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A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as
hunting Hunting is the practice of seeking, pursuing and capturing or killing wildlife A ground pangolin Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that ...

hunting
,
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Crime, definitions of", in ...
,
law enforcement File:CBP female officers going aboard a ship.jpg, upU.S. Customs and Border Protection officers boarding a ship 'Law enforcement'' is the activity of some members of government who act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, dete ...
,
self-defense Self-defense (self-defence in some varieties of English) is a countermeasure that involves defending the health and well-being of oneself from harm. The use of the right of self-defense The right of self-defense (also called, when ...
, and
war War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, g ...

war
fare. In broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a tactical, strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy target. While ordinary objects – sticks, rocks, bottles, chairs, vehicles – can be used as weapons, many are expressly designed for the purpose; these range from simple implements such as
clubs Club may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Club (magazine), ''Club'' (magazine) * Club, a ''Yie Ar Kung-Fu'' character * Clubs (suit), a suit of playing cards * Club music * "Club", by Kelsea Ballerini from the album ''kelsea'' Brands an ...
,
axe An axe (sometimes ax in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, ...
s and
sword A sword is a Edged and bladed weapons, bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epo ...

sword
s, to complicated modern
firearm A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries (see Legal definitions). The first firearms originated in 10th-century China China, offi ...
s,
tank A tank is an armored fighting vehicle intended as a primary offensive weapon in front-line ground combat. Tank designs are a balance of heavy firepower, strong vehicle armor, armor, and good battlefield mobility (military), mobility provided ...

tank
s, intercontinental ballistic missiles,
biological weapons A culture of '' Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax.">anthrax.html" ;"title="Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax">Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax. A biological agent (also called bio-agent, ...
, and
cyberweapon A cyberweapon is a malware Malware (a portmanteau for malicious software) is any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network A computer network is a group of computers that use a ...
s. Something that has been re-purposed, converted, or enhanced to become a weapon of war is termed weaponized, such as a
weaponized virus A culture of '' anthrax.html"_;"title="Bacillus_anthracis'',_the_causative_agent_of_anthrax">Bacillus_anthracis'',_the_causative_agent_of_anthrax,_which_was_repeatedly_employed_for_biological_warfare. Biological_warfare,_also_known_as_germ_wa ...
or weaponized laser.


History

The use of weapons is a major driver of
cultural evolution Cultural evolution is an evolutionary theory Evolutionary thought, the recognition that species change over time and the perceived understanding of how such processes work, has roots in antiquity—in the ideas of the Ancient Greece, ancient Gr ...
and
human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeol ...

human history
up to today, since weapons are a type of tool which is used to dominate and subdue autonomous agents such as animals and by that allow for an expansion of the cultural niche, while simultaneously other weapon users (i.e., agents such as humans, groups, cultures) are able to adapt to weapons of enemies by learning, triggering a continuous process of competitive technological, skill and cognitive improvement (
arms race An arms race occurs when two or more groups compete in increases in military personnel and materiel. Simply defined as a competition between two or more State (polity), states to have superior armed forces; a competition concerning production o ...
).


Prehistoric

The use of objects as weapons has been observed among
chimpanzees The chimpanzee (''Pan troglodytes''), also known as the common chimpanzee, robust chimpanzee, or simply chimp, is a species of great ape The Hominidae (), whose members are known as great apes or hominids (), are a taxonomic Family (biolog ...
, leading to speculation that early
hominids The Hominidae (), whose members are known as great apes or hominids (), are a taxonomic family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marri ...
used weapons as early as five million years ago. However, this can not be confirmed using physical evidence because wooden clubs, spears, and unshaped stones would have left an ambiguous record. The earliest unambiguous weapons to be found are the
Schöningen spears The Schöningen spears are a set of eight wooden throwing spears from the Palaeolithic Age that were excavated between 1994 and 1998 in the Open-pit mining, open-cast lignite mine in Schöningen, Helmstedt (district), Helmstedt district, Germany, t ...
, eight wooden throwing spears dating back more than 300,000 years. At the site of Nataruk in Turkana, Kenya, numerous human skeletons dating to 10,000 years ago may present evidence of traumatic injuries to the head, neck, ribs, knees and hands, including
obsidian Obsidian () is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed when lava extruded from a volcano A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and Volcanic gas, gases to e ...

obsidian
projectiles embedded in the bones that might have been caused from arrows and clubs during conflict between two hunter-gatherer groups. But the evidence interpretation of warfare at Nataruk has been challenged.


