A weapon, arm, or armament is any device used with intent to inflict
damage or harm to living creatures, structures, or systems. Weapons
are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as
hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defense, and warfare. In broader
context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a
strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy
While ordinary objects such as sticks, stones, cars, or pencils can be
used as weapons, many are expressly designed for the purpose –
ranging from simple implements such as clubs, swords and guns, to
complicated modern intercontinental ballistic missiles, biological and
cyberweapons. Something that has been re-purposed, converted, or
enhanced to become a weapon of war is termed weaponized, such as a
weaponized virus or weaponized lasers.
1.2 Ancient history
1.3 Post-classical history
1.4 Modern history
1.4.1 Early modern
1.4.2 Late modern
188.8.131.52 Nuclear weapons
2.1 By user
2.2 By function
2.3 By target
4 Lifecycle problems
5 See also
7 External links
Main article: History of weapons
An array of
Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads,
chisels, and polishing tools.
The use of objects as weapons has been observed among chimpanzees,
leading to speculation that early hominids first began to use weapons
as early as five million years ago. However, this can not be
confirmed using physical evidence because wooden clubs, spears, and
unshaped stones would have left an ambiguous record. The earliest
unambiguous weapons to be found are the Schöninger Spear: eight
wooden throwing spears dated as being more than 300,000 years
old. At the site of Nataruk in Turkana, Kenya, numerous
human skeletons dating to 10,000 years ago may present evidence of
major traumatic injuries to the head, neck, ribs, knees and hands,
including obsidian projectiles still embedded in the bones, that might
have been caused by arrows and clubs in the context of conflict
between two hunter-gatherer groups, but this interpretation of the
evidence of warfare at Nataruk has been challenged.
A four-wheeled ballista drawn by armored cataphract horses, c. 400.
Ancient weapons were evolutionary improvements of late neolithic
implements, but then significant improvements in materials and
crafting techniques created a series of revolutions in military
The development of metal tools, beginning with copper during the
Copper Age (about 3,300 BC) and followed shortly by bronze led to
Bronze Age sword and similar weapons.
The first defensive structures and fortifications appeared in the
Bronze Age, indicating an increased need for security. Weapons
designed to breach fortifications followed soon after, for example the
battering ram was in use by 2500 BC.
Although early Iron Age swords were not superior to their bronze
predecessors, once iron-working developed, around 1300 BC in Greece,
Domestication of the horse
Domestication of the horse and widespread use of spoked wheels by
ca. 2000 BC, led to the light, horse-drawn chariot. The mobility
provided by chariots were important during this era.
Spoke-wheeled chariot usage peaked around 1300 BC and then
declined, ceasing to be militarily relevant by the 4th century BC.
Cavalry developed once horses were bred to support the weight of a
man. The horse extended the range and increased the
speed of attacks.
Ships built as weapons or warships such as the trireme were in use by
the 7th century BC. These ships were eventually replaced by larger
ships by the 4th century BC.
Medieval Indian weapons
Ancient Chinese cannon displayed in the Tower of London.
European warfare during the
Post-classical history was dominated by
elite groups of knights supported by massed infantry (both in combat
and ranged roles). They were involved in mobile combat and sieges
which involved various siege weapons and tactics.
Knights on horseback
developed tactics for charging with lances providing an impact on the
enemy formations and then drawing more practical weapons (such as
swords) once they entered into the melee. Whereas infantry, in the age
before structured formations, relied on cheap, sturdy weapons such as
spears and billhooks in close combat and bows from a distance. As
armies became more professional, their equipment was standardized and
infantry transitioned to pikes. Pikes are normally seven to eight feet
in length, in conjunction with smaller side-arms (short sword).
In Eastern and
Middle Eastern warfare, similar tactics were developed
independent of European influences.
The introduction of gunpowder from the Far East at the end of this
period revolutionized warfare. Formations of musketeers, protected by
pikemen came to dominate open battles, and the cannon replaced the
trebuchet as the dominant siege weapon.
Renaissance marked the beginning of the implementation of
firearms in western warfare. Guns and rockets were introduced to the
Firearms are qualitatively different from earlier weapons because they
release energy from combustible propellants such as gunpowder, rather
than from a counter-weight or spring. This energy is released very
rapidly and can be replicated without much effort by the user.
Therefore even early firearms such as the arquebus were much more
powerful than human-powered weapons.
Firearms became increasingly
important and effective during the 16th century to 19th century, with
progressive improvements in ignition mechanisms followed by
revolutionary changes in ammunition handling and propellant. During
the U.S. Civil
War various technologies including the machine gun and
ironclad warship emerged that would be recognizable and useful
military weapons today, particularly in limited conflicts. In the 19th
century warship propulsion changed from sail power to fossil
fuel-powered steam engines.
The bayonet is used as both knife and, when attached to a rifle, a
The age of edged weapons ended abruptly just before World
War I with
rifled artillery. Howitzers were able to destroy masonry fortresses
and other fortifications. This single invention caused a Revolution in
Military Affairs (RMA) and established tactics and doctrine that are
still in use today. See Technology during World
War I for a detailed
An important feature of industrial age warfare was technological
escalation – innovations were rapidly matched through replication or
countered by yet another innovation. The technological escalation
War I (WW I) was profound, producing armed aircraft,
ships and tanks.
This continued in the inter-war period (between WW I and WW II) with
continuous evolution of all weapon systems by all major industrial
powers. Many modern military weapons, particularly ground-based ones,
are relatively minor improvements of weapon systems developed during
War II. See military technology during World
War II for a
The Vickers was the successor to the
Maxim gun and remained in British
military service for 79 consecutive years.
The new assault rifle
CZ-805 BREN (produced in Czech Republic).
