The Invention of Gunpowder
In 850 A.D., gunpowder was accidently invented by the Chinese in an attempt to make an elixir for immortality. One Chinese alchemist mixed saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, with sulfur and charcoal. The result was an powder that produced smoke and flames.
Primitive Uses of Gunpowder
The Chinese first used gunpowder for fireworks when they found out it exploded. They also used it to scare off enemies at the beginning of a battle. The Song Dynasty used flying fire, or fei huo, which was an arrow with a tube of gunpowder attached to the shaft. This primitive weapon spread terror among enemy warriors. Other primitive uses of gunpowder that the Song Dynasty used were hand grenades, land mines, flamethrowers, and poisonous gas shells. Soldiers would hide barrels of gunpowder on battlefields as traps and light the fuse when enemies came close.
The cannon was the first major use of gunpowder, and its first recorded use was in the year of 1127. Originally, the Chinese made cannons out of bamboo shafts and later switched to making it out of metal once available. Cannons were very accurate and created an explosion on impact which could kill many soldiers. Cannons ended castles and catapults. Cannons also forced battles to occur outside of a castle. The defenders wouldn't want their castles being blown to bits by enemy cannons, and would be forced to leave the castle and fight somewhere else, like a plain.
The hand cannon, or handgonne was the first portable firearm invented. The handgonne was very simple and it consisted of a barrel and a handle. Handgonnes were early forms of guns used in warfare. It was extremely effective since it could kill multiple targets at once. Additionally, it was cheap and to produce. The handgonne had a very high armor penetration; it could go through heavy armor as well as mail armor. Other weapons at the time simply did not match the handgonne's usefulness.