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Firearms

FIREARMS

FIREARMS. Firearms first emerged through Chinese alchemical experimentation, which produced gunpowder explosives by the ninth century and gradually developed early gunpowder weapons technologies. Gunpowder mixtures and weapons slowly diffused throughout Eurasia over Chinese trading networks, but contemporary political, cultural, and technical conditions inhibited firearms' impact on the practice of war. When gunpowder was introduced in Europe in the late medieval period, firearms began to change European warfare radically.

FIREARMS AND LATE MEDIEVAL WARFARE

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Europeans developed relatively inexpensive methods of manufacturing gunpowder, producing stable powder mixtures, and forging large siege guns, often known as bombards. These guns fired immense stone shot weighing hundreds of pounds, and their gunners personified them, giving them names such as Mons Meg and Pumhart von Steyr. When employed in sieges, bombards could pummel medieval walls and towers into ruin, allowing attacking soldiers to storm fortifications, if the town or castle did not surrender first. Late medieval sieges are often remembered for Shakespeare's dramatic rendering of Henry V's siege of Harfleur and the theatrical king's appeal for his soldiers to head "once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more." The Elizabethan playwright prudently avoided mention of the powerful French royal siege train that battered English castles in Aquitaine and northern France and ultimately produced the French victory in the Hundred Years' War of 13371453.

Outside of siege operations, firearms initially had little impact on late medieval warfare. Late medieval artillery pieces were heavy and difficult to move, so these firearms were not practical for battles in open plains. Most medieval infantry and cavalry continued to use a variety of handheld personal weapons, and the emergence of coherent infantry pike squares, especially in Flanders and in the Swiss cantons, had a much stronger effect on fifteenth-century warfare than did handheld firearms. While a few late medieval soldiers employed hand cannonearly experiments in infantry firearmscrossbows and longbows represented the most significant infantry projectile weapons throughout the fifteenth century. These weapons systems could deliver their arrows or bolts with great force and accuracy, but the slow-loading, delicate mechanisms used in crossbows and the social technology, including intensive muscular training, necessary to fire long-bows ensured that firearms would eventually replace them.

RENAISSANCE FIREARMS AND THE EMERGENCE OF EARLY MODERN WARFARE

European royalty and nobles rapidly adopted firearms and promoted their use. All of the "renaissance monarchs" of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries recognized the dramatic power of siege artillery. Renaissance artillery was so crucial to the latter stages of the Reconquista in Spain that Weston F. Cook's study refers to the "cannon conquest" of Granada. Ottoman emperors recognized the devastating potential of siege artillery and sponsored the forging of immense artillery pieces. The Ottoman army of Mehmed II besieged Constantinople in 1453 and used immense artillery pieces firing stones to bash the city's famous walls, which had long been considered impregnable. Mughal armies employed firearms and artillery in their swift conquest of northern India in the early sixteenth century. Renaissance armies also used tunneling operations to plant large gunpowder mines beneath fortifications and then to detonate them.

Renaissance engineers experimented with a variety of new fortification designs intended to respond to the threat of the powerful siege artillery of the fifteenth century. Medieval round towers could be modified to serve as platforms for defensive artillery, and walls could be reinforced to protect against besiegers' guns. During the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, many rulers constructed new artillery towers to maximize the potential of artillery to defend towns and strategic sites. Many fortification experiments were more pragmatic and improvised, however. Defenders relied on earthworks, ditches, and outworks to disrupt besiegers' attacks and keep enemy siege artillery at a distanceespecially during the Italian Wars of 1494 to 1559, which provided an impetus for rapid military developments.

