early firearms: small arms
The 15th century saw the introduction of the matchlock in which a spring-loaded lever mechanism was used to introduce a smoldering match (a hemp cord soaked in saltpeter) to the powder. This was superceded by the wheel lock in the next century. In this a serrated wheel rotated against a flint and ignited the powder with a spark.
In the 17th century the flintlock was introduced. Here a flint held in a spring-loaded arm, or cock, struck a metal hammer, or frizzen, to produce the spark. The perfecting of the gas-tight breechblock and the modern percussion lock in the early 19th century led to the development of the breech-loading rifle and the repeating pistol.
By the end of the century, machine guns were in an advanced state of development. Shotguns, used mainly for sport, fore a cartridge containing numerous small pellets.
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