Firearms are a Chinese invention for which the earliest evidence dates to 1130.
Firearms are a
An English illustration from 1326 shows the earliest known gunpowder weapon in Europe during a siege. The first certain use of gunpowder weaponry in Europe occurred in 1331 during a siege of
By 1410 gunpowder weaponry had captured the attention of an unlikely commentator on military affairs, Christine de
A hand-cannon of the fifteenth century, fired from the shoulder or from a rest such as a wall with a lit match.
The fact that Christine’s work makes little mention of gunpowder weapons in battle suggests that, at least in France, they were not yet being widely used. In Flanders, ribaulds were placed on carts and used as field artillery. The first battle in which they had an impact was
The solution was the development of
The harquebus was a product of several German innovations that had been made by 1460.
The harquebus’s impact on the battlefield was slow to appear. Compared to
The harquebus, popular by the sixteenth century, had a matchlock firing device that allowed for more reliable firing.
For a brief time, the use of the harquebus as a defensive weapon on walls reduced the advantage that heavy cannons had provided besiegers, but gunpowder artillery continued to improve more rapidly than did firearms. A problem with early cannons was the poor quality of cast iron used to make them, which resulted in pieces frequently bursting and killing gunners and bystanders. A solution was the use of bronze. Europeans were familiar with casting bronze bells, and that technology was easily transferred to the making of weapons. The use of bronze allowed founders to manufacture long-barreled pieces with small muzzles, which were capable of using iron or lead balls. Under Charles
During the wars in Italy after 1494, field armies began to include harquebusiers. At the Battle of
The Battle of Pavia (1525) between forces of French king Francis I and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
During the Dutch Wars of Independence
with a ball and a measured amount of powder. Intent on increasing firepower for his forces, he also introduced a light piece firing a 3-pound ball that could be moved with the infantry on the battlefield, thereby providing support fire for the infantry in a way that heavier cannon could not do. For Gustavus II Adolphus, the purpose of firepower was to create opportunities for shock forces to carry the attack into the ranks of the enemy. Pikemen continued to be a significant part of the European infantry until the development of the bayonet by 1700 combined shock and firepower in each soldier.
Arnold, Thomas F., ed. Renaissance at War. London: Cassell, 2001. Chase, Kenneth. Firearms: A Global History to 1700. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cooper, Jeff. Fighting Handguns. Los Angeles: Trend Books, 1958. Reprint. Boulder, Colo.: Paladin Press, 2008. DeVries, Kelly. Guns and Men in Medieval Europe, 1200-1500: Studies in Military History and Technology. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate/Variorum, 2002. _______. Medieval Military Technology. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 1992. Diagram Group. The New Weapons of the World Encyclopedia: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to the Twenty-first Century. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. Hall, Bert. Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Lugs, Jaroslav. Firearms Past and Present: A Complete Review of Firearms Systems and Their Histories. 2 vols. London: Grenville, 1973. Parker, Geoffrey. The Military Revolution. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Pauly, Roger. Firearms: The Life Story of a Technology. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Tales of the Gun. Documentary series. History Channel, 1998.
Firearms and Cannon
Small Arms and Machine Guns
Gunpowder and Explosives
Knights to Cavalry
Galleys to Galleons