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Snippet from Wikipedia: Firearm

A firearm is a gun (a barreled ranged weapon) designed to be readily carried and used by a single individual. It inflicts damage on targets by launching one or more projectiles driven by rapidly expanding high-pressure gas produced by exothermic combustion (deflagration) of chemical propellant. If gas pressurization is achieved through mechanical gas compression rather than through chemical propellant combustion, then the gun is technically an air gun, not a firearm. Some legal definitions of "firearm" are more broad, and may cover any and all projectile devices, or even other destructive devices.

The first primitive firearms originated in 10th-century China when bamboo tubes containing gunpowder and pellet projectiles were mounted on spears into the one-person-portable fire lance, which was later used as a shock weapon to good effect in the Siege of De'an in 1132. In the 13th century the Chinese invented the metal-barrelled hand cannon, widely considered the true ancestor of all firearms. The technology gradually spread through the rest of East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Older firearms typically used black powder as a propellant, but modern firearms use smokeless powder or other propellants. Most modern firearms (with the notable exception of smoothbore shotguns) have rifled barrels to impart spin to the projectile for improved flight stability.

Modern firearms can be described by their caliber (i.e. their bore diameter; this is given in millimeters or inches e.g. 7.5 mm, .357 in.) or in the case of shotguns by their gauge (e.g. 12 ga.); by the type of action employed (muzzleloader, breechloader, lever, bolt, pump, revolver, semi-automatic, fully automatic, etc.) together with the usual means of deportment (hand-held or mechanical mounting). Further classification may make reference to the type of barrel used (rifled) and to the barrel length (24 inch), to the firing mechanism (e.g. matchlock, wheellock, flintlock, percussion lock), to the design's primary intended use (e.g. hunting rifle), or to the commonly accepted name for a particular variation (e.g. Gatling gun).

Shooters aim firearms at their targets with hand-eye coordination, using either iron sights or optical sights. The accurate range of pistols generally does not exceed 110 yards (100 m), while most rifles are accurate to 550 yards (500 m) using iron sights, or to longer ranges using optical sights (firearm rounds may be dangerous or lethal well beyond their accurate range; the minimum distance for safety is much greater than the specified range). Purpose-built sniper rifles and anti-materiel rifles are accurate to ranges of more than 2,200 yards (2,000 m).

, Iraq by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004.]]

Small arms are infantry weapons an individual person may carry. The term is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, carbines, rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, squad automatic weapons, and general-purpose machine guns. Also, grenade launchers and certain hand-held antitank weapons may be considered small arms, depending on the armed force.<ref name=Ank/>

Small arms do not include infantry support weapons or crew-served weapons such as heavy machine guns (typically .50 caliber or 12.7 mm) or mortars.<ref>Marchant-Smith & Haslam, p.169.</ref> In the United States any modern firearm (post-1898) that utilizes a projectile (bullet) greater than

in diameter is legally defined as a “destructive device”, while any firearm having a bore diameter of

or less is normally considered a “small arm”.<ref name=“Ank”>Ankony, Robert C. (April 2000). "The Financial Assessment of Military Small Arms". ''Small Arms Review''. pp. 53–59.</ref> The so-called "1/2 inch rule" does not apply to shotguns, sporting cartridge big-bore rifles (such as rifles chambered in [[.600 Nitro Express]), muzzleloading black-powder weapons, whether original antiques (pre-1898), or modern replicas, many of which have bore diameters larger than .50 caliber.<ref>Title 18 US Code 921</ref>

There is, however, a term which encompasses both, “Small Arms and Light Weapons” (SALW), as used by some organizations working to limit arms proliferation.<ref>Conventional arms</ref> For example, much of the United Nations action to tackle illegal arms proliferation is raised in the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms.<ref>UN Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Conference</ref>

Global distribution of small arms

It is estimated that there are in total 875 million small arms distributed amongst civilians, law enforcement agencies, and armed forces, globally.


650 million of these firearms, or 75 per cent, are held by civilians worldwide.

US civilians alone account for 270 million of this total.

A further 200 million are controlled by state military forces.

Law enforcement agencies have some 26 million small arms.

Non-state armed groups

}} have about 1.4 million firearms.


Finally, gang members hold between 2 and 10 million small arms.

Together, the small arms arsenals of non-state armed groups and gangs account for, at most, 1.4 per cent of the global total.

See also

Explanatory Notes






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Further reading

  • Dikshif, P. Proliferation of Small Arms and Minor Weapons, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 17(2) May 1994.
  • Gould, C. and Lamb, G., Hide & Seek: Taking Account of Small Arms in Southern Africa, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, 2004.
  • Marchant-Smith, C.J., & Haslam, P.R., Small Arms & Cannons, Brassey's Battlefield Weapons Systems & Technology, Volume V, Brassey's Publishers, London, 1982.
small_arms.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:38 (external edit)