BASTIONED FORTIFICATIONS AND SIEGE TACTICS

By the beginning of the sixteenth century, military engineers in Italy began to transform the pragmatic earthwork fortification techniques into a system of bastioned fortifications, the trace italienne. These fortifications were often known as "star forts" because of the pointed protruding bastions and the regular diamond or pentagonal plans of many bastioned citadels. The defenses are perhaps more properly referred to as artillery fortifications because the real defensive mechanism of the fortification system was artillery firepower. The mutually supporting bastions created well-protected firing platforms for guns, which could use interlocking lines of sight to create devastating crossfire on besieging forces. Printed treatises with complex plans and diagrams communicated the architectural principles of the trace italienne, and bastioned fortifications multiplied quickly through Europe between the 1500s and 1550s. Strategic concerns and prestige competition combined to pressure monarchies, small principalities, and cities to build expensive bastioned fortifications, brimming with artillery. The enormous costs of forging artillery, digging trenches, constructing fortifications, and maintaining garrisons meant that fortress building often required noble and state patronage, and sometimes produced financial exhaustion or serious political ramifications.

The new artillery fortifications were not impregnable, but they often forced long, costly sieges. The newly refortified city of Siena, for example, succumbed to a siege in 1555, but only after a sustained attack against the vigorous Sienese and French defenders. Taking a fortress defended by artillery involved envelopment operations, followed by a laborious process of digging approach trench systems and siting batteries of siege artillery. Often, months of digging and mining activities had to be endured before besiegers could breach the defenses of an artillery fortress. Then, if the defenders still refused to surrender, costly assaults had to be launched by besieging infantry.

NEW ARMIES

Fighting campaigns that involved sieges of artillery fortifications encouraged European infantry to adopt harquebus firearms as their principal projectile weapons and produced new armies. Harquebus firearms used a matchlock systemcomposed of a serpentine mechanism, which held a slow-burning match that would ignite gunpowder in the barrelto fire the weapon's lead ball. Projectiles fired through a harquebus's smoothbore barrel took erratic trajectories, making the weapon highly inaccurate. To be effective, the harquebus had to be used at close range by groups of harquebusiers, soldiers who specialized in using the weapon, firing together. Infantry who used the harquebus in combat were highly vulnerable, though, since their weapon required numerous, complex movements to reload. Further, using the firearms proved highly dangerous, since infantrymen had to use individual doses of gunpowder, usually carried in pouches suspended from bandoliers around the soldier's chest; sparks from the slow-burning match could touch off one of the doses of gunpowder on one's own (or a neighboring soldier's) bandolier, producing an explosion. The transformations of armies did not just involve technological changes, but also organizational changes. Spanish tercios (infantry regiments) and other new armies increasingly relied on the coordination of infantry using firearms to avoid accidents, and on the support from pikemen who could protect harquebusiers while reloading.

While the growing numbers and importance of infantry in warfare might suggest that European nobles' prominence in military systems was threatened, firearms did not lead to the end of noble participation in warfare. Nobles remained in elite cavalry units and some noble horsemen developed caracole tactics, using complex rotating maneuvers to fire their delicate wheel-lock pistols in succession. Other nobles became officers, commanding infantry units and capitalizing on the new armies' demands for military leadership, experience, and firearms expertise. Swiss mercenaries, German Landsknechts, and other stipendiary troops were led by noble and non-noble military elites, who attempted to profit from warfare as military entrepreneurs, known as condottiere in Italy. Military enterprisers recruited, outfitted, and trained their infantry and engaged in conflicts throughout Europe.

The many long conflicts of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries gave ample opportunities for the new armies to demonstrate their power. The Habsburgs' firearms-based armies waged seemingly interminable warfare against Ottoman expansion in the Balkans, in Hungary, and even at the gates of Vienna, which endured long sieges in 1529 and 1683. Emperor Charles V launched campaigns against the Ottomans in the Mediterranean and in North Africa that relied heavily on artillery. Religious divisions between Protestants and Catholics fueled conflicts and intensified hatreds between contending armies beginning with the wars of the Schmalkaldic League in Germany. A militant French Protestant minority in France successfully raised powerful armies during the French Wars of Religion of 15621629, but Catholic forces' superiority in artillery and numbers gradually wore down the French Protestant cause. Catholic Spanish rulers used tercio armies in their attempts to suppress the Dutch Revolt of 15661648. The Protestant Dutch forces led by Maurice of Nassau began to develop new techniques of military discipline, drill, and linear tactics to increase the firepower of their infantry units. These trends were reinforced by the advent of the matchlock musketessentially a larger, more powerful version of the harquebuswhich was such a heavy and clumsy weapon that infantry had to use a forked rest to support the barrel when aiming and firing it.

