A vintage revolver with bullets on a wood table.

A (Very) Brief History of Guns

Whenever historians compile lists of the world’s most influential inventions, firearms are always near the top. In the realms of hunting, warfare, self-defense, and recreation, guns have had an incalculable impact on the course of human history. Here at Sevier Indoor Shooting Range, we thought it would be interesting to write an article about the evolution of firearms throughout the ages. So, without further ado, here is a (very) brief history of guns.

Hand Cannons

Gunpowder weapons were invented by the Chinese way back in the 10th century! Firearms, devices that used gunpowder to launch a projectile, first appeared in the Yuan Dynasty during the 1200s. The most famous of these early firearms is the “hand cannon”, a primitive gun that required two men to fire. If you visit the National Firearms Museum in Virginia, you can see a European hand cannon that was found in the ruins of a castle that fell around 1350.

MatchlocksMuskets at a military camp.

Early guns in the 1300s were awkwardly ignited using a fuse reminiscent of July 4th fireworks. This all changed with the invention of the matchlock in the 1400s. These new firearms stored gunpowder in a “flash pan” that was ignited with a “match” (a wick) that was located in a movable clamp. Matchlock technology greatly improved aim because shooters could keep both hands on the gun.

(See Also: 5 Tips for Improving Your Marksmanship at Our Gun Range in Sevierville)


The next major advance in accuracy came with the 1498 discovery of “rifling”: putting grooves in the barrel of a gun. Rifled muskets, also known as “rifles”, were better at hitting their targets because the grooves caused bullets to spin when they left the muzzle.

Flintlock pistols on a table.Flintlocks

Another hugely significant moment in the history of guns came in 1640 with the invention of the flintlock. Prior to the flintlock, guns featured a manual lid that shooters had to open to expose powder. The flintlock solved this problem by pushing back the lid and sparking a flint at the same time. This ignition system was used for the next two hundred years with almost no changes.

Colt Revolver

In 1835, the famous Colt revolver rocked the gun world. This pistol was the first gun that could fire multiple shots without reloading. Samuel Colt mass produced his revolvers, which drove costs down for consumers. Noted for their reliability and accuracy, Colt revolvers were popular with both servicemen and hunters.

Gatling Gun and the Maxim Gun

Invented by Dr. Richard Gatling in 1861, the Gatling Gun was the world’s first real machine gun. Driven by a hand crank, the Gatling Gun could fire 200 rounds per minute. Dr. Gatling erroneously believed that his invention would put an end to the American Civil War by creating a “mutually assured destruction” scenario.A soldier aiming a Maxim gun in WWI.

Machine gun technology vastly improved with the introduction of the Maxim Gun in 1883. Unlike the Gatling Gun, the Maxim gun didn’t require any hand cranking to load new cartridges, as it was recoil-operated. The Maxim gun was used by both the Entente Powers and the Central Powers in WWI, and versions of the firearm remained in use into the 1960s.

Uzi and AK-47

Two of the world’s most famous guns debuted in the years following WWII. The Uzi submachine gun was invented by Uziel Gal for the Israeli Army in 1948. This 9-mm weapon was one of the first guns to use a telescoping bolt, which allows for a shorter, more compact firearm. Over 10 million Uzis have been made.

In 1949, Mikhail Kalashnikov designed the AK-47 for the Soviet Army. The Kalashnikov assault rifle has been the weapon of choice for combatants around the globe because it is relatively cheap, resistant to natural elements, and easy to maintain. With over 75 million AK-47s in circulation, the Kalashnikov is the world’s most popular gun.

Glock 17

Created in 1982 by an Austrian curtain-rod manufacturer, the Glock found enormous success in America, where it is used by two-thirds of all U.S. police departments. This sleek 9-mm handgun is lightweight and has a steady trigger pull. Made mostly from plastic, the original Glock 17 contains only 36 parts and can hold 17 bullets in its magazine.

Guns for rent at Sevier Indoor Shooting Range.Visit Sevier Indoor Shooting Range

We hope that you have enjoyed this brief look at the history of guns. If you’re hoping to do some more “hands-on” learning, be sure to come and visit us at Sevier Indoor Shooting Range! We have an excellent selection of firearms available for rent and for purchase from the world’s most trusted gun manufacturers. To learn more about the firearms and accessories we carry, visit our Guns & More page.

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