Important Dates In Gun History

Event Date
The first record of the actual use of gunpowder in Europe is a statement by Bishop Albertus Magnus in 1280 that it was used at the Siege of Seville in 1247
Roger Bacon gives an account of gunpowder in his Opus Majus. (Actually his account was written in cryptic form. See Read, T. Explosives (Pelican Books, 1942) 1267
Edward III used cannon against the Scots *
[*Date may be wrong as this is year of Edward’s birth according to one site visitor.]
Hand Cannon had appeared in the field of battle during the reign of Edward III in 1364
Hand guns were known in Italy in 1397, and in England they appear to have been used as early as 1375
The first mechanical device for firing the hand gun made its appearance in 1424
We hear of armour being penetrated by bullets and the hand gun showing signs of becoming a weapon capable of rudimentary precision by 1425
Henry VII organized the corps of Yeomen of the Guard, half of whom were to carry bows and arrows while the other half were equipped with harquebuses. This represents the first introduction of firearms as an official weapon of the Royal Guard 1485
Columbus discovers the Americas 1492
Rifling was invented in 1498
The first wheel lock or “rose lock” was invented somewhere about 1509
Firearms were recognized as hunting arms as early as 1515, and a book (Balleates Mosetuetas y Areabuces Pablo del Fucar, Naples, 1535) on sporting firearms appeared in 1535
Rifled arms had been made since 1540
The hair trigger was a German invention of about 1540
The invention of the typical Spanish lock is attributed by some writers to Simon Macuarte the Second, about 1560
The snaphaunce lock, the forerunner of the true flintlock, was invented about, or considerably earlier than 1580
Settlers arrive in Jamestown, VA
Settlers arrive in Plymouth, MA
The standard flintlock gun came in about 1630
The rates of pay for repairs and new arms were fixed in 1631
The London Gunmakers’ Company initiated proofs when it was first incorporated, but it is not clear whether private proofs or a trade proof-house common to the Company was used. (A crowned A was given as the mark). 1637
The screw or cannon barrel pistol came in probably prior to 1640
The bayonet was introduced by the French; it was a long narrow blade with a wooden plug handle and was simply dropped into the muzzle of the musket 1640
The London Gunmakers’ Company enjoyed powers which enabled them to enforce proof when the second charter was granted in 1672
A ring attachment was added to the bayonet so that it no longer served as a muzzle plug 1680
The earliest known English breech-loading rifle was made by Willmore, who was apprenticed to Foad in 1689
The “Brown Bess” was known in Ireland as a “King’s Arm” from its use by William at the Battle of the Boyne 1690
The whole English army was equipped with flintlocks in 1690
Snaphaunces continued to be made on the Continer%+, till about 1700
In the reign of Queen Anne the “Brown Bess” was known as the “Queen’s Arm” in Ireland 1702-1714
The socket bayonet had appeared and was adopted in the British service about 1710
The letters G.R. were adopted as a mark in the reign of George 1, (1714-27) but successive Georges did not add any variant 1714-1830
The broad arrow as a sign of government property, was adopted during the reign of George 1, and the word TOWER is marked on the lock plate of many of these arms 1714-1727
The French established their “Manufacturers Royales” at Charleville, St. Etienne and Maubeuge in 1718
The large box lock type of pistol made its appearance about 1730
A few hammerless flintlock sporting guns were made by Stanislaus Paczelt, of Prague in Bohemia about 1730
The French introduced the double-necked hammer and the steel ramrod inNote- The double-necked hammer or cock was not a new invention, for it is often found on dog locks of 1670 and other early arms. 1746
The use of pistols for duelling purposes became general as the practice of carrying the rapier or small sword died out between 1750-1765
French & Indian War 1756-1763
The duelling pistol was entirely unknown until about 1760
Note: Meetings were fought with horse pistols prior to this date. The horse pistol shows a marked development into the true duelling pistol from 1760-1775
Double shotguns were rather peculiar arms, usually of the under and over revolving barrel type until About 1760
No official pistol was issued by the French prior to 1763
The French introduced the muzzle band with a funnel or guide for the ramrod and acorn sight integral with the band in 1763
American Revolution wins independence from England 1776-1783
Duelling pistols became officially standardized weapons -then it was laid down that they should be 9 or 10 inch barreled, smooth bore flintlocks of 1 inch bore, carrying a ball of forty- eight to the pound 1777
The top rib in double-barreled guns appeared about 1780
Spring bayonets are common on blunderbusses and pistols of the period subsequent to the date of the patent (John Waters, Pat. No. 1284) in 1781
The first patent for single trigger locks for double arms (James Templeman, Pat. No. 1707) was in 1789
Single trigger pistols, with side by side, and also under and over barrels, were made by Egg about 1789
The acorn pattern trigger guard extension toward the barrel used up to about 1790
The duelling pistol approached perfection by 1790-1800
Joseph Manton’s first patent (No. 1865) introduces the “break-off” breech, into which the barrel fits with a lump instead of being secured by a tang and screw as previously used 1792
Springfield Armory established 1795
Barrels with a number and the letters D.C. (Dublin Castle) were personal arms registered at Dublin Castle after the rebellion and disarmament of Ireland inNote, As the act was in force for some Years it is only of relative value in dating pieces and indicates that the piece is prior to

