A firearm is an instrument used for the propulsion of a projectile through the expansive force gases coming from burning gunpowder. (FBI Manual of Firearms Identification)
Legally speaking, firearms or arms include “rifles, muskets, carbines, shotgun, pistol, revolvers, and all other deadly weapons, from which a bullet, ball, shot, shell, or other missiles may be discharged by means of gun powder or other explosives. This term also includes air rifles, except such of being of small caliber and limited range used as toys. The barrel of any firearm shall be considered a complete firearm.” (Sec 877 Revised Administrative Code/ Sec. 290 national Internal Revenue Code)
Evolution of Firearms
Stages of Development of Mankind’s Weaponry
Simplified, the evolution of human weaponry followed this path:
STONES > CLUBS > KNIVES > SPEARS AND DARTS > SLINGSHOTS > BOWS AND ARROWS > CROSSBOWS > GUNS > MISSILES
Important Dates and Events in the Evolution of Firearms
1118 Moors used artillery against Zaragosa
13th Century Development of firearms followed the invention of gunpowder in Western Europe
Around this time, Roger Bacon and Berthold Schwarz came into the scene. As previously mentioned, they are both credited with the invention of the gunpowder in most reference books. Note, however, that it is also often said that it was the Chinese who first invented the gunpowder long before Europe recognized it. There is also another possibility that the Arabs invented it first, given their advanced knowledge of chemistry during those times.
1245 Gen. Batu used artillery in Leignitz when he defeated the Poles, Hungarians, and Russians
1247 Firearm attack on Seville, Spain
1313 Gunpowder was first used as a propellant in firearms
1346 Cannons were first used by King Edward III of England at Crecy
1350 Small arms began to appear during this time, but they are very unlike the small arms we see today
1453 Mohammed II of Turkey used artillery trains in his conquest of Constantinople
1498 Riflings were first referenced during this year. Although its helpfulness in improving the accuracy of ammunition was recognized, it wasn’t until a year later that riflings came into general use.
1500 Leonardo da Vinci made early sketches of steam-powered cannons
1575 Cartridges were first developed during this time. This helped in speeding up the loading process and reduced the danger from carrying loose gunpowder.
1807 Percussion systems, discovered by Forsyth, began to be used to ignite firearm charges.
1845 Rimfire cartridges were first developed in France by Flobert.
1858 Centerfire cartridges began to be developed through what was called the “Morse cartridge.”
1884 Automatic machine guns were first built by Hiram Maxim. These machine guns were fully automatic and utilized recoil for the next shot.
1885 Smokeless powders were first developed in Vieille, France.
Remember that firearms, during their initial appearance, were bulky and unwieldy. They could not be carried by individual soldiers. Hence, the development of cannons preceded that of small arms.