|Rysiek przy swoim rybackim kajaku|
There is no certainty as to where gunpowder was invented; China, India, The Middle East, and Europe all have their supporters. as to when, most agree that it took place sometime during the 13th century, though it may have been earlier. We can be a little more precise about the invention of the gun, however. This took place prior to 1326, for two separate contemporary manuscripts tell us so, and from that date onward, references to guns become more frequent. The earliest known example of a gun was found in the ruins of the castle of Monte Varino, in Italy, which was destroyed in 1341. The gun was a simple tube, closed at one end and drilled through near that end to allow the charge of powder inside to be ignited with a glowing wire or coal. It was fitted with a pole at the breech, and probably required two men to fire it.
The first improvement to this simple design, which created the matchlock, saw the addition of a serpentine (so-called because it was S-shaped and resembled a snake) which held a length of string (or "slow-match", treated with saltpeter to keep in alight. The serpentine was pivoted around its upper arm forward, touching the flowing end of the string into the priming powder. The latter lay in a pan outside the barrel, but was connected to the main charge of powder and ball by a touch-hole. The chief advantage of this design was that one man could use it on his own. A trigger was added later, to act upon the serpentine by way of a connecting sear, along with a spring that held the match off the pan until positive pressure was applied to the trigger. A version as also produced in which the spring worked the other way (when the sear was released, it propelled the match forward) - but the impact often extinguished the match.
Despite various improvements, however, the matchlock remained a cumbersome and unpredictable device. Far more reliable was the wheellock , invented around 1500, which used a wheel turned by a coiled spring to strike sparks from pyrites into the pan. Though complicated, it made it possible for the gun to be used one-handed and for it to be held ready for use.
The nest step was to find a simpler way of creating sparks. This was achieved by using a spring-loaded flint (which lasted longer than pyrites) and bringing it into contact with a suitably-shaped serrated steel, striking sparks from it in the process. The first such lock as known in English as snaphance, or snaphaunce, a corruption of a Duch phrase, schnapp hahn, "pecking hen," which describe the action of what became known as the cock.The snaphance originated in northern Europe, but at around the same time, a very similar device was coming into use in Italy. It had shortcomings, notably the way the pan cover was displaced by an awkward linkage to the trigger, but these were overcome in Spain about halfway through the 16th century by the simple expedient of extending the foot of the steel to become the pancover, and flicking it out of the way at the vital moment by means of the exposed mainspring, creating the miquelet lock.
About 60 years later, a French gunmaker Marin le Bourgeois, combined the one-piece steel and pan cover of the miquelet lock with the internal mainspring of the snaphance to produce the first true flintlock. Later improvements were minor, and saw the addition of roller bearings and strengthening bridles ("Weapon: A visual history of arms and armor").
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