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The History of Handguns

In the last two years, firearm purchases have accelerated. The number of adults who became first-time gun owners doubled compared to 2019, according to a survey in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A significant percentage of those sales were handguns, which are typically used for self-defense or target practice. If you are considering purchasing a handgun, you may be interested in learning more about their history.

What is a Handgun?

A handgun is a short-barreled firearm that is designed to be held and fired with one hand. Many handguns are semi-automatic. These firearms use the energy from a fired bullet to eject the spent casing and get the next round ready to fire in the chamber. Others use a manual action.

A pistol is type of handgun that is designed with the chamber as part of the barrel of the gun. Many modern pistols are semi-automatic but they can also be single-shot, striker-fired, hammer-fired, and break-action.

A revolver is a handgun in which the user must manually cock the hammer to fire it. You can purchase single-action and double-action revolvers, which differ in the ease of the trigger pull.

The First Firearm

To understand the history of the handgun, you must first understand the origins of modern firearms. The first firearm is believed to have been developed in China in the 10th century. These fire lances, or metal or bamboo tubes filled with gunpowder and attached to the end of a spear, laid the building blocks for cannons in the 1300s. Cannons later evolved into hand cannons, which developed into modern firearms in the 15th century.

The Evolution of Handguns

The first mechanism invented to facilitate a hand-held firearm was the matchlock. It held a slow-burning match in a clamp that dropped down to ignite the gunpowder when the user pulled the trigger. The next big advancement that aided the development of the handgun was the invention of the wheel lock. This tool created a mechanical spark to propel the bullet forward rather than relying on a burning wick.

The first practical and mass-produced handgun, the Colt revolver, came a few centuries later in the 1830s. Up until this point, handguns were only carried by the upper class because they were expensive and had limited uses. The Colt revolver, invented by Samuel Colt, was capable of firing five shots in rapid succession. It revolutionized handguns by reducing reload time and making them available to a larger population.


The revolving chambers used in the Colt revolver meant the user had to manually pull back the hammer to use the next bullet. Semi-automatic guns were created to ease the hassle of reloading. What is believed to be the first automatic pistol was designed by Joseph Laumann in the late 1800s. The Laumann 1891 was refined and began widespread use in the 1900s.

Today, handguns are widely circulated and used as sidearms for law enforcement officers and the military, as well as with civilians for self-defense and target practice.

Purchase a Handgun at The Hub

At The Hub, we offer a variety of handguns, from bolt-action to revolvers to semi-automatic. Our knowledgeable staff can assist both gun experts with in-depth questions as well as first-time gun owners who need basic information.

For more information on our handgun selection, visit The Hub today or browse our inventory online.
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