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History of the Gun in 500 Photographs

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A fascinating look into the history of the firearm and how and why it has had the impact it has on American culture and society.

Few inventions have had more of a profound impact on the course of civilization than guns: The first hand-held versions were Chinese fire lances invented in the 10th century, though it was Europeans who were credited with creating the handheld weapons that we recognize today. Americans and their expansion westward were the ones who refined, and helped define innovation and the development of an industry. Starting with Samuel Colt and the "revolver revolution," Americans took the lead in moving gun development forward. Names now well-known including Wesson, Winchester, and Browning helped create weapons that helped move a nation forward and ushered in the industrialized warfare of World War I. Now, TIME-LIFE, in the next book in the success "500 Photographs" series, following World War II in 500 Photographs and The Civil War in 500 Photographs, brings readers The History of the Gun in 500 Photographs, which traces the fascinating evolution of firearms, not just as tools of security, but as ingenious feats of science and engineering.

This book contains over 500 photos that take readers on a historical and visual journey of the gun, not just as a weapon, but as a constantly-evolving artifact that has shaped America's culture and mindset. 
Year:
2016
Publisher:
Liberty Street
Language:
english
ISBN 13:
9781618933393
Series:
TIME LIFE Books
File:
EPUB, 83.35 MB
Download (epub, 83.35 MB)

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7. FIREARMS AND THE WILD WEST

TO CONQUER NEW TERRITORY AND BATTLE NATIVE AMERICANS, SETTLERS AND CATTLEMEN RELIED ON WINCHESTERS, SHARPS, AND COLTS.

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Buffalo Bill (far left), General Nelson Miles of the U.S. Army (center), and officers survey the aftermath of the December 29, 1890, Wounded Knee massacre that killed 300 Sioux men, women, and children.

The Role of Weapons in the Wild West

IN THE YEARS AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, CIVILIANS, SOLDIERS, AND OUTLAWS USED OLIVER WINCHESTER'S LEVER-ACTION RIFLES.

WINCHESTER MODEL 1873

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Country: United States

Date: circa 1873

Barrel Length: 24in

Caliber: .44

Manufactured from 1873 to 1919, this lever-action rifle also was made as a carbine and rifled musket. It competes with the 1873 Colt Single Action Army .45 for the title “the gun that won the West.”

WINCHESTER MODEL 1895 CARBINE

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Country: United States

Date: late 19th century

Barrel Length: 22in

Caliber: .30

This rifle is chambered for a variety of military and hunting cartridges.

WINCHESTER YELLOW BOY

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Country: United States

Date: 1866–1900

Caliber: .44

WINCHESTER MODEL 1873 LEVER-ACTION RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: 1891

Barrel Length: 24in

Caliber: .44

Cowboys and Indians, outlaws and marshals, federal troops and land-hungry settlers—all were characters of mythic proportion during the late-19th-century surge of population from East to West. In the sweep of imagination and in quite a bit of actual experience, guns played a central role in the era of the “Wild West.”

It was the age of Colt six-shooters, Winchester lever-action repeaters, and Sharps rifles that could take down a charging bison with a single well-placed shot. A romantic attachment to firearms—and the violence they begat—was woven into American popular culture.

No man had a greater influence on the weaponry of the West than Oliver Winchester, an East Coast shirt manufacturer who diversified into the gun business by investing in the Volcanic Repeating Arms Compa; ny, a division of Smith & Wesson. When Winchester took control of Volcanic in 1856, he changed its name to the less evocative Winchester Repeating Arms, and based it in New Haven, Connecticut. Among his many talented craftsmen, Winchester employed Benjamin Tyler Henry, designer of the lever-action repeating Henry rifle, which saw action during the Civil War.

After the Union prevailed, Winchester introduced a series of lever-action rifles that became popular in the West among civilians, soldiers, bandits, and lawmen. The Winchester Model 1866, a descendant of the Henry rifle nicknamed “Yellow Boy” because of the color of its brass receiver, could hold 15 .44-caliber rim-fire cartridges in its tubular magazine, more than twice the seven-round capacity of its famous predecessor. Armed with that amount of firepower, the skilled gunman was a force to be reckoned with.

Winchester’s subsequent Model 1873 discharged an even more effective center-fire cartridge, also .44 caliber, and became the most prominent rifle of the last quarter of the century. The weapon was so influential, it shared the honorific “the gun that won the West,” with Sam Colt’s Single Action Army revolver.

Other notable rifles of the Wild West era included the Sharps 1859 carbine, which was popular with scouts and hunters and even starred in some movies, like True Grit (1969) and Valdez Is Coming (1971). Some Sharps carbines incorporated a hand-cranked grinder in the gun’s stock, a curious feature once thought to be a coffee mill but now assumed to be used for grinding wheat or corn. Buffalo hunters tended to prefer the Sharps .50 caliber—“the Big Fifty”—which supposedly could kill a bison at a distance of 200 yards.

Eliphalet Remington (1793–1861) of upstate New York designed a single-shot rifle bearing his name and manufactured by his family-owned company in the town of Ilion. Popular in the West in the 1860s and 1870s, durable Remington rifles were also purchased in large numbers by European governments. Over the generations, what became the Remington Arms Company branched out to manufacture typewriters, cash registers, and cutlery. But Remington continued to make firearms as well, and today, Remingtons are produced by a descendant company based in North Carolina.

Oliver Winchester: Empire Builder

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A sharp-eyed businessman, Oliver Winchester (1810–1881) got into the gun business by snapping up a financially troubled division of Smith & Wesson, Volcanic Repeating Arms, and turning it into an eponymous firearm empire. During the Civil War, the Union Army bought some of the company’s repeating Henry rifles for its troops, but conservative-minded military officials generally equipped infantrymen with single-shot weapons thought to be easier to use. Winchester’s fortunes as a gunmaker improved after the war, when civilians moving west adopted repeating weapons such as the Winchester Model 1873 to battle Native Americans.

After Winchester died, ownership of his company passed to a son, William, who himself died shortly thereafter, a victim of tuberculosis. William’s wife, Sarah, became convinced the family bore a curse cast by spirits of the legions killed over the decades with Winchester rifles. She moved to San Jose, California, and built a bizarre mansion, the Winchester Mystery House, a vast dwelling with 160 rooms, doors that opened on to walls, and stairways to nowhere. Sarah apparently thought she could hide there from hostile mystic forces seeking revenge against Oliver Winchester’s heirs.

The house today is a tourist attraction and the Winchester brand remains alive, a reminder of the Old West, albeit in a license agreement with a Belgian-based group.

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A statue in the garden at the Winchester Mystery House was installed to help appease spirits of Native Americans killed by Winchester guns.

Soldiers of the West

FRONTIER NEEDS DOMINATED AMERICAN MILITARY ACTION FOR MOST OF THE 19TH CENTURY.

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A well-armed cavalier monitored Sioux who were being forced onto reservations in late 1890.

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A soldier guarded South Dakota’s Fort Lincoln, circa 1876.

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Soldiers flanked a Sioux warrior acquitted of killing a U.S. Army officer in 1891.

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Seventy U.S. Army scouts two weeks before the December 29, 1890, attack on the Sioux camp at Wounded Knee.

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Soldiers with the Hotchkiss cannon used to attack Sioux at Wounded Knee in December 1890.

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Infantrymen prepared for war with the Sioux in 1890.

Frontier soldiers laid out roads and helped advance railroads through the Great Plains. But their primary mission during the 19th century was to protect a tide of white settlers from the Native Americans they were displacing. Countless battles and hundreds of broken peace treaties finally led to two of the best known and most controversial frontier encounters: Lieutenant Colonel Custer’s 1876 slaughter at Little Bighorn and the 1890 Sioux massacre at Wounded Knee.

Annie Got Her Guns

A FEMALE SHARPSHOOTER AND ENTERTAINER MADE HER NAME IN BUFFALO BILL’S VARIETY SHOW.

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ANNIE OAKLEY’S F. HAMBRUSCH SHOTGUN

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Country: Germany

Date: 1890

Barrel Length: 24in

REMINGTON-BEALS RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: circa 1866–1868

Caliber: .32

“When a man hits a target, they call him a marksman,” Oakley once said. “When I hit a target, they call it a trick. Never did like that much.”

STEVENS-GOULD NO. 37

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Country: United States

Date: 1890s

Barrel Length: 10in

Caliber: .22

SMITH & WESSON MODEL 1

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Country: United States

Date: 1881

Caliber: .22

The seven-shot Model 1 was the company’s first firearm.

Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Mosey, 1860–1926), a star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and one of the first Americans to truly deserve the title of celebrity, used a wide variety of rifles and shotguns to accomplish her feats of accuracy. Her first trick shot came at the age of eight, she recounted: “I saw a squirrel run down over the grass in front of the house, through the orchard, and stop on a fence to get a hickory nut.” Oakley took down the family rifle and fired. “It was a wonderful shot, going right through the head from side to side," she remembered.

As an adult, Oakley delighted audiences with a rare .32-caliber, single-shot Remington-Beals rifle manufactured briefly in the late 1860s. She also used double-barrel shotguns made by Parker Brothers and Hibbard, as well as a Stevens Tip-up trick shot rifle. She dazzled crowds with her .22-caliber Marlin, obliterating an ace of hearts playing card nearly 40 feet away with 25 shots in just 27 seconds. When Oakley turned to revolvers, she relied on the best-known brands of the day: the Smith & Wesson Model 3 and various Colt handguns.

The Other Side of the Law

WEAPONS USED BY BANDITS AND GANG MEMBERS LIKE JESSE JAMES AND BILLY THE KID WERE AS FAMOUS AS THEIR OWNERS.

COLT THUNDERER

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Country: United States

Date: circa 1879

Barrel Length: 4 1/2in

Caliber: .41

John Wesley Hardin used a six-shot, double-action Colt Thunderer to rob a high-end crap game in El Paso, Texas, in 1895.

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SMITH & WESSON SCHOFIELD

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Country: United States

Date: late 1876

Barrel Length: 7in

Caliber: .45

Jesse James carried a Smith & Wesson Schofield.

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In this image of Billy the Kid, he carries a holstered Colt SAA and is leaning on his 1873 Winchester carbine.

Old West outlaws preyed on banks, trains, and stagecoaches. In off hours, they frequented saloons where gambling disputes and severe inebriation led to further gunplay. Jesse James, a former Confederate bushwhacker who formed a criminal gang with his brother Frank, used a distinctive .45-caliber Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver. Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum, an affiliate of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, carried the most famous of the Old West revolvers, the Colt .45 Single Action Army. John Wesley Hardin also preferred a Colt, but his was a .41-caliber Model 1877 double-action revolver.

Billy the Kid (Henry McCarty), known for his mild demeanor when he wasn’t murdering people, likewise carried the Colt .41, nicknamed “the Thunderer,” as well as a Winchester Model 1873 rifle. The dapper train robber Butch Cassidy (Robert Leroy Parker) surrendered his Colt .45 Single Action Army to a sheriff in Utah as part of a failed bid for amnesty; when the deal fell through, he and his partner, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid, returned to their life of crime using other Colt weapons and Winchester rifles—models 1873, 1894, and 1895.

The Rule of Remington

THE CIVIL WAR HELPED SPUR THE GROWTH OF AN INFLUENTIAL FAMILY GUNMAKING BUSINESS.

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Eliphalet Remington

REMINGTON NEW MODEL PERCUSSION RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: circa 1865

Caliber: .36 and .44

Only about 1,000 of these New Model rifles were produced.

