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Word Count: 550
Small arms did not exist as a distinct class of gunpowder weapon until the middle of the 15th century Until then hand cannon differed from their larger relatives only in size They looked much the same consisting of a barrel fastened to a simple wooden stock that was braced beneath the gunners arm A second person was required to fire the weapon About the middle of the 15th century a series of connected developments established small arms as an important and distinct category of weaponry The first of these was the development of slow match--or match as it was commonly called This was cord or twine soaked in a solution of potassium nitrate and dried When lit match smoldered at the end in a slow controlled manner Slow match found immediate acceptance among artillerists and remained a standard part of the gunners kit for the next four centuriesSmall arms appeared during the period 1460-80 with the development of mechanisms that applied match to hand-portable weapons German gunsmiths apparently led the way The first step was a simple S-shaped trigger called a serpentine fastened to the side of a hand cannons stock The serpentine was pivoted in the middle and had a set of adjustable jaws or dogs on the upper end that held the smoldering end of a length of match Pulling up on the bottom of the serpentine brought the tip of the match down into contact with powder in the flashpan a small saucer-shaped depression surrounding the touchhole atop the barrel This arrangement made it possible for one gunner to aim and fire and it was quickly improved on The first and most basic change was the migration of the touchhole to the right side of the barrel where it was served by a flashpan equipped with a hinged or pivoting cover that protected the priming powder from wind rain and rough handling The serpentine was replaced by a mechanism enclosed within the
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