Gunpowder was invented in China around the 10th century and was quickly weaponised to make bombs, mines and rockets. the first primitive firearm was a spear tied with a bamboo tube that could shoot arrows. it was known as the huǒ qiāng (‘fire lance’) because the projectiles would be followed by a gout of flame. it only had a range of three metres, so it’s thought soldiers mostly fought hand-to-hand with spears while the gunpowder shot gave them an edge in close-quarter combat. Fire lances were carried by both regular troops and the cavalry at the siege of Yangzhou in 1276.
The fire lance was pioneering but was soon superseded