See small arms entry for information on traceability and durability.
Pistols and revolvers are covered by a range of multilateral instruments treaty and soft law regulating small arms. Machine pistols are treated in the Encyclopaedia entry on sub-machine guns. Arquebuses were invented in the late fourteenth century see Encyclopedia weapons entry on rifles and carbines. Starting as large and unwieldy weapons, they were progressively miniaturised, leading to the appearance of the first pistols in the mid-fifteenth century. At first the new invention was of little use. Firearms were very inaccurate affairs, and pistols even more so due to their short barrel.
Light and small, they could have been handy for cavalry, but firearms could not be carried on horseback as long as matchlock firing mechanisms required carrying a lit match at all times.
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Then in the mid-fifteenth century, the wheel lock mechanism was invented: this ingenious mechanism used a spring to spin a wheel when released, creating sparks that could ignite the powder. The mechanism was very expensive and delicate, and not easy to reload, but it meant that pistols could now be carried and fired on horseback. The pistol had found its niche.
Pistols were first used in battle in the mid-sixteenth century, and gradually became a standard equipment of the cavalry, replacing the lance. Given the difficulty of reloading, cavalry tended to carry several pistols ready to be shot. The downside was that each weapon needed to be kept small and light, which decreased its effective range and made it no match against the musket.
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The horsemen also liked the pistol butt to be quite bulky, so that when the pistol had been fired, it could be held in the other direction and used to club the enemy. Reloading became easier with the invention in the late seventeenth century of the flintlock mechanism.
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Cheaper and easier to manufacture than the wheel lock, it was quickly adopted for pistols. Of course, pistols were still horribly inaccurate at all but very close range, but they were carried as an element of prestige and as a last resort. Efforts were also underway to create a pistol capable of firing multiple shots.
Pistols with multiple barrels were produced, or some models placed two charges and two shots in the same barrel with two wheel- or flintlocks to fire them.
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Then came the revolving chamber, an idea experimented with in the seventeenth century already. The first true revolver was produced by Samuel Colt in Then Robert Adams, a London gunsmith, patented it in England and put it on display at the Great Exhibition, immediately raising strong interest. The design of the gun was revolutionary in many ways: it consisted of a number of interchangeable parts, which could be mass-produced without requiring further work before assembly.
As industrial production methods spread, soon several different types of revolvers would be produced.
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It explains the development of rifles and machine guns through the centuries, and shows the capabilities and individual specifications of modern weapons. Also featured is a chronological account of arms development.
A comprehensive list of manufacturers, a glossary and an index complete this easy-to-use encyclopedia. Patrick Sweeney grew up in Detroit and competes, teachers, and trains others in the use of firearms. He is a court recognized expert witness and a state-certifieWill Fowler has worked in journalism and publishing since , specializing in military history, current affairs, and defense technology.
He is the author of over 30 books and has served for nearly 30 years in the British Territorial Army. Customer Reviews Average Review. See All Customer Reviews.