Ancient history

The earliest
ancient weapons This is a list of historical pre-Modern history, modern weapons grouped according to their uses, with rough classes set aside for very similar weapons. Some weapons may fit more than one category (e.g. the spear may be used either as a #Pole weapo ...
were evolutionary improvements of late
neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
implements, but significant improvements in materials and crafting techniques led to a series of revolutions in
military technology Military technology is the application of technology for use in warfare. It comprises the kinds of technology that are distinctly military in nature and not civilian in application, usually because they lack useful or legal civilian applications, ...
. The development of metal tools began with
copper Copper is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same nu ...

copper
during the
Copper Age The Chalcolithic (),The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) , p. 301: "Chalcolithic /,kælkəl'lɪθɪk/ adjective ''Archaeology'' of, relating to, or denoting a period in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, chiefly in the Near East and SE Europe, ...
(about 3,300 BC) and was followed by the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age syst ...
, leading to the creation of the
Bronze Age sword Bronze Age swords appeared from around the 17th century BC, in the Black Sea region and the Aegean Sea, Aegean, as a further development of the dagger. They were replaced by Iron Age sword, iron swords during the early part of the 1st millennium BC. ...
and similar weapons. During the Bronze Age, the first defensive structures and
fortifications A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, w ...

fortifications
appeared as well, indicating an increased need for security. Weapons designed to breach fortifications followed soon after, such as the
battering ram A battering ram is a siege engine A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building ...

battering ram
, which was in use by 2500 BC. The development of iron-working around 1300 BC in Greece had an important impact on the development of ancient weapons. It was not the introduction of early
Iron Age sword Swords made of iron (as opposed to Bronze Age sword, bronze) appear from the Early Iron Age (c. 12th century BC), but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC. Early Iron Age swords were significantly different from later steel swords. Th ...
s, however, as they were not superior to their bronze predecessors, but rather the
domestication of the horse A number of hypotheses exist on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were wild horses and were probably hunted for meat. How and when horses ...
and widespread use of
spoke A spoke is one of some number of rods radiating from the center of a wheel File:Roue primitive.png, An early wheel made of a solid piece of wood In its primitive form, a wheel is a circular block of a hard and durable material at whose cen ...
d wheels by c. 2000 BC. This led to the creation of the light, horse-drawn
chariot A chariot is a type of carriage driven by a charioteer, usually using horses to provide rapid motive power. The oldest known chariots have been found in burials of the Sintashta culture in modern-day Russia, dated to c. 2000 BC. The critica ...
, whose improved mobility proved important during this era. Spoke-wheeled chariot usage peaked around 1300 BC and then declined, ceasing to be militarily relevant by the 4th century BC.
Cavalry Cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldiers or warriors who Horses in warfare, fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms, operating as li ...
developed once horses were bred to support the weight of a human. The horse extended the range and increased the speed of attacks. In addition to land based weaponry,
warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
s, such as the
trireme A trireme (, ; derived from Latin: ''trirēmis'' "with three banks of oars"; grc, τριήρης ''triērēs'', literally "three-rower") was an ancient vessel and a type of galley A galley is a type of ship A ship is a large watercraft ...

trireme
, were in use by the 7th century BC.


Post-classical history

European warfare during the
Post-classical history Post-classical history, as used in world history, generally runs from about 500 AD to 1500 AD (roughly corresponding to the European Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the la ...
was dominated by elite groups of
knights A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some ...

knights
supported by massed
infantry at the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) during the First World War Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armored warfar ...

infantry
(both in combat and ranged roles). They were involved in mobile combat and
sieges A siege is a military blockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from la, sedere, lit=to sit. Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity conflict characterize ...
which involved various
siege weapon A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories ...
s and tactics. Knights on horseback developed tactics for charging with
lances cavalry attacks the Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and S ...

lances
providing an impact on the enemy formations and then drawing more practical weapons (such as
sword A sword is a Edged and bladed weapons, bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epo ...

