A History of Guns

Female carrying a gun

Guns only came about following the production of gunpowder that was achieved by the Chinese approximately one thousand years ago. Here we take a look at the history of gun making from the first primitive creations to the late 1800's.

Early Firearms

The Matlock

The very first firearms were built by the Chinese in the fourteenth century and were known as fire lances. These were long tubes that firstly were made from bamboo but eventually progressed to metal tubes that held shrapnel that was propelled by gunpowder. The first guns as we know them today were produced in 1364 and were fired by lighting the touch hole with a wick that in turn lit the gunpowder making the gun fire. The first gun fired using two hands to secure the gun was a Matlock around 1400.

The Wheelock

Following on from The Matlock was the Wheelock, (1509) where a mechanically generated spark set off the spark to ignite the gun. This gun was more reliable than the Matlock therefore became widely used although as the Matlock was cheaper to produce it was still at this time a popular firearm. Multi shot Wheelocks were introduced around 1540 whereby this weapon had two locks combined in one mechanism giving each barrel of the gun separate ignition.

The Flintlock

The Flintlock came next with the first proper Flintlock used in 1630. The Flintlock saw a lid attached to the flashpan. This meant that a mechanism pushed the lid back while creating a spark at the same time. This design remained in use for the next two hundred years with one of the most famous of these being known as the Brown Bess musket.


A Hand Canon

Pistols came into fashion as they were the popular choice for men who duelled to the death. These were produced around 1777 had a ten inch barrel with a one inch bore. These often highly decorated pieces went out of favour in the 1800's when duelling became unpopular.

The Colt Revolver

The Colt revolver was produced in 1835 by Samuel Colt, while it was the first ever mass produced firearm. The ability to mass produce meant that costs could be kept at a minimum making the purchase of a Colt Revolver possible for the masses. The gun was accurate and reliable gaining it popularity with the military.

The Shotgun

A Shot Gun

Shotguns were widely produced by the 1850's with forerunners being used solely for shooting birds.

Further Progression

1860 The Spencer Repeating Carbine created a manually operated lever action repeating rifle used widely by the cavalry during the American Civil War

1862 The Gatling gun invented. It was a forerunner to the modern machine gun

1871 The first Cartridge Revolver was a repeating firearm with a revolving cylinder that had six chambers

1873 The Winchester Rifle produced. This was the earliest repeating rifle that was used by early American settlers in the west

1892 Automatic Handguns are on the horizon.