Interesting Facts and Trivia: Weapons IV

You’ve heard of gunpowder, but have you heard of guncotton? Some of the most interesting discoveries of the world have been the result of an accident. In this article, you will learn who accidentally discovered a new and improved version of gunpowder.

The Accidental Invention of Guncotton

In 1847, Christian Freidrink Schonbein invented guncotton during an experiment in his kitchen. Although his wife was against him doing experiments in their home, he occasionally did a few things in the name of science. One day, while his wife was away, he spilled a mix of nitric acid and sulfuric acid. He used his wife’s cotton apron to wipe up the mess, which he hung over the stove to dry. However, the cloth spontaneously caught on fire and burned so quickly that it looked as if the material had disappeared. What had taken place before his very eyes was the conversion of the cellulose in the apron material to a source that when heated, would rapidly oxidize.

There were so many new possibilities to investigate with this new compound. At that time, black gunpowder was a popular substance that helped the victorious in battle for more than 500 years. When used, it exploded into thick smoke that blackened the gunners and made it difficult to use the cannons and small arms at times. The smoke also made it hard to see on the battlefield. However, what Schonbein had found was an alternative that served as smokeless powder.

However, guncotton came with pitfalls. The military tried to manufacture the substance, but since factories were susceptible to exploding , it was hard to harness the power of the guncotton. In 1884, Paul Vielle came up with a solution. He was able to successfully turn guncotton into something that could be managed and used as smokeless gunpowder. It was called Poudre B. Another version, called cordite was also made in 1891.

Maxim Gun

Sir Hiram Maxim (1840-1916) was not only an aviation pioneer from the United States (and later from Britain), but was also an inventor, who made the Maxim gun in 1884.

War by Sea

Traveling by sea and using vessels as a weapon involves the practices of the Vikings who used longships during the 8th century.


Georg Luger (1849-1923) was a pioneer in gun making, as he invented the P-08 pistol that was named after him in 1898. The German army embraced the weapon and it was widely used during both of the World Wars.

The Gun Plow

There is actually a patent on file for a weapon that combines a gun and plow together. C.M. French and W.H. Fancher of Waterloo, NY, designed an apparatus that allowed farmers to transform their plows into an armed machine if they were attacked in the middle of their duties. The patent dates back to 1862.