Within just a few generations of its invention, gunpowder became one of the most important substances in the world. Researchers quickly discovered that they could turn a crude metal tube into a deadly weapon with nothing more than some gunpowder and a small projectile. Here is a closer look at four of the most fascinating guns that have changed the course of history as we know it.
Matchlock firearms were first developed in the 15th century, and this technology immediately altered the face of warfare. Even though they were cumbersome and difficult to load, a soldier could be trained to use a matchlock rifle in a matter of days. Instead of spending years training bowmen, leaders could raise huge armies at a moment’s notice. These firearms also penetrate extremely expensive armor with nothing more than a small piece of lead.
Richard Gatling was a surgeon who wanted to come up with a weapon that would limit the number of men needed out on the battlefield. With his Gatling gun, two or three men could produce the same amount of firepower as an entire company. This gun shot hundreds of rounds a minute, and generals quickly realized that muzzleloaders were about to be a thing of the past. Soldiers would have needed safe, practical, and consistent firearms that they could carry with them at all times if they wanted to defeat the Gatling gun.
Modern revolvers are still very popular among firearm enthusiasts, and many of the handguns that are being used today can trace their heritage back to the Colt revolver. There were other revolvers before the Colt, but this firearm pushed technology to its limit. Six rounds could be fired before the Colt needed to be reloaded, and the cartridges would last for years when stored in proper conditions. The Colts were so iconic that some American generals continued to carry them all the way through World War 2.
The AK-47 is the most widely produced rifle in the world, and it is the primary firearm for over 82 state armies. In addition to being extremely cheap to produce, the AK-47 is very durable as well. There are also hundreds of unique attachments for the AK-47 that can turn a basic rifle into a specialized tool. Very few firearms are as iconic and lethal as the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947.
From global conflicts to an Olympic sport, firearms have forever changed humanity. Guns will be around for centuries to come, and it is going to be interesting to see what the future has in store for them.
The article was written by Emma Sturgis. Emma is a freelance writer currently living in Boston, MA. She writes most often on education and business. To see more from Emma, say hi on Twitter.