The internationalization of the Thirty Years' War, which engulfed central Europe between 1618 and 1648, ensured that firearms techniques and developments were shared and spread throughout Europe. Near-constant warfare produced a widespread proliferation of firearms that allowed many people to have firearms in their homes. European nobles and monarchs built up huge arms collections, such as Louis XIII's personal armory. It is no surprise that contemporary artists heavily emphasized camp scenes and military imagery in their works. Imperial, Spanish, Catholic League, Protestant Union, Swedish, and French armies crisscrossed Germany, wreaking devastation. Jacques Callot's Miseries of War portrayed the brutalities of seventeenth-century warfare, which often involved conflicts between peasants and soldiers, in addition to more conventional battles and sieges. The most horrifying atrocities involved the sacking of cities after sieges. Contemporaries referred to the "law of the siege," a set of conventions over military practices that allowed besieging armies to pillage towns that refused to surrender when a breach was made in their walls. Rampaging troops pillaged numerous towns in the war zone, and General Tilly's army utterly destroyed the German city Magdeburg after a siege in 1631. Gustavus Adolphus's Swedish army perhaps utilized firearms most effectively, but all of the armies fighting in the Thirty Years' War began to use smaller, more mobile guns extensively as field artillery, which could support infantry in pitched battles. The immense financial and human costs of warfare gradually exhausted all of the states involved in the continuing warfare, leading to the famous compromise Peace of Westphalia of 1648.

THE MILITARY REVOLUTION AND EUROPEAN STATE DEVELOPMENT

The most important interpretive framework for assessing the impact of firearms on early modern European history has been the much-debated concept of a "military revolution." Michael Roberts, whose famous essay is reprinted in The Military Revolution Debate, originally articulated the notion of revolutionary changes in firearms tactics, strategy, the scale of warfare, and administrative demands that reshaped European military practices, states, and societies between 1560 and 1660. Geoffrey Parker and other historians have since adopted the concept of a "military revolution" but used it in radically different ways: debates have erupted over the periodization, dynamics, and development of the "military revolution," and even over whether it existed at all. All of the competing notions of a military revolution support the notion that "war made the state and the state made war." Governments invested in organizational and bureaucratic developments to support and supply their armies' "hungry guns" with firearms and gunpowder. Spanish armies used garrisons in Milan and the elaborate transportation system of the Spanish Road to supply their troops. Successive French monarchs patronized and updated the Arsenal at Paris, which manufactured, organized, and supplied French royal artillery throughout the early modern period. States began to develop permanent standing armies, despite some politicized debates questioning the wisdom of such structures. Growing armies and burgeoning state bureaucracies went hand in hand, especially in Louis XIV's France.

The "military revolution" also clearly had global implications. Military changes that began prominently in Europe and the Mediterranean diffused throughout the world as a result of early modern European imperialism and mercantilism. Spanish conquistadores used artillery and European siege tactics to conquer cities like Tenochtitlán (Mexico). Dutch and Portuguese fortifications at ports in Morocco, Goa, and Indonesia secured their trading networks. While the techniques developed in the "military revolution" allowed European states to extend empires over broad areas of the globe, some non-Western states and regions, such as Japan, China, and the Mughal Empire, developed ways of using firearms and fortifications that aided them in resisting European expansion.

