How Weapons Have Changed the Way Wars Are Fought – What Does the Future Hold?

The first warriors just used whatever they could find. Sticks, rocks, bones were all used to hit, pierce, or otherwise do harm to an enemy. It was not long before they started improving these found weapons by sharpening, lengthening, or throwing them. That is when the spear entered into their arsenal. The club may have been first, but the spear had the reach and could be sharpened. Sometime during this, a fighter found out that if the end of the stick was partially burned, it had a point on it and if he scraped off the charcoal, it became very sharp. It also became harder and did not break as easily. The stick could be any length that could be handled by the soldier.

Maybe about this same time they began finding stones that when broken, would have very sharp edges. These stones could be shaped and attached to the stick now for a sharper and more deadly weapon. During these times, they relied on these weapons to hunt game for food. They needed something they could throw and the spear was the weapon of choice because they could not get close enough to strike or thrust the animal.

For centuries, they battled one another using these sticks, improving the points as they went along. They learned teamwork on the battlefield with these spearmen in tightly packed groups. They found that lines of these groups charging, holding the formation, and were able to force through their opponent. This introduced the phalanx around the 15th century. But with spear throwers (javelin) and now archers for long distance battle the need for armor was introduced. These soldiers needed the security of armor to protect them on the battlefield. As weapons changed, armor changed and as this armor changed the weapons changed again. Thus became the ever evolving weapons and armor changing as needed. The Romans perfected the use of spears and pole arms into their massive armies.

Since the introduction of bronze came swords, spear tips, and some forms of armor. The swords started out as short blunt instruments for hacking, thrusting, and cutting. But with body armor, they not only had to lengthen it, but they had to make it more pointed so it would get between the plates of armor and into the body. With the armor blocking much of this hacking and cutting, the sword was useless unless it could get to a vital spot on the body. The use of pole arms was still in use during these times and developed into pole arms. They did not want the spear to penetrate too far into the combatant be able to pull out, so they devised methods on the tip to keep it from penetrating any farther than needed for a kill. The infantry weapons were the spear, javelin, phylum, and various other pole arms. The spear was also carried by a horseman, but for him the name was changed to Lance. The Greek Calvary used javelins instead of lances because they did not have stirrups. Without stirrups the lance would shove him off his horse upon striking the enemy.

The only reason that swords were not heavily used early was because they were extremely expensive. Only the very rich carried them. They were a superior weapon for close combat. During the Bronze Age the metal it took to make one sword would make many spears tips, axes, or arrow tips. Armies just could not afford to expend that much metal for one weapon when they had thousands to arm. In the Iron Age, wrought iron had to be tempered before it could be an effective weapon. Tempering a piece of iron this long was very difficult. It took a very skilled smith to get it even and hard enough to take an edge, yet malleable enough not to shatter when striking the armor of the enemy. A type of «Damascus» blade was made by welding layers of hard steel and soft iron to get the desired hardness to take an edge and soft enough to not break. The Japanese smiths improved on these techniques by heating iron over charcoal, pounding it flat and folding it over and welding again. The charcoal carbonized the metal as the process was repeated many times. Swords took a long time to make and were very expensive. This was the reason that swords were handed down from father to son and so much cherished by the family.

And then along came gunpowder. It was first used in cannon balls where the blast did minimal damage, but an army that had never faced gunpowder was in chaos. The enemy would be on the run. At that point, it was easy to rain arrows down on them or use the Calvary to charge in and clean up the rest. Gunpowder was used in Galleys, guns, and all kinds of weapons. After gunpowder caught on, a battlefield would be so full of smoke, the soldier could not even see who they were shooting at. It was not until the 1800’s that the smokeless gunpowder was invented. It was said that even in the famous «Gunfight at the OK Corral» the smoke was so thick they could not see who they were shooting. During the years before smokeless gunpowder an ambush was risky because if you did not eliminate your enemy soon, the smoke from your weapon would give away your location.

All through history as weapons got better, armor changed. And as armor changed, weapons improved. And so on through history. The shield got larger or redesigned according to the weapon it was protecting against. The shield gave way to body armor. Horses changed the way battles were fought. The chariot changed into many forms of transportation in battles. The cannons on Galleys and warships evolved and were put on wheels and used in the battlefield as mobile artillery. Siege weapons were used to bring down walls. The knife was attached to the gun and so became the bayonet for a second weapon in close combat.

Gunpowder changed the way battles were fought. Not only was gunpowder used in small arms and cannons, but then came the hand grenades on the battlefield. This allowed pinpoint accuracy for these smaller explosions. Battles were no longer fought by men face to face who could look into each other’s eyes. That has taken the personalization out of it. Looking into a man’s eyes and watching him die would have an effect on anyone. That effect has been taken away. Not knowing makes the person behind the gun immune to a certain amount of grief. Delivering these bullets and bombs from across a battlefield is different than looking into a man’s eyes and fighting him with a sword or lance.

The Wright brothers changed warfare again with the airplane. Now this gunpowder can be delivered in the form of bombs. Large bombs, small bombs, and now smart bombs that can be delivered through a window in a small downtown building. Gunpowder has changed into the form of chemical and biological bombs. They can be delivered half way around the world from land, a ship at sea, or from the air. This is the nastiest form of weapon.

Throughout mankind’s history, weapons have changed and improved. Warships have changed and added armor and the guns have gotten bigger and smarter and delivered in the form of an unmanned rocket, thanks to Germany and the V2. Hand guns have gone from flint and steel single shot, through the smoke filled battle field, to smokeless guns that fire up to six thousand rounds per minute. The wheeled mobile artillery gun has spawned the tank. Ships have improved and spawned the submarine that can deliver ordinance underwater to another ship, or a rocket that will take flight up and out of the water to a target far away.

Where will it all go in the future? Are plasma, laser, and shockwave weapons just around the corner? Plasma weapons are mostly science fiction, but are experimental. A laser weapon travels at the speed of light so after aiming and fired, the target is hit almost instantaneously. It is not affected by gravity or wind. There are many advantages to plasma or laser weapons. The high energy requirement is the major problem with any directed-energy weapon. Technology is not available to make these weapons small enough to be hand held. They are just too bulky and inefficient to be practical now, but like all weapons down through history, they are on the way. What else is in store for us?

Our battles are not always fought with soldiers from other countries. We are fighting a battle here at home in the form of crimes. Weapons are in the hands of those who want to take our personal property, injure us, or take lives just for their entertainment or for initiation into some gang. We are in a battle every day, just going outside and meeting the day.

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