A Firearm is a weapon from which a projectile can be discharged by an explosive/propulsive force caused by the ignition of gunpowder.

The word “firearm” is usually synonymous and interchangeable with the term “gun”.

Firearms are usually categorized as either large arms or small arms.

  • Large Arms: Those weapons that are used on a wheeled, carriaged or mounted system and are not categorized as a small arm, as well as any cartridge, shell or ball of 20mm (0.787 in) caliber or greater. Large arms include but are not limited to: cannons; naval guns; Howitzers; anti-aircraft machine guns and some heavy machine guns; .50 caliber heavy machine guns are not large arms.

History of Firearms as Generally UnderstoodEdit


The large arms of ancient times likely started with catapults and trebuchets which launched projectiles, some of which were set aflame for more effect.

According to Professor James Riddick Partington’s book, A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder, published 1960 as written and documented, the word for gunpowder in Chinese is huo yao and is found in the Chinese works, Wu Chin Tsung Yao which is a collection of books on military techniques. These books date to 1044. According to Professor James Riddick Partington’s book, A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder, published 1960 the huo p’ao (translated to fire-thrower) was a military weapon. This was a military weapon made from an 3 inch (7.62 cm) diameter bamboo trunk, approximately 6 foot (183 cm) in length rapped in hemp rope. There is no evidence this weapon discharged projectile/s; only ejecta. This weapon could be considered the first “flame thrower”.

Also, according to Professor J.R. Partington, the first uses of gunpowder as a propulsive force within a gun (large arm) are from cannons. These peoples were: the Arab Moors in 1331; the Italians in 1341; the English in 1344; the French in 1345; the Germans in 1349; the Spaniards in 1359; and the balance of Europe by 1370. The Jesuit priests from Europe taught the Chinese how to cast bronze in 1618.

The first written document that contained a specific reference to a cannon was in Florence, Italy, in 1326.

The first small arms began to appeal sometime after 1413 when black powder was produced by moistening it and pounding it into cakes. These cakes were then broken up by hand. The result was a very grainy quality powder and no longer a finely ground powder. This helped greatly with the uniform ignition of black powder.