Important Dates in Gun History

Compiled and Researched by the American Firearms Institute

Event Year
During the Han Dynasty, a man named Wei Boyang was the first to write anything about gunpowder. He wrote about a mixture of three powders that would “fly and dance” violently. 142
Chin dynasty scientist named Ge Hong wrote down the ingredients of gunpowder and described the explosion. 300
The first reference to gunpowder is probably a passage in the Zhenyuan miaodao yaolüe, a Taoist text tentatively dated to the mid-800s 850
The prevailing academic consensus is that gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality even though the Chinese were manufacturing firearms using bamboo tubes and stones as projectiles in 904 900
Earliest known representation of a gun (a fire lance), Dunhuang 1000
Earliest known written formula for gunpowder from the Chinese Wujing Zongyao 1044
As early as the 11th century, the government of the Song Dynasty was concerned that foreign enemies might break its monopoly on gunpowder technology. 1100
Gunpowder goes west with Chinese traveling in Mongol Empire 1200
The first record of the use of gunpowder in Europe is a statement by Bishop Albertus Magnus in 1280 that it was used at the Siege of Seville. 1247
Roger Bacon gives an account of gunpowder in his Opus Majus. [Between 1257 and 1265, Bacon wrote a book of chemistry called Opus Majus which contained a recipe for gunpowder] 1267
The invention of cannon preceded by a century that of small-arms, and it was by a gradual reduction in the size of the former that the latter were produced. There is speculation about earlier use of cannon but there is evidence of their use at the battle of Cressey, in 1346 1346
Traditional date for the German monk Berthold Schwartz to “invent” gunpowder. 1354
The earliest picture of a gun is in a manuscript dated showing a pear-shaped cannon firing an arrow. “De Nobilitatibus Sapientii Et Prudentiis Regum” Walter de Milemete, 1326. 1326
When were the first guns made? References to gunnis cum telar (guns with handles) were recorded in 1350
First recorded use of a firearm. 1364
Hand guns were known in Italy in 1397, and in England they were used 1375
Gunpowder arrived in India by the mid-1300s 1350
Hand Gonne – firearm [The earliest ‘hand gonne’ was developed in the fifteenth century, but was not a great influence in battle. It was a small cannon with a touch-hole for ignition. It was unsteady, required that the user prop it on a stand, brace it with one hand against his chest and use his other hand to touch a lighted match to the touch-hole. It had an effective range of only about thirty to forty yards.] 1400
The first mechanical device for firing the handgun made its appearance Records show armor being penetrated by bullets and the handgun becoming a weapon capable of rudimentary precision 1424
Matchlock (“arquebus”) introduced. Uses a “serpentine” to arc taper into the flash pan loaded with a finer grade of gun powder. Guns were fired by holding a burning wick to a “touch hole” in the barrel igniting the powder inside. [The Matchlock was a welcome improvement in the mid-fifteenth century and remained in use even into the early 1700s, when it was much cheaper to mass produce than the better classes of firearms with more sophisticated ignition systems. The Matchlock secured a lighted wick in a moveable arm which, when the trigger was depressed, was brought down against the flash pan to ignite the powder] 1425
Invention of the arquebus or bow-gun. A spring let loose by a trigger threw the match, which was fastened to it, forward into the pan which contained the priming powder. It was from this spring that the gun took its name. [The arquebus (sometimes spelled harquebus, harkbus or hackbut; from Dutch haakbus, meaning “hook gun”) was a primitive firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. Like its successor, the musket, it was a smoothbore firearm, although somewhat smaller than its predecessors, which made it easier to carry. 1450
Invention of the arquebus or bow-gun. A spring let loose by a trigger threw the match, which was fastened to it, forward into the pan which contained the priming powder. It was from this spring that the gun took its name. [The arquebus (sometimes spelled harquebus, harkbus or hackbut; from Dutch haakbus, meaning “hook gun”) was a primitive firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. Like its successor, the musket, it was a smoothbore firearm, although somewhat smaller than its predecessors, which made it easier to carry. 1475
The arquebus is mentioned by Philip de Comines, in his account of the battle of Morat 1476