At sea, however, the naval dimensions of the military revolution allowed European ships to dominate all of the world's oceans by the beginning of the seventeenth century. European shipbuilders had begun to adopt artillery as early as the fifteenth century. Venice's naval Arsenal, which dated from the medieval period, was reorganized to outfit and supply Venetian ships with artillery. The sixteenth century saw the development of the heavily armed sailing ship, or galleon, which packed dozens of guns into multiple decks to produce firepower that no other type of ship could match. Galleons carried gold and silver from mines in the Americas to Spain, but equally well-armed Dutch fleets and English privateers preyed upon them. The Spanish Armada of 1588 showcased battles between two competing designs of galleons. Galleons allowed fleets to pound ports into submission around the world, unless they were well defended by artillery fortifications. State-sponsored permanent navies developed during the seventeenth century, preparing the way for the refined ships of the line and linear naval warfare of the eighteenth century.

FIREARMS CULTURE AND MODERNITY

Rulers, nobles, and municipalities used fireworks and firearms in city entries, displays, processions, and ceremonies. Militants participating in Catholic League processions in Paris brandished firearms in the late sixteenth century, and municipal festivities at the city's Hôtel de Ville frequently employed cannonades of artillery. Elite corps of musketeers and bodyguards including the gardes françaises of Louis XIII, Russian streltsy, and Ottoman Janissaries demonstrated rulers' fascination with firearms.

Firearms shaped European popular imagination in the early modern period as well. Fears of the explosive power of gunpowder animated the English public's responses to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, while the awesome force of the "infernal machines" (fireships packed with explosives) used by the Dutch against Spanish besiegers at Antwerp in 1585 frightened soldiers throughout Europe. The need to produce firearms inspired new research, knowledge, and techniques. Artists and artisans such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and Michelangelo Buonarroti developed designs for fortifications and experimental weapons. Galileo Galilei and many of the leading early modern scientists performed chemical and ballistics experiments related to firearms and fortifications. The horrifying wounds caused by firearms stimulated anatomical research and new medical techniques. The proto-industrial production of gunpowder, firearms, and instruments for siege warfare employed artisans throughout Europe.

The late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries brought subtle refinements and increasing systemization of military changes that had begun earlier. Transitions in infantry weaponry to flintlock muskets and bayonets represented mere technological fine-tuning, simplifying arms procurement, logistical services, drill, and discipline. The Enlightenment brought an increasingly technical, "scientific" approach to firearms production and use, reflected in the military articles in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie. Military intellectuals theorized military structures, emphasized precision, and introduced standardization. Throughout the early modern period, military vocabulary related to firearms infused modern languages: "half-cocked," "first-rate," and "martinet" were just a few of the words that emerged from early modern military practices. The expanding process of industrialization, coupled with the social dimensions of the American and French revolutions, would quickly transform modern warfare as the mechanization of firearms exponentially increased firepower and the scale of destruction in the nineteenth century.

See also Military ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnold, Thomas F. The Renaissance at War. London, 2001.

Black, Jeremy. War and the World: Military Power and the Fate of Continents, 14502000. New Haven, 1998.

Contamine, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages. Translated by Michael Jones. Oxford, 1984.

Cook, Weston F., Jr. "The Cannon Conquest of Nasrid Spain and the End of the Reconquista," Journal of Military History 57, no. 1 (Jan. 1993): 4370.

. The Hundred Years' War for Morocco: Gunpowder and the Military Revolution in the Early Modern Muslim World. Boulder, Colo., 1994.

Hale, J. R. War and Society in Renaissance Europe, 1450 1620. London and Leicester, 1985.

Hall, Bert S. Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe: Gunpowder, Technology, and Tactics. Baltimore, 1997.

Lynn, John A. Giant of the Grand Siècle: The French Army, 16101715. Cambridge, U.K., 1997.

Parker, Geoffrey. The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 15001800. 2nd ed. Cambridge, U.K., 1996.