[Webmaster’s note- The first “gun registration” scheme in Ireland to prevent gun violence, totally failing for over 200 years, but politicians want to try it in the U.S.]

The duelling pistol was customarily full stocked down to 1800
Pistols appear to have been seldom used in the East prior to 1800
The swivel ramrod attached to the piece by a stirrup appeared about 1800
The “First Baker Rifle” was issued in 1800
The half stocked pistol with the lower rib beneath the barrel fitted to carry the ramrod came in during 1800
Louisiana Purchase 1803
The “Second Baker Rifle” was introduced in 1807
Alexander Forsyth patented the detonating or percussion principle in 1807
The revolving principle is as old as firearms, but manufacturing methods permitting sufficient accuracy of workmanship and precision of boring for a really safe cylindered or chambered weapon date from 1810-1820
The first serious military breech loader was an American invention, Colonel John H. Hall’s patent of
Note: This was made first as a flintlock, then as percussion, and is the first breech loader officially adopted by any army. The flintlocks were made till 1832, the percussion model from 1831
War of 1812, Washington DC burned by British, Battle of New Orleans 1812-1815
The copper percussion cap is not definitely alluded to in the patent records till 1823, but appears to have been invented about 1814-1816
The saw handle was very popular, both in flint and percussion pistols about 1815-1825
The true flintlock revolver is the very rare weapon made by Collier about 1820
Flints were converted to percussion cap, and the flint principle lost favor from 1820
The percussion cap came into universal use on private arms about 1826
The Delvigne (French) service rifle was invented in 1826
The “Third Baker Rifle” was issued about 1830
The back action lock made its appearance about 1830
The Robert rifle was invented by Robert, a gunsmith of Paris in 1831
The needle fire cartridge was patented by Adolph Moser in last
The percussion cap system of ignition was in common use before it was adopted for the service weapon. It was tested at Woolwich in 1843
Coach pistols supplied to the guard of public stage coaches are extremely rare, but were made with flintlocks and brass lock plates until 1835
Percussion cap locks fitted with a pierced platinum disc below the nipple gradually fell into disuse and are seldom found in arms subsequent to 1835
The rim fire cartridge evolved naturally out of the percussion cap, and was first made by Flobert of Paris, a maker of saloon arms, about 1835
Colt claims the ratchet motion, locking the cylinder and centre fire position of the nipples as particular points of his specification 1835
Colt did not know that the revolving principle was an age-old European idea until he visited England in 1835
The Enfield percussion carbine – .65 inch calibre with hinged spring triangular bayonet folding below the barrel was made for Constabulary service in 1835
The true pin-fire cartridge emerged about 1840
It was not until 1840 that we definitely find a breech-loading needle gun cartridge patented (Wm. Bush, Pat. No. 8513) in 1840
The Brunswick rifle superseded the Baker model about 1840 1840
Duelling declined in England after 1840
The period of decadence of duelling was noticeable for the production of rather short barreled pistols 1840-1850
A few service arms were converted to the percussion cap system in 1839, and it was officially adopted in 1842
The service percussion musket was mainly experimental until 1844
A double-barreled 26 inch barrel, .67 inch calibre arm was issued for constabulary use in 1845
Mexican War
Telegraph invented
The Prussians concentrated on experiments with the needle gun in 1844, and it was used in the war ofNote: The device was largely perfected by Dreyse of Sommerda, in 1831. 1848
The shot-gun or fowling piece began its separation from the musket in the latter half of the 18th century and divorce was completed by 1850
The Minie (English) service rifle was introduced in 1850
Minie’s patent for the self-expanding bullet was purchased and adopted by the British Government for the Enfield rifle in 1851
Muzzle loading was so unassailably established we do not find a single breech-loading cartridge weapon shown by a British firm at the Great Exhibition of 1851
