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Important Dates in Gun History
(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 red italics.

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.]

1327

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
1607
1620

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 in

Note- 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 in

Note, 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.]

1798

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

1811

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

1846
1847

The Prussians concentrated on experiments with the needle gun in 1844, and it was used in the war of

Note: 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 in

Note: 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