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It’s easy to think of firearms as a modern invention, in part because the science behind them and the technology inside them gets better all the time. But the roots of gun technology go very, very deep indeed…over a thousand years, in fact, and all the way to the other side of the world. Here’s what the first 500 years of firearms history looked like:

850:  Gunpowder first made in China

1004: First mention of gunpowder in Chinese literature

1067: Chinese emperor places production of saltpetre and sulphur (used to make gunpowder) under state control

1225: Marcus Graecus reveals formula for gunpowder in his Liber Ignum

1250: Roger Bacon records formula for gunpowder in De secretis operibus artis
         Albertus Magnus reveals formula for gunpowder in De mirabilis mundi ignium
         Berthold Schwartz experiments with gunpowder in Germany

1259: City of Melilla in North Africa defended by a cannon

1280: First guns appear in China

1308: Guns used by Spanish in siege of Gibraltar

1325: Florentine Republic orders two officers to make cannon for city defense

1326: First known illustration of a cannon in Milemete’s De officiis regum

1327: Scots record first seeing firearms at the Battle of Werewater in Britain

1338: Cannons recorded as equipment of English ship Bernard de la Tour
          Records show gunpowder being stored in Tower of London

1340: Guns first used at sea in Battle of Sluys by Edward III of England
         Powder mill built in Augsburg, Germany

1344: Edward III’s household staffed with “artillers and gonners”

1346: English Army uses cannons against French at Battle of Crecy

As you can see, although the invention of gunpowder actually took place in China, gunpowder doesn’t seem to have actually been used for military purposes until some 400 years later…just a couple of decades after the discovery was “revealed” by European and English alchemists. However, once the innovations began to flower, the timeline between new and notable events in firearms history got shorter and shorter. That’s a tradition that continues until this day, when innovation and invention is happening so quickly that it can be tough even for seasoned experts to keep up!