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Gun

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SIG Pro semi-automatic pistol


Battleship USS Iowa fires a full broadside from her nine
sixteen-inch naval guns

A gun is a ranged weapon typically


designed to pneumatically discharge
projectiles[1] that are solid (most guns) but
can also be liquid (as in water
guns/cannons and projected water
disruptors) or even charged particles (as in
a plasma gun) and may be free-flying (as
with bullets and artillery shells) or tethered
(as with Taser guns, spearguns and
harpoon guns).

The means of projectile propulsion vary


according to designs, but are traditionally
effected by a high gas pressure contained
within a shooting tube (gun barrel),
produced either through the rapid
combustion of propellants (as with
firearms), or by mechanical compression
(as with air guns). The high-pressure gas
is introduced behind the projectile,
accelerating it down the length of the tube,
imparting sufficient launch velocity to
sustain its further travel towards the target
once the propelling gas ceases acting
upon it at the end of the tube. Alternatively,
acceleration via electromagnetic field
generation may be employed, in which
case the shooting tube may be substituted
by guide rails (as in railguns) or wrapped
with magnetic coils (as in coilguns).

The first devices identified as guns


appeared in China from around CE 1000.
By the 12th century, the technology was
spreading through the rest of Asia, and
into Europe by the 13th century.[2]

Etymology
The origin of the English word gun is
considered to derive from the name given
to a particular historical weapon. Domina
Gunilda was the name given to a
remarkably large ballista, a mechanical
bolt throwing weapon of enormous size,
mounted at Windsor Castle during the
14th century. This name in turn may have
derived from the Old Norse woman's
proper name Gunnhildr which combines
two Norse words referring to battle.[3] In
any case the term gonne or gunne was
applied to early hand-held firearms by the
late 14th or early 15th century.

History
Hand cannon from the Chinese Yuan Dynasty (1271–
1368)

Western European handgun, 1380


Depiction of a musketeer (1608)

The first device identified as a gun, a


bamboo tube that used gunpowder to fire
a spear, appeared in China around AD
1000.[2] The Chinese had previously
invented gunpowder in the 9th
century.[4][5][6]
An early type of firearm (or portable gun)
is the fire lance, a black-powder–filled tube
attached to the end of a spear and used as
a flamethrower; shrapnel was sometimes
placed in the barrel so that it would fly out
together with the flames.[6][7] The earliest
depiction of a gunpowder weapon is the
illustration of a fire-lance on a mid-10th
century silk banner from Dunhuang.[8] The
De'an Shoucheng Lu, an account of the
siege of De'an in 1132, records that Song
forces used fire-lances against the
Jurchens.[9]

In due course, the proportion of saltpeter


in the propellant was increased to
maximise its explosive power.[7] To better
withstand that explosive power, the paper
and bamboo of which fire-lance barrels
were originally made came to be replaced
by metal.[6] And to take full advantage of
that power, the shrapnel came to be
replaced by projectiles whose size and
shape filled the barrel more closely.[7] With
this, we have the three basic features of
the gun: a barrel made of metal, high-
nitrate gunpowder, and a projectile which
totally occludes the muzzle so that the
powder charge exerts its full potential in
propellant effect.[10]
Breech-loading guns called cetbang were
used by the Majapahit Empire during the
conquest of Nusantara in 1336–1350. The
knowledge of making powder weapons in
Java is thought to have originated from
the Mongol invasion in 1293.[11] These
swivel guns mounted on various vessels
of the Majapahit navy were used to great
effect against traditional boarding-style
warfare of other kingdoms in the
archipelago.[12]

One theory of how gunpowder came to


Europe is that it made its way along the
Silk Road through the Middle East; another
is that it was brought to Europe during the
Mongol invasion in the first half of the
13th century.[13][14] English Privy Wardrobe
accounts list "ribaldis", a type of cannon, in
the 1340s, and siege guns were used by
the English at Calais in 1346.[15] The
earliest surviving firearm in Europe has
been found from Otepää, Estonia and it
dates to at least 1396.[16]

Around the late 14th century in Europe,


smaller and portable hand-held cannons
were developed, creating in effect the first
smooth-bore personal firearm. In the late
15th century the Ottoman empire used
firearms as part of its regular infantry.
The first successful rapid-fire firearm is the
Gatling Gun, invented by Richard Gatling
and fielded by the Union forces during the
American Civil War in the 1860s.

The world's first sub-machine gun (a fully


automatic firearm which fires pistol
cartridges) able to be maneuvered by a
single soldier is the MP18.1, invented by
Theodor Bergmann. It was introduced into
service in 1918 by the German Army
during World War I as the primary weapon
of the Stosstruppen (assault groups
specialized in trench combat).
The first assault rifle was introduced
during World War II by the Germans,
known as the StG44. It was the first
firearm which bridges the gap between
long range rifles, machine guns, and short
range sub-machine guns. Since the mid-
20th century guns that fire beams of
energy rather than solid projectiles have
been developed, and also guns that can be
fired by means other than the use of
gunpowder.

