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Gunpowder is believed to have been invented in the ninth century by the Chinese, who used it mainly for rockets and firecrackers. When gunpowder was introduced to Europe in the 14th century, the face of warfare was changed forever. Gunpowder is still used today in firearms that range in size and purpose from large field artillery to small handguns.

When first devised, firearms were basically small, hand-held cannons fired by igniting gunpowder through a touchhole by a small flame. This basic idea was refined in later guns, such as the matchlock and flintlock, which used a spark-producing mechanism to ignite the powder charge. In the 15th century, the rifle (long gun) was invented.

The most important breakthrough in handgun development came with the invention of the modern revolver by Samuel Colt in 1835. Today, firearms are very popular in America among sports enthusiasts, collectors, and law enforcement agents. Assembly lines, however, are not suited to the manufacture of quality firearms. Much of the gunsmith's work is still done by hand. Despite a long history, gunsmithing is a profession with a low profile. Often the skills used in the trade are kept within a family and passed on from generation to generation.

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