |authorlink=Ahmad Y Hassan |work=History of Science and Technology in Islam ] was used by the Mamluks against the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260;Harvcolnb|al-Hassan] however, Khan states that it was invading Mongols who introduced gunpowder to the Islamic world [Citation | last=Khan | first=Iqtidar Alam | title=Coming of Gunpowder to the Islamic World and North India: Spotlight on the Role of the Mongols | journal=Journal of Asian History | volume=30 | year=1996 | pages=41–5.] and cites Mamluk antagonism towards early riflemen in their infantry as an example of how gunpowder weapons were not always met with open acceptance in the Middle East.Citation | last =Khan | first =Iqtidar Alam | year =2004 | title =Gunpowder and Firearms: Warfare in Medieval India | publisher =Oxford University Press.]

Firearms in the West

One theory of how gunpowder came to Europe is that it made its way along the Silk Road through the Middle East; another is that it was brought to Europe during the Mongol invasion in the first half of the 13th century. [Harvcolnb|Norris|2003|p=11] Harvcolnb|Chase|2003|p=58]

First mention of firearms in Russia is found in "Sofiiskii vremennik" chronicle, where it is stated that during the 1382 defense of Moscow from Tokhtamysh's Golden Horde, Muscovites used "tiufiaks" firearms ( _ru. "тюфяки"; this word derives from Turkic "tüfeng", meaning "gun"), which were of Eastern origin. [ [http://www.gunlab.com.ru/history.html Firearms in Russia] ] [ru icon [http://bibliotekar.ru/divo/31-85-2.htm First Gun Volleys] ]

Around the late 1400s in Europe, smaller and portable hand-held cannons were developed, creating in effect the first smooth-bore personal firearm. As the centuries progressed, these hand-held cannons evolved into the flintlock rifle, then the breech loader and finally the automatic weapon.

Breech loaders became practical in the 1860s when metallurgy developed sufficiently that brass could be worked into fixed ammunition. Previously each round was custom made as needed: the shooter poured loose powder down the barrel, used leather or cloth for wadding if time allowed, selected a suitable projectile (lead ball, rocks, arrow, or nail), then seated the projectile on top of the powder charge by means of a ramrod. Performance was erratic. Fixed ammunition combined a primer, the pre-measured charge, and the projectile in a water resistant brass "cartridge case". Most importantly, the soft brass expanded under pressure of the gas to seal the rear end of the barrel; which prevented the shooter from being maimed by escaping high pressure gases when he pulled the trigger.

A repeating firearm or "repeater" is a firearm that holds more than one cartridge and can be fired more than once between loadings. Some repeating firearms require manipulation of a bolt, (as in bolt action), lever, or slide to eject the fired cartridge case, draw a fresh cartridge from the magazine, and insert it into the firing chamber, and "cock" (draw to the rear and place under spring tension) the hammer or striker, so that pulling the trigger will fire the weapon. Others use either the firearm's recoil, or a small portion of the propellant gas drawn from the barrel, to operate the firearm's mechanism and ready it for the next shot. Such firearms are sometimes called "self-loading," but are more commonly known as semi-automatic, if they fire one shot for every pull of the trigger, or automatic or "full auto" if they continue to fire until the trigger is released or the magazine is empty. A revolver is a unique type of firearm in which a rotating cylinder holds a number of cartridges; the cylinder "revolves" to align each "chamber" or "charge hole" with the rear of the barrel, hold the cartridge and contain the pressure (up to 65,000 pounds per square inch or 450 MPa) produced when the cartridge is fired. Thus the cylinder serves as both magazine and firing chambers. There are also "single shot" and multiple-barrel firearms, which hold only one cartridge per barrel and must be reloaded manually between shots.

Early firearms had to be cocked and caught by the "sear," which holds the hammer back, before each shot. Pulling the trigger allows the hammer or striker to fly forward, striking the "firing pin," which then strikes the "primer," igniting an impact-sensitive chemical compound (historically, first fulminate of mercury, then potassium chlorate, now lead styphnate) which shoots a flame through the "flash hole" into the cartridge's propellant chamber, igniting the propellant.

The earliest repeating firearms were revolvers, (revolving rifles were sometimes called "turret guns") and were "single action" in that they could only be fired one way: by manually cocking the mechanism (drawing the hammer to the rear with the thumb) before each shot. This design dates from 1836, with the introduction of the Colt Paterson, or even earlier. Though they are slower to reload and fire than some other types of firearms, single-action revolvers are of a simple, strong design, and are still made, though they are nowadays used more often for hunting than for self-defense. The double-action revolver is a design almost as old as the single action. A double-action revolver can be fired in either of two ways. One can cock the hammer (the action of which moves levers to rotate the cylinder and align a fresh cartridge with the rear of the barrel), then pull the trigger for each shot ("single-action mode") or one may simply pull the trigger, through a longer, heavier stroke. This causes levers and springs to both rotate the cylinder and draw the hammer to the rear, then release it, firing the cartridge. Firing a double-action revolver in single-action mode tends to be more accurate, because the trigger pull is much shorter and lighter; usually four or five pounds-force (18−22 newtons) of pull is sufficient, instead of the twelve to twenty pounds (50−90 N) required for double-action mode, so the firearm's aim is less likely to be disturbed by the force of pulling the trigger.

Self-loaders are firearms that use some of the discharge energy to reload the firearm. These are also called semi-automatics. These are typically fed from a tube or detachable "magazine", commonly but incorrectly referred to as a “clip” (which correctly denotes a magazine reloading device used in certain rifles, or a retainer for flangeless bullets used in certain revolvers).

Automatics (also called full autos, machine guns, or machine pistols) were not practical until the development of smokeless powder in the late 1800s. Black powder caused too much fouling of the mechanism to allow automatics or self-loaders to be reliable.




ee also

*Technology of the Song Dynasty
*Jiao Yu
*Gunpowder warfare
*Huo Long Jing
*History of cannon
*Military history

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