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Assume I have someone who doesn't age, and has a lot of time to learn any skill or experiment with things, but who was born and raised (prior to becoming ageless) in a medieval farming village. He is of above average intelligence, and, because of his ageless nature, money is hardly an issue (he has mastered enough skills to be able to sell high quality work in a number of fields for significant prices).

How would he go about developing firearms from medieval technology (say around 1000-1200 CE)? How advanced could he get with them without basically starting the Industrial Revolution (basically what could he do on his own)?

I am particularly inspired by the 1632 series and the French creating rifles using a different chemical compound for percussion caps, but I don't understand most of the chemistry involved.

EDIT: In response to comments, let's assume we are looking at a timeframe of between 400-600 years of him being around. What could be accomplish in that time, starting from the tech level of 1000 CE.

As for what I mean by advanced, how effective of a weapon could he make? Would he be able to create something like a Sharps rifle? A Springfield? A Gatling Gun? A Repeating Rifle?

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    $\begingroup$ What do "advanced" and "ageless" mean? An immortal, dilligent and intelligent person who starts studying chemistry in the time of Aristotle (4th century) and continues for 1600 years could very likely develop primers and smokeless powder, not to mention some handy explosives such as dynamite. If they also had an interest in the mechanical arts, they could develop lathes, and boring and rifling machines. An interest in metallurgy will lead them to the develop of controlled steelmaking in a bloomery. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 31 '18 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ If he's in Europe in 1200 and hasn't traveled to China not very far, gunpowder was unknown in Europe at that time. It was only formulated in the 9-11th centuries in China and spread to Europe due to the Mongol conquests in the mid to late 1200s. You might want to push back the dates a few centuries. $\endgroup$ – Josh King Jan 31 '18 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ There's a big difference between early gunpowder (black powder) and modern day gunpowder (earliest being Poudre_B en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poudre_B which came about in the late 1800's). Blackpowder made smoke and left 'gunk' which limited it's effectiveness (rapid fire /gatling gun is basically impossible with blackpowder as the weapon would clog and jam after a few shots). Unless your immortal can invent a smokeless powder, he will be limited to 'one shot and reload' weapons. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Jan 31 '18 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ How would your character even get a basic idea of what to create? Simply by wanting to be able to kill more people more efficiently on a battlefield? By seeing some very early firearms and wanting to improve on them? What does "on his own" mean in the context of 600 years, starting at the year 1000? By 1600 people would've developed at least muskets even without him - would he be the leading firearm expert? Would he use ideas and technologies developed by others through the years? Would he be working completely alone and isolated for all those years? $\endgroup$ – Headcrab Feb 1 '18 at 6:43
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    $\begingroup$ For him to even start working on this he needs to have the concept that it is possible. Most inventions are an improvement on an existing idea, rather than something completely new. There are lots of things that could have been invented a lot earlier, but weren't simply because nobody thought of them. Your character may have many advantages, but without that spark of inspiration, he won't just invent firearms on his own. Send him to travel to China an see early gunpowder in use; that might give him the inspiration, but without that, he'll spend his time trying to improve the crossbow instead $\endgroup$ – Simba Feb 1 '18 at 9:30
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Simple firearms were made by pretty ordinary people starting in the late 1200's. A manuscript from the Mamelukes describe both the formulation of gunpowder and the description of firearms, and given the details it seems clear this is based on already extant knowledge. Other early manuscripts in Europe in the early 1300's refer to firearms, so the knowledge was spreading rapidly at that time:

https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2017/06/08/explosive-gunpowder-and-the-first-cannon/

A certain al-Hassan al-Rammah describes and illustrates the Midfa in a work of c. 1280-1290. It was clearly an early firearm, made of wood with a barrel only as deep as its muzzle width, used to fire Bunduks (?bullets) or feathered bolts. The charge filled a third of the barrel and consisted of a mixture of 10 parts saltpetre (Barud), 2 parts charcoal, and 1½ parts sulphur.

enter image description here

Modern interpretation of a "Midfa"

enter image description here

Early cannon, possibly cast in one piece like a bronze bell

The actual issue is the creation of gunpowder. This has been attributed to the Chinese as far back as the 900's:

The Chinese had first appreciated the explosive effects of the 'fire drug' (huo yao) – a mixture of sulphur, saltpetre and other ingredients – as far back as the ninth century. At first, they used the gunpowder mixture in the construction of their own version of 'fire arrows,' simple rockets, and in what would be called today 'shock grenades', to stun and confuse an enemy. In between its Chinese inventors and European developers were the Arab traders who brought the gunpowder mixture to the West. It is not certain who first thought of enclosing the explosive to drive a projectile, but the Arab accounts refer to a weapon called a midfa – a section of reinforced bamboo (and later iron pipe) driving an arrow with a gunpowder charge.

