The whole history of firearms

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,683
Florania
Firearms were revolutionary in many aspects; then, they had a long history of development.
Gunpowder might emerge during the Western Jin Dynasty; the formula was unstable and unusable YET.
Many consider Sun Simiao, a major figure in Chinese medicine, one of the fathers of gunpowder.
The emergence of gunpowder did not mean firearms yet.
The earliest firearms were fire lances; they were mostly shock weapons.
It sounded the Song Dynasty did not progress much beyond fire lances; the latter versions had metal barrels.
The Ottomans might have led the early progresses of firearms.
Matchlocks, flintlocks, wheellocks, caplocks, muzzleloaders, breechloaders, repeating firearms, etc,
are a few list of progresses of firearms.
The Industrial Revolution meant revolution of the materials and manufacturing of firearms; no wonder
the Europeans led the firearm race after the Industrial Revolution.
Dynamite and nitrocellulose are NOT used for handheld firearms; then, smokeless powder was considered
a major invention.
Thermobaric weapons are NEXT TO nuclear weapons in power; this is not part of the story here.
In spite of the claims about rayguns and coilguns, we seem to be struck with firearms in the near future.
How did the Industrial Revolution spike firearm revolution?
Why did firearms take so long to reach the standards we know today?
How long will we be struck with firearms?
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,235
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Potentially electronagmetic weapons could be more efficient than firearms, but so far the problem of having batteries enough little and powerful to stay in a rifle gun hasn't been resolved. This kind of weaponry promises something better regarding big guns [cannons]. This is your railgun which has been actually tested by US Navy. And as for we can read on the net, China has already equipped a warship with a railgun [Type 072 III].
The US Navy is talking about finally taking its railgun out to sea for testing aboard a warship

But when we think to the weaponry of an infantryman [or infantrywoman ...] it's difficult to imagine that firearms will be substituted in the near future.

About the effect of the industrial revolution on firearms ... it was remarkable: industrial production means accuracy and standard products. Firearms became more accurate, efficient, cheaper to produce and available in great quantities.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,241
Sydney
there was a very early splitting of individual weapons with artillery guns , I'll keep on the track of individual device

The way I see it there was an early period ,which saw" firepots" and hangones , hackbuts and a variety of devices leading to the matchlock
this covered from the mid 14th century to the early 17th
the next period was the adoption of the flintlock , it led to a remarkable standardization of the firing mechanism and two common calibers
the English and the continental ,
Muslim countries tended to use the Miquelet firing system , a close variation on the pan and frizzen
the flintlock reigned for nearly 200 years from the early 17th to the mid 19th

soon after Waterloo the firing cap became the new best thing , modern manufacturing and the minie bullet made rifling practical
this was the gun used during the American civil war and various Continental wars
a line of troops could now shoot two or even three volleys before the attacked was on them
mass charges became very expensive in men and could be broken

this musket was soon superseded by the use of cartridges , which were the standard in all armies up to the 1890ies
the French adoption of the smokeless powder , a nitro cellulose compound was the first departure for the black powder who had dominated warfare for
close to 500 years
the smokeless powder removed the problem with fouling which had plagued the early machine guns
it allowed the development of automatic and semi auto weapons.

headlong charges were now suicidal affairs , horse mounted troops were at a severe disadvantage and soon became obsolete
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,993
MD, USA
...
How did the Industrial Revolution spike firearm revolution?
Why did firearms take so long to reach the standards we know today?
Sorry, what? Before the Industrial Revolution, black powder muzzle-loaders were the rule, fired by striking rock against metal. A mere century after that, we have cased and caseless smokeless powder that is vastly superior in every way, phenomenal rates of fire, basic usage, range, and accuracy which is simply a different world from the Brown Bess, easier maintenance and reliability, etc. Production methods developed in the Industrial Revolution mean an undreamed-of standardization of parts and ammunition, not to mention production rates through the roof. You can now carry a gun under your sweatshirt which will put more lead downrange than an 18th century regiment.

There are still advances going on, with materials, propellants, ammunition feed, sights, etc., though few of them are revolutionary. They can make a better gun, but not better enough to replace all the current guns. But that's the point, there is no single aspect of a firearm which can be so greatly improved that it makes all the other technology obsolete. At least, that doesn't seem *likely*! A revolver with iron sights will still work just fine. It isn't *meant* to compete with the latest assault rifle, nor vice versa.

Why do you think it has taken "so long" to reach this point?

How long will we be struck with firearms?
As long as they work more efficiently than a knife or rock (with the understanding that you have to shoot before the knife gets into range!). Unless some real advances are made in directed-energy weapons, that makes them no larger than a comparable firearm, with at least the same range and rate of fire. A 15-pound laser rifle with a 60-pound battery backpack that takes 6 seconds for its capacitors to power up and costs half a million dollars is no good when someone whips out a little 9mm pistol.

Note that with advances in 3-D printing, it's entirely possible that a few decades from now I could print out my own assault rifle at home! Might have to buy propellant, but home-loading has been done for a long time already.

But even more, firearms will be popular and relevant as long as they are lethal! You'd have to invent daily clothing for everyone that was bullet-resistant, cheap, easy to wash, comfortable, and (most importantly) STYLISH if you want to make gunpowder weapons truly obsolete.

