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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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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, 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.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


In a general sense, a gun.
A small arm, as a pistol or rifle, designed to be carried and used by an individual.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
April 27: Three army soldiers including a Captain and two militants were killed in Panzgam Kupwara gunfight. A civilian Mohammad Yousuf was also shot dead by army during post gunfight protest.
Eyewitnesses said that the Indian forces also blew three houses and two cowsheds during the gunfight using explosives, besides torching a car and a motorcycle.The killings have invited sharp criticism from the resistance leadership led by octogenarian senior leader Syed Ali Geelani, and including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
He added that there was a gunfight in the building and "as a result of a gunfight a police officer and Pavel Manukyan and his son Aram both members of the armed group were wounded."
A police official said the militants were killed after a fivehour- long gunfight.
SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir -- Two militants were killed in separate gunfights with Indian troops in restive Indian controlled Kashmir, police said Wednesday.
The police chief of Andarab, Colonel Gulistan Qasani, said hostility between the two groups involved in the gunfight had been simmering for many years.
In the ensuing gunfight, Cutri's brother Antonino was shot and later died of his injuries, according to news reports which likened the shootout near Milan to a scene from the Wild West.
The gunfight and the revenge arson in the old Cairo neighborhood of el-Moski are the latest signs of lawlessness that has struck Egypt during two years of political turmoil.
An Israeli man entered Hapoalim bank in the Israeli city of Bersheeba on Monday, engaged in a gunfight which killed four people, took a hostage and then turned his gun on himself.
My old friend John Pride, long since retired from LAPD, began his shooting career with a gunfight on the mean streets.
In his article, Regimental Chief Warrant Officer Albaugh references a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) study which shows that the action/reaction lag times among suspects and law enforcement officers render the first few seconds of a gunfight critical to survival.