Pepper, Simon, and Nicholas Adams. Firearms and Fortifications: Military Architecture and Siege Warfare in Sixteenth-Century Siena. Chicago, 1986.

Rogers, Clifford J., ed. The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe. Boulder, Colo., 1995.

Tilly, Charles. Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 9901992. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass., and Oxford, 1992.

Tracy, James D., ed. City Walls: The Urban Enceinte in Global Perspective. Cambridge, U.K., 2000.

Brian Sandberg

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"Firearms." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Firearms

Firearms

A firearm is a weapon of attack or defense that expels a projectile via the action of the force exerted by the gases resulting from the rapid combustion of an explosive mixture. A firearm is often associated with the commission of a violent crime and is commonly found at crime scenes or on suspects. Also, many people who commit suicide use a firearm. An interest in firearms in forensic sciences is therefore, paramount. In criminalistics , the study of firearms consists first in the knowledge and identification of firearms and their ammunition, second in the internal, external, and terminal ballistics , and finally in the analysis of powders, primers, and their residues.

The birth and evolution of firearms is directly linked to the discovery of black powder. It is believed that the discovery of black powder dates from 1242, when the French monk Roger Bacon (12141294) wrote a letter describing the recipe for black powder. At that time, it was composed of about 40% saltpeter (potassium nitrate), 30% charcoal, and 30% sulfur. The first barrels, ancestors of the modern firearms, were developed at the beginning of the fourteenth century. At that time, the barrel was loaded from its end (muzzle), first with powder, and then with the projectile. The powder was ignited with a match, which was connected to the powder through the base of the barrel. Around 1800, mercury fulminate started to be used and the first primers were developed. In 1835, French arms manufacturer Casimir Lefaucheux (18021852) invented the first metallic cartridge. One year later, in 1836, American arms manufacturer Samuel Colt (18141862) invented the revolver. The pistol was invented prior to that time, however, it was loaded by the end of the barrel. The modern semi-automatic pistol (using a magazine) was invented after the revolver in 1893.

A firearm expels a projectile at high velocity. The projectile is part of the cartridge. The cartridge consists of a shell holding the primer at one end and the projectile on the other with powder in the middle. The cartridge is inserted either manually or automatically in the barrel of the firearm. The trigger of the firearm is then pulled, which arms the hammer. At some point, the hammer is released and hits the firing pin, which hits the primer. The shock to the primer starts its combustion, which, in turns, ignites the powder in the cartridge. The powder combusts very rapidly and produces gases, which increase the pressure inside the cartridge (and therefore the barrel) tremendously. This pressure is in the order of 2,0004,000 atmospheres. This pressure is exerted on the base of the projectile, which is pushed into the barrel. The projectile then exits the barrel at high velocity, usually ranging from 2501,000 meters per second (2731094 yards per second).

Firearms are classified in two main categories: light and heavy firearms. Light firearms include handguns and shoulder guns. Handguns are then further classified into revolvers, pistols (semi-automatic, automatic, and machine), and Derringers (single-shot and double-barreled pistols). Shoulder weapons are divided into two subcategories: weapons with a rifled barrel, such as rifles and carbines, and weapons with a smoothbore barrel, such as shotguns. It is important to understand that some shoulder weapons may have more than one barrel. They can have two or more one-over-the-other barrels or side-by-side barrels. There are some shoulder weapons that have a combination of rifled and non-rifled barrels. Among the rifled shoulder weapons are the semi-automatic and automatic assault rifles and machine guns. Usually, heavy weaponry includes weapons that shoot calibers above 12.7 millimeter and are found on vehicles or armored tanks. These are specialized, usually military, weapons and are not encountered in the daily routine of a crime scene unit. Finally, there is the category of improvised or homemade weapons, which includes an enormous variety of different weapons of all calibers and functions.