Operating principle
Most guns use compressed gas confined
by the barrel to propel the bullet up to high
speed, though devices operating in other
ways are sometimes called guns. In
firearms the high-pressure gas is
generated by combustion, usually of
gunpowder. This principle is similar to that
of internal combustion engines, except
that the bullet leaves the barrel, while the
piston transfers its motion to other parts
and returns down the cylinder. As in an
internal combustion engine, the
combustion propagates by deflagration
rather than by detonation, and the optimal
gunpowder, like the optimal motor fuel, is
resistant to detonation. This is because
much of the energy generated in
detonation is in the form of a shock wave,
which can propagate from the gas to the
solid structure and heat or damage the
structure, rather than staying as heat to
propel the piston or bullet. The shock wave
at such high temperature and pressure is
much faster than that of any bullet, and
would leave the gun as sound either
through the barrel or the bullet itself rather
than contributing to the bullet's velocity.

Components
Barrel
Rifling of a 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 tank gun.

Barrel types include rifled—a series of


spiraled grooves or angles within the
barrel—when the projectile requires an
induced spin to stabilize it, and
smoothbore when the projectile is
stabilized by other means or rifling is
undesired or unnecessary. Typically,
interior barrel diameter and the associated
projectile size is a means to identify gun
variations. Bore diameter is reported in
several ways. The more conventional
measure is reporting the interior diameter
(bore) of the barrel in decimal fractions of
the inch or in millimetres. Some guns—
such as shotguns—report the weapon's
gauge (which is the number of shot pellets
having the same diameter as the bore
produced from one English pound (454g)
of lead) or—as in some British ordnance—
the weight of the weapon's usual
projectile.

Projectile

A gun projectile may be a simple, single-


piece item like a bullet, a casing containing
a payload like a shotshell or explosive
shell, or complex projectile like a sub-
caliber projectile and sabot. The propellant
may be air, an explosive solid, or an
explosive liquid. Some variations like the
Gyrojet and certain other types combine
the projectile and propellant into a single
item.

Terminology
The term gun may refer to any sort of
projectile weapon from large cannons to
small firearms including those that are
usually hand-held (handgun).[17] The word
gun is also commonly used to describe
objects which, while they are not
themselves weapons, produce an effect or
possess a form which is in some way
evocative of a handgun or long gun.

The use of the term "cannon" is


interchangeable with "gun" as words
borrowed from the French language during
the early 15th century, from Old French
canon, itself a borrowing from the Italian
cannone, a "large tube" augmentative of
Latin canna "reed or cane".[18] Recent
scholarship indicates that the term "gun"
may have its origins in the Norse woman's
name "Gunnildr" (which means "War-
sword") ( or "Gunnild", possibly Queen
Gunhild of Wenden, wife of King Sweyn
Forkbeard ), which was often shortened to
"Gunna".[19] The earliest recorded use of
the term "gonne" was in a Latin document
circa 1339. Other names for guns during
this era were "schioppi" (Italian translation-
"thunderers"), and "donrebusse" (Dutch
translation-"thunder gun") which was
incorporated into the English language as
"blunderbuss".[19] Artillerymen were often
referred to as "gonners" and "artillers"[20]
Early guns and the men who used them
were often associated with the devil and
the gunner's craft was considered a black
art, a point reinforced by the smell of
sulfur on battlefields created from the
firing of guns along with the muzzle blast
and accompanying flash.[21]

The word cannon is retained in some


cases for the actual gun tube but not the
weapon system. The title gunner is applied
to the member of the team charged with
operating, aiming, and firing a gun.

Autocannons are automatic guns


designed primarily to fire shells and are
mounted on a vehicle or other mount.
Machine guns are similar, but usually
designed to fire simple projectiles. In
some calibers and some usages, these
two definitions overlap.
In contemporary military and naval
parlance the term gun has a very specific
meaning and refers solely to any large-
calibre, direct-fire, high-velocity, flat-
trajectory artillery piece employing an
explosive-filled hollowed metal shell or
solid bolt as its primary projectile. This
later usage contrasts with large-calibre,
high-angle, low-velocity, indirect-fire
weapons such as howitzers, mortars, and
grenade launchers which invariantly
employ explosive-filled shells. In other
military use, the term "gun" refers primarily
to direct fire weapons that capitalize on
their muzzle velocity for penetration or
range. In modern parlance, these weapons
are breech-loaded and built primarily for
long range fire with a low or almost flat
ballistic arc. A variation is the howitzer or
gun-howitzer designed to offer the ability
to fire both low or high-angle ballistic arcs.
In this use, example guns include naval
guns. A less strict application of the word
is to identify one artillery weapon system
or non-machine gun projectile armament
on aircraft.