Henry VII organized the corps of Yeomen of the Guard, half of whom were to carry bows and arrows while the other half were equipped with harquebuses*. This represents the first introduction of firearms as an official weapon of the Royal Guard 1485
Rifling* was invented [The first rifled gun barrels were made in the 1400s. This early date may be surprising, however it makes sense when one considers that arrow makers had learned to angle the fletchings on an arrow’s shaft to make it spin as it flew through the air, giving it greater stability. This technique carried over to firearms. Rifled barrels were rare until improvements in manufacturing techniques in the 1800s made them easier to fabricate] 1498
The first wheel lock (fire-lock) or “rose lock” was invented. Some believe Leonardo da Vinci was the inventor 1509
Firearms were recognized as hunting arms 1515
The Wheel Lock introduced. Uses iron pyrite rather than flint.[It is also said to have been invented by Johann Kiefuss of Nuremberg in 1517, and the idea probably came from the spring driven tinder lighter in use at the time. The idea of this mechanism is simple. A flint held by a hammer-cock was dropped onto a spinning metal wheel the friction of which showered sparks, igniting the gun powder in a pan, which in turn ignited the powder in the barrel firing the weapon.] 1517
Beretta Firearms founded [Sold 185 Arquebus barrels to the Arsenal of Venice] 1526
A book was published (Balleates Mosetuetas y Areabuces Pablo del Fucar, Naples, 1535) on sporting firearms 1535
Rifling appears in firearms. Rifling refers to helix-shaped pattern of grooves (cuts) and lands (raised part of groove) that have been formed into the barrel of a firearm. It is the means by which a firearm imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis, to gyroscopically stabilize it to improve accuracy and stability. 1540
The hair trigger was invented in Germany 1540
“Corning” of gunpowder makes it coarser and burns better. [European powdermakers began adding liquid to the constituents of gunpowder to reduce dust and with it the risk of explosion. The powdermakers would then shape the resulting paste of moistened gunpowder—known as mill cake—into “corns,” or granules, to dry. Not only did “corned” powder keep better because of its reduced surface area, gunners also found that it was more powerful and easier to load into guns. The main advantage of corning is that each corn contains the ideal proportion of the three gunpowder components. Prior to corning, gunpowder would gradually demix into its constitutive components and was too unreliable for effective use in guns] 1490
The snaphaunce* lock, the forerunner of the flintlock, was invented [Around 1600 in Holland there was a band of marauders known as snaphausen, or poulty-stealers. They were unable to incur the expense of the wheel-lock, and the match-lock which they were using, by its burning igniting cord light, exposed them on their nightly expeditions. They invented a gun-lock better adapted to their purposes. The result of their work was the lock which was named after its inventors was called the snaphause. It consisted of a flat piece of steel, furrowed like the edge of the wheel in the wheel-lock, which was screwed on the barrel beyond the priming-pan on a hinge. By bringing it over the pan, and pulling the trigger, the flint in the cock struck against the steel, and the spark was produced. The simplicity and cheapness of this lock soon rendered it common, and the transition from it to the ordinary flint-lock followed] 1517
The muzzle loading, smoothbore flintlock musket was invented as an improvement on the matchlock and wheel lock muskets. [The Flintlock was developed in France around 1612. A key contributor to this development was Marin le Bourgeoys who was assigned to the Louvre gun shops by King Louise XIII of France. The Flintlock’s manufacture slowly spread throughout Europe, and by the second half of the century it became more popular than the Wheel Lock and Snaphaunce. The main difference between the Flintlock and Snaphaunce is that in the Flintlock the striking surface and flashpan cover are all one piece, where in the Snaphaunce they are separate mechanisms. This made the mechanism even simpler, less expensive, and more reliable than its predecessor.] The standard flintlock gun introduced [The flintlock solved a longstanding problem. Some time in the late 1500s, a lid was added to the flash pan design. To expose or protect the powder, the lid had to be moved manually. The flintlock mechanism was designed to push back the lid and spark a flint at the same time. The flintlock ignition system reigned for two centuries, with virtually no alteration. A flint could be used for around 50 shots after which a new edge would be needed cut by the expert hands of a “Knapper”] 1612
