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The Role Of Firearms Throughout History

1869 words - 7 pages

Have you ever wondered how guns came to be? Most people have little or no idea. The history is more complex than people assume it to be; there is no one person credited with "inventing" the firearm. One nation in particular has played a major role in the incredible discovery that would change the way people hunt, protect themselves, and engage in warfare. This nation is China, and the history of the firearm can be traced to the second century. But before we dive into the history of firearm, one must understand what a firearm is. According to Merriam-Webster, a firearm is “a weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder —usually used of small arms.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/firearm). Although many credible sources may have slightly different wording of the definition of firearms the concept remains the same. A firearm can come in many forms; from a pistol, rifle, cannon, or even a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). The notion of an object being sent through the air at a high rate of speed using gunpowder technology, however crude or sophisticated, ultimately defines a firearm.
The first step towards the development of firearms was the discovery of gunpowder and its explosive properties. Wei Boyang, an alchemist, the equivalent of a chemist and philosopher of past times, was the first known man to “discover” gunpowder in 142. (http://www.amazon.com/Science-Civilisation-China-Technology-Spagyrical/dp/0521210283) (2). Astonishingly, it took over one hundred and fifty years before the ingredients of gunpowder and the ensuing chemical reaction were formally recorded. Many scholars, however, officially credit the discovery of gunpowder to Chinese alchemists in 850. It was said that they were searching for an “elixir of immortality.” The first actual “firearm” was developed during the tenth century in China, known as the fire lance (http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_firelance.html) (3). A fire lance was a combination of a spear and tube capable of firing projectiles at a maximum distance of a few feet. Because hand-to-hand combat was the most popular means of combat at the time, this gave wielders a significant advantage to enemies just holding swords or knives. Designed only as a weapon, the fire lance would be loaded with poison-tipped projectiles and after fired could be used as a spear.
But as with any notable invention, its creators worried that others may discover how it was produced and begin making their own version of the identical device. In the eleventh century the ruling Dynasty of China, Song, were concerned about enemies learning the “secrets” behind gunpowder technology. In 1247 the Chinese used gunpowder for the first time in combat, most likely a cannon-like weapon in the Siege of Seville to overcome their Muslim foes (http://www.themcs.org/weaponry/cannon/cannon.htm) (4). The next major step for firearms was the documented use of cannons, in...

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