Firearms are characterized by many variables, such as brand, model, size, length of barrel, shape, color, and functionality. Some of the most important variables of the firearm are the general rifling characteristics (when dealing with a rifled barrel), which include the caliber , the direction and degree of twist, and the number and width of grooves and lands. The caliber is correlated to the barrel's diameter and the power of the cartridges for which the firearm is designed. With few exceptions, a firearm is designed to use one given caliber. Upon shooting a projectile, the firearm leaves impressions on the projectile and the cartridge's casing. The observation of these impressions allows the forensic scientist to establish a link between the firearm and the elements of ammunition.

When dealing with a firearm found at a crime scene or on a suspect, the first security measure is to consider it as loaded and ready to shoot. Security with firearms is paramount and must be prioritized over everything else. If the firearm has just been found at a crime scene, it is possible to sketch, photograph, and take notes about it before touching it. Then, it is either placed in a container specifically designed to transport firearms and resist accidental discharges, or it needs to be secured. The firearm is then transported to the forensic laboratory where the firearms and toolmarks examiner can examine it.

see also Ballistics; Crime scene reconstruction; Drugfire; Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS); Microscope, comparison; Trajectory.

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Firearms

Firearms

The availability of firearms is clearly associated with an increased risk of homicide, suicide, and deaths from firearm-related accidents. However, there is an active debate in the United States on the right to own and bear arms and the government's role in controlling access to firearms. Apart from the opinions on both sides, there are numerous studies on the topic. For example, countries with very restrictive legislation, including strict licensing of owners, have many fewer nonhunting fatalities from accidental shootings than countries with less restrictive firearm legislation. The United States is the Western country with the least restrictive firearm legislation; the accidental death rate by firearms in the United States is .7 people per 100,000 per year (compared to Sweden, which has restrictive legislation and one-tenth the number of nonhunting fatalities from accidental shootings).

When one factors in the variables of sex, age, income, ethnicity, education, previous violence in the home, and drug use, the presence of a firearm in the home greatly increases the likelihood of a homicide or a death by suicide. In the case of homicide, evidence shows that in many killings the offender did not have a single-minded intention to kill, and thus the lethality of the instrument used in the crime affected the outcome. Because homicides in the home usually follow altercations, and situational factors such as alcohol or drug consumption are often present, the presence of a lethal weapon increases the risk that a death will occur. Unsafe storage is also a risk factor, although the presence of a firearm has been found to be more critical than its accessibility.

In the case of suicide, studies have found that having access to a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide; suicide rates are five or six times higher than in homes without guns. Restrictions on carrying firearms, enhanced sentences for the use of firearms in criminal offenses and legislation (e.g., in Canada), and compelling firearms in the home to be guarded under lock and key have been associated with reduced deaths by suicide and homicide. According to a study conducted by Colin Loftin and colleagues, a widespread prohibition of handguns in the Washington, D.C., area in 1976 also appeared to be effective in decreasing mortality by 25 percent in the ten years following adoption of those restrictive laws, compared to no similar reductions in adjacent metropolitan areas in Maryland and Virginia where the law did not apply.

Persons opposed to legislative controls on firearms see criminals and suicidal individuals as being motivated by an intransigent need to harm others or themselves that is predetermined before any lethal event occurs. According to this view situational factors, such as the presence of a firearm, are irrelevant because these people will commit their premeditated acts irrespective of the means available. Opponents of gun control also feel that if "guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns." These opinions ignore the reality that many homicides and suicides are impulsive and passionate acts where the presence of a lethal weapon immediately available greatly increases the risk of a lethal outcome. Furthermore, many people who commit acts of violence, including homicide, have no known history of criminal behavior. Research has shown that suicidal people have a much greater likelihood of not dying by suicide if a particular preferred lethal means is not available. Studies conducted since the mid-1970s have shown that situational influences, including the availability of firearms, can be critical in the outcome of an event.

See also: Homicide, Epidemiology of; Suicide

Bibliography

Gabor, Thomas. The Impact of the Availability of Firearms on Violent Crime, Suicide, and Accidental Death: A Review of the Literature with Special Reference to the Canadian Situation. Ottawa: Canada Department of Justice, 1994.