First use of firearms proof-marks [Proofing. The testing and certification service for firearms in order to prove their quality of construction, particularly in terms of the resistance of barrels to explosion under firing conditions.] 1637
The screw or cannon barrel pistol [French gun makers produced some of the finest sports guns of the 17th century. One has three revolving chambers, each fitted with its own striker and sprint. This type of multi-shot weapon risked a dangerous chain reaction, in which Firing one chamber set off all the other chambers] 1640
The bayonet was introduced by the French; it was a long narrow blade with a wooden plug handle and was simply dropped into the muzzle of the musket 1640
Flintlock Revolving Rifle 1670
A ring attachment was added to the bayonet so that it no longer served as a muzzle plug 1680
The earliest known English breech-loading rifle was made by Willmore 1689
The “Brown Bess” was known in Ireland as a “King’s Arm” from its use by William at the Battle of the Boyne and would be used by the British Army for over 100 years 1690
The whole English army was equipped with flintlocks in Snaphaunces* were made in Europe until 1700
The socket bayonet had appeared and was adopted in the British service 1710
Puckle Gun [In 1718, James Puckle of London, England, demonstrated his new invention, the “Puckle Gun,” a tripod-mounted, single-barreled flintlock gun fitted with a multi-shot revolving cylinder. This weapon fired nine shots per minute at a time when the standard soldier’s musket could be loaded and fired but three times per minute. Puckle demonstrated two versions of the basic design. One weapon, intended for use against Christian enemies, fired conventional round bullets, while the second variant, designed to be used against the Muslim Turks, fired square bullets, which were believed to cause more severe and painful wounds than spherical projectiles] 1718
The large box-lock type of pistol 1730
Brown Bess Musket [Name derived from the German words “braun buss” meaning “strong gun”] 1742
The French introduced the double-necked hammer and the steel ramrod [The double-necked hammer or cock was not a new invention, it is found on dog locks of 1670 and other early arms] 1746
The use of pistols for duelling purposes became general as the practice of carrying the rapier or small sword died out between The duelling pistol arrived [Duels were fought with horse pistols prior to this date] 1750-1765
Double shotguns – under and over revolving barrel type 1760
Flint double barrel shotgun – the firing mechanism, including the flint was concealed in a box as part of the lock 1760
The French introduced the muzzle band with a funnel or guide for the ramrod and acorn sight integral with the band 1763
The Ferguson rifle, designed in 1774, was the first English breech-loading rifle made for military use. Never developed beyond an initial order of 100 rifles. 1774
American Revolution 1776
Dueling pistols became officially standardized weapons. [It was ruled that they should be “9 or 10 inch barreled, smooth bore flintlocks of 1 inch bore, carrying a ball of 48 to the pound.”] 1777
The top rib in double-barreled guns 1780
Richard Watson DD FRS, Bishop of Llandaff, who was also a professor of chemistry, ordained that for general purposes the proportions be saltpeter 75%, charcoal 15%, sulfur 10% – and for British gunpowder they have remained the same ever since. 1781
The first patent for single trigger locks for double arms (James Templeman, Pat. No. 1707) 1789
Single trigger pistols, with side by side, and also under and over barrels, made 1789 1789
The acorn pattern trigger guard extension toward the barrel used up to 1790
The duelling pistol perfected 1790-1800
Joseph Manton’s first patent (No. 1865) introduces the “break-off” breech, into which the barrel fits with a lump instead of being secured by a tang and screw as previously used 1792
Springfield Armory established 1795
Pistols appear to have been rarely used in the Middle and FarEast before 1800
The First Baker Rifle* was issued in [The Infantry Rifle, hereafter known by its modern name “Baker Rifle”, was the first standard-issue, British-made rifle accepted by the British armed forces. Previously, rifles had been issued on a limited basis and consisted of parts made to no precise pattern, often brought in from Germany. The Baker rifle has a ¼ twist of rifling for the entire barrell and that is the essence of a Baker rifle. That is the rifling twist rate “having only one quarter of a turn in the rifle”. Baker’s barrel was only 30 inches.] 1800
