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firearm,device consisting essentially of a straight tube to propel shot, shell, or bullets by the explosion of gunpowdergunpowder,
explosive mixture; its most common formula, called "black powder," is a combination of saltpeter, sulfur, and carbon in the form of charcoal. Historically, the relative amounts of the components have varied.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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 huntinghunting,
act of seeking, following, and killing wild animals for consumption or display. It differs from fishing in that it involves only land animals. Hunting was a necessary activity of early humans.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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., artilleryartillery,
originally meant any large weaponry (including such ancient engines of war as catapults and battering rams) or war material, but later applied only to heavy firearms as opposed to small arms.
..... Click the link for more information. , or as small armssmall arms,
firearms designed primarily to be carried and fired by one person and, generally, held in the hands, as distinguished from heavy arms, or artillery. Early Small Arms
The first small arms came into general use at the end of the 14th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. .
a weapon in which the energy of the chemical decomposition of an explosive (for example, gunpowder) is used to propel a bullet (projectile) from the barrel. Modern firearms are divided into artillery guns (such as howitzers, cannon, mortars, and recoilless weapons), which are designed to destroy targets at considerable distances or in concealment, and small arms (such as pistols, submachine guns, rifles, and machine guns), which are designed for destroying targets deployed in the open.