Colt delivered a lecture on Colt revolvers before the Institute of Civil Engineers during his visit to London in 1851
Charles Lancaster brought out his central fire under lever gun with extractor and the first true centre fire cartridge in 1852
Colt procured a factory at Thames, Bank, Pimlico, London, and produced replicas of his standard pistols marked on the barrel “Address Col. Colt, London” during the period 1853-1857
The Pritchett bullet, a plain lead cylindroconoidal plug with a shallow base depression, was selected as the best type of bullet for the new Enfield rifle inNote: Later this was superseded by the Enfield bullet 1853
During the Crimean War, 25,000 Enfield rifles were made in America.Note: This war was the last in which all combatants used muzzle loaders. 1854-1856
There never was an official State-maintained arms factory until the Government established Enfield as a Government factory when the Birmingham gun-makers struck for higher wages in the middle of the Crimean War. 1855
Whitworth rifles were produced in 1857
Duelling continued in India to the date of the Mutiny 1857-1858
The first recorded European revolver for central fire cartridges appears to be that patented by Perrin and Delmas in 1859
The first effective and widely used magazine repeater was undoubtedly the Spencer carbine, patented in the U.S.A. in 1860
Tyler F. Henry [sic] brought out the Henry rifle in 1860
In the American Civil War, both breech and muzzle loader were used 1860-1865
American Civil War 1861-1865
The true centre fire cartridge as we know it today did not appear till exhibited by G. If. I)aw at the Exhibition of 1861
Note: It was the patent of Pottet, a French gunsmith.
Breech loaders were coming into general use by 1861
The first central fire repeater appears to have been Ball’s carbine made by the Lamson Arms Co., Windsor, Vermont, U.S.A., in 1863
For all practical purposes, metallic cartridges were not widely introduced until 1863-1864
The first cartridge repeater shot-gun appears to have been the Roper of 1866
The Snider service rifle was issued in 1866
The Henry was merged into the Winchester in 1866
Claims have been made for an American origin for choke boring, but these have never been proved, and there is -no doubt that it was the invention of Pape of Newcastle in 1866
Duels were fought in Ireland till as late as 1868
The Martini-Henry rifle was issued in 1869
The first European magazine military arm was the Swiss Vetterli rifle of 1869-1871
In 1866, the Chassepot was authorized and all branches of the French army were equipped with the weapon by 1870
The Franco-German War was almost entirely a breech-loading affair 1870-1871
The first true hammer-less gun appears to have been that of Murcott in 1871-1871
The first bolt action military repeater seems to be the Edge rifle (Pat. No. 3643) of 1874-1875
Custer defeated at Little Big Horn 1876
Lee patented his box magazine in 1879
The French adopted the Lebel rifle in 1886
The Gras-Kropatschek rifle was issued for the French Marine in 1886-1887
Winchester repeating shot-guns were first introduced in 1887
The Maxim was officially adopted in the army as a machine gun in 1887
The Lee-Metford rifle was adopted by Great Britain in 1888
The first automatic weapon to appear on the market was the Borchardt pistol in 1893
The Bergmann pistol appeared in 1894
The first Mannlicher automatic pistol was introduced in 1894
Spanish American War, Boer War 1898
The Mauser combination automatic pistol or carbine, the wooden holster serving as a stock attachment was introduced in 1898
The Browning automatic pistol of .32 inch calibre, made its appearance about 1898
All automatic pistols were of small bore until 1903
First airplane flight by Wright brothers, Kitty Hawk, NC 1903
The Winchester Firearms Company brought out the first widely sold automatic rifle in 1903
The Webley self-loading .455 inch pistol was adopted for the British Navy in 1905

Information from
(Based on A History of Firearms by Major H.B.C. Pollard)
[From “Notable Gun Dates” in Edgar Howard Penrose, Descriptive Catalog of the Collection of Firearms in the Museum of Applied Science of Victoria [Australia], by, Museum of Applied Science of Victoria Handbook No. 1, 1949.] Additional comments by John Spangler in bold italics..

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