Matthew
 
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Nov 2019
125
United States
If you talk about the "firearm" the discussion boils down to the development of two attributes: "rifling" which was invented in Germany in 1498 but didn't become truly common until the 19th Century. Rifling made firearms able to hit sighted targets accurately at greater range. Essentially this became the end of the "standing in a line at a few hundred yards and shooting at each other".

The next important change was the move from the musket to breech loaders, and then bolt action and repeating rifles.

In the long run the invention of the Mauser, was a critical event. The reason is specific; a rifle which could be reloaded very quickly, and fired without changing the soldier's primary position of aim. A Mauser and it's many variants allowed a soldier to fire up to 5 rounds without changing a magazine or reloading (simply expending the shell and inserting the new shell). In a military perspective this was a force magnifier of about 5 for a normal infantry group. The combination of both the rifled barrel, and bolt action made the primary models of military strategy change as was evidenced by World War 1.

In many ways the Garrand M1 was the next most important step in this evolution. No reloading action whatsoever. Simply shoot and shoot again.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,683
Florania
If you talk about the "firearm" the discussion boils down to the development of two attributes: "rifling" which was invented in Germany in 1498 but didn't become truly common until the 19th Century. Rifling made firearms able to hit sighted targets accurately at greater range. Essentially this became the end of the "standing in a line at a few hundred yards and shooting at each other".

The next important change was the move from the musket to breech loaders, and then bolt action and repeating rifles.

In the long run the invention of the Mauser, was a critical event. The reason is specific; a rifle which could be reloaded very quickly, and fired without changing the soldier's primary position of aim. A Mauser and it's many variants allowed a soldier to fire up to 5 rounds without changing a magazine or reloading (simply expending the shell and inserting the new shell). In a military perspective this was a force magnifier of about 5 for a normal infantry group. The combination of both the rifled barrel, and bolt action made the primary models of military strategy change as was evidenced by World War 1.

In many ways the Garrand M1 was the next most important step in this evolution. No reloading action whatsoever. Simply shoot and shoot again.
In comparison with swords and spears, the evolution of firearms was fast; then, Industrial Revolution rendered most concepts and materials possible.
 
Nov 2019
125
United States
When you consider that in the late 1930's we were releasing the M-1 Garrand, which was a gigantic step forward, then moved to the M-14 in the early 1950's and the M-16 by the late 1960's the movement in firearms has move quite quickly. As Mathew Ant pointed out, accurately, a large portion of the newer improvements in firearms has do with the bullet itself, and sights; which have truly changed the nature of the modern battlefield, allowing troops to see in darkness and easily magnify objects.

The weight's of firearms have changed drastically as well, a lighter weapon allows the soldier to be less weary, and have greater mobility.

Here is a comparison of specifications for the M16 and the M-1

M16
Cartridge5.56×45mm NATO (M193)
Caliber5.56 mm
ActionGas-operated, rotating bolt (direct impingement)
Rate of fire700–950 rounds/min cyclic sustained
45–60 rounds/min semi-automatic
Muzzle velocity3,150 ft/s (960 m/s) (M855A1 round)[15]
Effective firing range550 m (601 yd) (point target)[16]
800 m (875 yd) (area target)[17]
Maximum firing range3,600 m (3,937 yd)
Feed systemSTANAG magazine
20-round detachable box magazine:
0.211 lb (96 g) empty / 0.738 lb (335 g) full
30-round detachable box magazine:
0.257 lb (117 g) empty / 1.06 lb (480 g) full)
Beta C-Mag 100-round double-lobed drum:
2.20 lb (1,000 g) empty / 4.81 lb (2,180 g) full)
SightsIron sights or various optics

M1 Garrand
Mass9.5 lb (4.31 kg) to 11.6 lb (5.3 kg)
Length43.5 in (1,100 mm)
Barrel length24 in (609.6 mm)
Cartridge
ActionGas-operated, rotating bolt
Rate of fire40–50 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity2,800 ft/s (853 m/s)
Effective firing range500 yd (457 m)[12]
Feed system8-round en-bloc clip, internal magazine
Sights
  • Rear: adjustable aperture
  • Front: wing protected post


You'll notice some pretty gigantic differences in two vital categories; Rate of fire; the M16 in auto mode fires between 700 to 950 rounds per minute vs the maximum of 50 rounds per minute in the M-1. Having fired this weapon, I can say that the auto is not the mode to use, the semi auto mode with the 3 round fire per squeeze is the better option. Two other factors are of very great importance also; muzzle velocity and effective firing range. You'll note again how much more able the M16 is over the M1. The M1 has one particular advantage and that is the weight/size of the round itself. The M16 however makes up for that in the ballistics design of the round, which tumbles on impact, making it's lethality at least as good as the M1.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,241
Sydney
there has been some return to a larger bullet , the Chinese adopted a somewhat larger at 5.8mm for better penetration of body army
the US will be fielding the new 6.8 mm for the same reason
the 5.56 is excellent against soft squishy target but doesn't have the heft needed to do much penetration once it has lost some of its velocity