This is perhaps the most important part, since the mixture of gunpowder isn't "intuitive", and cultures and civilizations have been literally sitting on top of these ingredients since antiquity. Why didn't the Greeks or Romans invent gunpowder, for example? A more recent example is the conquest of the Aztecs by Hernán Cortés. When Cortés was forced to retreat from the Aztec capital, he used the knowledge of European warfare to gather the materials for gunpowder from the local environment and restock his cannons, as well as create other European siegecraft weapons like flat bottomed barges for carrying large numbers of troops and support weapons.

Then Aztecs were unable to respond to this second attack because they were unfamiliar with gunpowder and had only recently been introduced to the effects of cannons and firearms by the Spanish invaders. This seems incredible since they were sitting on the sulphur (from nearby volcanoes that Cortés had his troops mine), and charcoal and Saltpetre are easily made or gathered. The Aztecs had been there for hundreds of years, and previous civilizations and cultures and been there for thousands of years, yet no one had ever put all the pieces together.

So for your story to work, somewhere in the hundreds or thousands of years of this guy's life, he will have to stumble upon the properties of the various ingredients of gunpowder, think to combine them and then ensure he does not blow himself up (or burn down his lab) while coming up with the proper combination or formulation of gunpowder.

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    $\begingroup$ if he was a chemist and alchemist, it is possible by random chance he did come across it by accident, then recreated the accident, $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jan 31 '18 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ @MarshallTigerus that's more or less what the Chinese did. Wikipedia says Chinese alchemists were trying to create an elixir of life (evidenced by the Chinese word for gunpowder, which translates as "fire medicine"), although I don't know if that's apocryphal. $\endgroup$ – Chris M. Jan 31 '18 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MarshallTigerus It's not enough to put the ingredients together. The ingredients need to be very fine pulverized. If not, the result is more like a "quick burning fire with much smoke". $\endgroup$ – Volker Siegel Feb 1 '18 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ This seems to describe early Chinese gunpowder, it was essentially a rapidly combustable material, not an explosive mixture. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Feb 1 '18 at 18:21
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As the saying goes, the gun consists of lock, stock, and barrel.

The lock will quickly run into problems of materials science.

  • Cannonlocks. Yes.
  • Matchlocks. Also yes.
  • Wheellock or Flintlock. Maybe. They require not just the idea but also reasonably reliable metal springs. Making those springs might be beyond the individual savant in a Middle Ages setting.
  • Caplocks. Probably not. The chemistry involved in mercury fulminate or the like requires decent reagents beyond the reach of an individual (al)chemist. Even if they get it right once, will the next batch work just as well?

The barrel is a question of casting and boring. With some experimentation it should be possible to come up with something, but it will be more likely to burst than modern barrels.

A reasonably ergonomic stock should be possible for a gunsmith/hunter/fighter with lots of time for successive generations.

This answer mentions Minie balls. I'm not so sure that rifling would be effective with the materials science of the era.

A modern bayonet is relatively easy:

The corning of powder could be discovered by accident, even if he does not understand why it works, and the pre-measuring of powder is an inspiration that looks easy in hindsight.

