Firearms go back a long time. They have played a major role, both directly and indirectly, in shaping the history of the world, in the rise and fall of global powers. The first firearms used to be simple tubes, where one end was closed. They were made either of cast iron or brass. From those days to the modern times, the evolution of weapons has been very interesting. In between, we have had many iconic weapons as well.
We have seen a lot of technical advances over the years. They have become more lethal and also practical. These days, firearms can also be customized, depending on the requirement of the user.
Evolution of Firearms Timeline
Many believe the first gun goes back to the early 10th century. Some experts claim that the first firearm came from China – their ‘fire-spurting lances’ were made of a metal rod or bamboo rod that held the gunpowder, which was called ‘huo yao’, meaning ‘fire chemical’. They were used extensively in the Jin-Song wars that were held between 960 and 1279.
Gun powder, like paper and silk, also came from China. It started arriving in Europe by the Silk Road. Gun powder began to be used in cannons for the battles held in the early 13th century. The cannon quickly became very popular as it was able to annihilate the advancing troops easily.
This gave birth to the concept of a handheld device that can be used by individuals and thus the first hand-held guns came out. They were called ‘hand cannons’. The first models had a long barrel that held the projectile and a handle or pole for the gun wielder.
Here’s an interesting timeline of historical firearms –
- 1364 – Firearm use recorded for the first time
- 1380 – Hang guns become very popular in Europe
- 1400s – The first matchlock guns
- 1498 – The discovery of rifling principle
- 1509 – Wheel lock is invented
- 1540 – Rifling is introduced into firearms
- 1630 – The first flintlock guns
- 1750-1850 – Dueling pistols become popular
- 1807 – The percussion-detonating principle is patented
- 1825 – The percussion-cap guns become popular
- 1830 – The arrival of back action lock
- 1835 – The Colt revolver is launched
- 1840 – Pin fire cartridges are used in guns
- 1850 – The shotgun becomes popular
- 1854-56 – The muzzle-loaded guns are used for the last time
- 1859 – The appearance of full rim-fire cartridge
- 1860 – Patent filing of the spencer repeating carbine
- 1861 – Breech loaded guns become popular
- 1861-1865 – Muzzle and breech loaded guns are used extensively in the American Civil War
- 1862 – Invention of the Gatling Gun
- 1869 – The introduction of center-fire cartridge
- 1870-1871 – Breach-loaded guns in common use
- 1871 – The appearance of the cartridge revolver
- 1873 – Invention of the Winchester rifle
- 1877 – The first good double-action revolver
- 1879 – Patent filing for the Lee box magazine
- 1892 – Automatic handguns are introduced
The modern age of firearms begins after this. In the 20th century and beyond, we have seen many more advances, technical improvements, and firearms types. For example, the 9mm ammo first came out in 1901. It was designed by Georg Luger.
The classic firearms, naturally, are not in circulation anymore. However, you will be able to see them at the gun museums, J.M. Davis Arms, the Cody Firearms Museum, National Firearms Museum at Farefax in Virginia, and at Browning’s Home Base in Utah.
The firearm types have also expanded over the years. Now, you will find many types of firearms in circulation, but they can be broadly divided into two general categories –
- Long guns that include shotguns and rifles
- Handguns, including pistols and revolvers
Long runs, typically fire large-caliber rounds from their long barrels. You have to fire them from your shoulder. On the other hand, handguns are weapons with a smaller caliber and they have shorter barrels. You have to fire them in one o both of your hands.
All types of firearms you will find now, including machine guns, pistols, shotguns, and revolvers, belong to either of these two categories.
Antique firearms and heritage firearms are collector’s items that many like to buy and keep in their homes. Many of them have an interesting history as well, having played a crucial part in the battlefield.
This is why connoisseurs and treasure hunters will visit pawn shops, gun shows, and go to the yard sales to look for elite firearms. Collector firearms include Cold pistols, Winchester rifles, Smith & Wesson revolvers, Parker shotguns, Luger pistols, M-1 Paratroopers, WWII Era Nambus, S&T Daewoos, Mosin-Nagants, Enfield rifles, Purdeys, and others. These days, these hidden gems are sometimes sold online too.
Modern-day firearms manufacturers are always carrying out research to come out with better and more effective guns. The focus is always on power, precision, and ease-of-use. We can certainly expect the firearm industry to keep evolving and we are going to see many more types of guns that will be much better than what we have seen so far.