REMINGTON NO. 1 ROLLING BLOCK SINGLE-SHOT RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: 1868–1888

Barrel Length: varied

Remington offered its No. 1 action rifle in more than 30 different calibers. It sold more than a million copies worldwide.

REMINGTON NEW MODEL ARMY REVOLVER

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Country: United States

Date: 1863–1875

Barrel Length: 8in

Caliber: .44

This military sidearm was sold commercially to civilians after the Civil War. “It never failed me,” Buffalo Bill said of the revolver he used for 43 years.

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The Remington Arms Company assembly room in 1917.

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The plant, which once employed more than 17,000 people, closed in 1986.

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Lakota chief Sitting Bull added star power to Cody's revue, but his duties were limited. He rode in the show's opening procession and sold autographs.

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In the peak years of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, the cast logged 341 performances in 132 cities within 200 days. By 1910, the cowboy showman had expanded the spectacle with performers from all over the world.

An archetypal New England gunmaker, Eliphalet Remington (1793–1861) initially followed his father into the blacksmithing trade in rural upstate New York. At 23, the younger Remington bought a flintlock firing mechanism from a nearby gunsmith, fashioned a barrel to go with it, and produced his first rifle. The weapon worked well enough that he decided to manufacture rifles, forming E. Remington & Sons with his own offspring. Eliphalet and his son Philo produced the first successful cast-steel drilled rifle barrel made in the U.S.

The onset of the Civil War created demand for Remington’s products, as it did for those of Colt, Sharps, and other highly regarded gunmakers. After the founder’s death in 1861, what became known as Remington Repeating Arms Company and later just Remington Arms made guns for the Union in the Civil War and the U.S. military during World War I and World War II.

Buffalo Bill Cody: Bison Hunter and Showman

While Oliver Winchester manufactured the arms of the Old West, William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846–1917), bison hunter and showman, made guns a part of American culture and mythology. Born in Le Claire in what’s now the state of Iowa, Cody moved with his family to the Kansas Territory and at the age of 14 became a rider for the Pony Express. He fought with the Union Army during the Civil War and served as a celebrated military scout during the long Indian Wars that followed. Cody also hunted bison, supposedly killing more than 4,000 in an 18-month period in the late 1860s—an example of the sort of excess that almost drove the iconic animal to extinction by the late 19th century. Illustrating his flair for the romantic, Cody named his Springfield Model 1863 “Lucretia Borgia,” after the notorious Italian noblewoman.

In 1883, he started Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a circuslike revue with a large cast of performers who traveled not only throughout the United States but across Europe as well. The show featured intricate presentations of horsemanship and shooting by uniformed U.S. military veterans, weather-worn cowboys, Indians in native garb, and colorfully costumed participants from as far away as Turkey and South America. For a time, Lakota chief Sitting Bull appeared with a group of his warriors. Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler, demonstrated acrobatic sharpshooting with weapons made by Winchester, Remington, Colt, and Smith & Wesson, among many others. The show often ended with a lurid simulation of whooping Plains Indians attacking the humble cabin of a brave white settler family who would be rescued by heroic cowboys or federal soldiers. At the turn of the 20th century, Cody was probably the best-known show-business celebrity on earth and most recognizable ambassador of the United States.

Guns at Little Bighorn

THOUGH REPEATING RIFLES WERE AVAILABLE, SOLDIERS WERE EQUIPPED WITH SINGLE-SHOT MODELS TO SAVE ON AMMUNITION.

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Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and 262 7th Cavalry soldiers were outmanned and outgunned at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana in 1876.

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The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, with tributes to Native Americans and the 7th U.S. Cavalry.

SHARPS 1856 CARBINE

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Country: United States

Date: 1856

Barrel Length: 17 9/10in

Caliber: .56

SPRINGFIELD MODEL 1873 “TRAPDOOR”RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: 1876

Barrel Length: 32 1/2in

Caliber: .45

SHARPS BIG 50 RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: 1872

Caliber: .50

Up to 60 million bison were killed in the latter half of the 19th century. Sharps .50-caliber rifles added to the carnage.

The now politically incorrect term “cowboys and Indians” typically conjures the Wild West era. But it was far more common in the late 19th century for units of the U.S. Army to confront Native Americans in battles for territory and dominance—and militarily, the Plains Indians outwitted, outplanned, and outmaneuvered the cavalrymen. At the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn, for example, a combined force of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors vanquished 700 men under the command of George Armstrong Custer. Five of the dozen companies of the 7th U.S. Cavalry were wiped out, with 263 Army soldiers killed, including Custer. About 40 to 50 Native Americans are thought to have died in the confrontation.

A number of factors contributed to the debacle known as Custer’s Last Stand. Custer ignored warnings from his scouts, his command was riven by internal rivalries, and most fatally, he divided his forces. The deployment of firearms also played a role.

Custer’s cavalry troops went into battle with breech-loading, single-shot Springfield Model 1873 carbines and .45 caliber Colt 1873 Single Action Army revolvers. Repeating rifles designed by Henry, Spencer, and Winchester were all available at the time, but the post–Civil War U.S. Army’s ordnance department stuck with a single-shot rifle as its standard, in part because the Springfield was relatively inexpensive to manufacture but also because they thought soldiers armed with single-shot weapons would be less likely to waste ammunition. Army officers were also following the lead of European militia, which generally avoided repeating weapons. Custer rejected an offer to add rapid-fire Gatling Guns to his arsenal, telling an Army colleague that bulky wheeled Gatling Guns would “hamper our movements.” The 7th Cavalry, a cocky Custer added, “can handle anything it meets.”

The several Indian groups came to the fight at Little Bighorn with an extraordinary array of weapons purchased and scavenged over time. Some of the Native Americans carried traditional bow and arrow, and when the dust settled, a number of Army dead resembled human pincushions. But the Native American warriors did far more damage with firearms. Hundreds of the mounted tribe members carried rifles and revolvers, including Henrys, Sharps, Winchesters, Remingtons, Smith & Wessons, and even British Enfields (the latter originally imported by the Confederate Army during the Civil War).

Historical accounts include the recollection of a Cheyenne warrior named Wooden Leg, who was armed with what he said was a “six shooter,” probably a Colt revolver. White Cow Bull, an Oglala Lakota warrior, claimed to have a repeating rifle. All told, historians have found evidence of 62 Indian-owned .44-caliber Henry repeaters and 27 .50-caliber Sharps rifles. Survivors emphasized that the native warriors were able to fire more rounds more quickly than the confused men under Custer. “The Indians had Winchester rifles, and [the Army] column made a large target for them, and they were pumping bullets into it,” recalled Major Marcus Reno.

For a supposedly crack cavalry unit, the U.S. 7th betrayed a distinct lack of skill with those weapons it did possess. Before Little Bighorn, the military allotted only 20 rounds per soldier for training. “Those were the good old days,” one Army veteran recalled of the 1870s. “Target practice was practically unknown.”

In the end, of course, the Native American military prowess was not enough to defeat the Army and arriving settlers. Bison hunters exterminated their food supply, eventually starving tribes. With no immunity to European diseases, thousands more were killed by typhus and smallpox.

Butch Cassidy: Outlaw and Folk Hero

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Robert Leroy Parker (previous) and his outlaw partner Harry Longahaugh, better known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, were often portrayed as likable bandits.

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After a $50,000 Union Pacific heist, Pinkerton agents ran the notorious duo out of the train-robbing business—and the country.

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Paul Newman (left, as Cassidy) and Robert Redford (as Longabaugh) romanticized the notorious bandits in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

COLT SAA REVOLVER

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Country: United States

Date: late 1800s

Caliber: .45

Cassidy and the Sundance Kid both stuck with variants of the Colt SAA model throughout their outlaw years. Sundance was reputed to have been the better marksman.

At the turn of the 20th century, Robert Leroy Parker (1866–1908), the bank and train robber better known as Butch Cassidy, teamed with Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid, in a long string of celebrated crimes.

During their careers, the felonious duo used a variety of weapons, but were most commonly linked to Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles—the standards of the Old West. In the 1890s, Cassidy and the Sundance Kid led the Wild Bunch, a gang that in 1899 robbed a Union Pacific train near Wilcox, Wyoming, leading to an extraordinary—and unsuccessful—manhunt. To avoid lawmen, Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the latter’s lady friend, Etta Place, fled to Argentina and then Bolivia, where the two robbers are thought to have been shot and killed in 1908. Their exploits inspired the 1969 Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

In 2012, a Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver once owned by Cassidy was sold for $175,000 at an auction. According to legend, Cassidy surrendered the handgun, along with a Winchester rifle, in late 1899 or 1900 to a sheriff named Parley Christison in an abortive bid for amnesty.




SHOWDOWNS AND SHOOT-OUTS

High-octane gunfights were as much a part of the Old West as cowboys, wagon trains, buffalo hunters, and railroads.

1871 Abilene marshal “Wild Bill” Hickok tried to censor a painting in gambler Phil Coe’s saloon of a bull with unusually large testicles; Coe was killed in the shoot-out that followed.

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1873 U.S. Army forces collaborating with Apache scouts defeated Yavapai and Tonto Apache bands at the Battle of Turret Peak in Arizona.

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1874 Bison hunters including lawman Bat Masterson shot it out with Comanche at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls.

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1876 Sioux Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refused to leave the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory, leading to the Battle of Powder River.

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1876 Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed during a poker game in Deadwood, Dakota Territory.

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1876 After attacking a Sioux village in Montana Territory, Lt. Col. George Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment were massacred in the Battle of Little Bighorn.

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1877 Claiming self-defense, Billy the Kid, 17, killed his first victim in a saloon fight in Fort Grant, Arizona.

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1881 The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, perhaps the most famous shoot-out of the Wild West, unfolded over a brief 30 seconds behind a saloon in Tombstone, Arizona.

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1882: Hoping to collect a $10,000 reward, outlaw Bob Ford killed gang leader Jesse James (pictured).

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1886 Geronimo surrendered and was taken into custody at Fort Grant, Arizona, symbolically ending the Apache Wars.

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1889 Butch Cassidy (front, right) knocked over his first bank, in Telluride, Colorado.

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1890 The U.S. Cavalry killed 300 Sioux at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

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1892 Residents of Coffeyville, Kansas, shot and killed four members of the Dalton Gang after the outlaws tried to rob two banks in the town simultaneously.

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© 2016 Time Inc. Books

Published by Liberty Street, an imprint of Time Inc. Books

225 Liberty Street

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LIBERTY STREET is a trademark of Time Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

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Firearms consultant Cameron Hopkins

Special thanks to Elizabeth Austin, Allison Chi, Anne-Michelle Gallero, Rachel Hatch, Christina Lieberman, Courtney Mifsud, Carol Pittard, Gina Scauzillo, Springfield Armory, Royal Armouries, NRA Museums, Thomas Del Mar Ltd, Smithsonian Institution

eISBN: 978-1-61893-339-3

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U.S. Army Captain Robert Bacon, leading a patrol during the Vietnam War, carries a World War II-era .30 carbine.




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Contents



	Cover

	Title

	Copyright

	Introduction

	CHAPTER 1

	Black Powder, Alchemy, and Bombards

	The earliest weapons were defined by human strength and ingenuity. Then came the discovery, possibly in 10th-century China, that combining charcoal, potassium nitrate, and sulfur could cause explosions.


	CHAPTER 2

	Matchlocks and Muskets

	Innovative gunsmiths introduced features that made it easier for a single shooter to aim, fire, and hit a target. The new matchlock ignition device would remain popular through the early 1700s.


	CHAPTER 3

	An Era of Experimentation

	More sophisticated ignition devices led to weapons that were smaller and easier to carry. That meant they could also be concealed, introducing fears about guns and crime.


