I have been shooting with air gun at small balloons and developed the skill to hit a small coin during my childhood but, first time I touched a rifle in the year 1964 during my service. I started studying it and how it functioned. It created urge in me to know “who and how created a gun, how all those functioned and how the present-day small arms came in to being”, That was the start of my research in 1965 which I completed by the end of the year 1983. Here is a gist of my findings. With the grace of and due to the capability bestowed by Allah, the writer of this paper has contributed to modification of two weapons.
1.1. Weapon or Arm is the name given to an item used for offence or defence by human beings since the dawn of this world. With the skill bestowed on him by Allah soob-haanohoo wa Ta’ala, the species known as ‘Ashraf-ul-makhlooquat’ changed his weapons from stone to metal and, then making use of explosives to project items, he progressed to reach the present age of nuclear weapons, preparing from defence to destruction of man-kind.
Manufacture of present-day weapons parts, from the technological point of view, is a very intricate branch, especially, due to the fact that the functional surfaces of weapons parts stand in a more complicated relationship to each other than those of the other mechanical engineering parts. Besides, the weapon parts must be interchange-able without being submitted to any additional adaptations. In spite of the fact that every weapon is assembled under close quality supervision from strictly controlled and tested components, each and every weapon is tested for performance, due to the fact that, if a weapon fails, it will take away the trust of the soldier carrying that weapon and in turn may demoralize the whole army and turn their victory into defeat.
1.2. Weapons system of a country represents optimum realization of several, sometimes, contradictory requirements of the logistician, the military tactician, cost analyst and production men. The utilization of all practicable new developments in weapons technology, improved materials and the use of the most advanced machine tools and special equipment ensure that the soldier has at his disposal a weapon that he can rely on. This sophisticated design and technology can only be developed and produced with high class training and education. Not indulging in the copious variety of modern weapons, I shall confine myself well within the circle of “Small Arms”.
2. ORIGIN OF FIRE ARMS.
2.1. Gun Powder:
Before describing the history of Small Arms, it is appropriate to say a few words about the substance which provided the propelling power for all weapons until the late 19th century. It was gun powder which contained 75% potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal and 10% sulphur. It was known as a chemical compound with explosive properties for a long time before it’s capacity to project items with lethal energy was realized. A British chemist, Professor J. K. Partington conducted research which indicated that Chinese were using potassium nitrate based compositions over 1000 years ago. His book, “A History of Greek Fire and Gun Powder”, utilizes the original Chinese and Arabic texts. This indicates that Muslims and Chinese in the Middle East and Far East had knowledge of the Gun Powder at least 200 years earlier than the Western World.
“Alexiad”, the history of the Roman Emperor Alexius-I who ruled from 1081 to 1118 A.D., written by the Emperor’s daughter Anna, is the chief source of reliable data on the First Crusade and the Byzantine Empire. All evidence given in this book indicates that Gun Powder was not known in the West until the 13th century. Unfortunately, most of the presently available writings on gun powder are flavoured with prejudice, the British favouring Bacon, the Germans favouring Berthold Schwartz, etc.
The earliest writing available is by Mark, the Greek, who in his book, Liber Ignium, made a mention of Potassium nitrate and gun powder. Recent research indicates that this manuscript is not a Latin translation of a Greek work as originally thought, but a Latin translation of Arabic work. Up till now, no one knows who invented Gun powder because ancient records, which could reveal glory of people other than European, were, mostly, destroyed by Europeans with the spread of European Empires on this earth. Even the men of knowledge were killed. A few books, which they were able to translate, were published in the names of the translators or renowned Europeans. The fact remains that use of explosives was known to Muslims and Chinese long before the Europeans came to know of it.
2.2. Fire Arms:
Fire Arms may be defined as tubes used with a charge of gun powder (or similar explosive) to throw projectiles. In the early age stones, arrows, spears or metal balls were used as projectiles. It is very difficult to say when and where the primitive fire arms were introduced. Long before the advent of gun powder in Europe, tubes were used to direct inflammable mixtures in the middle-east and far-east. The first use of gun powder to launch projectiles was made in the Far East. Both Arabs and Tartars are known to have made very early use of a variety of tubes to start fires. These tubes were made of hollow wood or bamboo, tightly wrapped around with hide or hemp for strength. They were loaded from muzzle with powder and ball, often of tallow. Use of these tubes has been mentioned in a Chinese book written in 1259 A.D.
Later, the manuscript of Walter de Millimete of England written in 1327 described use of gun powder for hurling projectiles. This was at the time of King Edward III’s accession to the throne. Kind Edward III was among the earliest rulers in Europe to employ cannon in battle. It is impossible to establish whether the hand-gun or the artillery cannon was first used as a powder Weapon. It is quite possible that the development may have been simultaneous. The construction and the loading and firing principles were same for all types in the early stages of arms development. Record shows that some hand guns were present in Italy in the 14th century.