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Small Arms & Personal Weapons

The principle weapon of any fighting force is the arms carried by its individual soldiers. Explore how small arms have evolved from the spear to modern automatic weapons.

Hundred Years' War: English Longbow
The English Longbow was devastating weapon on the medieval battlefield and was extensively used between the 13th and 17th centuries. Firing heavy arrows at long range, archers equipped with the English Longbow were capable of defeating charges by armored knights. The weapon is best remembered for its contributions to the English victories at...

American Revolution: "Brown Bess" Musket
Originally the Long Land Pattern, the "Brown Bess" musket was the standard small arm of the British Army between 1722 and 1838. A flintlock musket, the basic Brown Bess pattern was altered and upgraded several times during its service life. It was finally superseded with the introduction of percussion cap muskets in the early 19th century.

Photo Gallery: Selected Weapons of the American Civil War
The American Civil War saw tremendous advances in military technology. This gallery provides an overview of the weapons used by both sides during the conflict.

Franco-Prussian War: Dreyse Needle Gun
The Dreyse Needle Gun was the first military rifle to incorporate breech-loading with a bolt-action. Entering service in 1848, the Needle Gun was used extensively by Prussian forces during the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars. In 1871, the Needle Gun was replaced by the Mauser Rifle.

World War I: M1903 Springfield Rifle
Developed in 1903, the M1903 Springfield became one of the most famous rifles in American history. The standard infantry weapon of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, it continued in service into World War II. Though largely replaced by the M1 Garand, the M1903 Springfield remained in some uses through 1957.

World War I/II: Lee-Enfield Rifle
The Lee-Enfield rifle was the standard service rifle of British and Commonwealth forces for much of the first half of the 20th century. A bolt-action, magazine-fed weapon, the Lee-Enfield saw extensive service during World War I and II. It is the second-most produced military rifle of all-time.

US Military: Colt M1911 Pistol
The Colt M1911 pistol was the standard sidearm of the US military from 1911 to 1985. Designed by John Browning, the M1911 fired a .45 ACP cartridge and became an iconic pistol. The M1911 was retired in 1985 when the US military transitioned to the Beretta 92 series.

World War II: M1 Garand
The M1 Garand was the first semiautomatic rifle to be issued to an entire army. Developed in the 1920s and 1930s, the M1 was designed by John Garand. Firing a .30-06 round, the M1 Garand was the main infantry weapon employed by US forces during World War II and the Korean War.

World War II: Karabiner 98k - The Wehrmacht's Rifle
The Karabiner 98k was one of the principal rifles used by the German Wehrmacht (Army) during World War II. Employed in all theaters involving German forces, the Karabiner 98k was the last in a long line of Mauser rifles designed for Germany. After the war, the Karabiner 98k was used in variety of other conflicts including fighting in the...

World War II: Sten Gun
The Sten was as type of British submachine gun developed and used during World War II. Entering service in 1941, the Sten gun was simple to build and maintain and was widely used by British troops and exported to other allies and resistance forces. Over 4 million Sten guns were ultimately made.

World War II: Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44)
The Sturmgewehr 44 was the first assault rifle to see deployment on a large scale. Developed by Nazi Germany, the Sturmgewehr 44 was introduced in 1943, and first saw service on the Eastern Front. Though far from perfect, the StG44 proved a versatile weapon for German forces.

Cold War: AK-47 Assault Rifle
The AK-47 is an assault rifle that was developed for the Soviet Union. Designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, the AK-47 entered service in 1949. Extremely durable and inexpensive to manufacture, the AK-47 has been used in conflicts around the world and is the most-produced assault rifle ever made.

Rifles of World War I
An overview of the rifles used by each nation during the First World War.

Small Arms of the Vietnam War
This site provides an overview of the small arms used during the conflict in Vietnam.

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