	CHAPTER 4

	Coming to America

	The early settlers mostly relied on basic matchlocks brought from the Old World. But by the 18th century, American gunsmiths were producing flintlocks the colonists could call their own.


	CHAPTER 5

	The Road to the Revolver

	Early 19th-century gunsmiths fitted pistols, muskets, carbines, and rilfes with percussion caps, which allowed weapons to be fired more rapidly and reliably in most any kind of weather.


	CHAPTER 6

	The Civil War and the Rise of the Rifle

	Referred to as the first truly “modern war,” the conflict between Northern and Southern states involved the widespread use of breech-loading infantry firearms, repeating rifles, and rudimentary rapid-fire guns.


	CHAPTER 7

	Firearms and the Wild West

	In the battle for new territory, lawmen, outlaws, soldiers, and showmen embraced guns that would become legendary: Colt six-shooters, Winchester lever-action repeaters, and Sharps rifles.


	CHAPTER 8

	World War I and Industrialized Warfare

	Ordinary infantrymen fought with bolt-action, repeat-fire rifles made more effective by better cartridges and magazines. But the Great War was also defined by the debut of the automatic machinegun.


	CHAPTER 9

	World War II: A Great Generation of Guns

	During the course of the war, militaries moved toward more advanced self-loading, or semiautomatic, battle rifles such as the American M1 Garand and the German Mauser 98.


	CHAPTER 10

	Modern Times, New Materials

	Wood gave way to plastics; pressed metal parts replaced components milled from solid steel; magazine capacity increased; assault weapons like the Soviet AK-47 and the American M16 came into play.

	Credits




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1. BLACK POWDER, ALCHEMY, AND BOMBARDS

THE EARLIEST WEAPONS WERE DEFINED BY HUMAN STRENGTH AND INGENUITY. THEN CAME THE DISCOVERY OF A HISTORY-CHANGING CHEMICAL REACTION.

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A painted silk banner from the 10th century shows Buddha being attacked by demons, one of whom is holding a gunpowder tube.

An Explosive Power

THE EXACT ORIGINS OF GUNPOWDER ARE UNCLEAR. BUT EARLY TAOIST TEXTS REFER TO INCENDIARY POTIONS CREATED BY ALCHEMIST MONKS.

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The story of firearms begins with chemistry: the invention of gunpowder.

For millennia men expressed hostility by hurling hard objects at each other and stabbing foes with sharpened sticks. Ancient armies besieged enemy castles by harnessing mechanical ingenuity. They launched waves of flaming arrows, enormous stones, rotting animal carcasses, and even stinking loads of excrement.

But the discovery, possibly in 10th-century China, that combining charcoal, potassium nitrate (or saltpeter), and sulfur could cause explosions and, if properly channeled, send matter flying with deadly effect, changed the course of conflict.

Alchemists Searching for Immortality

The exact timeline of the development of “black powder” is unclear. But Taoist texts from the ninth and 10th centuries include references to the incendiary properties of potions created by alchemist monks. Some sustained burns and there was at least one report of a workshop going up in flames. For the monks, it was a hazard of searching for an elixir yielding immortality. For some of the holy men’s contemporaries, however, the black powder may have suggested a way of limiting mortality, rather than extending it. It is believed that Chinese of the era had the idea to use black powder in rudimentary bombs, grenades, and land mines against invading Mongols. The Mongols, in turn, are thought to have carried knowledge of black powder across Asia, spreading it through the Middle East and on to Europe.

In 1241, for example, advancing Mongol forces used powder- powered weapons to help trounce defenders of the Kingdom of Hungary and lay waste to their villages during the Battle of Mohi. Ideas moved from East to West, and soon intermingled with European innovations. The 13th-century writings of English philosopher and Franciscan monk Roger Bacon contain cryptic references to exploding powder, while medieval alchemists across the continent began to experiment with elements of black powder in their attempts to “transmute” lead to gold.

Part of the fascination with these evolving weapons were their terrifying dramatics. Not only did the arms have the capacity to knock down and kill opponents at great distances, their repeated explosions generated impressive noise, flames, and smoke. The armored knight on a grand steed suddenly had to both carefully watch his back and negotiate threatening new conditions out on the battlefield.

The Birth of the Cannon

By the late 13th century, military inventors realized they could use black powder to fire projectiles from an iron tube closed at one end. The cannon (from the Latin canna, referring to the hollow stem of a reed) was born. The closed end of the weapon came to be known as the breech. Powder and then a projectile were loaded via the open end, or muzzle. A soldier ignited the powder with a torch or smoldering ember through a touchhole in the rear. Rapidly expanded gases from the explosion propelled the ammunition from the barrel—the same basic principle used in firearms to this day.

Illuminated manuscripts of the era show soldiers igniting vase-shaped weapons firing arrow-shaped projectiles. Other early cannon propelled carved stones and iron balls to assault castle walls. En-gland’s King Edward III used a type of cannon called a bombard against the Scots in the 1320s, and there are reports that cannon were used in the Hundred Years’ War.

Exploding Cannon

Primitive artillery did not always operate effectively. The chemical instability of early gunpowder recipes led to unintended explosions. Crude metallurgy meant that cannon frequently burst apart. Even when they worked properly, early muzzle-loaded weapons weren’t terribly accurate, and increasingly sophisticated fortifications limited their impact.

Yet the psychological and physical effects of detonation changed the nature of warfare, allowing armies that deployed cannon in numbers to prevail against entrenched targets. By the 15th century, French and Italian artillery makers were producing transportable wheeled cannon used by such rulers as King Louis XI of France and his successor, Charles VIII, to consolidate power.

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Early Look In his treatise on siege weapons, 14th-century English scholar Walter de Milemete included what might be the first illustration of a firearm. The weapon, called a pot-de-feu, was a primitive cannon made of iron.

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Battle of Crecy An illuminated manuscript by medieval French author Jean Froissart included this image of the Battle of Crecy (1346), during the Hundred Years’ War. Cannon may have been used in the struggle, but the decisive weapons were the bow, axe, mace, dagger, and sword.




THE MYSTERIOUS FRIAR BACON

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, certain historians identified Roger Bacon (1241–1292) as a major figure in the development of firearms. Some researchers asserted that the Franciscan friar’s writings contain a cryptogram describing the ratio of ingredients needed for gunpowder. This view of Bacon fit with a broader impression that he was an early scientist of mystical bent.

While it’s possible that Bacon saw a demonstration of Chinese firecrackers, modern historians now doubt that he understood the concept of storing and releasing explosive energy via gunpowder. The passages in question probably did not originate with Bacon, and in any event the mixture described has the wrong proportions of ingredients to power a firearm.



FIREARMS ON THE BATTLEFIELD

Mongol warriors are thought to have carried knowledge of black powder from China, through the Middle East, and on to Europe.

800-900 While searching for elixirs for a longer life, Taoist monks discovered explosive black powder.

1241 Europeans encountered black powder, brought by Mongols from China, in a battle against the Mongol Empire.

1260 Muslim soldiers packed early cannon with black powder in their conflict with Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut.

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1346 British forces fighting the French during the Hundred Years’ War may have used bombards, an early form of artillery, at the Battle of Crecy.

1453 The arsenal used by Ottoman Turks to capture Constantinople included wheeled cannon. The conquest marked the end of the Roman Empire.

1476 During the Battle of Morat, in which the Swiss faced off against Burgundy, both sides wielded hand cannon.


Early Cannon and Artillery

MILITARY DESIGNERS BEGAN TO CREATE CANNON THAT COULD FIRE ARROW-SHAPED ITEMS, CARVED STONES, IRON BALLS, AND MORE.

DARDANELLES GUN

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Country: Turkey

Date: 1464

Length: 17ft

Bore: 25in

This 18-ton bronze bombard was constructed in two parts (the rear powder chamber is shown at right), and its projectiles could smash fortress walls a mile away.

16TH-CENTURY BRONZE GUN

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Country: Germany

Date: 1570

Length: 5ft 10in

Bore: 1.6in

This gun was embossed with a warning: “Who tastes my eggs won't find them pleasant.”

15TH-CENTURY BRONZE CANNON

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Country: France

Date: 1478

Length: 7ft 3in

Bore: 9.6in

This 1.6-ton bronze cannon, a technological leap over its iron-forged predecessors, likely required ten times its weight in charcoal to melt the bronze.

15TH-CENTURY BOMBARDS

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Country: Great Britain

Date: circa 1430

Material: wrought iron

In 1434, during the Hundred Years’ War, the British army abandoned these twin bombards on the coast of France.

Enter the Hand Gonne

PORTABLE FIREARMS WERE A BIG STEP FORWARD ON THE BATTLEFIELD, BUT IT OFTEN TOOK TWO SOLDIERS TO FIRE THEM.

IRON HACKBUT

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Origin: Netherlands

Date: circa 1500

Barrel Length: 28in

Caliber: .90

Made entirely of iron with a small touchhole, this 12-pound, four-foot hackbut, or "hook gun," was mainly used by foot soldiers.

15TH-CENTURY ARQUEBUS

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Origin: Europe

Date: 1470–1500

Barrel Length: 40in

Caliber: 1.2

Columbus conquered the New World with similar weaponry.

As black powder was adopted to fire projectiles, weapon design began to evolve. Metal forgers worked with iron and bronze to create weaponry that varied greatly in caliber, mobility, range of fire, angle of fire, and firepower. Early cannon were loaded at the muzzle and ignited with a smoldering matchcord or a red-hot poker.


Parallel with the spread of cannon technology came the invention of portable muzzle-loaded firearms suitable for use by individual infantrymen.

This miniaturization of gunpowder weapons led to the widespread introduction in the 15th century of “hand cannon,” also known as hand gonnes. Soldiers held these crude forerunners of modern firearms under the arm or braced against a shoulder. Some early models, heavy and ungainly, had to be steadied on a stake and required two men to aim and fire. The user ignited the powder by means of a smoldering length of cord, or “slow match,” susceptible in wet weather to becoming soggy and unusable.

By contemporary standards, the one-man 15th-century French hand gonne barely resembled a firearm at all. It consisted of just a small, smoothbore iron barrel one inch or so in diameter attached to a flat wooden stock by means of thick iron bands. Soon, though, hand cannon assumed the rough shape of a modern pistol, with a grip that bent downward from the barrel at roughly a 30-degree angle. Both the Swiss Confederate Army and their opponents, the soldiers of French ruler Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, used such pistols during the Battle of Morat (1476). By the 16th century, craftsmen in Spain and elsewhere were fashioning hand cannon from bronze and decorating them with animal imagery and other flourishes. For those who could afford it, the firearm became a work of art.

The Force of the Arquebus

The earliest weapon vaguely resembling a modern long gun—a firearm with a wooden stock and extended barrel—was known as the arquebus and appeared in the early 1400s. The weapon was also known as a harquebus, harkbus, or hackbut, from the Dutch haakbus, meaning “hook gun.”

Typically, an arquebus was muzzle-loaded by a soldier who packed it with powder and a lead ball, then ignited the powder by means of a handheld matchcord—an approach that did not solve the difficulty of shooting in damp conditions. It had an iron smoothbore barrel of perhaps 40 inches in length that was connected to a wooden stave (a narrow block) that the soldier would clamp under his armpit to stabilize the weapon as he fired it. (In time, the stave, designed for greater comfort and ease of use, evolved into the familiar wooden shoulder stock.)

Arquebuses achieved impressive force and penetration. Modern-day experiments with replicas have shown that when they worked, the weapons could hurl an iron ball that pierces steel 1.5 millimeters thick. On the downside, they were inaccurate, a problem designers attempted to solve by including a hook near the mouth of the barrel to place over a wall or other stable object.

