Object Title

Handgun

Early handguns were used during the Hundred Years' War. These simple guns were difficult to use and aim, but could cause significant damage nonetheless.

Development

Various properties of gunpowder were discovered in China around the 8th or 9th century and the first guns appeared there in the 11th century. It was not until the early-14th century that gunpowder weapons were unequivocally recorded in Western Europe for the first time (Florence in 1326).

The English almost certainly used gunpowder weapons throughout the Hundred Years' War. There is evidence that guns were used at the Battle of Crécy (1346), if only to induce panic with their noise. An English archer called Roger Hunt (or Hart) is recorded as having been killed by a firearm, presumably a French piece, at the Battle of Agincourt (1415).

From the mid-15th century, infantry armed with simple handguns became increasingly common on the European battlefield. During the last battle of the Hundred Years' War, the Battle of Castillon (1453), the French surrounded John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury:

"...and shooting him through the thigh with a hand-gunne, slew his horse, and finally killed him lying on the ground..." [1]

Use and effect

A medieval handgun would have been mounted on a wooden stock or tiller and would have been ignited by placing a length of smouldering matchcord onto the priming powder in the pan.

Aiming the weapon effectively was comparatively difficult. However, experiments have shown that even simple guns could be extremely effective, penetrating up to 0.2 in. (5 mm) of steel sheet at short range.


[1] Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1587

Statistics

Barrel length 18 cm (7 ¼ ins.)
Bore 16 mm (.625 in.)
Length 24.6 cm (9 ½ ins.)
Weight 536 g (1Ib 3 oz.)

Author

Bob Woosnam-Savage