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10 Weapons That Changed The History Of Warfare
10. AK-47
If I asked you to name the first gun that comes to mind, I'd be willing to bet it's
the AK-47. That's because it's the most widely produced gun in history, with over
100 million made in total and 75 million in existence right now. That's 20% of all firearms
The AK-47 was invented in 1947 by Russian General Mikhail Kalashnikov as a cheap weapon
for the soviet army. Hence where it gets its other name, Kalashnikov.
From its first use, the gun exploded in popularity across the USSR, thanks to its rugged construction,
ease of production and relative lack of moving parts. That means it was incredibly reliable
and simple to maintain. Even people who had never used a gun could field strip one with
ease after minimal training.
But that prevalence means that Kalashnikovs are commonly used by terrorists and militia
groups worldwide. Since they're so cheap and reliable, countries across Asia and Africa
engage in widespread illegal arms trades.
9. Bow and Arrow
Most people nowadays probably think of Legolas, Hawkeye or Katniss Everdeen when they picture
bows and arrows. But they actually have massive historical significance, possibly dating back
as far as 64,000 years.
Classical civilisations like the Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians and Hebrews were known to have made
wide use of longbows, and they eventually showed up throughout every continent except
Australia. But it's not just their ubiquity that's interesting.
Stony Brook University biologists Paul Bingham and Joanne Souza have coined the 'social
coercion hypothesis', which is the idea that more powerful weapons encourage civilisations
to group together out of the threat of being killed by them.
In other words, you're probably gonna follow the person who points a load of lethal weapons
in your face.
Multiple researchers have pointed to that effect in native american tribes, who became
much less divided and developed more complex societies after bows showed up around 500
8. Drones
Unmanned aerial vehicles hold a special place on this list. That's because they haven't
just changed military history, but they're doing it as I speak. Let's back up for a
second though.
The US military was developing drone technology as early as the 1960s, though the technology
didn't really catch up until about three decades later. But it wasn't long until
drones were put to use.
The first ever Predator drone attack on Afghan insurgents in 2002 was a major turning point
in military technology. It was the first ever instance that a remote attack was made in
real time.
And as technology develops, it could see future warfare that entirely skips ground troops
altogether. I mean why risk friendly lives when you don't have to?
But drones have been fiercely criticised as long as they've been used, thanks to their
capacity for indiscriminate killing and the numbing effect some soldiers have described
from killing through a screen.
7. Trebuchet
You might think ancient conflicts were all about soldiers, swords and cavalry, but there's
a lot to be said for artillery. And there might be no more important example of early
artillery than the Trebuchet.
Perfecting on the catapult and the ballista, the trebuchet was first invented in 4th century
china as a tool for siege warfare. After its introduction in 6th Century Europe, it eventually
became a staple of medieval warfare.
Before Trebuchets were widely used, castles were pretty much impenetrable. But thanks
to its long range and high weight capacity, it was capable of hurling projectiles with
the capacity to breach even fortified walls.
That meant that instead of taking their chances waiting for defending armies to starve, siege
warfare became a lot more proactive. Invaders could push the issue by breaking through defences,
or, if they felt really adventurous, they were known to have pelted disease ridden corpses
over castle walls to speed things up.
6. Tanks
They don't quite hold the prestige they used to thanks to defences like anti-tank
missiles, but for decades these behemoth weapons were the pinnacle of wartime tech.
Weirdly enough, the first idea came from Leonardo Da Vinci, whose so-called 'fighting vehicle'
bore more resemblance to a UFO than anything else. Conspiracy? Probably not.
Tanks were first developed by British engineers during World War I in 1914. They actually
got that name from their disguise, since the people working on them were told they were
building water tanks. But from their first use in the Somme in 1916, they redefined trench
Before then, battles overwhelmingly favoured the defender, since it was so difficult to
break the lines of a trench with foot soldiers. But with the advent of armed vehicles, it
was possible to break through the lines with relative ease.
German soldiers were even documented fleeing from the scene of the first tank attack.
5. Sword
It's hard to think of a more iconic ancient weapon than the sword. To most people, they're
the epitome of the age of knights, kingdoms and gruesome duels.