sword
s) once they entered into the melee. By contrast, infantry, in the age before structured formations, relied on cheap, sturdy weapons such as
spear A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with Fire hardening, fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable mat ...

spear
s and billhooks in close combat and bows from a distance. As armies became more professional, their equipment was standardized and infantry transitioned to pikes. Pikes are normally seven to eight feet in length, and used in conjunction with smaller side-arms (short sword). In Eastern and
Middle Eastern The Middle East is a transcontinental region in Afro-Eurasia which generally includes Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the Greater Middle East. It includes Anatoli ...
warfare, similar tactics were developed independent of European influences. The introduction of
gunpowder Gunpowder, also known as the retronym black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur Sulfur (in traditional laity, lay Commonwealth English: sulp ...
from the Asia at the end of this period revolutionized warfare. Formations of
musketeers A musketeer (french: mousquetaire) was a type of soldier A soldier is one who fights as part of a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for war ...

musketeers
, protected by
pikemen A pike is a pole weapon A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and eff ...
came to dominate open battles, and the
cannon A cannon is a large-caliber A 45 ACP hollowpoint (Federal Cartridge, Federal HST) with two .22 Long Rifle, 22 LR cartridges for comparison In guns, particularly firearm A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carrie ...
replaced the
trebuchet A trebuchet (french: trébuchet) is a type of catapult that uses a long arm to throw a projectile. It was a common powerful siege engine until the advent of gunpowder. There are two main types of trebuchets. The first is the traction trebuche ...

trebuchet
as the dominant
siege weapon A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories ...
.


Modern history


Early modern

The European
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in m ...

Renaissance
marked the beginning of the implementation of firearms in western warfare.
Gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also project pressurized liquid (e.g. water guns/ cannons, spray guns for painting Painting is the practice of ...

Gun
s and
rocket A rocket (from it, rocchetto, , bobbin/spool) is a projectile that spacecraft, aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters the force of gravity by using ...

rocket
s were introduced to the battlefield.
Firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also project pressurized liquid (e.g. water guns/ cannons, spray guns for painting ...
s are qualitatively different from earlier weapons because they release energy from combustible
propellant A propellant or propellent is a chemical substance used in the Energy production, production of energy or pressurized gas that is subsequently used to create fluid dynamics, movement of a fluid or to generate propulsion of a vehicle, projectile, or ...
s such as
gunpowder Gunpowder, also known as the retronym black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur Sulfur (in traditional laity, lay Commonwealth English: sulp ...
, rather than from a counter-weight or spring. This energy is released very rapidly and can be replicated without much effort by the user. Therefore even early firearms such as the
arquebus An arquebus ( ) is a form of long gun that appeared in Europe and the Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire (; ota, دولت عليه عثمانيه ', literally "The Sublime Ottoman State"; Modern Turkish: ' or '; french: Empire ottoman) (' ...
were much more powerful than human-powered weapons. Firearms became increasingly important and effective during the 16th century to 19th century, with progressive improvements in ignition mechanisms followed by revolutionary changes in
ammunition Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon or weapon system. Ammunition is both expendable weapons (e.g., bombs, missiles, grenades, land mines) and the component parts of other weapons ...
handling and propellant. During the U.S. Civil War new applications of firearms including the
machine gun A machine gun is an auto-firing, rifling, rifled long gun, long-barrel action (firearms)#Autoloading operation, autoloading firearm designed for sustained direct fire with fully powered cartridges. Other automatic firearms such as assault rif ...

machine gun
and
ironclad warship An ironclad is a steam-propelled warship protected by iron Iron () is a chemical element with Symbol (chemistry), symbol Fe (from la, Wikt:ferrum, ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal that belongs to the first transition series an ...
emerged that would still be recognizable and useful military weapons today, particularly in limited conflicts. In the 19th century
warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
propulsion changed from
sail A sail is a tensile structure—made from fabric or other membrane materials—that uses wind power to propel sailing craft, including sailing ships, sailboat sloop ged sloop Image:Sail plan sloop.svg, Gaff-rigged sloop with a Topsail#Gaff ...
power to
fossil fuel A fossil fuel is a fuel formed by natural processes, such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous sys ...
-powered
steam engine from Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Cumbria, England A steam engine is a heat engine In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energ ...

steam engine
s. 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", 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 A machine gun is an auto-firing, rifling, rifled long gun, long-barrel action (firearms)#Autoloading operation, autoloading firearm designed for sustained direct fire with fully powered cartridges. Other automatic firearms such as assault rif ...

machine gun
. Of particular note,
Howitzer A howitzer () is generally a large ranged weapon . English longbowmen figure prominently in the foreground at right where they drive away the French crossbow A crossbow is a ranged weapon using an elastic launching device similar to a bow ...

