How Much Do You Know About the History of Firearms?

Isadora Teich

Image: youtube

About This Quiz

Think you know guns? Then take a shot at this quiz! Guns are a big part of the American identity and a big part of history. Numerous wars and generations of expansion have put firearms front and center, from early guns that were often mostly handmade contraptions constructed by farmers to the monsters of today, which can shoot countless bullets faster than you can blink. 

The firearm actually predates America by centuries, starting in Asia as something few would recognize today. Over the years, firearms have taken many different forms. Innovations in weapons technology occurred worldwide over centuries, leading eventually to the guns we know today. Today, these innovations and inventions happen faster than ever before. What firearms may look like in 100 years, no one really knows. However, what's certain is that those famous firearms of the past are still loved today. 

From the chaos of the American Revolution to the wild wild west to the trenches of World War I and beyond, a lot of historic guns are icons with an important place in our history and cult status in the present. If you are a hot shot with fast hands for firearm history, fire away at this quiz1 

Where was gunpowder invented?

The Chinese invented gunpowder by accident. It was invented by 9th century alchemists who were trying to create an immortality potion and instead created an explosion.

Which brand of gun is known as "the gun that won the West"?

Winchester rifles were introduced in 1873. They were so affordable and made in such large numbers that they became known as the generic rifle.

During the 19th century, large numbers of ________ guns were produced.

In the late 1800s, a bunch of small manufacturers churned out cheap but usable tiny single-action spur trigger revolvers. Firms like Iver johnson and Hopkins and Allen produced millions of guns which were mockingly called "Suicide Specials."

The first firearm was invented in:

The fire lance is the ancestor of all modern firearms. It was invented in 10th century China.

When did early firearms start appearing around the world?

Historic accounts show that Eurasia began utilizing firearms more widely in about the 14th century. It is thought that this is due to either gunpowder and firearms spreading along the silk road, or Mongol invasion bringing it to Europe.

Breechloading guns were loaded from the back rather than:

The vast majority of early guns were muzzle-loaders, which meant that powder and bullets had to be dropped down the muzzle and stuffed into the rear of the gun before firing. Breechloading guns are loaded directly from the rear of the barrel instead.

What did men duel with before guns?

Before guns, men dueled with thrusting swords called rapiers. Dueling with guns became so popular that a dueling pistol became standardized as having certain characteristics in 1777.

What did you need to shoot early firearms?

Early firearms needed a flame to work. Burning wicks would be touched to either a fuse or pan filled with gunpowder.

Why were Colt revolvers a favorite of frontiersman and soldiers?

Colt revolvers were far more accurate and reliable than many guns of the time, as they were mass-produced to be identical. Those who bought a Colt generally knew what they were getting.

Springfield Armory was America's main arsenal during the _________.

Springfield armory was the main center where US military firearms were made from 1777-1968. Located in Springfield, Massachusettes, many of the guns made there are known as Springfield rifles.

What separated matchlock guns from previous guns?

Early guns could only be aimed with one hand while a prop steadied it and the other hand held a candle to the touch hole to ignite the powder. This made aim quite bad. Matchlock guns appeared in the 1400s, which were ignited by a wick in a movable clamp, rather than one held by hand.

Which gun innovation was so expensive to produce that it did not catch on?

In the early 16th century, the wheel lock or rose lock was invented, which generates a mechanical spark. However, matchlocks were half the price, so they remained the common gun of choice.

What was the major innovation of flintlock guns?

Before flintlocks, the lid which exposed and protected gunpowder on a gun had to be moved by hand. These guns moved that lid and ignited them at once in a single step.

Dueling pistols were often _______ than other firearms of the time.

Dueling pistols sometimes had unusual decorative details. In 1777, they were standardized as having a 9- or 10-inch barrel.

The firearms produced by Samuel Colt were the first firearms to be:

Samuel Colt was the first to apply the technology of the industrial age to producing guns. The first Colt revolver was created in 1835.

Which of these guns came first?

Flintlock is a term used to describe any firearm that has a flint striking ignition mechanism. These guns were popular from the 1500s through the 1800s.

The fowling piece was the forerunner of:

In the 1700s, specialized firearms for specific purposes were made. The fowling piece was one gun made to hunt birds.

Which of these guns was mostly used during the Civil War?

Spencer repeating guns, innovative for their use of cartridges, could fire 7 shots in 15 seconds. These were the main repeating guns used during the Civil War.

Which company sold the first widely used automatic rifle?

Winchester introduced the first popular automatic rifle in 1903. It was known as the Winchester Model 1903.

Which of these was a major component of early guns?

The matchlock was the first early gun to combine all 3 of these components. These guns were popular for about 2 centuries.

The main difference between matchlocks and flintlocks is:

Matchlocks required the burning wick of a candle or other flame to set off gunpowder. Flintlocks make use of flint against steel to provide the proper spark.

Flintlock guns were originally known as:

The design of flintlock guns was perfected in the early 1600s. It was originally known as the French lock.

Which of these improvements made firearms for more accurate?

Archers discovered that angled fletching feathers on the rear of the arrow caused an arrow to rotate in flight and hit targets with more accuracy. This was applied to gun barrels, which were built with slowly twisting grooves inside to rotate the bullet. These grooves were called rifling and rifled firearms, or rifles became widely used due to their accuracy.

The American long rifle is also known as the ________ rifle.

This was the gun used by early American pioneers. It was probably a descendant of the German Jaeger, which was commonly used in Europe as a hunting rifle.

Who is America's oldest constant gun manufacturer?

Eliphalet Remington produced barrels as early as 1826, as many country folk would build their own guns, but always buy the barrels. Remington remains one of America's premier gun manufacturers to this day.

What was one of the main weaknesses of early flintlock guns?

As early flintlock guns relied on two types of powder and a flame, it could be difficult to use them in the rain. Wet powder and a wet wick rendered the guns basically useless.

Who patented and manufactured the first revolvers?

Colt's revolvers addressed the problem of guns that were either awkward and cumbersome to reload or had so many barrels that they were too heavy. Colt had a monopoly on revolver manufacture for years.

What happened when Samuel Colt's patent on the revolver expired in the mid-1850s?

Other firms and companies jumped into the revolver business and began making their own models. These include manufacturers like Starr, Whitney and Remington.

Who invented metallic cartridge ammunition?

Smith & Wesson designed a small .22 revolver, which used a revolutionary cartridge. It is the ancestor of all modern traditional ammunition and they held a patent on it until 1869.

The Colt Single-Action Army handgun is also known as the ___________.

Introduced in 1873, this Colt handgun was famously reliable and effective. It is the most famous handgun of the old West.

Did the American military embrace innovations in firearms in the past?

The American military of the past was reluctant to embrace changes in technology. Despite repeating rifles with 16 rounds or more being available, the late 19th-century American soldier was still using single-shot guns because his superiors didn't want him to go through ammunition too quickly and cost money.

A large disadvantage of using traditional black powder was that it ________ when fired.

Black powder would make a cloud of dark smoke when used to fire a gun. This would reveal the position of the shooter and also make it hard for them to see.

Which of these were benefits of smokeless powder?

Smokeless powder was a major innovation, which allowed for better use and more effective guns. It allowed smaller bullets to do as much damage as larger ones.

Which European country led in early firearms development?

Germany largely dominated in early European firearms design. The Luger pistol was introduced in 1900 and adopted as a military pistol by many countries.

Which war was the last where only muzzle-loaded guns were used?

The Crimean War was fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire and several European kingdoms. It was fought from 1853-1856.

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