By the 16th century, gun designers had improved firing systems so that the arquebus and its successor, the musket, were easier to handle and somewhat more reliable.



Just Add Sulfur

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It took early experimenters many centuries to perfect recipes for effective gunpowder consisting of sulfur and charcoal, both fuels, and saltpeter, an oxidizer. An 11th-century Chinese text, Wu Ching Tsung Yao (Complete Essentials from the Military Classics), refers to mixtures used in firecrackers, as well as rudimentary flamethrowers and rockets. The formulae, scholars determined, allowed for incendiary effects—the ignition of flame—but not the gas-releasing explosions needed to propel a projectile. The problem? Insufficient saltpeter.

Hand Cannon

THESE WEAPONS WERE CRUDE FORERUNNERS TO MODERN FIREARMS.

HAND CANNON

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Origin: Europe

Date: late 15th century

Barrel Length: 7 1/4 in

Bore: .625

This band-reinforced cast iron gun weighed only 1 1/8 pounds.

MEDIEVAL HAND CANNON

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Origin: Europe

Date: circa 1350

For ammunition, fighters often packed this hand-forged gun with stones and nails.

BRONZE HAND CANNON

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Powder Magic A hot iron rod placed in the touchhole ignited the powder to loudly propel projectiles.

Country: China

Date: 1424

Length: 14 1/16in

Caliber: .59

This hand cannon is on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

FIRE STICK

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Origin: Western Europe

Date: circa 1380

Barrel Length: 6in

Caliber: .78

To use the fire stick, also called a Bâton à feu, a soldier inserted a wooden pole into the breech.

METAL HAND GUN

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Origin: China and Korea

Date: 17th century

This three-barrel gun was often used as a signaling device, but it may also have been used on the battlefield.

Over time, simple hand cannon evolved into harquebuses— muzzle-loaders with an underside hook that could be used to steady the weapon on a wall or portable support. Some also featured a wooden shoulder stock that functioned as a brace. Echoes of this design element can be seen in the modern gun stock.


4. COMING TO AMERICA

WHEN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR ERUPTED, SKILLED MARKSMEN ARMED WITH LONG RIFLES WERE ABLE TO HIT BRITISH TARGETS FROM 300 YARDS.

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After British forces bayoneted American leader Hugh Mercer during the Battle of Princeton, General George Washington arrived to rally the troops. Painting by William Tylee Ranney, 1848.

The New World

COLONIAL GUNSMITHS ADOPTED RIFLING, A TECHNIQUE FROM 15TH-CENTURY GERMANY THAT IMPROVED A GUN’S ACCURACY.

KENTUCKY LONG RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: 1800s–1900s

Barrel Length: 39in

Caliber: .45

MUSKET

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Country: France

Date: circa 1779

Caliber: .69

FLINTLOCK PISTOL

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Country: Great Britain

Date: circa 1750

Caliber: .71

General Edward Braddock gave this pistol to George Washington, who used it in several campaigns.

BRITISH SHORT LAND SERVICE MUSKET

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Country: Great Britain

Date: circa 1779

Nicknamed the “Brown Bess,” this long gun was used by the British Empire’s land forces until the mid 19th century.

Images of the pilgrims of the 17th century often show settlers with flintlock blunderbusses, but in all likelihood the early colonists brought with them more basic matchlocks, with perhaps the rare wheellock thrown in for variety. By the early 18th century, however, American gunsmiths, many of German descent, were producing flintlock weapons the colonists could call their own. Settlers used firearms for military service and personal protection, and also for hunting, an important source of food and commercially valuable pelts in the heavily forested “new world.” Marksmanship became an important and honored skill.

One of the most notable American designs was the “long rifle,” also known as the Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Kentucky rifle, depending on where the rifleman resided. Derivative of the classic German Jäger rifle (“hunter rifle”), the American versions evolved to have longer barrels for greater accuracy and slender wooden stocks that extended the full length of the barrel. The rear of the stock, held against the shooter’s shoulder, had a gradual downward curve. Well-to-do colonists paid to have their long rifles decorated with pewter or brass inlays depicting animals or shapes such as hearts or stars.

As the designation “rifle” indicates, American gunsmiths sought enhanced accuracy by making the transition from smoothbore weapons to “rifled” long guns. In a smoothbore weapon, the ball fit loosely in the barrel. Once propelled by exploding gases, the round careered down the barrel, banging from side to side and emerging at an unpredictable angle from the muzzle. This effect made early pistols and muskets notoriously inaccurate.

Carving spiral grooves into the interior of the barrel, or rifling, caused the ball to spin gyroscopically, which kept it on a straight course over a far longer distance. German gunsmiths invented the technique back in the late 15th century, but because of the expense of precision metalworking and the talent required to do it well, rifles remained relatively rare. There were other downsides as well: Rifles were more susceptible to clogging because of powder residue, and tighter-fitting rifle balls were more difficult to load into weapons that for the most part were still muzzle-loaders.

Panic Among the Redcoats

When the Revolutionary War erupted in 1776, American forces included snipers and light infantry equipped with long rifles. Skilled marksmen in specialized units could hit British targets at a range of 300 yards, compared to less than a third of that distance with a smoothbore musket. The ability of riflemen to target and kill British officers helped the Revolutionary forces disrupt their foes’ command structure and spread panic among the redcoats.

But American soldiers with rifles still needed protection from larger infantry units armed with smoothbore muskets that were easier to operate. The Brown Bess, a British musket imported to the colonies, and later copied in the breakaway states, became a common weapon on the Revolutionary side. It could be loaded with a single ball or a cluster of shot. The Short Land Pattern version of the Brown Bess was, as the name implied, a shorter, lighter variation of the more common Long Land Pattern.

Bayonets remained vital firearm accoutrements throughout the Revolutionary War, as the musket’s inaccuracy meant that many battles were decided by means of massive charges and hand-to-hand struggles to the death. Because of the absence of effective medicine, a tearing flesh wound rendered by bayonet was actually just as likely to be lethal as a puncture wound by small lead ball.

General George Washington, interestingly, focused on the rifle’s drawbacks: the expense of manufacture, slow reloading process, and need to do extensive training for those recruits not already skilled in hunting. While Washington urged limited use of rifle companies, other Revolutionary leaders showed more enthusiasm and scraped together the resources to outfit sharpshooting units that played significant roles in the battles of Saratoga and New Orleans.


MARKSMAN STYLE

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The colonial militiamen who became soldiers in the Continental Army arrived for battle against the British in a variety of sartorial styles. For his forces, General George Washington favored the traditional hunting shirt popular in his home state of Virginia. A homespun garment, the hunting shirt was made from basic linen, fit loosely and allowed easy movement. In cold weather, better-equipped American soldiers also donned a wool overcoat. Washington noted an additional benefit: The hunting shirt, he observed, communicated “no small terror to the enemy, who think every such person is a complete marksman.”


CLUBBING THE ENEMY

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During the 1600s and for centuries thereafter, troops generally fired their muskets in massive volleys similar to the waves of arrows launched by archers. Given the difficulty of aiming at a far-off target, musket men typically did not pause to reload, but instead followed a volley by charging at the enemy with bayonets. Infantry units generally did more lethal damage in hand-to-hand combat, stabbing and clubbing the enemy, than they did by firing their guns.

SPRINGFIELD: ARMORY FOR A NEW NATION

Beginning in the 17th century, colonial militia conducted training exercises on a bluff near the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. After the American Revolution began, military officer Henry Knox and George Washington established an armory on the site, in 1777, and it was used to supply forces in upstate New York.

1787 During a short-lived antitax and antidebt rebellion, former Revolutionary soldier Daniel Shays and his renegade forces tried to capture the armory but were repelled by Massachusetts government forces.

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1795 Manufacture of firearms at the Springfield Armory began; it continued through the late 1960s.

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1812 The Springfield Armory produced muskets used by U.S. troops in the War of 1812 against Great Britain, a conflict sometimes referred to as a “second war of independence.”

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1845 After visiting the amory during his honeymoon, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published “The Arsenal at Springfield,” a poem that referenced racks of muskets as an antiwar metaphor.

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1861–1865 The Springfield Model 1861, a Minié-type rifled musket, was used by Union forces and the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. It weighed about 9 pounds and was favored for its accuracy, reliability, and range.

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1866–1871 Following the Civil War, the armory received permission to create an on-site collection of weapons that could be used by staff engineers for reference during the research and development process. In 1871, the collection opened to the public as a museum.

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1900 The armory began a three-year process of replacing the Krag-Jorgensen magazine rifle. Work on the design continued until 1903, when the Model 1903 was officially approved. It was a standard military rifle for over three decades, and a special-use rifle through the Vietnam War.

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1919 John Garand was hired to head the Model Shop and work on semi-automatic rifles and other small projects. The final design for the M1 was adopted in the mid 1930s and the gun was embraced by the U.S. military. By the end of World War II, the armory had produced 3.5 million semiautomatic Garands.

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1962 The armory was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, then in 1964, U.S. secretary of defense Robert McNamara announced the armory would be closing. It shuttered its doors in 1968, with the National Park Service taking stewardship of the site and museum collection in 1978.

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An Armory’s Legacy

AMAZING INNOVATION STARTED WITH A COPY OF A FRENCH FLINTLOCK MUSKET.

MODEL 1795

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Country: United States

Date: 1795–1845

Barrel Length: 44 1/2in

Caliber: .69

MODEL 1861 RIFLE MUSKET

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Country: United States

Date: 1862

Barrel Length: 40in

Caliber: .58

Featured a percussion ignition system and a rifled bore.

MODEL 1903 RIFLE

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Country: United States

Date: 1903–1974

Barrel Length: 24in

Caliber: .30

Over one million were made through World War I and into the 1930s.

M14

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Country: United States

Date: 1957

Barrel Length: 22in

Caliber: .30

M1 GARAND

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Country: United States

Date: 1937–1950s

Barrel Length: 24in

Caliber: .30

Over 13,500 employees worked 24 hours a day during World War II to produce this semiautomatic.

Originally an arsenal for the Continental Army, the Springfield Armory became a full-fledged factory in 1795 on the order of President George Washington. His directive: produce flintlock muskets for his young nation. A year later, the armory issued a copy of a French Charville flintlock musket and over the next two centuries continued with innovations that spanned gunmaking and industrial production. Probably the most famous rifle ever produced by the armory was the M1 Garand.


Introduction

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In 1910, Sir Hiram Maxim, inventor of the first fully automatic machinegun, showed the weapon to his grandson.

The past and present of firearms converge in the tiny southern Austrian town of Ferlach, just north of the Slovenian border. Gunsmiths there have crafted weapons since the 1550s, when Ferdinand I, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, paid Belgian artisans to form a guild to take advantage of Ferlach’s iron deposits and water supply. Ferdinand worried about more than hunting game; he feared the Ottomans and needed high-quality arms.

Today, the Ferlach tradition of hand-making guns continues in the atelier of gunsmiths such as Peter Hofer, whose wares are favored by the globe's elite. With eight assistants, who work on only 20 bespoke weapons at a time, the Hofer shop produces such wonders as the Hummingbird, a side-by-side rifle chambered for tiny .17-caliber rounds to hunt birds or small game. The walnut burl stock comes from an 800-year-old Turkish tree; gold-and-enamel birds flit against a backdrop of engraved-steel flowers. Depending on the details, prices begin at $250,000 and can exceed half a million dollars.

