A hand cannon is the first type of handheld firearm used in Europe and the Middle East, appearing in the late Middle Ages, sometime in the 1300s, however, the weapon was used at least a few hundred years earlier in China, the first being crude "fire lances" with a range of only a few feet, though true hand cannons similar to the European model were in use by the 1200s. The hand cannon consisted of a simple tube loaded with powder and ammunition, typically a stone or metal ball, but sometimes even pebbles takes on the ground were used. An ignition source such as a slow-burning match was applied to a touchhole to fire the weapon. The weapon had a very short range, as perhaps little 50 meters, and may explode due to improper charges or poorly made barrels, however, it was easily and cheap to produce, required little training to use effectively, and could pierce plate armor when the proper powder charge was used. The weapon proved effective when used in formation with pikemen and crossbowmen, proving capable of defeating cavalry charges with the combined effect of the bullets themselves and the report of the weapon, which terrorized men and spooked horses who were unfamiliar with the the weapon. The hand cannon was finally replaced in the early 1500s by the matchlock musket. It was very common for a spike to be on the bottom that functioned as a grip and allowed the hand cannon to be used as a war pick melee weapon in the heat of combat.


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