The half stocked pistol with the lower rib beneath the barrel fitted to carry the ramrod 1800
The Percussion Cap ignition system developed and patented [Developed by the Reverend John Forsyth of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. This firing mechanism was a great advancement from its predecessors because it does not use an exposed flash-pan to begin the ignition process. Instead, it has a simple tube, which leads straightinto the gun barrel. The key to this system is the explosive cap, which is placed on top of the tube. The cap contains fulminate of mercury, a chemical compound that explodes when it is struck. This is the same compound used in the paper or plastic caps in a child’s cap gun] 1805
The revolving principle is as old as firearms, but manufacturing methods permitting adequate accuracy of workmanship and boring precision for a safe cylindered or chambered weapon date from 1810-1820
The first serious military breechloader was an American invention, Colonel John H. Hall’s patent [This was made first as a flintlock, then as percussion, and is the first breech loader officially adopted by any army. The flintlocks were made till 1832, the percussion model from 1831] 1811
The copper percussion cap was invented 1814-1816
The saw handle or pistol grip was very popular, both in flint and percussion pistols about 1816-1825
Flints were converted to percussion cap from 1820
The percussion cap came into universal use on private arms 1826
The Delvigne* (French) service rifle was invented [*French army officer and inventor who designed innovative rifles and helped introduce the cylindrical bullet. Delvigne joined the French army as a youth. Delvigne led the way when he designed a muzzle loading rifle to fire a new type of bullet. In 1826, Delvigne built a unique rifle barrel with an independent gunpowder chamber at its breech, which was narrower than the barrel. This chamber was separated from the rest of the barrel by a strong lip, beyond which the powder could pass, but not the bullet. In the earliest models, after the chamber was filled with gunpowder, Delvigne rammed a standard soft, round lead ball down the barrel and pounded it against the lip with the ramrod until it flattened just enough to grip the rifling grooves. He soon discovered, however, that the pounding disfigured the ball and greatly reduced its accuracy, so he designed an elongated, cylindrical bullet with a flat base that would expand more evenly under the ramrod blows. In 1840, Delvigne even received a patent for an explosive bullet of this general design. In time, Delvigne’s design proved unsuitable for general military use; the powder chamber quickly became clogged, and the bullet still ended up too deformed for accurate flight] 1826
The back action lock made its appearance 1830
The Robert rifle was invented by Robert, a gunsmith of Paris 1831
(JonannVon) Dreyse breech-loading needle gun (Prussia) 1st gun with firing pin [Dreyse produced a rifle with a simple turn-down bolt, terminating in a needle that penetrated the length of a linen cartridge to detonate a percussion cap in the base of the Mimie bullet. The advent of the brass cartridge made the rifle obsolete, but the Prussians used it to defeat the French in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. 1841
The British army adopted the percussion cap in 1834
Percussion cap locks fitted with a pierced platinum disc below the nipple gradually fell into disuse and are seldom found in arms subsequent to 1835
The rim fire cartridge evolved naturally out of the percussion cap, and was first made by Flobert of Paris 1835
The Enfield percussion carbine – .65 inch calibre with hinged spring triangular bayonet folding below the barrel was made for Constabulary service 1835
Samuel Colt issued a U.S. patent in 1836 for the Colt firearm equipped with a revolving cylinder containing five or six bullets with an innovative cocking device. [Samuel Colt developed the first mass-produced, multi-shot, revolving firearms. Various revolving designs had been around for centuries, but precision parts couldn’t be made with available technologies. Colt was the first to apply Industrial Age machining tools to the idea. Mass production made the guns affordable. Reliability and accuracy made the Colt a favorite of soldiers and frontiersmen] The British army squanders a unique opportunity in bullet design. [As early as 1818, Captain John Norton of the British 34th Infantry began experimenting with bullet design. Norton shaped the nose of his new bullet like a cone with a rounded point and made its cylindrical base hollow. The hollow base was the bullet’s definitive feature. It allowed