Around a few bends of Ferlach’s narrow streets, an altogether different sort of firearm is manufactured. Taking advantage of the same local craftsmen’s tradition, the international pistol maker Glock GmbH runs a components factory. Sold worldwide for a retail price beginning at about $600, the Glock semiautomatic large-capacity handgun offers blunt efficiency. It’s favored by law enforcement and millions of civilians, especially in the United States, where Glock has led a move away from wooden-and-steel revolvers like the Colt and Smith & Wesson toward the plastic black-matte-finish pistols now carried by two thirds of American police.

History of the Gun in 500 Photographs tells the fascinating story of how weapon technology evolved from the earliest cannon to more portable firearms to the advances of gunmakers like Samuel Colt, John Browning, Hiram Maxim, John Garand, Mikhail Kalashnikov, and Gaston Glock. It starts in the premodern age of swords and bow and arrow, when inventors experimented with mixtures that would eventually produce explosive powder. That powder in turn would propel projectiles through a barrel, travelling far beyond the reach of a man with a blade or spear, to fell foes (or dinner) at a great distance.

Bringing the story to life are stunning images and photographs allowing readers to experience the evolution up close, starting with changes to ignition systems, from the matchlock to the wheellock and its successor, the flintlock. The book traces the rise of sporting and hunting guns and how they led to the creation of pistols and revolvers and in time, repeat-firing and fully-automatic weapons. Of course, History of the Gun in 500 Photographs is not just the story of firearms as objects: It is a tale of how technology, politics, and warfare have intertwined over the centuries and the lethal role guns have played in conquering new lands, in the defense of ideals, and in quotidian civilian life. To that end, there are also images to illustrate guns being used on the battlefield, starting with artwork of the Hundred Years’ War through photographs of the Civil War and the deadly conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The history of the gun and the history of global culture clearly are interconnected. Since the first firearms appeared in the Middle Ages, new developments have reflected successive waves of human needs and ingenuity. History of the Gun in 500 Photographs is a visual record of these critical tools, the people who designed and used them, and the impact they’ve had on our world.


PHOTO CREDITS

FRONT COVER From top: courtesy of Thomas del Mar Ltd.; Bryan Helm/Galeries/Corbis; Nikreates/Alamy; (51.441, detail) The Walter’s Art Museum, Baltimore BACK COVER From top: IWM/Getty Images; Oleg Zabielin/Alamy; photo used with permission of Browning TITLE PAGE p.1: Herbert Gehr/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

p. 2: Chronicle/Alamy; (RAL.08455) ©Royal Armouries; Mary Evans Picture Library/Alamy; Corbis; Connecticut State Library; p. 3: Matthew Brady/Buyenlarge/Getty Images; Edward S. Curtis/Buyenlarge/Getty Images; FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Louis R. Lowry/U.S. Marine Corps; Oleg Zabielin/Alamy; p. 4: Lordprice Collection/Alamy

1: BLACK POWDER, ALCHEMY, AND BOMBARDS

pp. 6-7: RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY; pp. 8–9: Private Collection/©Look and Learn/Bridgeman Images; pp. 10–11: From left: ©Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford; The Art Archive at Art Resource NY; Naval History and Heritage Command; pp. 12–13: clockwise from top left: age fotostock/Alamy; (XIX.164) ©Royal Armouries; (XIX.169) ©Royal Armouries; Greenshed/Wikimedia Commons; Musee de l’Armee/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource NY; pp. 14–15: From top: North Wind Picture Archives; (XXI.3748) ©Royal Armouries; Musee de l’Armee/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource NY; Public Domain/Wujing Zongyao; pp. 16–17: Clockwise from top: (XII.11787) ©Royal Armouries; NRA Museums; Musee de l’Armee/Dist.RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY; (XXVIF.232) ©Royal Armouries; Public Domain/Wikipedia; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Image source: Art Resource, NY

2: MATCHLOCKS AND MUSKETS

pp. 18–19: courtesy of Wellcome Library; pp. 20–21: NRA Museums (2); p. 22: PHAS/Getty Images; p. 23: From top: courtesy of Thomas del Mar Ltd; Imagno/Getty Images; DEA/G. Dali Orti/Getty Images; pp. 24–26: from top: (XXVIF.50) ©Royal Armouries; (XII.35) ©Royal Armouries; courtesy Thomas del Mar (2); (X11.5315) ©Royal Armouries; pp.26–27: Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Paul Mellon, USA/In memory of his friend James Cox Brady, Class of 1929/Bridgeman Images; pp. 28–29: From top: (XII.10) ©Royal Armouries (2); (XII.63) ©Royal Armouries; Top, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Image source: Art Resource, NY; Bottom: Armed Forces History, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution

3: AN ERA OF EXPERIMENTATION

pp. 30–31: Interfoto/Alamy; pp. 32–33: NRA Museums (2); pp. 34–35: From left: Science Source; (XIII.48) ©Royal Armouries; DEA/G. Nimatallah/Getty Images; PHAS/Getty Images; pp. 36–37 From top: (XII.3754) ©Royal Armouries (2); Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, USA / Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis R. Schilling/Bridgeman Images; (XII.1551) ©Royal Armouries (2); pp. 38–39: (XII.732) ©Royal Armouries; (XII.1074) ©Royal Armouries; pp. 40–41 Clockwise from top: (XII.10250); (XII.1079); (XII.1781); (XII.1256)©Royal Armouries (4); pp. 42–43 Clockwise from top: (XIV.4) ©Royal Armouries; The Metropolitian Museum, Image source: Art Resource, NY; (XIV.6); (XIV.13); (XIV.23) ©Royal Armouries (3); pp. 44–45: From top: (XII.3513) ©Royal Armouries (2); (XII.5079) ©Royal Armouries; pp. 46–47: top: (XII1743) ©Royal Armouries; bottom: Hulton Archive/Getty Images; pp. 48–49: From top: (XII476) ©Royal Armouries; courtesy Thomas del Mar Ltd; (XII.3091) ©Royal Armouries; (XII.1692) ©Royal Armouries; (XII.1844) ©Royal Armouries; pp. 50–51: from top: (XII.3101) ©Royal Armouries; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, USA /Gift of David S. Ingalls/Bridgeman Images; (XII.1885), (XII.3141) ©Royal Armouries (2); pp. 52–53: Clockwise from top: (XII.1728) ©Royal Armouries; courtesy of Thomas del Mar Ltd (2); pp. 54–55: from top: (XII.284) ©Royal Armouries; (XII.5705) ©Royal Armouries; (XII.1770) ©Royal Armouries; XII.2653/Royal Armouries; pp. 56–57: From top: (XII.1549) ,(XII1278), (XII.10479) ©Royal Armouries (3); pp. 58–59: From top: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Image source: Art Resource, NY; (XII1279) ©Royal Armouries (2); (XXVIF.6) ©Royal Armouries

4: COMING TO AMERICA

pp. 60–61: Princeton University Art Museum/Art Resource, NY; pp. 62–63: L – R: Corbis; NRA Museums (2); pp. 64–65: From top: MPI/Getty Images; Armed Forces History, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution; MPI/Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; pp. 66–67: Top, L-R: Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Stocktrek Images/Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; William Smith/AP; Bottom, L-R: courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS ; Library of Congress; (SPAR 4068) courtesy of Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; Everett Collection; pp. 68–69: From top: (SPAR 933), (SPAR 2410), (SPAR 4068), (SPAR 3345), (SPAR 3444) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS (5)

5: THE ROAD TO THE REVOLVER

pp. 70–71: courtesy Connecticut State Library; pp.72–73: (RAL.03725) ©Royal Armouries (2); pp. 74–75: From top: (XII.310), (XII.1411), (XII.9605), (XII8387) ©Royal Armouries (4) pp.76–77: From top: (XII.1419), (XII.713) ©Royal Armouries (2), (XII.1760) ©Royal Armouries (2), (XXVIF.216), (XII.680) ©Royal Armouries (2); pp.78–79”: Clockwise from top left: NRA Museums; (XII.4154), (XII.1188), (PR.4972),(PR.10333) ©Royal Armouries (4); p. 80: (PR.2336)©Royal Armouries; p. 81: GL Archive/Alamy; p. 82: courtesy Connecticut State Library; p. 83: Don Troiani/Museum of Connecticut History/Corbis; p. 84: Library of Congress; p. 85: Clockwise from top left: Library of Congress; courtesy Connecticut State Library; NRA Museums; pp. 86–87: Top, L-R: Corbis; US Patent and Trademark Office; Library of Congress; From the collection of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites; Library of Congress; Kean Collection/Getty Images; Bottom: courtesy of Connecticut State Library (3); pp. 88–89: Clockwise from top left: The Board of Trustees of the Armouries/Heritage-Images/The Image Works ; Don Troiani/Museum of Connecticut History/Corbis; The Board of Trustees of the Armouries/Heritage-Images/The Image Works; Don Troiani/The Museum of Connecticut History /Corbis; pp.90–91: Don Troiani/The Museum of Connecticut History/Corbis (4); pp. 92–93: Left: NRA Museums; Right: L-R: ullstein bild via Getty Images; Everett Collection, Pictorial Parade/Getty Images; p. 94: The Metropolitan Museum, Image source: Art Resource, NY; p. 95 Top: NRA Museums; Bottom: ( X11.5129) ©Royal Armouries; pp. 96–97: From top: (PR.2311), (PR.3471 ) ©Royal Armouries ( (2), (XII.2924) ©Royal Armouries (2)

6: THE CIVIL WAR AND THE RISE OF THE RIFLE

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7: FIREARMS AND THE WILD WEST

pp. 124–125: Library of Congress; pp. 126–127: (XII.11119) ©Royal Armouries (2); p. 128: From top: NRA Museums; (PR.11076) ©Royal Armouries; NRA Museums; p. 129: Hulton Archive/Getty Images; MCT/Getty Images; p.130: Top: Getty Images; Bottom: Library of Congress; p. 131 Library of Congress (4); p. 132: Underwood Archives/Getty Images; p. 133: NRA Museums (4); pp. 134–135: Clockwise from top left: NRA Museums; American Stock/Getty Images; Mark Leffingwell/Reuters/Corbis; NRA Museums; Kean Collection/Getty Images; pp. 136–137: Clockwise from top: Alamy; NRA Museums, Don Troiani/Corbis; Library of Congress; Bettmann/Corbis; Granger Collection; p. 138: Library of Congress; p. 139: Clockwise from top left: Wyoming State Archives; Mansell Collection/Time & Life Pictures; Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post/Getty Images; p. 140: Library of Congress; p. 141: Clockwise from top left: MPI/Getty Images; ullstein bild/Getty Images; Matt Champlin/Getty Images; pp. 142–143: From top: (XII.1912) ©Royal Armouries; (SPAR 995) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; NRA Museums; p. 144: Clockwise from top left: Library of Congress (2); Don Troiani/Museum of Connecticut History/Corbis; p.145: Top: Underwood Archives/Getty Images; Bottom: 20th Century Fox/Getty Images; pp. 146–147: Top row: Kansas State Historical Society; Kean Collection/Getty Images; MPI/Getty Images; The New York Historical Society/Getty Images; Peter Bischoff/Getty Images; C.S. Fly/Arizona Historical Society; Library of Congress; MPI/Getty Images; Bottom row: Library of Congress; Universal History Archive/Getty Images; Crary Pullen; Library of Congress; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Cramers Art Rooms of Cherryvale, KS/Wikimedia

