The modern rifle is truly a wonder of technology. However, it didn’t happen overnight and this amazing weapon has evolved over many centuries to become what it is today. In fact, the first rifles were crude and would not be recognized by most modern people. Let’s go back in time to see how far rifles (like custom AR 15 models) have come.
It all started in China about a thousand years ago with the invention of gun powder. Did you know gun powder only has three essential ingredients? You just need charcoal, saltpeter (potassium nitrate) and sulfur. No one knows exactly who invented this recipe for explosions but it took hundreds of years before it would catch on in the West.
The Rifle Develops
Early rifles were nothing more than smaller versions of cannons. The largest factor in the rifle’s development was war and seeking to improve weapons for the average foot soldier. Early rifles were called muskets and had smooth bore barrels and simple firing mechanisms with wicks. Standard wicks soon gave way to matchlocks.
Wheel lock rifles were a big improvement over matchlocks. These mechanisms created a spark so no wick was required. However, due to its bulk and expense it the wheel lock eventually replaced by the flintlock system. Flintlocks were lighter and cheaper to produce, but still bore little resemblance to today’s custom AR or 308 sporting rifles.
By the dawn of the 18th Century, rifles had bayonets and were an important tool for the soldier. However, rifles were still loaded through the muzzle and it was quite an ordeal. In the early 1800s the percussion cap was introduced and this greatly facilitated muzzle loading.
Breech loaders came about in the mid part of the 19th Century and featured self contained ammunition. This was a huge improvement and by the time of the American Civil War, the repeating rifle revolutionized weaponry and changed it forever. However, few repeating rifles actually made it onto the battlefield, as the soldiers would have had to pay for special firearms. Most soldiers were still using muzzleloaders and some had breech loaded single shot rifles.
The 20th Century saw many changes including the famous 1903 and M1 military rifles. At the end of WWI the machine gun came into being and advancements eventually led to guns like the AK47 and M16 rifles. In fact, the AR 15 rifle is similar to military models and is perfectly legal to have your own custom AR for home defense, hunting or recreational shooting.
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