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  • $\begingroup$ what about a percussion cap based on something other than mercury fulminate? I'm not sure how complicated it would be to produce potassium chlorate, but the 1632 series has the French making percussion caps from it in the 1600s with a little inspiration from time travel. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jan 31 '18 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ Muzzle loading rifles were used definitely mid-1700s - pre-Industrial revolution technology. The limiting factor was the slow loading (the Minie ball allowed rifles to be quickly loaded) $\endgroup$ – Censored to protect the guilty Jan 31 '18 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Censoredtoprotecttheguilty, there was progress between the end f the middle ages (call it 1492?) and the mid 18th century. Better barrels to take the rifling, better drills to cut the barrel to start with. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Also note that these were not the work of single tinkerers. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Feb 1 '18 at 6:05
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There is no way to know if your Immortal is smart enough to come up with innovations on his own, or have the vision to guide the development of a technology that never existed before (he's not a time traveller, right?), so there's no point in speculating what one person might have invented if he lived long enough. My answer is about WHEN his knowledge would have the biggest impact.

If he was Chinese, and your story is set a few centuries earlier (say from 850 to around 1300) he could have gone far, even leading an army of Mongols to conquor all of Asia and half of Eastern Europe. That sounds pretty awesome, actually.

Earliest recorded use of a gun-like weapon is the fire lance in the Siege of De'an in 1132, but it's reasonable to assume gun powder projectile weapons were around much earlier in some form. Siege of De'an is the earliest recorded battle where they were used (by the defenders, and history is written by the winners so they were probably advertising it).

Here is an illustration of a fire lance drawn a couple of centuries later (image from the wikipedia article):

enter image description here

Here is an actual Chinese hand cannon from 1288, and this is considered an actual "gun".

enter image description here

While the origins are obscure, by the mid-1200s Europe and the Middle East were calling these weapons "Chinese such-and-such" so there is no question who already had it, and who desperately wanted it. After a short period of resistance where the foreign weapons were denigraded, the Occidentals all changed their minds and started backdating their own history to claim they'd known about gunpowder much earlier. The reality is the Mongols introduced these weapons while invading Europe and the Middle East, but the Mongols didn't write our history so this fact is not featured in our textbooks (we're generally told the Mongols were inferior barbarians, hmmm.)

After gunpowder officially hit Europe and the Middle East an arms race was on, and a great many minds were working on perfecting the formula and entire governments were financing the mechanics. At this point your Immortal does not have any advantage by being long-lived. Gunpowder was not an obscure technology that was lost or slow to develop. By the late 1200s, the exact chemical formulas were perfected and documented (in surviving Arabic texts), so a single individual with esoteric knowledge is no longer important.

In fact that would be a great place to end his story: after developing a fantastic technology that allowed him to conquer most of the known world, your Immortal sees his technology stolen and perfected by his enemies at a rate he can't compete against.

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  • $\begingroup$ smokeless powder seems to be a big hurdle for more modern weaponry (or just better weaponry that doesn't become damaged by the residue fired from it). What would be needed to make smokeless powder in this setting? $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jan 31 '18 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MarshallTigerus, respectfully, I think you are crossing too many centuries. There were hundreds of recipes for various uses of gunpowder by 1280, but metallurgy and machine accuracy for the barrel and making perfectly uniform bullets, and studying aerodynamics came over 600yrs later…. It is not simply a chemistry problem of finding the right formula. Centuries of other technologies also had to develop before something like a rapid-fire gun be possible. Up until then, guns misfired, they jammed, they exploded in your hand…. That is not gunpowder formula, it is the industrial revolution. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Jan 31 '18 at 20:06
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It's all about Creativity and Materials.

Since the question is specifically about firearms we are going to have to assume something to get him started. Lets maybe put him in a position to be exposed to gunpowder very early on. Once he knows what can be done, and he is creative enough, the rest becomes a process of iteration over time. We are also going to say that He is the keeper of all knowledge about firearms. That keeps it fairly simple.

The next assumption we have to make is that our immortal is very creative. Like Leonardo DaVinci creative. He needs an understanding of mechanisms that is far beyond common. DaVinci came up with tons of very creative ideas in one short lifetime and he was interested in everything. Granted, some of the ideas were not, strictly speaking, possible. But almost all of them had some seed of something that could work eventually. I always wonder what could have happenend if DaVinci had an unlimited budget.