the bullet to be cast a bit narrower than the bore’s diameter to allow easy loading, since when the gun was fired, the pressure expanded the base to fit the barrel’s rifling grooves tightly. The inspiration for the bullet came to Norton while he was stationed in India and observed natives using blowpipes as weapons. He discovered that the base of the blowpipe arrow was made of elastic locus pith. When the natives blew, the pith expanded to form an airtight seal against the pipe’s inner walls. It seemed a small jump from there to making a bullet with a base that would expand from the pressure of firing. In 1836, a London gunsmith named William Greener found a way to improve Norton’s design for expansion of the bullet base. He inserted into the hollow area a wooden plug that would push forward when the gun was fired and force the bullet’s base outward. The result was that the bullet fit more uniformly inside the barrel, producing more reliable and accurate fire. Norton’s bullet with Greener’s refinement eventually came before the British army for approval for use in the field, but the army’s old-school officers rejected it. It was an overly conservative decision that squandered the opportunity to develop this innovative design into a truly remarkable weapon.] Pin-fire cartridge 1836
Pin-fire Cartridge 1840
Breech-loading needle gun cartridge patented (Wm. Bush, Pat. No. 8513) 1840
The Brunswick rifle superseded the Baker model 1840
The U.S. Army followed the British lead and adopted the percussion system 1841
A few service arms were converted to the percussion cap system in 1839, and it was officially adopted 1842
The service percussion musket was mainly experimental until 1844
A double-barreled 26 inch barrel, .67 inch calibre arm was issued for British Police use 1845
Invention of the Minié ball by the French Army captains Claude Etienne Minié of the Chasseurs d’Orléans and Henri-Gustave Delvigne [In 1849, Minié came up with one that closely resembled Norton’s British bullet – see above. Like Norton’s bullet, Minié’s had a hollow cylindrical base and a rounded conical nose. Minié also incorporated a plug in the bullet’s hollow base to assist expansion, just as Greener had done to Norton’s design. Instead of a wooden plug, however, Minié used an iron cup, which in effect served the same purpose as Thouvenin’s metal post. The explosion of the gunpowder would drive the iron cup forward and expand the bullet’s base to fit the rifling grooves snugly] 1847
The Minié rifle was an important French rifle in the 19th century, developed in following the invention of the Minié ball in 1847 [The rifle was designed to allow rapid muzzle loading of rifles, an innovation that brought about the widespread use of the rifle as a mass battlefield weapon. It was developed following difficulties encountered by the French army in Northern Africa, who were regularly outranged by the handcrafted but long-barelled weapons of their Algerian opponents. The rifle used a conical-cylindrical soft lead bullet, slightly smaller than the barrel bore, with three exterior grease-filled grooves and a conical hollow in its base. When fired, the expanding gas pushed forcibly on the base of the bullet, deforming it to engage the rifling. This provided spin for accuracy, a better seal for consistent velocity and longer range, and cleaning of barrel detritus. Before this innovation, the smooth-bore gun was the only practical field weapon. A few rifled guns had been in use since the Renaissance, but they required hammering the munition inside the barrel, and created considerable cleaning problems] 1849
The shot-gun or fowling piece began its separation from the musket in the latter half of the 18th century 1850
The Minie (English) service rifle was introduced 1850
Minie’s patent for the self-expanding bullet was purchased and adopted by the British Government for the Enfield rifle [The French army never adopted the new bullet. It took the British army to use it in their new 1851 Enfield rifles, paying Minié 20,000 pounds for his patent] 1851
National Rifle Association (NRA) was incorporated in 1871 to provide firearms training and encourage interest in the shooting sports 1871
Muzzle loading was so unassailably established that there was not a single breech-loading cartridge weapon shown by a British firm at the Great Exhibition 1851