Howitzer
s were able to destroy masonry fortresses and other fortifications, and this single invention caused a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), establishing tactics and doctrine that are still in use today. ''See
Technology during World War I crew on the Western Front.'' Technology during World War I (1914–1918) reflected a trend toward industrialism Industrialisation Industrialisation (or industrialization) is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human grou ...
for a detailed discussion.''


Industrial age

An important feature of
industrial age The Industrial Age is a period of history that encompasses the changes in economic and social organization that began around 1760 in Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continenta ...
warfare was technological escalation – innovations were rapidly matched through replication or countered by another innovation. The technological escalation during World War I (WW I) was profound, including the wide introduction of
aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Lat ...
into
warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence ...
, and naval warfare with the introduction of
aircraft carrier An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for Carrier-based aircraft, carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a f ...
s.


World War I

World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or "The war to end war, the war ...

World War I
marked the entry of fully industrialized warfare as well as
weapons of mass destruction A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a nuclear, radiological File:Radioactive.svg, upThe international symbol for types and levels of ionizing radiation (radioactivity) that are unsafe for Radiation shield, unshielded humans. Radiation, ...
(''e.g.'',
chemical A chemical substance is a form of matter having constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. Some references add that chemical substance cannot be separated into its constituent elements by physical separation methods, i.e., wit ...
and
biological weapons A culture of '' Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax.">anthrax.html" ;"title="Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax">Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax. A biological agent (also called bio-agent, ...
), and new 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 Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare, is a military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek word ''strategos Image:Greek strategist Pi ...
through extensive use of motor vehicles. The changes that these military technologies underwent before and during the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the gr ...
were evolutionary, but defined the development for the rest of the century.


Interwar

This period of innovation in weapon design continued in the inter-war period (between WW I and
WW II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
) with continuous evolution of weapon systems by all major industrial powers. The major armament firms were the
Schneider-Creusot Schneider-Creusot, or Schneider et Cie, was a historic French iron and steel-mill which became a major arms manufacturer. After World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, glob ...
(based in France), the
Škoda Works The Škoda Works ( cs, Škodovy závody) was one of the largest European industrial conglomerates of the 20th century, founded by Czech engineer Emil Škoda in 1859 in Plzeň Plzeň (; German and English: Pilsen, , ) is a city in the Czech Re ...
(Czechoslovakia), and
Vickers Vickers was a famous name in British engineering that existed through many companies from 1828 until 1999. History Early history Vickers was formed in Sheffield Sheffield is a city status in the United Kingdom, city and metropolitan boroug ...

Vickers
(Great Britain). The 1920s were committed to disarmament and outlawing of war and poison gas, but rearmament picked up rapidly in the 1930s. The munitions makers responded nimbly to the rapidly shifting strategic and economic landscape. The main purchasers of munitions from the big three companies were Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey—and, to a lesser extent, in Poland, Finland, the Baltic States, and the Soviet Union.


=Criminalizing poison gas

= Realistic critics understood that war could not really be outlawed, but its worst excesses might be banned. Poison gas became the focus of a worldwide crusade in the 1920s. Poison gas did not win battles, and the generals did not want it. The soldiers hated it far more intensely than bullets or explosive shells. By 1918, chemical shells made up 35 per cent of French ammunition supplies, 25 per cent of British, and 20 per cent of the American stock. The “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare” Geneva Protocol"was issued in 1925, and was accepted as policy by all major countries. In 1937 poison gas was manufactured in large quantities, but not used except against nations that lacked modern weapons or gas masks.


World War II

Many modern military weapons, particularly ground-based ones, are relatively minor improvements of weapon systems developed during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
. ''See military technology during World War II for a detailed discussion.''
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
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 A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reaction In nuclear physics and nucl ...
, however many other weapons influenced the world, such as jet planes and radar, but were overshadowed by the visibility of nuclear weapons and long-range rockets.