Starting from those two assumptions we can proceed. First, Mr. Immortal learns about gunpowder and the advantages of chemical propellant. At this point he'll only have basic black powder to work with. Charcoal, Saltpetre, and Sulphur. All of these are going to vary in quality depending on tons of factors. Where was the Sulphur mined? Did he derive the saltpetre from Guano or by collecting the crystalized remans of evaporated urine? What wood was used to make the Charcoal? These factors influence the quality of the black powder. Our guy is going to have to spend a lot of time tinkering with the formula to get something consistently of high quality. Guano from a specific cave, Sulphur from Pompeii, and willow trees burned just right for the charcoal. Those are the kinds of things he'll have to figure out. It will take quite a while to come up with a specific formula.

Once he has a consistently performing black powder, then he can start looking at mechanisms and metallurgy for the weapons themselves. How fast will he figure out that Stone balls or Cast Iron are going to be very detrimental to the weapons themselves, leading to them failing quickly. He may well land on softer metals like lead to create cheap and consistent projectiles. He'l also likely come to the conclusion that Steel is the best thing for firearm barrels. Just like with the Gunpowder, he is going to have to tinker with composition until he finds the balance between weight, strength, and durability.

These two steps can overlap somewhat, but at a rough guess based on the breeze between my ears, will take about 100 years each. That puts him in a position of making very good, consistently firing cannons that won't fail randomly killing the gunners and that have controllable ranges.

His next round of development is going to be on 3 things: Rate Of Fire, Accuracy, and Portability. For rate of fire, he is going to try a number of things. Standardization of loads is one of the most obvious. A pre-measured packet of powder, standard wadding, standard ball will help. The real advancement will happen when he figures out Breech Loading. This gives him the concept of pre-loading something small and self contained, shoving it into the gun and firing from the pre-loaded thing. This concept pretty much applies to almost all modern firearms. You load one shell, fire it, eject the spent one, lock in the next, and fire. This is going to dramatically increase rate of fire.

He'll probably also work on Portability at about the same time. If I can have a big cannon, why not a small one a foot soldier can use? He has already got the basics of the metallurgy down. Muzzleloaders are easy and mechanically similar to cannon.

At the 3 hundred year mark, our man has Cannon, Field Artillery, and Musketeers.

Back to rate of fire. His next development is going to be around ways to make Open flame or fuses unnecessary. Precussion Caps and other primer based firing mechanisms that can fire even in bad weather. Mr. Immortal long ago learned the magic of standardization, so I don't thing it's too much of a stretch that he'll get to cartridge based weaponry in another 100 years.

The last part of this is going to be around accuracy. Rifling is one of those things that once you know about it you say "How easy is that?" Once you know that an arrow is more stable in flight if it spins, you are going to start wondering if that applies to high speed balls of lead. I imagine Rifling happens first in the big guns. Maybe shortly after (25 years or so) breech loading.

All put together, I'm guessing that Mr. Immortal gets to things like accurate Artillery, and hand carried rifles in 400 years. He might even get to Revolvers and Lever Action rifles in that time if He is dedicated in his pursuits and he gets to good cartridge based systems. To get much better arms like auto loaders is going to require him to push for much better machining, better propellant, and much better metallurgy. Unless he gets a lot of help, those probably won't happen in your timeframe.

EDIT: A Comment on a different answer reminded me of something. To go along with standardization, you need precision. For Cartridge fire weapons to be really reliable, you need to reproduce the parts exactly. He needs to work on that after he gets into breech loading. It's a really important step.

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    $\begingroup$ My thoughts on this were that so many innovations by humans are the result of accidents....and someone with an infinite lifespan will have a lot of accidental things happen to him. Rifling, for example, is thought to be the result of people trying to groove their guns to collect black powder refuse to make it easier to fire more often between cleanings. Or accidental grooves left from boring the barrels. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jan 31 '18 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ Leonardo was in a frustrating positon. Many modern reproductions of his inventions "work", but are limited by lack of modern materials or power plants (the "tank" does move across flat ground, but would easily be bogged down and the crew exhausted after a short move). So if his patrons had provided the monies they would have had very expensive and marginally useful prototypes, which would work just well enough to show at was possible, but could never be developed to full usefulness. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Feb 1 '18 at 4:06
  • $\begingroup$ Rifled muskets existed centuries before Minié and before breech-loaders, but they were a nightmare to reload and were also pretty unreliable. As in, could explode in your face. $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 1 '18 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz True, which is why I qualified that this guy is the keeper of all firearm knowledge and put rifling later in the process. Keep in mind that things in the real world developed in different places and different times from different people. I tried to structure a logical, linear development process governed by one man $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Feb 1 '18 at 18:26
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he has mastered enough skills to be able to sell high quality work in a number of fields for significant prices

This is the most important part both for the ability to learn and a foundation of knowledge. @John comment about a single person not being able to progress much by himself.