Sharps Carbine introduced [Christian Sharps devised his breech-loading system in 1848. During the American Civil War, the Union Army bought over 80,000 Sharps carbines for its cavalry Regiments] U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy, adopted the rifle-musket and Minié bullet for the U.S. Army in 1855. An improved version of the rifle-musket—the 1861 model built by the federal armory in Springfield, Massachusetts—became the principal infantry weapon of Northern soldiers in the Civil War. [In the early 1850s, James H. Burton, a master armorer at the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, gave the minié bullet the form it would take into the Civil War. By lengthening the bullet slightly and thinning the walls of its hollow base, Burton was able to dispense with the iron plug. The base of the improved bullet expanded just as well as Minié’s but was much easier and cheaper to mass-produce. By the mid-1850s, the fully evolved minié bullet made it possible to build an infantry weapon as easy to load as the old smoothbore musket but with the accuracy and range of a rifle. The term rifle-musket reflected the weapon’s lethal combination of attributes.] Colt 1851 Navy Model introduced. .36 cal, octagonal barrell Colt delivered a lecture on Colt revolvers before the Institute of Civil Engineers during his visit to London in 1852
Charles Lancaster brought out his central fire under lever gun with extractor and the first true centre fire cartridge 1852
Smith & Wesson founded – Horace Smith & Daniel Wesson 1852
Colt procured a factory at Thames, Bank, Pimlico, London, and produced replicas of his standard pistols marked on the barrel “Address Col. Colt, London” during the period 1853-1857
The Pritchett bullet, a plain lead cylindroconoidal plug with a shallow base depression, was selected as the best type of bullet for the new Enfield rifle. Later this was superseded by the Enfield bullet 1853
Crimean War. This war was the last to use muzzle loaders. Note: 25,000 Enfield rifles were made in America 1854-1856
Whitworth rifles were produced in 1857
Smith & Wesson invent 1st practical self-contained rim fire cartridge 1858
France – Chassepot Percussion Carbine introduced 1858
The first recorded European revolver for central fire cartridges was patented by Perrin and Delmas 1859
Spencer Rifle:The first effective and widely used magazine repeater was the Spencer carbine, patented in the U.S.A. Fired a rimfire .52 black powder round.[Introduced at the start of the Civil War, Spencer repeating guns were technically advanced, used cartridges (a recent development), and could fire 7 shots in 15 seconds. But the Army didn’t want a repeating gun, fearing that soldiers would fire more often, constantly need fresh ammunition, and overtax the supply system. But in 1863, President Lincoln test-fired a Spencer. His approval led to the purchase of 107,372 Spencer repeating carbines and rifles (of 144,500 made), and the Spencer became the principal repeating gun of the Civil War] 1860
The Henry Repeating carbine, successor of the Volcanic Arms invention And predecessor to the Winchester (USA)[American .44 caliber rimfire, lever-action, breech-loading rifle designed by Benjamin Tyler Henry in the late 1850s] 1860
Breech loaded guns in common use. 1861
In the American Civil War, both breech and muzzle loader were used 1861-1865
Centre fire cartridge Patented by Houiller or Lefaucheux, Paris gunsmiths, in 1847 or 1850 [A centerfire cartridge is a cartridge in which the primer is located in the center of the cartridge case head. Unlike rimfire cartridges, the primer is a separate and replaceable component. The centerfire cartridge has replaced the rimfire in all but the smallest cartridge sizes. Except for low-powered .22 and .17 caliber cartridges, and a handful of antiques, all modern pistol, rifle, and shotgun ammunition is centerfire.] 1861
Breech loaders were coming into general use 1861
Doctor Richard Gatling patented his design of the “Gatling Gun”, a six-barreled weapon capable of firing 200 rounds per minute 1860
The first central fire repeater – Ball’s carbine made by the Lamson Arms Co., Windsor, Vermont, U.S.A., in 1863
Metallic cartridges were not widely introduced until 1863-1864
Gattling gun introduced. 1.0 cal [Rotary hand-cranked weapon with 10 barrels arranged around a central axis and fired 280 rounds per minute] 1865
The first cartridge repeater shot-gun – Roper 1866
Oliver Winchester founded Winchester-Repeating Arms Company 1866
The Snider service rifle was issued [Jacob Snider, an American, invented a method of converting muzzle-loading rifles into breech-loading rifles, known as the Snider-Enfield. 1866
The Henry was merged into the Winchester [John Moses Browning was the prolific gun designer who invented the Winchester rifle (30/30), the pump shotgun, and the Colt 45 automatic. He is best known for his automatic pistols and was the first one to invent the slide, which encloses the barrel of a pistol and the firing mechanism] 1866
