Crossbow > Chapter 8 > Summary
of the Development of the Medieval Handgun > p.40
Summary of the Development of the Medieval Hand-Gun
In the heading to this chapter, I have used the word ' handgun' to express
any hand fire-arm that was carried by the individual soldier in mediaeval
Hand-guns were first seen in warfare at the end of the fourteenth century,
and were then known as hand-cannon. They were merely small reproductions
of the fire-arms or cannon which for many years previously had been employed
The earliest hand-gun consisted of a short metal tube, of 1/2
in. to 3/4 in. bore, with a touch-hole on the top of its breech-end, like
This tube was fastened to a straight piece of wood, either by means
of small iron hoops, or by thongs of leather.
The weapon was discharged by placing a burning fuse to the priming powder
which was piled up over its touch-hole. The first hand-gun was, in fact,
a miniature cannon, made light enough to be manipulated by one man, and
with a handle fastened to its breech-end by which to hold and direct it.
This form of hand-gun was in limited use in foreign armies till about 1460.
For a long time after their introduction, the smaller hand-guns had
straight narrow stocks, similar in shape to those of military
crossbows, the pointed end of the stock of the handgun, as in the larger
crossbow, being rested upon the top of the right shoulder when aim was
taken, fig. 4, p. 8.
Even the manner of sighting over the thumb, as it lay on the top of
the stock, was also copied from the crossbow, a primitive system of alignment
retained in the hand-gun for many years.
The straight crossbow-shaped stock was not generally discarded in handguns,
and the enlarged butt-end for the shoulder substituted, till about 1500.
The next variety of hand-gun was very heavy, and was known as a culverin.
Small culverins were, however, carried by horsemen, but the
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