LIFE Explores The History of the Rifle

LIFE Explores The History of the Rifle

LIFE Explores The History of the Rifle

LIFE Explores History of the Rifle begins with a bang with the discovery of the explosive combination of charcoal, potassium nitrate, and sulfur. From 10th Century China to the United States, this special edition details the evolution of the weapon including innovative modifications such as improved ignition devices allowing single shooters to aim, fire, and hit targets. Although the innovation of the rifle improved efficiency and efficacy, the smaller, sleeker, and more sophisticated model of the rifle posed a threat, including increased crime and conflict. Traverse the Old World, the Civil War, and the Wild West and explore how the evolution of this firearm has changed warfare, society, and history irrevocably

Leer Más
United States
Meredith Corporation
USD 13.99

en este número

18 min.
weapons of the civil war

A NEW COURSE FOR WEAPONRY Federal arsenals were able to produce better long guns and revolvers in far greater volume than facilities in the lightly industrialized South. The American Civil War inspired advances in firearms that in turn redefined armed conflict and reshaped American society. Referred to as the first truly “modern war” because of its brutal tactics and industrial-scale carnage, the clash between North and South saw the introduction and initial widespread use of breech-loading infantry firearms, repeating rifles, and rudimentary rapid-fire guns. Though disease and infection were the war’s most insidious killers, more-effective weapons also contributed to a combined death toll of some 700,000—more fatalities than in all other American wars combined. Firearm innovations associated with the Civil War set patterns that continued during the late-19th-century westward expansion of European-descended…

12 min.
firearms and the wild west

THE ROLE OF WEAPONS IN THE WILD WEST In the years after the Civil War, civilians, soldiers, and outlaws used Oliver Winchester’s lever-action rifles. Cowboys and Indians, outlaws and marshals, federal troops and land-hungry settlers—all were characters of mythic proportion during the late-19th-century surge of population from East to West. In the sweep of imagination and in quite a bit of actual experience, guns played a central role in the era of the Wild West. It was the age of Colt six-shooters, Winchester lever-action repeaters, and Sharps rifles that could take down a charging bison with a single well-placed shot. A romantic attachment to firearms—and the violence they begot—was woven into American popular culture. No man had a greater influence on the weaponry of the West than Oliver Winchester, an East Coast shirt manufacturer…

13 min.
an era of experimentation

THE ARRIVAL OF THE WHEEL LOCK AND FLINTLOCK New ignition-and-firing devices made guns more portable and paved the way for pistols and revolvers. The 16th century marked an inflection point in the development of firearms, thanks to a new generation of ignition-and-firing devices and the introduction of smaller, easier-to-carry weapons. Until that time, the predominant lighting-and-shooting mechanism for muskets was the matchlock, which used a smoldering cord and priming powder. The guns were sturdy and simple to operate but had limitations: The cord and powder were vulnerable to wind and rain, the burning cord alerted targets to the location of the gunman, and the complicated loading and firing process meant swift-moving cavalry couldn’t rely on them. As the 1500s progressed, gunsmiths began experimenting with a new device, the wheel lock, which ignited the…

1 min.

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Kostya Kennedy EDITORS Eileen Daspin, Richard Jerome (2020 edition) DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Christina Lieberman DESIGNERS Ronnie Brandwein-Keats, Ryan Moore PHOTO EDITORS Crary Pullen, Rachel Hatch (2020 edition) PHOTO ASSISTANT Steph Durante COPY EDITORS Joel Van Liew, Ben Ake (2020 edition) RESEARCHERS Mary Shaughnessy, Ryan Hatch (2020 edition) FIREARMS CONSULTANT Cameron Hopkins PRODUCTION DESIGNER Sandra Jurevics PREMEDIA TRAFFICKING SUPERVISOR Justin Atterberg COLOR QUALITY ANALYST Ben Anderson MEREDITH SPECIAL INTEREST MEDIA VICE PRESIDENT & GROUP PUBLISHER Scott Mortimer VICE PRESIDENT, GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Stephen Orr VICE PRESIDENT, MARKETING Jeremy Biloon EXECUTIVE ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Doug Stark DIRECTOR, BRAND MARKETING Jean Kennedy ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, BRAND MARKETING Bryan Christian SENIOR BRAND MANAGER Katherine Barnet EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Kostya Kennedy CREATIVE DIRECTOR Gary Stewart DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Christina Lieberman EDITORIAL OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Jamie Roth Major MANAGER, EDITORIAL OPERATIONS Gina Scauzillo SPECIAL THANKS: Brad Beatson, Melissa Frankenberry, Samantha Lebofsky, Kate Roncinske, Laura Villano, Springfield Armory, Royal Armouries, NRA Museums, Thomas Del…

8 min.
matchlocks and muskets

BUILDING A BETTER FIREARM Gunsmiths in Europe and Asia searched for new ways to ignite black powder, to make weapons easier for soldiers to use, and to increase accuracy. The proliferation of military and sporting firearms in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere gave rise to a new class of craftsmen whose designs and ambitions drove the advancement of small arms. These gunsmiths searched for more reliable means of igniting powder, more potent formulations of the powder itself, and ways to make guns easier for a single man to use. Ultimately, designers aimed for weapons that allowed for repeated shots without reloading, and, of course, they yearned to improve accuracy. The next critical chapter in the story of firearms involves the development of the matchlock firing system. A SLOW BURN Until about the 16th century, soldiers…

10 min.
black powder, alchemy, and bombards

AN EXPLOSIVE POWER The exact origins of gunpowder are unclear. But early Taoist texts refer to incendiary potions created by alchemist monks. The story of firearms begins with chemistry: the invention of gunpowder. For millennia, men expressed hostility by hurling hard objects at each other and stabbing foes with sharpened sticks. Ancient armies besieged enemy castles by harnessing mechanical ingenuity. They launched waves of flaming arrows, enormous stones, rotting animal carcasses, and even stinking loads of excrement. But the discovery, possibly in 10th-century China, that combining charcoal, potassium nitrate (or saltpeter), and sulfur could cause explosions and, if properly channeled, send matter flying with deadly effect, changed the course of conflict. ALCHEMISTS SEARCHING FOR IMMORTALITY The exact timeline of the development of “black powder” is unclear. But Taoist texts from the 9th and 10th centuries include…