Choke boring for shotguns introduced by Pape of Newcastle [Fred Kimble, an Illinois market hunter, is credited with the idea of squeezing the muzzle of a shotgun to constrict the shot string about 1870, but there are others who shared in the development. English gunmaker W.R. Pape patented a system of choke boring in 1866; however, according to W.W. Greener, whose book The Gun dates to 1881, there was choke-boring in the 1700s.] 1866
Center-fire cartridge introduced. 1869
England – Martini-Henry rifle was issued 1869
The first European magazine military arm was the Swiss Vetterli rifle 1869-1871
In 1866, the Chassepot was authorized and all branches of the French army were equipped with the weapon 1866
The Franco-German War Breach-loaded guns are dominant. 1870-1871
First cartridge revolver 1871
The first hammer-less gun appears to have been that of Murcott 1871
Germany – Mauser bolt action rifle introduced with the M/71 [Peter Paul Mauser] 1872
Winchester Rifle introduced [Winchester rifles were affordable, and produced in such great numbers, that the Winchester became the generic rifle] 1873
Edge rifle, the first bolt action military repeater 1874-1875
Introduction of the Anson & Deeley boxlock shotgun mechanism [Many shooters have some idea of the working mechanism of a side-by-side double-barreled shotgun, even if the knowledge comes from action movies. There is a lever on top of the tang that the shooter moves to the right. The gun opens, which cocks the internal hammers. The shooter drops in a couple of shells. The safety is flicked off, and the shooter fires, first one trigger, then the second trigger. The shooter again moves the lever to the right, the gun opens, | and the shooter either extracts the empty hulls or the gun ejects the empty shells. Repeat. Pretty simple, huh? That’s the Anson & Deeley boxlock design. Prior to the development of the Anson & Deeley boxlock, shotguns had external hammers] 1875
Custer defeated at LittleBig Horn 1876
First double-action revolver 1877
Lee patented his box magazine [The most popular type of magazine in modern rifles and handguns, the box magazine stores cartridges in a parallel column, or stack, one above the other. This allows pointed bullets to be used, which are generally more accurate and perform better at longer ranges. Box magazines may be built into the firearm (internal, integral, or fixed) or may be removable (detachable)] 1879
August Fiedler (Stronsdorf), forestry commissioner of Prince Reuss, managed to build the first working telescopic sight. A rifle scope is a refractor telescope used on a rifle. 1880
Invention of smokeless gun powder [Paul Vieille invented a smokeless gunpowder called Poudre B, made from gelatinized guncotton mixed with ether and alcohol.] 1884
Maxim Machine Gun invented [Hiram Maxim was born in Sangersville, Maine in 1840 and was the inventor of the Maxim Machine Gun and the Maxim Silencer] 1885
The French adopted the Lebel rifle 1886
The Gras-Kropatschek rifle was issued for the French Marines 1886-1887
Winchester first repeating shot-guns introduced 1887
The Maxim was officially adopted in the army as a machine gun 1887
The Lee-Metford rifle was adopted by Great Britain 1888
Russia – Mosin-Nagant 1891 named after its designers. Used by the Red Army as a sniper rifle until the 1960s 1891
The first automatic pistol was created by Joseph Laumann 1892
The first automatic weapon to appear on the market with a separate magazine in the grip was the Borchardt pistol 1893
The Bergmann pistol appeared 1894
The first Mannlicher automatic pistol was introduced 1894
Up until this time rifle bullets were blunt or round nosed 1894
Winchester .30-30 cartridge – the first smokeless civilian round 1885
Winchester model 1895 broke with Winchester’s past by having a box Magazine instead of the classic tubular magazine of preceding models. 1895
The Mauser C/96 combination automatic pistol or carbine, the wooden holster serving as a stock attachment – fixed 10 round magazine forward of the trigger 1896
Browing Model 1897 Pump action shotgun (Model 1893 was a failure) 1897
The Browning automatic pistol of .32 inch caliber 1898
Historical firearms period concludes – contemporary period begins 1900
Springfield M 1903. Impressed by the Mauser rifles US troops encountered During the war against Spain in 1898, The US Ordnance Dept negotiated a License to the build a Mauser design of its own, the 030-03 M 1903. 1903
All automatic pistols were small bore until 1903
The Winchester Firearms Company brought out the first widely sold self-loading rifle – .22 rimfire Winchester Model 1903 1903
The Webley self-loading .455 inch pistol was adopted for the British Navy 1905
