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The Fire Lance

The original predecessor of all firearms, the Chinese fire lance and European hand cannon were loaded with gunpowder and the shot (initially lead shot, later replaced by cast iron through the muzzle, while a fuse was placed at the rear. This fuse was lit, causing the gunpowder to ignite and propel the cannonball. In military use, the standard hand cannon was tremendously powerful, while also being somewhat useless due to relative inability of the gunner to aim the weapon, or control the ballistic properties of the projectile. Recoil could be absorbed by bracing the barrel against the ground using a wooden support, the forerunner of the stock. Neither the amount of gunpowder, nor the consistency in projectile dimensions were controlled, with resulting inaccuracy in firing due to windage, and due to the difference in diameter between the bore and the shot. The hand cannons were replaced by lighter carriage-mounted artillery pieces, and ultimately the arquebus.

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