A related military use of the word is in


describing gun-type fission weapon. In this
instance, the "gun" is part of a nuclear
weapon and contains an explosively
propelled sub-critical slug of fissile
material within a barrel to be fired into a
second sub-critical mass in order to
initiate the fission reaction. Potentially
confused with this usage are small nuclear
devices capable of being fired by artillery
or recoilless rifle.

In civilian use, the captive bolt pistol is


used in agriculture to humanely stun farm
animals for slaughter.[22]

Shotguns are normally civilian weapons


used primarily for hunting. These weapons
are typically smooth bored and fire a shell
containing small lead or steel balls.
Variations use rifled barrels or fire other
projectiles including solid lead slugs, a
Taser XREP projectile capable of stunning
a target, or other payloads. In military
versions, these weapons are often used to
burst door hinges or locks in addition to
antipersonnel uses.

Types
Military

Long gun
Arquebus
Blunderbuss
Musket
Musketoon
Wall gun
Grenade launcher
Submachine gun
Personal defense weapon
Rifle
Lever-action rifle
Bolt-action rifle
Assault rifle
Battle rifle
Carbine
Service rifle
Sniper rifle
Shotgun
Combat shotgun
Semi-automatic shotgun
Automatic shotgun

Machine guns

Gatling gun
Minigun

The Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun is widely


used by law enforcement tactical teams and military
forces.

Nordenfelt gun
Metal Storm
Mitrailleuse
Submachine gun
Machine pistol
Machine gun
General-purpose machine gun
Light machine gun
Squad Automatic Weapon
Infantry Automatic Rifle
Medium machine gun
Heavy machine gun

Handguns

Handgun
Pistol
Machine pistol
Service pistol
Revolver

IOF .32 Revolver chambered in .32 S&W Long

Smith & Wesson "Military and Police" revolver

Service revolver

Autocannon

Autocannon
Chain gun
Revolver cannon

Artillery

Artillery gun
Cannon
Carronade
Falconet
Field gun
Howitzer

Tank

Tank gun

Hunting

Air gun
BB gun
Elephant gun
Express rifle
Rimfire rifle
Shotgun
Speargun
Varmint rifle

Rescue equipment

Flare gun
Lyle gun

Training and entertainment

Airsoft gun
Drill Purpose Rifle
Paintball gun
Potato cannon
Spud gun
Cap gun
Water gun
Nerf gun

Energy

Directed-energy weapon

See also
Coilgun
Firearm
Gun cultures
Gun ownership
Gun Quarter
Gun safety
Overview of gun laws by nation
Railgun
Stun gun

Notes
1. The Chambers Dictionary, Allied
Chambers - 1998, "gun", page 717
2. Judith Herbst (2005). The History of
Weapons . Lerner Publications. p. 8.
ISBN 978-0-8225-3805-9.
3. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (1990). The
Merriam-Webster's New Book of Word
Histories. Basic Books. pg.207
4. Buchanan 2006, p. 2 "With its ninth
century AD origins in China, the
knowledge of gunpowder emerged from
the search by alchemists for the secrets
of life, to filter through the channels of
Middle Eastern culture, and take root in
Europe with consequences that form the
context of the studies in this volume."
5. Needleham 1986, p. 7 "Without doubt it
was in the previous century, around +850,
that the early alchemical experiments on
the constituents of gunpowder, with its
self-contained oxygen, reached their
climax in the appearance of the mixture
itself."
6. Chase 2003, pp. 31–32
7. Crosby 2002, p. 99
8. Needham 1986, pp. 8–9
9. Needham 1986:222
10. Needham 1986, p. 10
11. Song Lian. History of Yuan.
12. Reid, Anthony (2012). Anthony Reid and
the Study of the Southeast Asian Past.
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
ISBN 978-981-4311-96-0.
13. Norris 2003:11
14. Chase 2003:58
15. David Nicolle, Crécy 1346: Triumph of the
longbow, Osprey Publishing; June 25,
2000; ISBN 978-1-85532-966-9.
16. "Ain Mäesalu: Otepää püss on maailma
vanim" . Archived from the original on
2012-06-14.
17. "Gun - Definition of Gun by Merriam-
Webster" .
18. "cannon - Origin and history of cannon by
Online Etymology Dictionary" .
19. Kelly 2004, p. 31.
20. Kelly 2004, p. 30.
21. Kelly 2004, p. 32.
22. "Captive Bolt Stunning Equipment and the
Law - How it applies to you" . Archived
from the original on 2014-04-05.
References
Look up gun in Wiktionary, the free
dictionary.

Kelly, Jack (2004). Gunpowder: Alchemy,


Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History
of the Explosive That Changed the
World . New York: Basic Books.
ISBN 978-0-7867-3900-4.
Lee, R. Geoffrey (1981). Introduction to
Battlefield Weapons Systems and
Technology. Oxford: Brassey's Defence
Publishers. ISBN 0080270433.

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