He is going to need a team, and one he can trust. He will have to develop the scientific method of testing. If they can document precisely the effects of every possible combination of elements they will eventually discover gunpowder.

Documentation is going to be critical, and the ability to graph the results. Then use math to estimate the correct amounts of each component for the best effect. You will have to teach your work force to precisely measure things with scales and so forth. I hope all of these things already exist or he will have to invent them first.

In order to have a core work force who will care, and be able to supervise/manage the other workers I suggest a large family. Have as many kids as possible with each wife. Also your children should have many children. For everyone involved this will be their jobs and life's work.

I also suggest having 2 labs or sections. One section will focus entirely on experimental work, and the other will focus on making better technology and selling for profit to keep the money flowing. Using the knowledge produced from the first laboratory.

Using an IT security term, he will be brute force advancing science.

The key to any brute force attack is the number of tests you can do per day. I don't know how many elements were(or would have been if it existed) on the periodic table back then, but you combine every element with every other element and record what happens. Then heat,water,burn,electricity, and whatever else they had the resulting compound and record the result.

Pretend we have 80 elements to work with 80^2 =6400 and if we can do a 100 a day that only 2 months of work. Unfortunately, 80^3 =512k or 5120 days, but he's immortal so who cares. So increase production, 100 people doing 1 test every 5 minutes for 8 -10 hours. That is 100 * 96 tests per person per day. This is 9600 test per day. Now you can crack 512,000 in only 54 days.

Stop and ponder this a moment, 1 millions tests every 4 months.

After completing 512,000 tests you should know a lot more than you did before. The first several rounds were pure guesses and/or process of elimination. 80^4 could take 12 years in the same lab, but again immortality and dozen of children(and there children) to help.

Eventually they should be able to predict the results, and accelerate the testing procedures. Now they will be using educated guesses. Each generation will advance the science. They will now be able to direct the course of their science to specific desired results.

Then basic training, and you can throw more and more people at it each doing 96 tests/day.

Eventually, you will produce a variety of metals. Then another team of people will have to become blacksmiths, and they will have to perform similar testing procedures. Again a brute force attack, on what work vs what doesn't work.

Imagine 100 people testing variety of carbon and iron mixtures and you will have a form of steel. Eventually, it will be perfected and probably sooner than later.

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  • $\begingroup$ the software engineer in me loves this idea $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Feb 1 '18 at 14:26
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Basically nothing by himself, a single person is not very good at advancing technology. But there is a way for him to advance it a little.

A single person is not going to advance technology all that far. He will advance technology slower than that the hundreds of thousands of other people working on similar problems, so really he will not be able to push it further than the existing technology.

However if he pulls and Edison and uses his wealth to creates a think tank to research technology he see potential in, then he has a much better chance of actually advancing technology, costs will be horrendous however, but we are handwaving that (and of course eventually it may start making money. But firearms are tricky once matchlocks are introduced people realized the potential power pretty quickly so a lot of effort is put into researching them so at best you are only getting maybe 100 years of a jump start, assuming you started early (1000AD) if you start in the 13th century you probably are not getting ahead by more than a few years. 600 years would put him in the 17th century (flintlocks) add 100 years and you to the 18th century so maybe percussion caps, of course chances are everyone else would have them as well, so your dude is not ahead of the game he just got it jump started sooner. Also any further require industrialization, hand making cased rounds just is not practical, so he can't go any further without jumpstarting the industrial revolution.

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The good part:

There have been repeating firearms in a time when almost everyone else used burning peaces of rope to fire what was essentially a rough miniature cannon. Centuries before repeating firearms became commonplace. It would not be too much stretch to imagine that some tinkerers made similar designs a little earlier, or made them a little bit more effective, and they (and information about them) just didn't survive to modern times.

