Loading... Please wait...


History of Ammunition from Origin to the Modern Cartridge


338 Lapua Magnum Ammo 250gr OTM Scenar Lapua 200 Round Can

It is easy to take for granted the history of ammunition. After all, the use of ammo is so common today that it has become second nature to gun owners for hunting and target practice.

This was not always the case, and buying ammo in bulk was not as common as it is today. Many advancements in both ammunition and firearms paved the way for the modern day cartridge.

From the earliest use of gunpowder in China to the many calibers and brands of ammo available to us now, ammunition has evolved significantly over time.

Chinese Gunpowder - The Origin of Ammunition

The history of ammunition can be traced back to the invention of fireworks around 900 AD. The Chinese developed a black gunpowder that was composed of Charcoal, Saltpeter, and Sulfur.

This gunpowder was initially used to light up the sky, but was soon adopted as a weapon.

The Chinese later attached gunpowder tubes to the bottom of spears to propel them forward to devastate any oncoming attackers. These flamethrowers became more and more efficient as time went on, and this led to the development of the first known firearms in China.

Ammunition Used in the First Firearms

The history of ammunition used in firearms dates back as far as the late 13th Century. Long before manufactured cartridges, owners used gunpowder to propel any shrapnel they could find.

After that, the use of firearms began to spread westward into Arab countries. Arab armies are credited as the first to use cannons in battle against their enemies during the 14th century. Arrows were propelled out of bamboo tubes, giving these Arab armies an added advantage when it came to wartime.

However, it was not until Europeans used gunpowder that we began to see ammo develop into the cartridges we know today. With the invention of muzzleloaders the Europeans continued to shrink ammunition down to a size suitable for hand cannons or the first rifles.

The process of using muzzleloaders to load in gunpowder took an extremely long time, even for a single bullet. However, it remained the most common method for loading ammunition over the next few centuries until the invention of the cartridge.

Origin of the Cartridge

The development of the cartridge was the next step in the history of ammunition. Bullets began transforming from musket balls into the cylindro-conoidal bullet we see today. The advantage of these newly shaped bullets was their ability to expand inside the barrel. This combined with the invention of rifling from German gun makers allowed much more accuracy and reliability, but reloading still remained a slow process. The earliest known cartridges were made of paper in the late 1500s but were replaced by brass casings. Muzzleloaders used cartridges for years, but speed remained an issue.

Firearms continued to evolve and during the mid-1800s breech-loaders first came on the scene in America. Instead of seating ammunition into the muzzle of the gun, breech-loaders allowed for chambered cartridges at the back of the rifle. The breechloader broke apart the cartridge and fired the bullet out of the end of the chamber.

This adaptation revolutionized the firearms industry, and the mass production of breech-loading guns continued throughout the Reconstruction Era. Due to the increasing popularity of breech-loaders and the ability to shoot off rounds faster, cartridges became the standard ammunition used by gun owners.

Modern Cartridge

With a growing demand for ammo, the need for better cartridges was also at an all-time high. This lead to the 

formation of the modern day cartridge.The gunpowder was tightly sealed inside a brass encasing with the bullet attached to the end. A strike to a primer in the base of the brass case became the new way of igniting the cartridge and shooting the bullet out of the barrel.

223 5.56x45 Ammo 55gr FMJ Wolf Gold Brass Case Boxer Primed 20 Round Box

This method marked the first time that cartridge casings ejected out of the gun, which allowed shooters to reload the firearm immediately. This concept expanded through the invention of the repeating rifle, which allowed for loading multiple cartridges at the same time.

Over time the variety in caliber and bullet types increased exponentially, but the concept of the cartridge remained the same. Today there are seemingly endless options of pistol ammo, rifle ammo, rimfire ammo, and shotgun ammo to choose from.

So whenever you are sorting through your ammo can or loading up your magazine, take the time to appreciate the history of ammunition and the advancements in gun technology along the way.

View Comments

Donald Trump on Guns

The stance of Donald Trump on guns remained consistent in defending second amendment rights throughout his 17-month presidential campaign. Several campaign promises were made by Donald Trump on guns and he plans to move swiftly in overturning pro-gun control executive orders previously signed by past presidents. Gun owners can expect some big changes in policy if these changes are carried out [...]

Read More »

Lapua Ammo Spotlight

Lapua Ammo is produced by the state-owned cartridge factory based in Lapua, Finland. The Lapua ammo brand prides itself in developing precise and accurate ammunition for hunting, tactical use, and especially for sport shooting. From producing ammo for Finland in World War II to supplying the best marksmen in the world, Lapua Ammo has been incredibly [...]

Read More »

Wolf Ammuniton Spotlight

The Wolf Ammo brand is owned by Sporting Supplies International headquartered in Anaheim, California. While American owned, Wolf Ammunition is made internationally in Russia, Germany, Serbia, Taiwan and other countries. Like most foreign ammunition, Wolf Performance is sold at an affordable price. However, it differs from its competition by providing gun owners with high-quality non-corrosive cartridges. Wolf [...]

Read More »

Constitutional Carry States - No Permit for Concealed Carry

Concealed Carry Laws progressed significantly over the past few decades in favor of gun owners. In 2002, Vermont was the only state in the Union to have an unrestricted concealed carry law. Since then an additional 10 states have changed their laws to constitutional carry status. At the original formation of the United States, all 13 [...]

Read More »

Ammo Storage Best Practices - Do's and Don'ts

If you buy ammo then you also need to be prepared to purchase the proper storage for it. While ammunition is typically built to endure most environments, there are proper precautions to take to keep your ammo in the best condition and ready to use when you need it most. It is best to store your [...]

Read More »

Popular 9mm Guns for Home Defense

Noted for its compact size, reliability, and versatility, the 9mm pistol is one of the most widely used guns for home defense. As an added bonus, in addition to providing personal home protection, the 9mm is also an ideal choice for conceal carry or sport shooting. Though all 9mm guns share some similarities, specific features can [...]

Read More »

What Is Our Best Shotgun Ammo - Our Most Popular Shotgun Ammo Rounds

Whether you're looking for 410 Gauge, 12 gauge, or 20 gauge shotgun ammo, we have an awesome selection of shotgun ammunition in our online Ammunition Store from great brands like Wolf Ammo, Lapua, Federal Premium Ammunition, and Remington Ammo. You can browse our selection of  410 gauge shotgun ammo and 20 gauge shotgun ammo, but by far our most popular selling shotgun [...]

Read More »

Advantages of Buying Bulk Ammo

Buying bulk ammo has become increasingly popular in the last few years for many reasons. For one, buying almost any product in bulk is a surefire way to cut down on your costs. In the case of ammunition, you will find the best cost per round by buying bulk ammo cases or even better by [...]

Read More »

Popular Rounds for Self Defense and The Pros and Cons of Each

The great caliber debate is not a new discussion. If we as gun owners can agree on anything, it might be that any gun loaded with the proper caliber ammunition is infinitely better than having no gun at all in the terribly unfortunate event that you find yourself defending your life. If we are to [...]

Read More »