ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Medieval Weaponry - Beginnings of The Gunpowder Age

Updated on September 15, 2014
CuAllaidh profile image

Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

Source

Gunpowder Came in With A Bang!

Siege technology advanced in leaps and bounds during the medieval period, but trebuchets and other catapults had limitations that was solved with the invention of the cannon. And just as crossbows outstripped most common bows, so did the musket begin to outstrip the crossbow. All thanks to a mysterious powder we now call gunpowder.


Warning

Gunpowder is extremely explosive and therefore dangerous. The following is for educational purposes only, do not try making your own gunpowder at home

Explosion (courtesy of sxc.hu)
Explosion (courtesy of sxc.hu)

How to make gunpowder

You can get by with only one single mortar on this one, however because it has to be so carefully cleaned before grinding the next ingredient it is probably best to use one for each ingredient thus minimizing the risk.

Cast your vote for A Recipe for Medieval Gunpowder

Cook Time

Prep Time:

Total Time: 2 Days

Serves: 100g

Ingredients

  • 75 g Salt Peter
  • 15 g Charcoal
  • 10 g Sulfur
  • 3 different Mortar and Pestles
  • 1 small bowl

Instructions

  1. In one mortar put in the salt peter and grind it to a fine powder.
  2. In another mortar put in the charcoal and grind it to a fine powder
  3. In the third mortar put in the sulfur and grind it to a fine powder
  4. Combine all three ingredients into the small bowl and add a small amount (1tbsp should do it) of water. Mix solution and continue to add water until the mixture is a thick paste.
  5. Spread gunpowder paste on a piece of parchment and allow to dry for at least two days (until fully dry)
  6. Very carefully peel paste off the paper and put it back in one of the mortars (make sure it is perfectly clean)
  7. Very carefully, gently, and slowly grind the gunpowder up. The water acts as a stabilizer ensuring the mixture doesn't explode until lit, but you still have to be very gentle.

Warning

Once again, gunpowder is extremely dangerous and unstable. Do not try making it at home.

Early Cannons

Cannons would become the ultimate siege weapons in time. In the beginning of the gunpowder age though they were more about intimidation then effectiveness. They were loud, crass, inefficient, unreliable, and unstable. They were more as like to kill the cannoneer than knock a hole in a wall.

As technology increased though they began casting cannons out of brass, and were able to work with larger and larger cannons, and make the whole device less likely to explode. While they never matched a trebuchet for mass of the object hurled they were able to hurl lead balls much, much faster than a trebuchet could ever manage, and since force = mass x velocity you could match the force, or even increase the force simply by firing the shot faster.

The number of men required to operate a cannon was much less than with a trebuchet, but they had to be highly specialized men in the beginning. So any gains gotten by decreased manpower was lost in the cost of maintaining the highly skilled cannoneers. If you didn't load a cannon properly it was liable to explode sending shrapnel in a huge area possibly injuring or killing your own men. Many early cannons also could only be fired once per day (or even less frequently) as they used a clay to completely seal off any air ensuring that the gunpowder propelled the shot and not any wasted energy on going around the shot, and you had to wait until the clay was dry or risk the gunpowder not igniting at all.


Early Handguns

I use the term handgun very, very loosely. I am not talking about pistols, although there were some that qualify for that title, but rather any weapon that a single soldier can fire and use on their own without any additional tools.

The matchlock was the first handgun available to soldiers. These guns would be breach loaded then fired by actually lighting a fuse. They were slow to fire, and generally in a battle considered a one use weapon. They fired lead balls.

The wheellock was the next innovation in handguns, and there were even some wheellock pistols, although most were long guns. These used a friction based ignition and were the first self igniting guns. They still simply fired lead balls and weren't that drastically different than matchlocks.

The flintlock was the last handgun of the medieval era, and they come in in the late medieval period at that with the first ones cropping up in the early part of the 17th century.

Gunpowder In Other Forms

During the medieval times gunpowder wasn't only used for cannons and other guns, but also for bomb makings. In siege warfare Petards, or directional blast bombs, were commonly used to blast gates down. In the Gunpowder Plot Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the British Parliament Buildings with an improvised explosive device (IED) that was simply just barrels of gunpowder. Early grenades were used, they started out being filled with pitch, but later on gunpowder was often used.

© 2012 Jeff Johnston

Fire Away

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 

      5 years ago

      This is great I like learning about history and the medieval weaponry story is very interesting. Great job.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)