Firearms have been in existence since the 13th century, and history traces the first firearms to be in China. This came shortly after the invention of black powder. Since then, the first firearms have come a long way into being sophisticated weaponry.
Here is an evolution journey of the firearms.
The firearm was muzzle-loaded and involved lighting a wick to fire. This firearm was clumsy and took a long time to reload. The wick often burnt out causing the gun to be useless until after the installation of a new wick. It was also dangerous to have the Matchlock around gunpowder.
The firearm was muzzle-loaded and had a spring-driven wheel that rubbed against iron pyrites to produces sparks when firing. The whee-lock was a heavy firearm, and it took a long time to reload the gun. The spring required winding by hand, the mechanism could easily break, and the iron pyrites could quickly wear out.
The flintlock had a paper cartridge and had a rifling improvement that made it more accurate than earlier models. The Flint snapped against a surface to produce a spark during firing. The number of shots was limited to the number of barrels in the flintlock gun or pistol. It also took a protracted time to load the gun, the springs could fail, and the flints would break or wear out often.
The percussion had a small explosive metal cap to replace the flint in earlier firearms, which made it more certain that it could fire. It also had a revolving action repeater feature. It still took a long time to reload the firearm, and the metal cap could separate from the powder and bullet. This was the era that Samuel Colt developed the first ever multi-shot revolver for mass production in 1835.
This firearm had its primer, powder and the bullet in a single safe container. It proved to be a simple firearm that was safe and reliable in the era of smokeless gunpowder, and it was easy to breech load. It however required specific equipment to reload the cartridge and it was a source of litter.
With a single reload, the repeater could hold and fire multiple shots. It brought about the age of semi-automatic and full-automatic firearms. The repeaters, however, had mechanisms that are more complex in play and there was the danger of an unused bullet left in the firearm. The application was at the start of the American Civil War. The Spencer guns used cartridges with the ability to fire seven shots in 15 seconds.
In 1892, Joseph Laumann made the first automatic pistol, and this marked the onset of the contemporary evolution that brought the modern guns like the AK 47, M16, Shotguns, et al.