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A weapon is a tool used to apply or threaten to apply force for the purpose of hunting, attack or defense in combat.

Weapons can be as simple as a club, or as complex as an intercontinental ballistic missile, and include those that damage individual or group morale.



Prehistoric weapons

Very simple weapon use has been seen in some communities of chimpanzees.[1], leading to speculation that early hominids may have first used weapons five million years ago.[2] but these would probably have been wooden clubs, spears and unshaped stones—none of which would leave an unambiguous record.

The earliest unambiguous examples of weapons are:

  • Eight wooden throwing spears, the Schöninger Speere, which have been dated as 400,000 years ago.[3]
  • By 250,000 years ago wooden spears were made with fire-hardened points.
  • From 80,000 years ago humans began to make complex stone blades, which were used as spear points.
  • Bows and arrows may have been used by 60,000 years ago[4]
  • The oldest known javelins date to around 42,000 BC.
  • Wooden throwing darts have been in use since the middle paleolithic
  • The oldest atlatl (a spear-throwing weapon) dates back to 27,000 years ago.
  • Throwing sticks are also one of the earliest type of weapon.

Ancient world weapons

drawn by armored cataphract horses, c. 400.]]

Ancient weapons were initially simply improvements of the late neolithic versions, but then significant improvement in materials and techniques created a series of revolutions in military technology:

Weapons of the Middle Ages

displayed in the Tower of London.]]

The Medieval period, including the Western Middle Ages, was characterized by two iconic Medieval weapons: knights, heavily-armored horsemen, and the rudimentary siege artillery to negate the increased use of castles, fortified dwellings which proliferated throughout Europe and the near east. While knights were an evolutionary development of the earlier historical cavalry such as the Roman and Persian cataphracts, siege artillery used to breach castle walls triggered quite revolutionary advances, including increasingly sophisticated siegecraft using gunpowder weapons, the cannon.

Early modern period weapons

The Renaissance marked the beginning of the implementation of firearms in warfare, with the introduction of guns and rockets to the battlefield.

Firearms are qualitatively different from earlier weapons because they store energy in a combustible propellant such as gunpowder, rather than in a weight or spring. This energy is released quite rapidly, and can be restored without much effort by the user, so that even early firearms such as the arquebus were much more powerful than human-powered weapons. They became increasingly important and effective during the 16th century to 19th century (especially during the 1700s when many European nations began to forge empires, some of which survived until halfway through the 1900s, just going to show how major a development firearms were), with progressive improvements in ignition mechanisms followed by revolutionary changes in ammunition handling and propellant. During the U.S. Civil War various technologies including the machine gun and ironclad warship emerged that would be recognizable and useful military weapons today, particularly in lower-technology conflicts. In the 19th century warship propulsion changed from sail power to fossil fuel-powered steam engines.

is used as both knife and polearm.]]

The age of edged weapons ended abruptly just before World War I with rifled artillery, such as howitzers which were able to destroy any masonry fortress, as well as destroy other fortifications. This single invention caused a revolution in military affairs and doctrines that continues to this day. See Technology during World War I for a detailed discussion.

An important feature of industrial age warfare was technological escalation - an innovation could, and would, be rapidly matched by copying it, and often with yet another innovation to counter it. The technological escalation during World War I was profound, producing armed aircraft and tanks.

This continued in the period between the end of that war and the next, with continuous improvements of all weapons by all major powers. Many modern military weapons, particularly ground-based ones, are relatively minor improvements on those of World War II. See military technology during World War II for a detailed discussion.

Modern weapons

and its successor the Vickers (shown here) remained in British military service for 79 consecutive years.]]

Since the mid-18th century North American French-Indian war through the beginning of the 20th century, human-powered weapons were reduced from the primary weaponry of the battlefield yielding to gunpowder-based weaponry. Sometimes referred to as the "Age of Rifles"[5], this period was characterized by the development of firearms for infantry and cannons for support, as well as the beginnings of mechanized weapons such as the machine gun, the tank and above all the wide introduction of aircraft into warfare, including naval warfare with the introduction of the aircraft carriers. World War I marked the entry of fully industrialized warfare as well as weapons of mass destruction (e.g. chemical and biological), and weapons were developed quickly to meet wartime needs. Above all it promised to the military commanders the independence from the horse and the resurgence in maneuver warfare through extensive use of motor vehicles. The changes that these military technologies underwent before and during the Second World War were evolutionary, but defined the development for the rest of the century. World War II however, perhaps marked the most frantic period of weapons development in the history of humanity. Massive numbers of new designs and concepts were fielded, and all existing technologies were improved between 1939 and 1945. The most powerful weapon invented during this period was the atomic bomb

Weapon development since the Second World War

After World War II, with the onset of the Cold War, the constant technological development of new weapons was institutionalized, as participants engaged in a constant race to develop weapons and counter-weapons. This constant state of weapons development continues into the modern era, and remains a constant draw on the resources of most nations.