Kellerman, Arthur K., et al. "Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership." New England Journal of Medicine 30 (1992):8693.

Loftin, Colin, David McDowal, Brian Wiersema, and Cottey Talbart. "Effects of Restrictive Licensing of Handguns on Homicide and Suicide in the District of Columbia." New England Journal of Medicine 325 (1991):16151620.

Ornehult, L., and A. Eriksson. "Fatal Firearms Accidents in Sweden." Forensic Science International 34 (1987):257266.

BRIAN L. MISHARA

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firearm

firearm Term used usually to describe a small arm – a weapon carried and fired by one person or a small group of people. Firearms were used in Europe in the 14th century. They were, however, ineffective in close combat until c.1425, when a primitive trigger to bring a lighted match into contact with the gunpowder charge was invented. Such firearms, called matchlocks, were heavy and cumbersome, and needed a constantly lit match. The lighter flintlock (which used the spark produced by flint striking steel to ignite the powder) superseded the matchlock in the mid-17th century. During the 19th century there were great changes. In 1805, the explosive properties of mercury fulminate were discovered and, together with the percussion cap invented in 1815, it provided a surer, more efficient means of detonation. It permitted the development by 1865 of both the centre-fire cartridge (which has been the basic type of ammunition used in firearms ever since) and breech loading, not previously practicable. Another major 19th-century advance was rifling – the cutting of spiral grooves along the inside of a barrel in order to make the bullet spin in flight. During the 1830s, Samuel Colt perfected the revolver, a pistol which could fire several shots without the need to reload. By the 1880s, magazine rifles were also in use, and became more effective with the introduction of a bolt action after 1889. Development of a weapon that could fire a continuous stream of bullets began with the manually operated Gatling gun, but the first modern machine gun was the Maxim gun, invented in the 1880s, which used the recoil energy of the fired bullet to push the next round into the breech and recock the weapon. Guns of this type dominated the trench warfare of World War I. By World War II, more portable automatic weapons, such as the Bren gun and sub-machine gun, were in use. Newer developments include gas-operated rifles, firearms with several rotating barrels and extremely high rates of fire, and small firearms that use explosive bullets.

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firearm

firearm, device consisting essentially of a straight tube to propel shot, shell, or bullets by the explosion of gunpowder. Although the Chinese discovered gunpowder as early as the 9th cent., they did not develop firearms until the mid-14th cent. By that time, firearms, particularly in the form of heavy cannon, were in general use in Europe and Asia Minor. With such firearms, the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople. From the 15th cent., when the matchlock appeared, to the end of the U.S. Civil War, firearms became increasingly important in battle, and military tactics had to adapt constantly to successive improvements in their design. The early matchlocks, which depended on a lit match for firing the gunpowder, were supplanted first by flintlocks (perfected at the turn of the 17th cent.) that used a striking flint for firing, and then by various breach-loading firearms (perfected in the middle of the 19th cent.), which used bullets fitted with shells full of gunpowder that was ignited by the impact of a firing pin. In the 15th cent. firearms also came into use in hunting. Firearms were spread throughout the world during the period of European expansion. In some areas they were rapidly integrated into the existing culture and economy. Firearms are generally classified either as large firearms, i.e., artillery, or as small arms.

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firearm

fire·arm / ˈfī(ə)rˌärm/ • n. a rifle, pistol, or other portable gun.

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firearm

firearmalarm, arm, Bairam, balm, barm, becalm, calm, charm, embalm, farm, forearm, Guam, harm, imam, ma'am, malm, Montcalm, Notre-Dame, palm, psalm, qualm, salaam, smarm •yardarm • sidearm • gendarme •wind farm • Islam • schoolmarm •tonearm • napalm • firearm •underarm • short-arm

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"firearm." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"firearm." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/firearm

"firearm." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/firearm