8: WORLD WAR I AND THE INDUSTRIALIZED WARFARE

p.148–149: US Army Signal Corps; pp. 150–151: From top: (SPAR 4068), (SPAR 4305) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS (2); Pictorial Parade/Getty Images; pp. 152–153: From top: NRA Museums; (SPAR 4230) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; courtesy of the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame; pp. 154–155: Top row, L - R: AP (2); Library of Congress, Corbis (2); Popperfoto/Getty Images; Bottom row: Mansell Collection/Time & Life Pictures; Corbis; Mansell Collection/Time & Life Pictures; AP; Print Collector/Getty Images; AP; pp.156–157: (SPAR 4290) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; NRA Museums; (SPAR 5833), (SPAR 728) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS (2); pp. 158–159: Clockwise from top: NRA Museums (2); Peter Dazeley/Getty Images; Interfoto/Alamy; Granger Collection; pp. 160–161: From top left: Andrew Chittock/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images; NRA Museums (3); p. 162: (PR.114) ©Royal Armouries; p.163 Science & Society Library/Getty Images; pp. 164–165: Clockwise from top left: (PR.7289) ©Royal Armouries; Library of Congress; Getty Images; (PR.7098) ©Royal Armouries; pp.166–167: Clockwise from top: (PR.7076); (PR. 189); (PR. 110) ©Royal Armouries (3); p.168 (PR.2218) ©Royal Armouries; p. 169: From top: (SPAR 1999) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; (XII.3732) ©Royal Armouries; p. 170–171: NRA Museums (6); 172–173: Clockwise from top left: photo used with permission of Browning; US Army; Library of Congress; photo used with permission of Browning; Robert Hunt Library/Mary Evans/The Image Works; NRA Museums; photo used with permission of Browning; p. 174: Top: Photo 12/UIG/Getty Images; Bottom: Maurice-Louis Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images; p. 175: From top: Jacques Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; ullstein bild/Getty Images; Universal History Archive/Getty Images; Bottom right: AP; p. 176: Top: Archive Photos/Getty Images; Bottom: Everett Collection; p. 177: Clockwise from top left: Alamy; Everett Collection; (2); p. 178: Left: AP; Right: ullstein bild/Getty Images; p. 179: Clockwise from top left: Wikipedia; Peter Stackpole/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images; New York Daily News/Getty Images; Santi Visalli/Getty Images; pp. 180–181: Clockwise from left: Chicago Tribune/Getty Images; Chicago History Museum/Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Corbis; Alamy; Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

9: WORLD WAR II: A GREAT GENERATION OF GUNS

pp. 182–183: W. Eugene Smith/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; pp. 184–185: Clockwise from top left: National Archives; US Navy; Margaret Bourke White/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; U.S. Coast Guard; p. 186: Clockwise from top left: Universal History Archive/Getty Images; AP (3); Corbis; p. 187: Top: AP (6); Bottom: L-R: AP (3); Bottom right: Library of Congress; pp. 188–189: From top: (SPAR 3444), (SPAR759) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS (2); (PR.10338) ©Royal Armouries; pp.190–191: From top: (SPAR 5820) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; NRA Museums; Armed Forces History, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution; Garand: courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US, NPS; pp. 192–193: From top: (PR.1019) ©Royal Armouries; Armed Forces History, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution; (SPAR 1586), (SPAR 1571) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US, NPS (2); Armed Forces History, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution; pp. 194–195: From top: Andrew Chittock/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images; (SPAR 20) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; Andrew Chittock/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images (2); p. 196: (SPAR 1544) Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; Armed Forces History, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution; p. 197: Library of Congress; pp. 198–199: From top: (SPAR 818), (SPAR 2762), (SPAR 1267) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS (3); pp 200–201: Clockwise from top left: New York Daily News/Getty Images; Armed Forces History, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution; Bob Landry/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; IWM/Getty Images; Archive Photos/Getty Images; pp. 202: (SPAR 8827), (SPAR 1912) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS (2); p. 203: Left: (SPAR 2086) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; Right: (PR.12124) ©Royal Armouries; pp. 204–205: Clockwise from top left: Andrew Chittock/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images; Corbis; AP (3); Gary Ombler/Getty Images; pp. 206–207: Clockwise from top left: (XII.8288) ©Royal Armouries; (SPAR 1043) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; Getty Images (2); (PR.7567) ©Royal Armouries; p. 208: From top: US Navy; IWM/Getty Images; p. 209: Clockwise from top: US Navy; AP; US Air Force; AP; pp. 210–211: Clockwise from top: (PR.4613) ©Royal Armouries; (SPAR 1520) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; (PR.11401), (PR.6735), (PR4717), (PR.13026) ©Royal Armouries (4); pp. 212–213: courtesy of TIME Inc.

10: MODERN TIMES, NEW MATERIALS

pp. 214–215: Robert Nickelsberg, p. 216: Walter Sanders/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; p. 217: Clockwise from top left: Keystone-France/Getty Images; Sovfoto/Getty Images; MPI/Getty Images; SVF2/Getty Images; p. 218: (SPAR 772) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; p. 219: Heritage Images/Getty Images; p. 220: Scott Olson/Getty Images; zim286/Getty Images; p. 221: zim286/Getty Images; pp. 222–223: Hulton Archive/Getty Images; pp. 224–225: From top: (SPAR 3075), (SPAR 1594), (SPAR 5826), (SPAR 1051). (SPAR 2617) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; (5); pp. 226–227: Top row: Keystone/Getty Images; AFP/Getty Images; Keystone/Getty Images; MPI/Getty Images; Bottom row: Carl Mydans/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; Photo12/UIG/Getty Images; Authenticated News/Archive Photos/Getty Images; Central Press/Getty Images; 228: MILpictures by Tom Weber/Getty Images; p. 229: Top: Larry Burrows/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images (2); pp. 230–231: (SPAR 3289), (SPAR 1371), (SPAR 3345) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS (3); pp. 232–233: From top: (SPAR 3292) courtesy Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS; (PR.13071), (PR.8277), (PR.7700) ©Royal Armouries (3); pp. 234–235: Apic/Getty Images; MPI/Getty Images; AFP/Getty Images; Henry Grosinsky/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; NBC Newswire/Getty Images; AP; Bottom row: National Archives/Getty Images; Co Rentmeester/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; Ronald L. Haeberle/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; Keystone-France/Getty Images; courtesy of TIME Inc., p. 236: epp photos/Newscom; p. 237: (PR.13352) ©Royal Armouries; p. 238: Henry Groskinsky/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images; George Frey/Getty Images; p.239: Glock: Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images; Film stills: Everett (4); pp. 240–241: Clockwise from top left: Joel Richards/Getty Images; (XXX.167) ©Royal Armouries; Corbis; courtesy of Steyr; pp. 242–243: Clockwise from top: (PR.12095), (PR.13964) ©Royal Armouries (2); zim246/Getty Images;(PR.2254) ©Royal Armouries; Corbis; pp. 244–245: Linnaeus Tripe/British Library/London/Bridgeman Images; p. 256: Larry Burrows/Time & Life Pictures


HISTORY OF THE GUN
IN

500

PHOTOGRAPHS

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In May 1940, an M1941 Johnson was fired in a trial comparing it to the M1 Garand in Quantico Marine Depot, Virginia.


8. WORLD WAR I AND INDUSTRIALIZED WARFARE

THE GREAT WAR WAS DEFINED BY THE WEAPONS USED TO FIGHT IT, FROM IMPROVED BOLT-ACTION RIFLES TO AUTOMATIC WEAPONS.

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In the fall of 1918, during the Battle of Argonne Forest, a rain-soaked American machinegun crew advanced toward critical rail lines that supplied entrenched German troops.

On the Front Lines

BETTER CARTRIDGES AND IMPROVED MAGAZINES MADE THE BOLT-ACTION RIFLES OF WORLD WAR I MORE EFFECTIVE.

SPRINGFIELD MODEL 1903

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Country: United States

Date: circa 1903

Barrel Length: 24in

Caliber: .30

For three decades, this was the standard rifle for the U.S. military.

MAUSER 98

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Country: Germany

Date: 1916

Barrel Length: 29in

Caliber: 7.92mm

This was Germany’s World War I standard infantry rifle.

DREYSE NEEDLE RIFLE

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Country: Prussia

Date: 1860s

Caliber: .60

Considered the first bolt-action breech-loader, the rifle used a long, thin pin to mechanically puncture the gun’s paper cartridge to initiate firing.

SMLE (SHORT MAGAZINE LEE-ENFIELD)

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Country: Great Britain

Date: 1907

Barrel Length: 25 1/4in

Caliber: .30

The SMLE offered the fastest, most reliable firing capacity of its day.



Improved weaponry made World War I one of the deadliest military conflicts in history. More than 9 million combatants and an additional 7 million civilians lost their lives from July 1914 through November 1918 as a result of the global clash between the Allied powers—led by Britain, France, and later the United States—and the Central powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. Ordinary infantrymen on both sides went into battle with bolt-action, repeat-fire rifles, some designed in the 19th century. But as clouds of poison gas and salvos of artillery shells descended from above, the introduction of heavy machineguns helped make trench warfare far more terrifying and lethal.

A More Effective Bolt-Action Rifle

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An Allied soldier charged across a barbed-wired battlefield on France's Western Front.

Sturdy bolt-action rifles have a small handle, typically on the right-hand side of the weapon, which opens and closes the breech, or barrel. When the user manipulates the handle back and forth, the gun’s bolt unlocks and the breech opens. If there is a spent cartridge case in the chamber, this action causes it to be ejected, making room for a new round.

Decades before the outbreak of World War I, the German state of Prussia introduced a single-shot bolt-action rifle designed by Johann Nicolaus von Dreyse, the son of a locksmith who traveled to Paris to study firearm production. Formally called the Zündnadelgewehr M 1841, Von Dreyse’s creation became known as the “needle gun.” Its needle-shaped firing pin contacted a primer cap incorporated into a paper cartridge that also contained the main powder charge and lead bullet. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), Prussian troops armed with the Zündnadelgewehr encountered French foes using their own, superior version of the single-shot bolt-action rifle, the chassepot, which was named for its inventor, Antoine Chassepot.

By the early years of the 20th century, two improvements made the bolt-action rifles that would appear in World War I more effective. First, ammunition designers replaced paper-wrapped cartridges with factory-produced metal-jacketed cartridges containing primer, propellant and bullet. Less likely to explode prematurely, the self-contained metallic cartridges were loaded into the weapon not one at a time by hand, but from the second improvement: a magazine containing five or more rounds. Some rifles, such as the Swiss Vetterli, had a tubular magazine beneath the barrel; more commonly, bolt-action weapons had fixed or detachable box-shaped magazines.

A shooter could fire as swiftly as he could operate the bolt handle, ejecting an empty cartridge case and loading a fresh one from the magazine. Changing magazines took only seconds, allowing a skilled soldier to fire dozens of rounds in a minute.

The British armed infantrymen in World War I with the .303-caliber SMLE, which stood for Short Magazine Lee-Enfield. British troops referred to their sturdy SMLEs as “smellies.” The comparable American weapon was the Springfield M1903. Unprepared for a major war and short on Springfield rifles, the U.S. military also adopted a version of the SMLE called the U.S. Rifle Model 1917, which was modified to accommodate American .30-'06 cartridges. The German equivalent was the 7.92mm Gewehr (rifle) Model 1898 and its smaller, lighter sibling, the Karabiner (carbine) 98, both designed by the Mauser brothers, Germany’s premier turn-of-the-century gunsmiths.




James Paris Lee: Military Designer

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James Paris Lee (1831–1904) was a Scottish-born gunsmith who relocated first to Canada and then to the United States; eventually his most important designs were adopted by the British military in World War I.