Nuclear weapons

Since the realization of
mutually assured destruction Mutual assured destruction (MAD) is a doctrine Doctrine (from la, Wikt:doctrina, doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification (law), codification of beliefs or a body of teacher, teachings or instructions, taught Value (perso ...
(MAD), the nuclear option of all-out war is no longer considered a survivable scenario. During the
Cold War The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc, which began following World War II. Historians do not fully agree on its sta ...
in the years following
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
, both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a
nuclear arms race 400px, United States and Soviet Union/Russia nuclear weapon stockpiles The nuclear arms race was an arms race competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War ...
. Each country and their allies continually attempted to out-develop each other in the field of nuclear armaments. Once the joint technological capabilities reached the point of being able to ensure the destruction of the Earth x100 fold, then a new tactic had to be developed. With this realization, armaments development funding shifted back to primarily sponsoring the development of conventional arms technologies for support of
limited war A limited war is one in which the belligerents do not expend all of the resource A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they ar ...
s rather than
total war Total war is warfare that includes any and all civilianIn general use, a civilian is "a person who is not a member of the police, the military, armed forces, or a fire department." This use distinguishes from persons whose duties involve risking ...
.


Types


By user

:''– what person or unit uses the weapon'' *
Personal weapon A service pistol is any handgun A handgun is a short-barrelled firearm that can be held and used with one hand. The two most common handgun sub-types in use today are revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, although other handguns like machine ...
s (or
small arms A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries (see #Legal_definitions, Legal definitions). The first firearms originated in 10th-century History ...
) – designed to be used by a single person. * Light weapons – 'man-portable' weapons that may require a small team to operate. * Heavy weapons –
artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications dur ...
and similar weapons larger than light weapons (see
SALW Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) refers in arms control Arms control is a term for international restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation and usage of small arms, conventional weapons, and weapons of mass dest ...
). *
Hunting weaponHunting weapons are weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforc ...
– used by hunters for sport or getting food. * Crew served weapons – larger than personal weapons, requiring two or more people to operate correctly. * Fortification weapons – mounted in a permanent installation, or used primarily within a fortification. * Mountain weapons – for use by mountain forces or those operating in difficult terrain. * Vehicle weapons – to be mounted on any type of combat vehicle. * Railway weapons – designed to be mounted on railway cars, including armored trains. * Aircraft weapons – carried on and used by some type of
aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Lat ...
,
helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft A rotorcraft or rotary-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters the force o ...

helicopter
, or other aerial vehicle. * Naval weapons – mounted on
ship A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world's oceans and other sufficiently deep Sea lane, waterways, carrying goods or passengers, or in support of specialized missions, such as defense, research, and fishing. Ships are generally disti ...

ship
s and
submarine upright=1.35, Russian ''Akula''-class submarine of the Northern Fleet A submarine (or sub) is a watercraft Watercraft, also known as water vessels or waterborne vessels, are vehicles used in water, including boats, ship A ship is a ...

submarine
s. *
Space weaponSpace weapons are weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcem ...
s – are designed to be used in or launched from space. * Autonomous weapons – are capable of accomplishing a mission with limited or no human intervention.


By function

:''– the construction of the weapon and principle of operation'' *
Antimatter weapon An antimatter weapon is a theoretically possible device using antimatter as a power source, a propellant, or an explosive for a weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict damage ...
s (theoretical) would combine matter and
antimatter In modern physics Modern physics is a branch of physics either developed in the early 20th century and onward or branches greatly influenced by early 20th century physics. Notable branches of modern physics include quantum physics, special ...

antimatter
to cause a powerful explosion. *
Archery Archery is the art, sport, practice, or skill of using a bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow, a weapon * Bowing, bending the upper body as a social gesture * An ornamental knot made of ribbon Bow may also refer to: Boats * Bow (shi ...

Archery
weapons operate by using a tensioned string and bent solid to launch a projectile. *
Artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications dur ...

