When were firearms invented? Late 1500s?

When were firearms invented? Late 1500s?

This is a discussion on When were firearms invented? Late 1500s? within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Wondering, with a lot of time on my hands here lately, obviously. Things are slow at work because of a particular state law, slow til ...

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    When were firearms invented? Late 1500s?

    Wondering, with a lot of time on my hands here lately, obviously. Things are slow at work because of a particular state law, slow til July first, so I was wondering when guns first came into being and use. I thought around late 1500s but I know some of you folks will know best.
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    Senior Member Array Cthulhu's Avatar
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    What are your definitions for 'firearms' and 'guns'? They can be entirely different. Are you talking explosive/propellent launched projectiles in general (artillery, cannon, etc.), or small arms that can be fired from the hands and/or shoulder?

    China was using gunpowder in warfare well before the 1500's, I think.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    Small arms, rifles/handguns.
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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    A quick Google search finds some documents suggesting that the creation of "gunpowder" (charcoal + saltpeter) was as early as the 9th Century A.D. Firearms had to have been close behind.

    The Conquistadores had arquebus (predecessor to the musket), and I've read some accounts that suggest Marco Polo's expedition had some early firearms in their train. Wasn't sure about when gunpowder came about. 9th Century seems a bit early, but it would take some time between the powder and the means to harness it.
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    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    I see it now, Late 1300s 1400s Italy and England. Did not see it on my first Google search.
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    Distinguished Member Array kazzaerexys's Avatar
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    The Wikipedia entry on Firearms is pretty decent. I would also pick the arquebus of the 1400s as the first generally available personal firearm used in any numbers.
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    The earliest use of "hand cannons" (man portable, matchlock weapons) that I know of is by the Egyptians against the mongols about 1260, the Chinese also likely had them invented by then.

    Gunpowder wasn't fully exploited by the Chinese for a few centuries, it started off with like fireworks, then static charges, then cannons, then smaller arms.

    For Europeans it seems to be sometime in the mid-late 1300's.
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    Senior Member Array Pete Zaria's Avatar
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    From Wikipedia:

    "The prevailing academic consensus is that gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality."

    "The first reference to gunpowder is probably a passage in the Zhenyuan miaodao yaolüe, a Taoist text tentatively dated to the mid-800s"

    "The discovery of gunpowder 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."

    Looks like a valid answer to me.

    By the way, the first handguns were literally scaled-down hand-held black power cannons. Just a metal cylinder with a little flash hole in the bottom - a powder charge, wad, and projectile was loaded, and the power ignited through the flash hole. There are some pictures of such devices on Wikipedia.

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    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    Thanks to all.....
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    Of minor interest, take a quick look at Beretta's history....they are one of the few early manufacturers still around.

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    I knew firearms had a long history, but I didn't know it went that far back... WOW!
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    Member Array levi333's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rock and Glock View Post
    Of minor interest, take a quick look at Beretta's history....they are one of the few early manufacturers still around.
    Yep, Beretta has been in the gun/barrel business since 1526, and it's stayed in the same family too! Pretty cool history.

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    Quote Originally Posted by levi333 View Post
    Yep, Beretta has been in the gun/barrel business since 1526, and it's stayed in the same family too! Pretty cool history.
    That is a company that has the benefit of long range planning and skipping the quarterly earnings releases, eh?

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    "The prevailing academic consensus is that gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality."

    Is that ironic...?

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    The first noted use of hand guns was against horse mounted armored Knights back in the Medieval days.

    "Hand Gonnes" made armored Knights pretty much obsolete.

    A few years ago, I participated in some strength tests using original hand gonne designs with modern materials.

    A hand gonne was sent to me, and I test fired it using several loads and two different sized balls provided. After shooting, the hand gonne was measured to tenths of a thousandth of an inch along the whole tube and recorded. We were interested in plastic deformation and metal fatigue but we never saw it.It was fired with sub loads, full loads and severe over loads, I did in fact try to overload it to the point of failure, but that didn't happen. We never saw that due to the modern metal makeup. The original designs were made of iron,which was very brittle and subject to catastrophic failure over a period of time.

    This was done as a basis for a commercial design that was to be sold. With much testing and recording, we came to the conclusion that the whole tube could be loaded with Black Powder and much of the Black Powder would be blown out of the tube where it would ignite, making huge fireballs but otherwise having no other useful effect.

    It was a lot of fun, and believe it or not, I got to be pretty accurate with it. While testing it, it was fired in a test jig that I built specifically for it, in case it came apart. Once the testing was done, I shot it quite a bit until my Brother in Law, who is a member of the SCA talked me out of it.

    Anyhow, here is a small video of my son shooting it with a standard load. Lots of smoke and fire. After watching me shoot it, he didn't really know what to expect. Talk about "flinching" if you look close enough you can see him brace for it when he thought it would go off.

    For those that have no idea what one looks like, it was simply a tube mounted to a stick. While not terribly accurate because it was fired by a fuse and because of the way it was held, it had no problem punching through the metal armor of the day.

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