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From the History Books Ammo

8 Most Important Developments in Shooting History

by Garry James   |  November 21st, 2011 22

Once again, the blogmeisters have given me the thankless task of coming up with a number (this time, eight) of things to pique your interest, vis-à-vis guns and shooting.

Here we are going to talk about some factors that had major influences in the field. Of course, there about ten gazillion things that could be considered, so please feel free to step in with your thoughts. Here are mine. Please excuse if some are painted with rather broad strokes, but we only have so much space and individual books can — and have been — written on them all.

Picture 1 of 8


Without gunpowder, of course, there would have been no guns -- unless you consider airguns, which certainly came on the scene early, but did have their limitations. Anyway, from the early serpentine to corned powders, through the various smokeless types, this is certainly the single most important development in firearms.

  • A McCann

    One thing I have always been interested in which I have never read about is. In the early days of gunsmiths or gun making, before the industrial age and machines were common. How did gun makers achieve rifling?

    • S Madsen

      Look in the "Foxfire" books. About half of Vol 5 is devoted to frontier gunmaking. There is an excellent explanation of how the old gunsmiths rifled barrels

  • kylelds

    I thought for sure John Moses Browning would have been listed here. I don't know, maybe he's not a "development".

  • JeReese

    Other item miss was the trigger, without trigger, hammer, and springs the gun would be hard to fire. The metal working improved over the years the trigger was refine into art. All other items listed would not work if trigger was not working.

  • OldSgt

    My Great-Great Grandfather & Great Grandfather both served in Company H, 7th Illinois Infantry. Although they are not in this picture, this is Co. H's picture, with their Henry Rifles.

  • M. Yuan

    So where's the illustration of the Chinese guy? We had gunpowder long before the European middle ages!

    • Garry James

      You find it and I'll print it. Besides, I have it on good authority that Roger Bacon was a quarter Chinese, twice removed, on his mother's side.

    • Dennis G.

      Yes – it may have originated in India. Seems like I recall reading that Alexander The Great encountered something approximating cannon fire.

      • Garry James

        Well, there were various incendiaries going back a considerable number of years, most notably "Greek Fire"." The exact formula of has been lost, but it probably involved a mixture of several substances such as sulfur, pitch and resin, using naptha as a base.

    • Garry James

      Sorry, forgot to note…if you'll read the intro, I don't believe I was Eurocentric in my (very) brief description of the development of gunpowder–it's just that I've not run across a 9th century Chinese picture of someone working with the stuff. There are also those who believe that India or Persia has an equal claim with China, especially as the former had large natural supplies of saltpeter available–one of the reasons the Brits were so interested in the sub-continent.

  • LRand

    Garry, you wrote this as if you never heard of "shotguns"! Two more to consider:

    1. Development of plastics. Without them we wouldn't have plastic wads and hulls as well as the basis for polymer handguns.

    2. Chokes. They extended the range of scattergun effectiveness from feet to 60-70 yards.

    • tomaustin

      why don't all you other experts write your own articles and submit for publication………….

  • Dennis G

    Good article!

  • tanstaafl2

    Smokeless powder my good man! Smokeless!

  • Garry James

    Perhaps you should read the blog as well as the comments. Smokeless powder was mentioned in the "Gunpowder" entry.

    • Sam

      Great article. I think there is a lot here not all known by many shooters/collectors. I was hired as a rangemaster at 18 years of age and in 40 years, I never realized the origin of the word barrel included staves and bindings. Just attached it to the fact that early mortar types had the shape of an open barrel. By the way, the guy in the lithograph, or whatever it is, sorta looks a bit Chinese to me.

      • Garry James

        Actually it's an apocryphal engraving of Berthold Schwartz, a Franciscan monk who supposedly invented gunpowder. The difficulty is, he probably never existed and powder had been in use well prior to the 14th century in which he purportedly lived. Still, it's an evocative picture.

  • Jeff

    Thanks Garry! I am always intrigued by the relationship of human history and particular events with firearms and their evolution.

  • Don

    Couldn't argue with any of those developments.

    • Kyle

      Agreed. all these other nutjobs are nit-picking. Keep up the good work Garry.

  • Mack Missiletoe

    Cool blog. The first thing I thought of was Rifling. It's amazing how far we've come. Not like I can make a 1moa hunting rifle in my garage… haha I don't even have a garage :O

  • RLS87

    I believed you missed the single most important development (well for the American Shooter) The Second Amendment

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