Artillery
are firearms capable of launching heavy projectiles over long distances. *
Biological weapon A culture of '' Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax.">anthrax.html" ;"title="Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax">Bacillus anthracis'', the causative agent of anthrax. A biological agent (also called bio-agent, ...
s spread biological agents, causing disease or infection. *
Chemical weapon A chemical weapon (CW) is a specialized munition Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the int ...
s, poisoning and causing reactions. * Energy weapons rely on concentrating forms of energy to attack, such as lasers or sonic attack. *
Explosive weaponAn explosive weapon generally uses high explosive to project blast wave, blast and/or fragmentation (weaponry), fragmentation from a point of detonation. Explosive weapons may be subdivided by their method of manufacture into explosive Ammunition#O ...
s use a physical explosion to create blast concussion or spread
shrapnel Shrapnel may refer to: Military * Shrapnel shell, explosive artillery munitions, generally for anti-personnel use * Shrapnel (fragment), a hard loose material Popular culture *Shrapnel (Radical Comics), ''Shrapnel'' (Radical Comics) Charac ...
. *
Firearms A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries (see #Legal_definitions, Legal definitions). The first firearms originated in 10th-century Histor ...

Firearms
use a chemical charge to launch projectiles. *
Improvised weapon An improvised weapon is an object that was not designed to be used as a weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and effic ...
s are common objects, reused as weapons, such as crowbars and kitchen knives. *
Incendiary weapon Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices, incendiary munitions, or incendiary bombs are weapons designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using fire (and sometimes used as anti-personnel weaponry), that use materials such as napalm ...
s cause damage by fire. *
Non-lethal weapon Non-lethal weapons, also called less-lethal weapons, less-than-lethal weapons, non-deadly weapons, compliance weapons, or pain-inducing weapons are weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent t ...
s are designed to subdue without killing. * Magnetic weapons use magnetic fields to propel projectiles, or to focus particle beams. *
Melee weaponA melee weapon, hand weapon or close combat weapon is any handheld weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and eff ...
s operate as physical extensions of the user's body and directly impact a close target. ** Blade weapons, designed to pierce through flesh and cause bleeding. **
Blunt instrument A blunt instrument is any solid Physical body, object used as a weapon, which damages its target by applying direct mechanical force, and has no penetrating point or edge, or is wielded so that the point or edge is not the part of the weapon that i ...
s, designed to break bones, concuss or produce crush injuries. *
Missile In military terminology, a missile is a missile guidance, guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor. Missiles are thus also called guided missiles or guided rockets (when in rocket fo ...
s are rockets which are guided to their target after launch. (Also a general term for
projectile A projectile is a missile propelled by the exertion of a force In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science th ...

projectile
weapons). * Loitering munitions, designed to Loiter (aeronautics), loiter over a battlefield, striking once a target is located. * Nuclear weapons use radioactive materials to create nuclear fission and/or nuclear fusion detonations. * :Primitive weapons, Primitive weapons make little or no use of technological or industrial elements. * Ranged weapons (unlike melee weapons), target a distant object or person. * Rocket (weapon), Rockets use chemical propellant to accelerate a projectile. * Suicide weapons exploit the willingness of their operator not surviving the attack.


By target

:''– the type of target the weapon is designed to attack'' * Anti-aircraft weapons target missiles and aerial vehicles in flight. * Anti-fortification weapons are designed to target enemy installations. * Anti-personnel weapons are designed to attack people, either individually or in numbers. * Anti-radiation missile, Anti-radiation weapons target sources of electronic radiation, particularly radar emitters. * Anti-satellite weapons target orbiting satellites. * :Anti-ship weapons, Anti-ship weapons target ships and vessels on water. * Anti-submarine weapons target submarines and other underwater targets. * Anti-tank weapons are designed to defeat armored targets. * Area denial weapons target territory, making it unsafe or unsuitable for enemy use or travel. *
Hunting weaponHunting weapons are weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforc ...
s are weapons used to hunt game animals. * :Infantry support weapons, Infantry support weapons are designed to attack various threats to infantry units.


