Q: Please settle an argument for me? How long ago was rifling invented? I argue that the smoothbore was superseded by the rifled bore sometime during the during the 18th century, a time when Britain was at war with France. My mate argues that Danish troops were armed with rifles early in the 17th century and by the middle of the century use of the rifle had spread widely on the Continent, especially in Germany and Scandinavia. Which one of us is right?
A: Your mate is closer than you are, but neither of you are right. Rifling or the spiral grooves cut in the bore of a firearm to impart a spin to the projectile, was invented in Germany or Austria between 1450 and 1500. Some historians claim the development for Leipzig and assign the date 1498. Others assert a priority for Vienna. At any rate the earliest known rifled firearms which may be dated with certainty bear the arms of the German Emperor Maximilian I and were in use between 1493 and 1508. By reason of the difficulty of muzzle loading a ball of the same calibre as the barrel, it was many years before the rifle achieved widespread use as a military weapon.