The five weapons that defined American warfare

Gun design has come a long way since the first recorded firearms in 1364. Over the last 649 years, several major developments in technology and manufacturing have drastically impacted contemporary weapons. Since its settling in 1607, the U.S. has become a leader in revolutionizing the firearm. With each advancement in gun design came a defining shift in battlefield tactics and strategies, leading up to modern warfare as practiced by the U.S. Army today.

The Model 1795 musket
This musket, modeled after a French design, was the first firearm produced at Springfield Armory for the United States militia. A single-shot flintlock musket, this weapon saw a lot of time in battle during the early years of America’s independence.

The Colt revolver
Samuel Colt’s 1836 patent for a revolving cylinder allowed him to create the first mass-produced multi-shot handgun. This revolver was truly a product of its time, applying the developing technologies of the Industrial Revolution to firearms. As a result, Colt was able to provide finely tuned precision parts on a very large scale. Mass production made the gun affordable, which led to its widespread adoption by soldiers and frontiersmen.

The Winchester rifle
Winchester introduced its first gun, a lever-action repeating rifle, in 1873. It was this weapon that would make the company famous, the product earning the title, “the gun that won the West.” As settlers and farmers began to push farther and farther west in the late 19th century, they required a rifle that could take down large game such as grizzly bears and buffalo. The Winchester lever-action answered this need and became the signature weapon of America’s westward expansion.

The M1911 pistol
This pistol is known for being the standard-issue sidearm of United States soldiers from World War I until the Vietnam War, as well as law-enforcement squads such as the FBI. A semi-automatic pistol with the accuracy of a revolver, the M1911 design was produced by Colt and Remington in the years leading up to World War I in order to assure sufficient production yield to arm the entire military force. As a result, more than 2.7 million M1911 pistols were produced for the U.S. government between 1917 and 1918.

The M1 semi-automatic rifle
This semi-automatic rifle was designed by Canadian John Cantius Garand for the U.S. government in the early 20th century. It was adopted as the official battle rifle of the Army in 1936 and by the Marine Corps soon after in 1941. This led to the rifle being heavily relied on by the Allied forces during World War II. The gun’s favorable performance in both theaters of World War II inspired celebrated leader General George S. Patton to call it “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

Firearms infographic
Firearms infographic