Swords are conventionally thought to have been invented between the second and third
millennia BC, in other words the bronze age. There's evidence from Turkey, though, which
suggests that they could go as far back as 3300.
In any case, those early swords were a huge development but not all that widely used,
since bronze swords tended to either be brittle enough to shatter or flexible enough to bend
out of shape.
But once the Iron Age rolled around everything changed, since blades became much stronger
and could pretty much be mass produced.
That meant that battles became a lot shorter and bloodier than the spears knife fights
of old, and any group with the means to mass produce them had the fear-inducing authority
to subjugate others with ease.
4. Hand Cannon
It's pretty hard these days to imagine warfare without guns, so it would be weird not to
talk about the first ever firearm.
Those guns, called hand cannons, originated in 13th century China and were widely used
in warfare before spreading to the west in the following decades. But they weren't
exactly guns in the sense we understand - they literally worked like cannons by igniting
gunpowder to pelt out stones.
Once they reached Europe, however, they marked a major change in medieval combat.
Before then, you could be pretty sure that your suit of armour would keep you protected,
but that's not so true when an infantryman could fire a projectile fast enough to rip
a hole through your chest.
But hand cannons weren't for just anyone. They needed specific training to use, which
had the knock-on effect that armies began to be made up of less expandable peasant fighters
and more trained soldiers.
3. Chlorine Gas
Everyone knows that war is hell. So it takes a special type of weapon to get banned in
all forms. That's the case with chemical weapons, which were internationally banned
from warfare in all forms in 1993. It all started with Chlorine Gas.
Chlorine was first isolated as a chemical in the 1700s, and from then it was mostly
used for bleaching and sterilizing. But in April 1915, Chlorine gas was first released
by German forces in Ypres as part of World War I. The 10,000 gas canisters released onto
allied trenches caused 15,000 casualties, a third of which died.
That first use of Chlorine Gas completely opened up the field of war. Suddenly there
was a weapon that could disable or kill thousands with slow, agonising symptoms like fluid in
the lungs and widespread blisters.
Now chemical weapons are mostly used illegally by ruthless dictators, most recently President
Assad in Syria.
2. Spear Where would we be without the first ever weapon?
If it wasn't for the spear, there's a good chance early man would never have escaped
its many ancient predators. In fact, sharpened rocks on sticks have been used in combat for
so long, they predate modern homosapiens by quite some way.
In 2012, Archaeologists discovered the earliest evidence of spears in Kathu Pan in South Africa.
Those sharpened stones suggest that Homo Heidelbergensis was crafting spears to hunt over 500,000 years
Long after those times, spears kept their place as one of the most important weapons
around the world, since they're incredibly easy to make and, of course, deadly in the
right hands.
Warriors and soldiers from the ancient Greeks to native Americans to Medieval Europe all
had their own takes on them, like the sarissa, the lance and the polearm. Every type of spear
made its mark in the history of weapons, quite literally.
1. Nuclear Weapons
There's no way it could be anything else. In terms of immediate impact, there hasn't
been a more immediate change in the course of warfare than with nuclear weapons.
It all started when physicists Lise Meitner (Lee-zer Mite-ner) and Otto Frisch (Ot-toe
Frish) pioneered nuclear fission in 1938. 4 years later, the Manhattan Project perfected
the first nuclear bomb in 1945.
And as we all know, that led to the infamous attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that same
year. Those attacks probably killed more than 200,000 people between them and had a major
impact on Japan's decision to surrender.
Since then, the whole world has feared the effects of another nuclear attack. Over the
course of the cold war, there was the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. In
other words, if one country nukes another, it's pretty much guaranteed get nuked back.
That pushed conflicts away from all out war and towards much more tactical affairs.
That was 10 Weapons That Changed The History of Warfare. Which one do you think had the
biggest impact? Were there any we missed? Let us know in the comments and make sure
to like and subscribe. While you're at it, check out this great Alltime10s video on screen
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10 Weapons That Changed The History Of Warfare

909 Folder Collection
Andrew Pedro published on July 24, 2018
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