Lee built his first weapon from spare parts at the age of 12; the gun didn’t actually work, but the young man had found his life’s pursuit. After settling in Wisconsin, Lee obtained a small contract to make carbines for the Union during the Civil War. Later he invented a spring-loaded, column-fed magazine system for rifles that could accommodate either individual cartridges, loaded one at a time, or a “charger” device preloaded with five rounds (also known as a “stripper clip”). Rifles incorporating Lee’s magazine system were adopted by the U.S. Navy in the 1880s and later sold commercially as the Remington-Lee M1885 and Winchester-Lee M1895.

Lee’s bolt-action, magazine-equipped designs soon attracted the attention of the British military. In 1907, three years after Lee had died, the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield began producing the SMLE, the standard-issue British infantry gun for World War I and for decades thereafter. With a detachable 10-round magazine or stripper clip, the SMLE allowed for such rapid fire that some German soldiers mistook Lee’s creation for a machinegun.



THE GREAT WAR UNFOLDS

The sophisticated weapons used in the world’s first global conflict lead to unprecedented bloodshed.

1914 June: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife were assassinated with a Browning pistol in Sarajevo.

1914 July–August: Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia; Russia, an ally of Serbia, mobilized; Germany declared war on Russia and then on France and Belgium; Britain declared war on Germany; Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia.

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1915 May: A German U-boat sank the Lusitania, killing 1,198 civilians, including 128 Americans.

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1915 December: Allies withdrew from Gallipoli after a brutal nine-month battle for the Turkish peninsula.

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1916 February–December: The Battle of Verdun, the longest of the war, ended in a draw with one million casualties.

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1916 July–November: The Battle of the Somme resulted in another one million casualties with no Allied breakthrough.

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1917 April: President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.

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1917 July: The American Expeditionary Force landed in France.

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1917 November: Bolshevik socialists led by Vladimir Lenin overthrew the provisional Russian government of Alexander Kerensky, leading to an armistice with Germany.

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1918 April: British and Australian forces stopped the German advance near Amiens.

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1918 September: Allied troops broke through the German Hindenburg line.

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1918 July: German troops began to desert in large numbers; former czar Nicholas II and his family were killed by the Bolsheviks carrying Browning and Mauser handguns.

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1918 November: Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated; the German republic was founded, and the next day (11/11/18) Germany and the Allies signed an armistice.

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European Rifles

THE BOLT-ACTION RIFLE CAME OF AGE ON THE BATTLEFIELDS OF THE WESTERN FRONT.

K98A

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Country: Germany

Date: 1916

Barrel Length: 24in

Caliber: 7.92mm

Made to replace the larger M98, this carbine was issued to mountain units and front-line troops.

ENFIELD NO. 3 MARK 1 RIFLE

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Country: Great Britain

Date: circa 1914

The paired-down Enfield quickened the pace of production.

MOSIN-NAGANT M1891

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Country: Russia

Date: 1902

Barrel Length: 32.5

Caliber: 7.62mm

Russian factories could not meet demand for this weapon, so manufacturing was outsourced to the United States, Britain, and other countries.

CACANO 1891

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Country: Italy

Date: 1900

Barrel Length: 30in

Caliber: 6.5mm

The manufacturer used an Italian bolt paired with with a Mann- licher magazine.

Bolt-action rifles were the most common infantry weapons used during the Great War. For the British, the favored model was the Lee-Enfield .303, a gun that had been used by the army since 1902. It was robust and reliable, and a well-trained soldier could fire dozens of rounds a minute with the gun. German infantry relied on the Gewehr 98, a bolt-action better known in the United States as the Mauser 98. It was longer than the Lee-Enfield and also well made, but at nine pounds and 49 inches, it was unwieldy for use in the trenches of the Western Front.

Wilhelm and Paul Mauser: Brothers in Arms

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Wilhelm

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Paul Mauser combined their unique talents to produce the Mauser line of weapons.

MAUSER KARABINER 1898A BOLT-ACTION RIFLE

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Country: Germany

Date: circa 1916

Barrel Length: 23 3/5in

Caliber: .30

The downsized rifle was a better fit for close-combat conditions.

GEWEHR 1888 COMMISSION RIFLE

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Country: Germany

Date: 1888–1897

Barrel Length: 29 1/10in

Caliber: .31

MAUSER “ BROOMHANDLE” C96

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Country: Germany

Date: 1896

Barrel Length: 5 1/2in

Caliber: .30

The C96 semiautomatic offered the highest-velocity commercially–made pistol cartridge until the .357 Magnum was introduced.

MAUSER MODEL 1914 POCKET PISTOL

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Country: Germany

Date: 1914

Length: 6in

Caliber: .30

MAUSER C96 SHOULDER STOCK CARBINE

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Country: Germany

Date: 1896

Barrel Length: 5 1/2in

Caliber: .30

The C96 pistol/carbine was used by Winston Churchill in 1898’s Battle of Omdurman.

MAUSER GEWEHR SNIPER RIFLE

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Country: Germany

Date: circa 1916

Barrel Length: 29 1/10in

Caliber: .30

Fitted with advanced telescopic sights, this bolt-action Mauser was used by German snipers.

MAUSER ANTI-TANK RIFLE

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Country: Germany

Date: 1917

Barrel Length: 38 3/4in

Caliber: .50

This .50-caliber armor-piercing rifle was Germany’s response to the newly introduced British tank.





The Mausers, Wilhelm (1834–1882) and brother Paul (1838–1914), followed family tradition when they went to work as young men at the Royal Armory in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg, part of pre-unification Germany. Paul proved the more accomplished of the pair and in the 1890s developed bolt-action rifles known for reliability and ease of use. Mauser rifles fired metallic cartridges, a significant improvement over the accident-prone paper cartridges used in earlier weapons such as the Dreyse needle gun.

Paul Mauser initially made single-shot weapons that were deemed inferior to repeaters sold by Winchester and others. This inspired him to come out with magazine-fed variations. The best of the repeat-fire Mausers, the Gewehr Model 1898, allowed for even faster shooting because it featured a disposable stripper clip preloaded with five smokeless cartridges. The German army adopted the Gewehr 98 during World War I. Mauser also made pistols, including the 7.63mm C96, which had a distinctive appearance: a box magazine in front of the trigger and a grip that resembled a broom handle. The C96 came with a removable shoulder stock that doubled as a carrying case. Among its famous users was Winston Churchill, who carried the weapon in the Sudan and the Second Boer War. Of his Mauser, Churchill said: “The pistol was the best thing in the world.”

The First Truly Automatic Weapon

HARNESSING THE RECOIL ENERGY OF FIRED BULLETS, AN INVENTOR REALIZED THE CENTURIES-OLD AMBITION TO PRODUCE A GUN THAT COULD OPERATE CONTINUOUSLY, AND LETHALLY.

MAXIM MACHINEGUN 1905

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Country: Russia

Date: 1905

Barrel Length: 30 3/10in

Caliber: 7.62mm

This machinegun was manufactured in the industrial center of Tula, Russia.

CHAUCHAT LIGHT MACHINEGUN

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Country: France

Date: circa 1915

Barrel Length: 18 1/2in

Caliber: .30

The Chauchat, which pioneered the pistol grip and detachable magazine, was plagued by design flaws.

LEWIS MARK 1 MACHINEGUN

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Country: Belgium, Great Britain, United States

Date: circa 1914–1942

Barrel Length: 26 2/5in

Caliber: .30

The gun’s distinctive “taka-taka-taka” sound earned it the nickname “the Belgian rattlesnake.” It weighed

LEWIS LIGHT MACHINEGUN

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Country: United States

Date: circa 1916

Barrel Length: 34 1/4 in

Caliber: .30

This Lewis was made by the U.S.-based Savage Arms and shipped to Russia around 1916.

COLT BROWNING M1895 MACHINEGUN

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Country: United States

Date: 1895

Barrel Length: 28in

Caliber: .30

The M1895 saw action under Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War but was considered obsolete in the United States by World War, I when it was used only for training new recruits and for export.

VICKERS MK1 MACHINEGUN

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Country: Great Britain

Date: 1912

Barrel Length: 28in

Caliber: .303

Crews of six men were needed to move the Vickers and its water-cooling system and tripod.

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In 1888 the Prince of Wales fired Hiram Maxim’s 1884 machinegun, with the inventor by his side. Thirteen years later, the prince, then King Edward VII, knighted Maxim.

The first manually operated, multibarrel, rapid-fire gun to see action in the United States was the Gatling Gun, invented during the Civil War by physician Richard Gatling. But credit for the first truly automatic weapons that merited the label “machinegun” belongs to inventor and engineer Hiram Maxim, an American who moved to the United Kingdom in midlife.

It was while he was living in England that Maxim figured out how to harness the energy of a fired bullet. The explosive force that propels a round out of the barrel also drives the gun itself backward. Rather than viewing this recoil energy as a detriment—the traditional opinion of gun designers and shooters—Maxim put the extra energy to use, assembling a mechanism that automatically ejected the spent casing and then loaded a fresh cartridge. As long as the shooter kept the trigger depressed, this cycle repeated itself.

Introduced in 1884, the original Maxim Gun required a crew of several operators who fired bullets from a continuous ammunition belt. At up to 600 rounds a minute, the furious rate of fire generated enough heat to damage or even melt steel, so Maxim devised a water-filled jacket to surround and cool the barrel. The Maxim Gun typically was perched on a collapsible two- or three-legged stand, and was more manageable than the bulky, multibarrel Gatling, which resembled an artillery piece and required a wheeled chassis to transport. In 1904 and 1905, Russian forces deployed the .45-caliber Maxim Gun in the Russo-Japanese War, foreshadowing the devastating effect of machineguns in World War I.

The U.S. Army began issuing four machineguns to each of its regiments in 1912. By the end of World War I, that allotment had grown to more than 300 machineguns per regiment. Many of the great names in Western firearm development applied their genius to refining and manufacturing automatic weapons. In April 1917, when the United States entered the Great War, military authorities in Washington commissioned a company called Marlin Arms to make a machinegun invented by American designer John Browning. That weapon, known as the Colt-Browning Model 1895, relied on a gas-driven piston that moved back and forth beneath the barrel. As a result, it had to sit fairly high off the ground on top of a tripod, an arrangement that made its several-man crew vulnerable to the enemy. Without the tripod, the piston would scrape the ground, causing some troops to dub the Colt-Browning the “potato-digger.”

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A soldier tested a Lewis machinegun on a Marine Corps rifle range in 1917.

The British army of World War I adopted the Colt Vickers machinegun, a .303-caliber, water-cooled model based on the Maxim design. At 83 pounds, it required a team of six soldiers to lug it around, set up its tripod, and fire. The British also acquired a more portable weapon called the Lewis Light Machine Gun, designed by Noah Lewis of the U.S. Army in 1911. The .303-caliber Lewis had a tubular 50-round magazine mounted on top of the barrel. Allied forces equipped some airplanes with Lewis guns, and U.S. ground forces used a .30-caliber version.




Hiram Maxim: An Inventive Spirit

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As a young man, Hiram Maxim (1840–1916) was knocked over by a rifle’s recoil, an incident which according to legend inspired his most famous invention: the machinegun.

Like many other firearm pioneers, Maxim was a free-ranging spirit. In addition to the Maxim Gun, he patented the gun silencer, hair-curling irons, a mousetrap, and a popular fairground ride called the Captive Flying Machine.

Some advised him to narrow his focus. “In 1882 when I was in Vienna,” Maxim is reported to have said, “I met an American whom I had known in the States. He said: ‘Hang your chemistry and electricity! If you want to make a pile of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other’s throats with greater facility.’”