1909 Colt 1911A. .45 cal Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) 1909
Browning 1917 Machine gun introduced. .30-06 cal [During one trial a single gun fired 40,000 rounds and jammed twice, both thefault of the ammunition] 1912
England: Lewis Light machine Gun [Original design by Samuel MacLean (UK), modified by Colonel Isaac of the US Army] 1912
England – Vickers Mk1 Machine Gun 1912
Browning automatic rifle (BAR) introduced and stayed in service until the 1950s. [The BAR saw little action in WWI in part because the U.S. Army was reluctant to have the BAR fall into enemy hands] 1918
Thompson M 1921 submachine gun. Tommy Gun. .45 ACP 1921
Walther PPK. 7.65mm (.32 cal) James Bond gun 1930
Canadian, John Garand invented the M1 semiautomatic rifle 1934
.357 round developed 1934
Browning M2 HB Heavy Machine gun. .50 cal (12.7mm) 1936
Czeckoslovakia: Bren machine gun replaced the Lewis gun. 1937
Germany: MP 40 submachine gun. 9mm Parabellum 1940
USA: M3/M3A1 Grease Gun sub machine gun. .45ACP [Low cost substitute for the Thompson submachine gun] 1940
M1 Carbine. Designed as a replacement for the pistol and rifle. 30 cal 1942
Germany: Sturmgewehr 44 (Mascinen Pistole 43) [The name was chosen for propaganda reasons and literally means storm rifle as in “to storm a bunker.” After the adoption of the StG44, the English translation “assault rifle” became the accepted designation for this type of infantry small arm. Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44) was an assault rifle developed in Nazi Germany during World War II and was the first of its kind to see major deployment. It is also known by the designations Maschinenpistole 43, Maschinenpistole 44 (MP43 and MP44, respectively) which denotes earlier versions of the same weapon] 1943
Germany MG42 Machine gun (7.92 x 57 Mauser) 1943
Israel: Uzi submachine gun/pistol. 9mm Parabellum [The Uzi (Hebrew: ?????) is a family of guns that started with a compact, boxy, and lightweight submachine gun. Smaller and newer variants are considered machine pistols. The first Uzi submachine gun was designed by Uziel Gal in the late 1940s. It was manufactured by Israel Military Industries, FN Herstal, and others] 1948
USSR AK-47 Assault Rifle [The most manufactured weapon in the word – perhaps 100 million. It’s popularity is due not to it’s firepower or accuracy but to its reliability and that it needs minimal maintenance to keep funtioning regardless of environmental conditions] 1951
Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29 (Dirty Harry’s gun 1971) 1995
USA M14 [To accommodate the new 7.62 NATO round, the US developed a version of Garand’s 20 year old M1, with fully automatic fire and a larger magazine] 1957
USA: M60 machine gun. 7.62mm NATO 1962
Germany: Heckler & Koch MP5 9mm 1966
Colt M16 rifle first issued to American Soldiers in Vietnam 1968
Israel Galil Assault Rifle In 1968 Israel Military Industries was ordered to produce a weapon similar to the AK-47. It choose a design by Israel Galil, a near-copy of the Finnish Valmet M62, itself an AK-47 derivative but fired the US 5.56x 45 round. 1974
Beretta Model 92 FS 9mm Parabellum introduced – became the US Military’s official side-arm in the 1980’s [The word “parabellum” is derived from the Latin meaning “if you seek peace, prepare for war”] 1976
Glock 17 introduced – the first “plastic” handgun [The Glock 17’s frame was fabricated entirely from plastic, with four steel rails to act as guides for the metal parts. The gun’s designation derives from it being Gaston Glock’s 17th patent, rather than it’s unusually large magazine capacity] 1982
Desert Eagle handgun .50cal made by the Israel Military Industries (IMI) 1983
Executive Actions to expand background checks on private gun purchases White House Executive Order Press Release. 2016


Based on A History of Firearms by Major H.B.C. Pollard From “Notable Gun Dates” in Edgar Howard Penrose, Descriptive Catalog of the Collection of Firearms in the Museum of Applied Science of Victoria [Australia], by, Museum of Applied Science of Victoria Handbook No. 1, 1949. Firearms, by Howard Ricketts. 1962, G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Library of Congress Catalog 62-13080 Weapons: an international encyclopedia from 5000 BC to 2000 AD. 1990, St. Martin’s Press

See W. Y. Carman, A History of Firearms from Earliest Times to 1914 (1955); A. J. Cormack, Small Arms in Profile (1972); E. C. Ezell, Small Arms of the World (11th ed. 1977); J. Ellis, The Social History of the Machine Gun (1973). Gun – a visual history – featuring material from Weapon Civil War Weapons Graham Smith

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