America's Unique Contribution To International Firearms Design
When the Chinese invented gunpowder in the 9th Century, it was a big deal. Much flash, big bangs, and a super-cool new way of celebrating the New Year. Those were good enough for the next three hundred years or so, but eventually somebody got to wondering what else the stuff could be used for, and by the 12th Century the first crude "guns" were emerging, in the form of hollow tubes of various sizes closed at one end, open at the other for cramming in a basic mix of sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter behind stones, iron balls, scrap metal, and/or anything else the experimenter felt like throwing out the muzzle, and using a touchhole to introduce a spark, flame, or fuse.
Just as likely to explode and destroy the user as the target, the science of gunpowder and projectiles slowly progressed till it was a regular fixture for field artillery and naval applications by the 1600s, and in that time frame more sophisticated methods of igniting gunpowder, combined with the growth of industrial capability and more portable and dependable personal-carry long guns and pistols, all began to accelerate.