Before World War I, European forces proved the brutal efficiency of Maxim’s weapon in colonial warfare. In the Matabele War of 1893–1894, in what is today Zimbabwe, it was reported that 50 British troops with four Maxims fought off 5,000 Ndebele warriors. In the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 in Sudan, another small British force reportedly killed more than 10,000 Arabs. That year, the Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc penned the poem “The Modern Traveller,” capturing the European spirit: “Whatever happens, we have got/The Maxim gun, and they have not.”


The German Spandau Maxim, named for the Imperial German arsenal at Spandau, fired 7.92mm belt-fed rounds via a water-cooled barrel. Germans mounted the guns on their airplanes and synchronized the firing mechanism so that it could shoot through the spinning propeller. Not all machineguns were effective, of course. The French Chauchat, which had a distinctive crescent-shaped magazine, proved to be both inaccurate and prone to malfunction. When American troops were given some of the weapons, they derided them as “sho-shos," a phonetic play on Chauchat, and tossed them aside.

Combined with heavy-volume artillery shelling, machinegun fire made the battlefields of Europe a deafening, bloody hell. Machineguns encouraged both sides to dig deep trenches that led to lengthy stalemates. Maxim’s creations and their descendants were ideal for relatively small machinegun crews (protected by a detachment of armed infantrymen) to defend a dug-in or elevated position and efficiently mow down foes. In this manner, machineguns industrialized killing and helped strip modern warfare of whatever romance might still attach to the institution. Along with such innovations as poison gas and incessant shelling, the machinegun inflicted psychological as well as physical wounds.

Semiautomatic Handguns and Revolvers

FIREARMS DESIGNERS FOLLOWED THE LEAD OF HIRAM MAXIM IN DEVELOPING SELF-LOADING PISTOLS THAT RELIED ON RECOIL ENERGY.

COLT MODEL 1911

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Country: United States

Date: 1911

Barrel Length: 5in

Caliber: .45

The M1911 and its variant, the M1911A1, remained the main U.S. service arm into the 1980s.



While most infantry fighters carried bolt-action rifles, officers, logistical-support troops, and tank crews armed themselves with handguns. Even when they weren’t standard-issue for front-line soldiers in the trenches, many infantrymen tried to obtain handguns for use in close combat. Machinegun crews also sometimes carried handguns to defend themselves in case their positions were overrun.

LUGER PO8

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Country: Germany

Date: 1918

Barrel Length: 4in

Caliber: 9mm

The Luger is known for its use by Germans in both world wars—and by movie villians.

BORCHARDT C93 PISTOL

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Country: Germany

Date: 1893

Barrel Length: 7 1/2in

Caliber: .30

Designed by Hugo Borchardt with assistance from George Luger, this is the world’s first factory-produced, semiautomatic pistol.

CASTELLI REVOLVER

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Country: Italy

Date: 1889

Barrel Length: 4 1/2in

Caliber: .41

This compact Italian service revolver incorporated a folding trigger. Here, the trigger is in the folded position.

MONTENEGRIN REVOLVER

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Country: Austria

Date: 1914

Barrel Length: 5in

Caliber: .44

Fearing invasion by more powerful neighbors, King Nicholas of Montenegro ordered male citizens to obtain this revolver.

P. WEBLEY & SON PRYSE REVOLVER

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Country: Great Britain

Date: circa 1877

Caliber: .45

This gun is a rare collector’s item.

WEBLEY MARK VI

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Country: Great Britain

Date: 1915

Barrel Length: 6in

Caliber: .45

This was the standard British service revolver through World War I and World War II.

The British remained devoted to revolvers that resembled the 19th-century creations of Colt and Smith & Wesson. The Birmingham manufacturer Webley & Scott made a .455-caliber double-action revolver with a six-round cylinder that U.K. officers carried in the Second Boer War and again in World War I. Some German officers were armed with similar .44-caliber, six-shot revolvers.

In contrast, the self-loading pistol represented a notable jump forward in handgun technology, benefiting from the insights Hiram Maxim applied to the machinegun. A variety of firearm designers in Europe and the United States scaled down the Maxim idea of using recoil energy to load, fire, eject, and reload a weapon’s cartridge. Unlike fully automatic machineguns, though, self-loading pistols are more accurately described as “semiautomatic.” That’s because these handguns do not fire a continuous stream of bullets. Instead, each pull of the trigger results in a single shot.

Hugo Borchardt, an American designer of German descent, used the Maxim recoil principle for a pistol introduced in 1893 that fired 7.65mm cartridges from a magazine housed in its grip. Georg Luger, an employee of Deutsch Waffen & Munitions Fabriken in Germany, improved on the Borchardt model with a pistol that would famously bear his name and was first adopted by the Swiss military in 1900 for use with a 7.65mm round. When the German army adopted the Luger-designed P08 model in 1908, it preferred larger, more powerful ammunition: the 9mm “parabellum,” a term taken from a Latin phrase Si vis pacem, parabellum, which translates as “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Used by German officers in both world wars, Lugers became a favorite take-home trophy of American troops and an emblem of Nazi evil.

John Browning, an American gun designer, addressed the need for more powerful cartridges when he turned his attention to semiautomatic pistols in the early 1900s. Manufactured by Colt, Browning’s .45-caliber became known as the M1911 when the U.S. Army adopted it that year. The Colt .45 acquired legendary status equivalent to that of earlier Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers. Many American soldiers carried the M1911 pistol during World War I. With slight adjustments and improvements—such as an arch in the mainspring housing to force the web of the hand higher into the safety grip—the M1911 remained standard-issue in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War—an extraordinary example of firearm longevity. The gun’s cartridge, also designed by Browning and known as the ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), propelled a bullet with twice the force of the 9mm rounds favored in Europe. The M1911 carried seven rounds in its spring-loaded magazine in the grip; the shooter could load an eighth round in the chamber.

John Moses Browning: Starting Young

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John Browning, with his M1917 machinegun. He is credited with obtaining 128 patents and creating more than 100 weapons during his six-decade career.

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It took Browning, second from left, 12 years to convince the U.S. Army to adopt his M1917 machinegun.

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A shipment of Browning-Colt machineguns awaited transport from Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1918. The weapons were used by Belgians and Russians throughout World War I.

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Workers polished Browning’s Winchester-made guns, circa 1915.

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Browning's workbench in his Utah gunsmith shop, circa 1900.

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A Canadian machinegun crew with a Colt-Browning.

Few men had a greater influence on 20th-century firearms than John Moses Browning (1855–1926). During an amazingly prolific career, Browning helped shape practically every category of small arms, selling his firearm designs to manufacturers ranging from Colt to Winchester to Fabrique Nationale of Belgium.

The son of a pioneer Mormon family, Browning made his first gun as a 13-year-old in his father’s shop in Ogden, Utah. Eleven years later, in 1879, he was awarded the first of his 128 gun patents. In the 1880s, Browning designed single-shot and repeating rifles for Winchester, as well as the first effective repeating shotgun. In the late 1880s, he turned his attention to automatic weapons and designed a machinegun that used the high-pressure gas generated by the firing of the cartridge to extract and eject the spent round, replacing it with a fresh one. He sold that design to Colt and it became the Colt M1895 machinegun, capable of firing 400 rounds a minute through an air-cooled barrel. Among his other creations were the Model 1917 recoil-operated, water-cooled machinegun; the Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR, a light machinegun introduced in 1918; the M1911 semiautomatic pistol used by the U.S. military during World War I and for decades thereafter; the Browning .50-caliber machinegun; and the Browning Auto-5, a semiautomatic shotgun. With only modest modifications, versions of these firearms are still manufactured today by a wide variety of companies.

Browning died of a heart attack on November 26, 1926, while at his workbench tinkering with a new self-loading pistol for Fabrique Nationale in Liege, Belgium. Even that 9mm weapon turned out to be a posthumous success when it was completed in 1935 and marketed as the FN Browning HP 35, also known as the Browning Hi-Power.

Trench Warfare

USED FOR SHELTER AND TO DELIVER SUPPLIES, THE NETWORKS ALSO HOUSED MACHINEGUN EMPLACEMENTS.

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A British soldier manned his antiaircraft post with trench weapons dangling at his side.

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German troops hunkered down in France in 1917.

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A display of German mortar and trench artillery in France in 1917.

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Britain’s 15th Brigade in northern France in July 1918.

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A French soldier on guard in 1916.

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German infantry passed through captured French territory, March 1918.

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A Scottish officer leads his men toward battle in France in 1917.

Between machinegun fire and rapid-firing artillery pieces, the quantity of ordnance on the Western Front was so overwhelming that trenches were necessary for survival. Food, ammunition, fresh troops and mail arrived via trench, which also housed command posts. The first major trench lines were completed in late November 1914, and at their peak, trenches used by both sides extended almost 400 miles from the Belgian coast to Switzerland.

Hollywood Firearms

GUNS INVENTED AROUND THE TURN OF THE CENTURY AND USED DURING WORLD WAR I MADE THEIR WAY INTO POPULAR CULTURE.

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Three weeks after World War II ended, John Wayne debuted in Back to Bataan with a Colt M1921 tommy gun.

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Charlie Chaplin with a Krag-Jørgensen in Shoulder Arms.

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Simon Ward in 1972’s Young Winston with a Mauser C96. semi

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Thomas Mitchell (center) posed with a Vickers machinegun for the 1943 film Bataan. To his right is Robert Taylor. Surrounding them, clockwise from left, are M1917-toting Phillip Terry, Lloyd Nolan, Lee Bowman, Robert Walker, and Desi Arnaz with a Springfield rifle.

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Henry Fonda with his SMLE rifle in 1943’s Immortal Sergeant.

The weapons of the Great War, like the Mauser C96, Luger P08, and Browning M1911, have lent credibility to a wide variety of films, starting with 1935’s G Men , in which James Cagney as Brick Davis wields a Browning M1911. Other actors also carried the M1911, including Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942) and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (2013).

Another gun with a film role is the SMLE. That is the weapon Henry Fonda, playing the hesitant Canadian Corporal Colin Spence, carries in Immortal Sergeant (1943), set in the North African campaign of World War II. And then there’s the Mauser C96: You can see a youthful Lieutenant Winston Churchill, played by Simon Ward, carrying the distinctive “broomhandle” auto-loading pistol in Young Winston (1972).

As for the Luger, in the 1993 film Schindler’s List, the German officer played by Ralph Fiennes used a Luger P08 to execute concentration camp prisoners.

Between the Wars

GANGLAND VIOLENCE, BANK ROBBERIES, AND AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT LED TO EARLY GUN-CONTROL LEGISLATION.

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Organized-crime fighter Eliot Ness formed a team known as the Untouchables to target Al Capone and his gang.

The end of World War I ushered in an era of peace around the globe, but at home in the United States, Prohibition sparked a wave of violence in the streets as gangsters and federal agents battled it out over illicit booze­—often, but not only, with guns.

Two figures, Al Capone (1899–1947) and Eliot Ness (1903–1957), personified the two extremes of the period. Capone, the notorious Chicago crime boss, was a street-smart thug who ran many of the city’s most lucrative illegal breweries and stills. Ness was an ambitious University of Chicago grad who followed his brother-in-law into federal law enforcement. He joined the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Prohibition with a mission: to stop Capone at any cost.

Aided by wiretaps and informants, Ness’s elite squad of Treasury agents, nicknamed “the Untouchables” for their reputation for resisting bribes, aggressively raided Capone’s operations. In retaliation, Ness was targeted several times for assassination, and one of his best friends was killed.

An Era’s Well Known Weapons

The antagonists in the Chicago Prohibition wars relied on a common selection of firearms. The swift-firing Thompson 1928 submachinegun became