Since the mid-18th century North American French-Indian war through
the beginning of the 20th century, human-powered weapons were reduced
from the primary weaponry of the battlefield yielding to
gunpowder-based weaponry. Sometimes referred to as the "Age of
Rifles", this period was characterized by the development of
firearms for infantry and cannons for support, as well as the
beginnings of mechanized weapons such as the machine gun, the tank and
the wide introduction of aircraft into warfare, including naval
warfare with the introduction of the aircraft carriers.
War I marked the entry of fully industrialized warfare as well
as weapons of mass destruction (e.g., chemical and biological
weapons), and weapons were developed quickly to meet wartime needs.
Above all, it promised to the military commanders the independence
from the horse and the resurgence in maneuver warfare through
extensive use of motor vehicles. The changes that these military
technologies underwent before and during the Second World
evolutionary, but defined the development for the rest of the century.
War II however, perhaps marked the most frantic period of
weapons development in the history of humanity. Massive numbers of new
designs and concepts were fielded, and all existing technologies were
improved between 1939 and 1945. The most powerful weapon invented
during this period was the atomic bomb, however many more weapons
influenced the world in different ways.
Main article: Nuclear holocaust
Since the realization of mutually assured destruction (MAD), the
nuclear option of all-out war is no longer considered a survivable
scenario. During the Cold
War in the years following World
both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a nuclear arms
race. Each country and their allies continually attempted to
out-develop each other in the field of nuclear armaments. Once the
joint technological capabilities reached the point of being able to
ensure the destruction of the Earth x100 fold, then a new tactic had
to be developed. With this realization, armaments development funding
shifted back to primarily sponsoring the development of conventional
arms technologies for support of limited wars rather than total
- what person or unit uses the weapon
Personal weapons (or small arms) – designed to be used by a single
Light weapons – 'man-portable' weapons that may require a small team
Heavy weapons – artillery and similar weapons larger than light
weapons (see SALW).
Hunting weapon – used by hunters for sport or getting food.
Crew served weapons – larger than personal weapons, requiring two or
more people to operate correctly.
Fortification weapons – mounted in a permanent installation, or used
primarily within a fortification.
Mountain weapons – for use by mountain forces or those operating in
Vehicle weapons – to be mounted on any type of combat vehicle.
Railway weapons – designed to be mounted on railway cars, including
Aircraft weapons – carried on and used by some type of aircraft,
helicopter, or other aerial vehicle.
Naval weapons – mounted on ships and submarines.
Space weapons – are designed to be used in or launched from space.
Autonomous weapons – are capable of accomplishing a mission with
limited or no human intervention.
- the construction of the weapon and principle of operation
Antimatter weapons (theoretical) would combine matter and antimatter
to cause a powerful explosion.
Archery weapons operate by using a tensioned string and bent solid to
launch a projectile.
Artillery are firearms capable of launching heavy projectiles over
Biological weapons spread biological agents, causing disease or
Chemical weapons, poisoning and causing reactions.
Energy weapons rely on concentrating forms of energy to attack, such
as lasers or sonic attack.
Explosive weapons use a physical explosion to create blast concussion
or spread shrapnel.
Firearms use a chemical charge to launch projectiles.
Improvised weapons are common objects, reused as weapons, such as
crowbars and kitchen knives.
Incendiary weapons cause damage by fire.
Non-lethal weapons are designed to subdue without killing.
Magnetic weapons use magnetic fields to propel projectiles, or to
focus particle beams.
Melee weapons operate as physical extensions of the user's body and
directly impact their target.
Missiles are rockets which are guided to their target after launch.
(Also a general term for projectile weapons).
Loitering Munitions are weapons that are designed to loiter over or in
the battlefield searching for targets, striking once a target is
Nuclear weapons use radioactive materials to create nuclear fission
and/or nuclear fusion detonations.
Primitive weapons make little or no use of technological or industrial
Ranged weapons (unlike Mêlée weapons), target a distant object or
Rockets use chemical propellant to accelerate a projectile
Suicide weapons exploit the willingness of their operator to not
survive the attack.
- the type of target the weapon is designed to attack
Anti-aircraft weapons target missiles and aerial vehicles in flight.
Anti-fortification weapons are designed to target enemy installations.
Anti-personnel weapons are designed to attack people, either
individually or in numbers.
Anti-radiation weapons target sources of electronic radiation,
particularly radar emitters.
Anti-satellite weapons target orbiting satellites.
Anti-ship weapons target ships and vessels on water.
Anti-submarine weapons target submarines and other underwater targets.
Anti-tank weapons are designed to defeat armored targets.
Area denial weapons
Area denial weapons target territory, making it unsafe or unsuitable
for enemy use or travel.
Hunting weapons are weapons used to hunt game animals.
Infantry support weapons are designed to attack various threats to
The production, possession, trade and use of many weapons are
controlled. This may be at a local or central government level, or
international treaty. Examples of such controls include:
The right of self-defense
Air gun laws
Arms trafficking laws
Arms control treaties
Space Preservation Treaty
There are a number of issue around the potential ongoing risks from
deployed weapons, the safe storage of weapons, and their eventual
disposal when no longer effective or safe.
Ocean dumping of unused weapons and bombs, including ordinary bombs,
UXO, landmines and chemical weapons has been common practice by many
nations, and often caused hazards.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) are bombs, land mines and naval mines and
similar that did not explode when they were employed and still pose a
risk for many years or decades.
Demining or mine clearance from areas of past conflict is a difficult
process, but every year, landmines kill 15,000 to 20,000 people and
severely maim countless more.
Nuclear terrorism was a serious concern after the fall of the Soviet
Union, with the prospect of "loose nukes" being available. While
this risk may have receded, similar situation may arise in the
List of martial arts weapons
List of practice weapons
Lists of weapons
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