The bad part:

Why didn't they replace all other firearms, why did it take at least two more centuries until repeaters became commonplace?

Lack of accurate and reliable mass production.

Without machining you cannot make identical parts with sufficient tolerances. And to have machining, you need a large supply and demand chain, a huge infrastructure and huge market. Imagine how much a smartphone would cost if there was no infrastructure and no market for it, and they only wanted to build one (or 100) of them? When building the machines which build the machines which build the machines to be used to build the phones cost billions upon billions.

If you wanted to have any chance of producing repeaters of any reliability and in enough quantities, you would need the industry to support it. Also, better and more consistent material quality, which in itself also requires its supply chain and enough market to pay for it. So the question would not be how you can build advanced firearms before the industrial revolution, but how to have the industrial revolution earlier. Which would defeat your scope, as it seems you want to keep the rest of the world medieval.

And, why do you need machining and mass production? Master jewelers and clockmakers could produce amazing things even in the middle ages, and they could surely produce a nice gun for you, but:

  • it would take a lot of time, and it would be very complex.
  • as they could not mass produce anything to sufficient tolerances, every single bullet would have to be hand-crafted very carefully.
  • every single gun would have to be hand-crafted individually, and parts would not be interchangeable.

As a soldier, would you want a gun which, if it jams, you have to take it to the single most experienced master craftsman in the country to repair it at great expense and lot of time investment, or one which you could service yourself in the field and could replace any part of it from any other similar gun you salvaged?

As a commander, would you hire one guy with a musket which can shoot 7 times without reloading, if for the same price you could hire 1000 mercenaries equipped with single-shot muskets?

Conclusion:

Repeating firearms in the real world appeared centuries before they became practical and commonplace, so if you want a special adventurer to have a unique one, you could give him something like a Kalthoff-style wheellock repeater with questionable reliability soon after gunpowder is invented in your setting.

Its usefulness would be very limited, as you could not have them in sufficient numbers to affect battles (otherwise you would already have been through an industrial revolution), and alone in an ambush a number of double barreled pistols would be much more useful.

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First, for completeness, let me echo Thucydides' excellent answer. The first step is gunpowder. That discovery was far less likely than it looks from the modern perspective. So far as is recorded, it has been discovered only once (as compared to many other discoveries in the ancient and medieval world that were re-discovered independently by many cultures) and that seems to have been by accident.

But your final question seems to have been how advanced could he make his weapons without starting the industrial revolution. The answer to that is likely to be revolvers of the type made famous in westerns or some of the simpler long-arm weapons based on the same technology. In real history, the industrial revolution arguably started in the 1780's and was truly underway by the 1840s. The first heavily used revolvers were created in the 1830s. While that is after the industrial revolution started they were not truly dependent on it (though they did benefit from it's concepts, especially in terms of their manufacture in large quantity).

Truly semi-automatic much less automatic weapons require not just precision manufacturing but repeatable, interchangeable precision manufacturing. Once you have that, you have the basis for the industrial revolution if you have not undergone it already. Also, modern rifles take advantage of rifling, essentially precision grooves cut into the bore walls. While this could in principle have been done before the industrial revolution, the technology from the industrial revolution made it much more practical. Without the industrial revolution it is unlikely that rifling would have been discovered, much less put into practice.

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  • $\begingroup$ Rifling is not something which only "could in principle have been done", but it actually was done, already in the earliest days of firearms. However, it was nigh impossible to reload under battlefield conditions, so it remained mostly a curiosity, or at most a hunter's gun. $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 15 '18 at 21:03
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I suspect you could go to about American Civil War level. Muskets were basically medieval technology, and rifled muskets with Minie balls don't seem to require any extra technology, other than the critical idea of the expand-in-the-rifle bullet

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  • $\begingroup$ The refinements between medieval and civil war musketry were in the precision of manufacture. The rifling of the barrel was only possible because the precision in manufacturing had advanced to the point that ammunition was within a few 1/1000 inch tolerance, the rifling could be engraved within a few 1/1000 inch tolerance inside a long tube (a touchy enough process that even today few people rifle their own barrels, including my own father), and the materials were of a consistently high quality to handle the higher pressure afforded by the tighter tolerances. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Feb 1 '18 at 4:05

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