Notable development in weaponry since World War II has been the combination and further development of weapons like nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile, leading to the configuration: the ICBM. The Cold War race for bigger and more effective weapons lead to the development of the H-bomb (or hydrogen bomb) and multiple warhead missiles. The mutual possession of these by the United States and the Soviet Union ensured that either nation could inflict terrible damage on the other; so terrible, in fact, that neither nation was willing to instigate direct, all-out war with the other (a phenomenon known as Mutually Assured Destruction). The indiscriminate nature of the destruction has made nuclear-tipped missiles essentially useless for the smaller wars fought since. However computer-guided weaponry of all kinds, from precision-guided munitions (or "smart bombs") to computer-aimed tank rounds, has greatly increased weaponry's accuracy.

Being able to prepare, maneuver and attack before the enemy can detect the threat and respond can be a decisive advantage. The element of surprise has long been recognized as a tactical advantage. Modern technology can increase this, such as when one side has sophisticated night vision technology allowing maneuvering and combat at night when the enemy, not so equipped, is limited. High tech surveillance and intelligence gathering methods such as unmanned aerial vehicles can prevent surprise or identify targets. Coordination of forces is necessary in order to utilize separated forces effectively, modern communications, if unjammed and unintercepted are substantial advantages. Even once targets or strategic objectives are identified, it is necessary to prepare detailed plans for individual forces to follow, a time consuming process that modern armies are trying to computerize to achieve an advantage of speed over the enemy.[citation needed]

Since interfering with enemy infrastructure, intelligence and communications yields an advantage, and a weapon is defined as something that grants such an advantage, new targets and weapons such as cyberwarfare are becoming possible.

Classification of weapons

It is useful to look at three facets when classifying weapon systems: Who uses it; How it works, and What it targets:

Who uses it

- what person or unit uses the weapon

How it works

- the construction of the weapon and principle of operation

What it targets

- the type of target the weapon is designed to attack

See also

Citations and notes

  1. ^ Jill D. Pruetz1 and Paco Bertolani, Savanna Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, Hunt with Tools", Current Biology, March 6, 2007
  2. ^ Rick Weiss, "Chimps Observed Making Their Own Weapons", The Washington Post, February 22, 2007
  3. ^ Lower Palaeolithic hunting spears from Germany. Hartmut Thieme. Letters to Nature. Nature 385, 807 - 810 (27 February 1997); doi:10.1038/385807a0 [1]
  4. ^ "...bows and bone arrows are now dated to just over 60,000 years old..."
  5. ^ p.263, Hind


  • U.S.Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Improving the prospects for future international peace operations: workshop proceedings, OTA-BP-ISS-167, Washington DC, US Government Printing Office, September 1995
  • Hind, Edward, My Magazine: Being a Series of Poems, Tales, Sketches, Essays, Orations, Etc.,: The Present Age - An oration J. and H. Clarke, London, 1860

External links

Primitive weapons Anti-ship weapons Infantry support weapons Fortification weapons Vehicle weapons Naval weapons


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Old English wæpen





weapon (plural weapons)

  1. an instrument of attack or defense in combat or hunting, e.g. a gun, missile, or sword
  2. an instrument or other means of harming or exerting control over another



Simple English

A weapon is an object that can be used to attack or injure a person or animal. People have used weapons since very ancient times. Some of the oldest remains that we have of ancient people are weapons made of stone. Ancient people also used spears and bows and arrows.

After people learned to make things of metal, many people used swords. People also built huge machines which could throw rocks to destroy the walls of enemy cities. Some of these machines were called catapults or siege engines.

Later, gunpowder was invented in China and the Europeans began using it to make guns and cannons. These weapons were much better than the older weapons, and helped the Europeans to conquer people in many parts of the world. People in many parts of the world used guns such as rifles and shotguns for hunting animals, and handguns for shooting other people.

People continued to invent new weapons. In the 1800s, the machine gun was invented, which could shoot many bullets very fast. When airplanes were invented, people began to use them to shoot enemies and to drop bombs on them. They built tanks which had big guns and strong armor. They began to use land mines, a bomb which soldiers hide in the ground, and which explodes when someone walks on it. Poison gas was used in World War I.

In World War II, Germany began to use missiles to carry bombs to England. At the end of World War II, the United States used atomic bombs (nuclear bombs) to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After World War II, people continued to develop new weapons. Now many people are concerned about weapons of mass destruction, weapons that can kill many people very fast, and are usually cheap and easy to make and use.

One kind of weapon of mass destruction is poison gas. New kinds of poison gas, such as nerve gas, are much more powerful than the old kinds. Another kind of weapon of mass destruction is disease germs, which could be used to make many people sick and maybe kill them. There are also many land mines which have been buried in the ground in many countries, and which kill and injure many people every year.

Old weapons still kill many people in wars and fighting. In wars in Africa in the 1990s and early 21st century, many people were killed with machetes (big knives).

People sometimes try to make laws, treaties, and international agreements to try to control weapons because they are worried about all the killing done with them.

Laws vary from country to country, for example, in the United States, the "right to keep and bear arms" is guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution. A country may say that people in that country cannot keep or use guns, or that people can only keep guns when the government says it is okay. Countries may agree with each other that they should not use certain weapons against each other, or should not have a lot of missiles.

Types of weapons

Things specifically made as weapons that most ordinary people can carry, include:

Weapons that soldiers or police personnel carry, include:

Portable firearms are also used by for hunting and for marksmanship practice.

Weapons that the defense people of a national government have, include:

Other types of weapons include:

Other pages

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 28, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Handgun, which are similar to those in the above article.

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