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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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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.


In a general sense, a gun.
A small arm, as a pistol or rifle, designed to be carried and used by an individual.
References in periodicals archive ?
SRyNAGAR (CyHAN)- Three militants were killed in two separate gunfights in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said on Thursday.
On Saturday afternoon, after some armymen noticed a suspicious movement in Tangdar sector near LoC, following which they were challenged, which resulted in a fierce gunfight.
The police chief of Andarab, Colonel Gulistan Qasani, said hostility between the two groups involved in the gunfight had been simmering for many years.
The bomb, described as similar to the twin bombs set off at the race, was extracted from a Honda Civic in which it embedded itself on a Watertown, Massachusetts street after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, detonated it during the gunfight.
The suspects were arrested after killing a private security guard in the gunfight, he said.
TUNIS - Two Tunisian soldiers were killed and four wounded on Saturday in a gunfight with "terrorists" several kilometres (miles) from the border with Algeria, the defence ministry said.
NEW DELHI, March 28 (KUNA) -- At least six persons, including three rebels, army personnel and two civilians, were killed during separate gunfights in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said Friday.
The gang leader, 43, was first thought to have died in December 2010 during a two-day gunfight with police.
ROME Sun Feb 9, 2014 (Reuters) - Italian police recaptured a suspected mafia mobster on Sunday after he escaped from police custody in a gunfight in which his brother was killed.
Egypt's state news agency says a gunfight between two families in a Cairo market has left 15 people dead, including 13 who were burned to death.
Four Indian army troopers and one militant were killed yesterday in a fierce gunfight in south Kashmir Pulwama district.
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.