Curious about the evolution of human tools and weapons? The history of firearms is long and fascinating. From 15th century experiments to modern “smart” rifles, long-barreled firearms have undergone numerous transformations.
But how did it all start? Check out who created the first rifle and how it evolved.
The Early History of Firearms
The very first flintlock firearm dates back to 1610. Built for King Louis XIII of France by a brilliant inventor named inventor Marin le Bourgeois, this was a simple smoothbore pistol, but it changed everything.
A century later, long firearms had become popular in North America. These long firearms featured a rifled bore. These were the first rifles, which featured spiral grooves inside the barrel to give a spin to the bullet. This spin gave bullets extra stability, which allowed for firing the rifle at a long-range.
The First Musket and the American Response
Captain Patrick Ferguson invented the breech-loading rifle, which is the first real rifle. Captain Ferguson was a Scottish officer in the British Army during the American War of Independence, and the only officer who participated on either of the conflict.
The Ferguson Rifle saw extensive use by the British in the Battle of Saratoga, but Americans were quick to catch up. By 1794, the Springfield Armory was crafting similar muskets for the new United States military.
Both Ferguson Rifle and American equivalents offered unprecedented firepower but were expensive and took a long time to produce.
From Muskets to Rifles
In 1807, Reverend Alexander Forsyth invented the first percussion ignition rifle, which allowed for faster rate of fire and protected the gunpowder from rain. By the 1840s, special bullets known as minnie balls allowed for faster reloading, paving the way for a new generation of weapons: the rifles as we know them today.
Minnie ball rifles were used extensively during the Crimean War and later during the American Civil War. By the 1860s rifles had completely replaced muskets
Cartridges, Scopes, and Breechloaders
During the end of the 19th century and early into the 20th century, a number of inventions established rifles as the most common firearms in general use and for hunting purposes.
The first telescopic rifle sight was developed in 1880 and by World War I, all military rifles were equipped with long-range sights and cartridge ammunition. This trend continued in World War II and well into the 20th century.
Rifles today work much like they did a hundred years ago. The main components remain unchanged since late 19th century, but the design has been refined to near perfection. Moreover, modern rifles can be customized with an astounding array of hunting accessories on top of the usual scopes and tripods.
The combination of long-range accuracy and customizability ensure the rifle’s viability as the most widely used firearm today and in the foreseeable future.
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