Manufacture of weapons

The arms industry is a global industry that involves the sales and manufacture of weaponry. It consists of a commerce, commercial Industry (economics), industry involved in the research and development, engineering, production, and servicing of military material, equipment, and facilities. Many industrialized countries have a domestic arms-industry to supply their own military forces - and some also have a substantial trade in weapons for use by its citizens, for self-defence, hunting or sporting purposes. Contracts to supply a given country's military are awarded by governments, making arms contracts of substantial political importance. The link between politics and the arms trade can result in the development a "military–industrial complex", where the armed forces, commerce, and politics become closely linked. According to research institute SIPRI, the volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2010–14 was 16 percent higher than in 2005–2009, and the arms sales of the world’s 100 largest private arms-producing and military services companies totalled $420 billion in 2018.


Legislation

The production, possession, trade and use of many weapons are controlled. This may be at a local government, local or central government level, or international treaty. Examples of such controls include: * The right of self-defense * Knife legislation * Air gun laws * Gun law * Arms trafficking laws * Arms control treaties * Space Preservation Treaty


Gun laws

All countries have laws and policies regulating aspects such as the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification and use of small arms by civilians. Countries which regulate access to firearms will typically restrict access to certain categories of firearms and then restrict the categories of persons who may be granted a license for access to such firearms. There may be separate licenses for hunting, sport shooting (a.k.a. target shooting), self-defense, collecting, and concealed carry, with different sets of requirements, permissions, and responsibilities.


Arms control laws

International treaties and agreements place restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation and usage of weapons from
small arms A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries (see #Legal_definitions, Legal definitions). The first firearms originated in 10th-century History ...
and Artillery, heavy weapons to
weapons of mass destruction A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a nuclear, radiological File:Radioactive.svg, upThe international symbol for types and levels of ionizing radiation (radioactivity) that are unsafe for Radiation shield, unshielded humans. Radiation, ...
. Arms control is typically exercised through the use of diplomacy which seeks to impose such limitations upon consenting participants, although it may also comprise efforts by a nation or group of nations to enforce limitations upon a non-consenting country.


Arms trafficking laws

Arms trafficking is the trafficking of contraband weapons and
ammunition Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon or weapon system. Ammunition is both expendable weapons (e.g., bombs, missiles, grenades, land mines) and the component parts of other weapons ...
. What constitutes legal trade in firearms varies widely, depending on local and national laws.


Lifecycle problems

There are a number of issue around the potential ongoing risks from deployed weapons, the safe storage of weapons, and their eventual disposal when no longer effective or safe. * Ocean dumping of unused weapons and bombs, including ordinary bombs, Unexploded ordnance, UXO, landmines and chemical weapons has been common practice by many nations, and often caused hazards. * Unexploded ordnance (UXO) are bombs, land mines and naval mines and similar that did not explode when they were employed and still pose a risk for many years or decades. * Demining or mine clearance from areas of past conflict is a difficult process, but every year, landmines kill 15,000 to 20,000 people and severely maim countless more. * Nuclear terrorism was a serious concern after the fall of the Soviet Union, with the prospect of "loose nukes" being available. While this risk may have receded, similar situation may arise in the future.


In science fiction

Strange and exotic weapons are a recurring feature or theme in science fiction. In some cases, weapons first introduced in science fiction have now been made a reality. Other science fiction weapons remain purely fictional, and are often beyond the realms of known physical possibility. At its most prosaic, science fiction features an endless variety of Sidearm (weapon), sidearms, mostly variations on real weapons such as guns and
sword A sword is a Edged and bladed weapons, bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epo ...

sword
s. Among the best-known of these are the List of weapons in Star Trek#Phasers, phaser used in the ''Star Trek'' television series, films and novels and the lightsaber and Blaster (Star Wars), blaster featured in the ''Star Wars'' movies, comics, novels and TV series. In addition to adding action and entertainment value, weaponry in science fiction sometimes become themes when they touch on deeper concerns, often motivated by contemporary issues. One example is science fiction that deals with
weapons of mass destruction A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a nuclear, radiological File:Radioactive.svg, upThe international symbol for types and levels of ionizing radiation (radioactivity) that are unsafe for Radiation shield, unshielded humans. Radiation, ...
.


See also

* Arms industry * List of martial arts weapons * List of practice weapons * Lists of weapons * Military technology * Riot control * Toy weapon * Weapon mount * Offensive weapons, "Offensive" weapons


References


External links

* * * {{Authority control Weapons, Military equipment Security