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Stabbing, cutting and firearms
The Zwille was conceived as a play device and later used as a weapon; in the 1970s it was classified as such in Germany.

As a rule, objects are referred to as weapons which are intended and suitable for physically impairing living beings (mostly through mechanical action) as a result of injury or death or psychologically impairing their ability to act or making them incapable of acting. This also includes means that damage, destroy or render unusable objects or immaterial goods .

The possession and use of weapons as well as the arms industry ( arms manufacture and trade ) are regulated , among other things, by the arms law. Sporting weapons are also affected because of their hazard potential.


general definition

The definition of the term weapon depends on cultural and technical views and is therefore different in different eras and countries.

In general, weapons are means that can deprive a living being of its ability to act and its integrity both mentally and physically in a conflict situation and whose use, in extreme cases, leads to the death of the living being. The means used as weapons can also damage or destroy goods or limit their usability. Weapons can also be a means of depriving a person of their freedom of choice and action through coercion (e.g. threat of a weapon) .

From a sociological point of view, weapons are objects of material culture that convert and / or increase or replace physical strength in the event of violence and thus lead to an advantage in certain forms of confrontation with game or opponents of one's own species. This definition largely corresponds to general usage.

In a broader sense, objects that serve to protect are also referred to as weapons. One then speaks of passive or protective weapons .

The term “weapon” must also be defined in a non-material sense. In psychological warfare , for example, all means that serve to damage the morale of the enemy soldiers, but also the civilian population of the enemy, can be called a weapon. Furthermore, all means of information , disinformation , infiltration, sabotage and the exertion of psychological pressure on combatants that support war and combat operations can be regarded as the use of weapons.

Computer programs can also serve as weapons. The use of malware ( viruses , worms , Trojans and so on) as an electronic attack on data processing systems serves to destroy data. The direct effect only affects intangible goods, but the effects can be immense, depending on the target (e.g. power plant control, large warehouse, production control of a company). The Stuxnet computer worm used against the Iranian nuclear program in 2010 is considered the first cyber weapon.

The hunter called the tusks of a wild boar to as "weapons" or tusks , the teeth in the lower jaw called "guns"; the antlers and horns of an animal can also be called a “weapon” or a “spear”.


Potentially dangerous items

When defining a weapon, it is an important criterion that the original purpose of a weapon is to injure / kill living beings or damage / destroy goods. Many items can be used as a weapon but were made for a different purpose. For example, a scalpel is usually designed for medical use, a vehicle primarily for transportation and locomotion, and a baseball bat as a gaming device. However, these funds can be used for purposes other than intended to harm living beings or damage goods. What a weapon is therefore also depends on the type of use or the obviously immediately intended effect through the use of an object.

The cultural background in the definition becomes evident in the area of knives . In most cultures, the knife (e.g. kitchen knife) is not viewed as a weapon, but as a tool (here: kitchen utensil). A carving knife is primarily seen as a tool that is used for woodworking. In some agricultural regions it is common to carry a machete , in other regions the same behavior is seen as a threat. The utility knives are opposed to knives with a weapon character, although a technical delimitation is not possible in most cases. Many states regulate the possession of these knives, with the prohibitions being based on the types of knives that have been used in criminal acts.

Flails, pitchforks and scythe are also certainly to be seen as tools of agriculture, but were also misused as weapons in corresponding conflict situations (e.g. German Peasants' War ).

The legal term for objects misused in specific situations is " dangerous tool ".

Torture and execution instrument

Weapons are understood as a means of combat. Means that are solely intended to bring about pain or the death of a defenseless victim are understood as an instrument of torture or execution . Analogous to this are slaughtering instruments, e.g. B. battle guns, to see a hunting rifle.


Ammunition is often defined as the actual functional unit in connection with a long-range weapon. This definition is clear for simple weapons or projectiles: z. B. bow / arrow or firearm / cartridge . With an increasing ratio of mechanization between the projectile and the starting device, the functional unit is referred to as a weapon, e.g. B. in a guided missile or a nuclear weapon .

Weapon system

Large military equipment, especially armed vehicles and aircraft, is known as a weapon system. At least part of the weapon system is the actual weapon, e.g. B. Cannon of a main battle tank .

Figurative meaning

In the military field, various units are also referred to as weapons. This is how the infantry is called the main weapon in ground combat. In Germany, the air force is called the Luftwaffe .

In a figurative sense, ideas and other non-material goods (information) are also regarded as weapons. With rhetorical strategies z. B. Politicians to let their political opponents stand there in a bad light, the talk quickly comes of “verbal attacks” and “word battles” in which the spoken word serves as verbal aggression. The term "aggression" assumes a social interaction that knows an attacker and a victim. The attacker is assumed to be acting with hostile intent, performing a negatively intended action. While the victim is usually spared when swearing, the threat is a preliminary stage of the physical conflict. At the same time, words can also be hurtful. They affect the victim's psychological condition, e.g. B. on self-esteem, anxiety and so on.

The art is also referred to and used as a weapon. Whether in literature or pictures, as commissioned work for propaganda purposes or as free art. The statement by Friedrich Wolf “Art is weapon” is well known.

“No, painting is not there to decorate apartments. It is a weapon for attack and defense against the enemy. "

Legal definition in Germany

The Weapons Act (WaffG) of the Federal Republic of Germany defines the legal concept of weapons and regulates the use of weapons. In addition, there is the Explosives Act (SprengG), which includes explosive substances. Weapons constructed for military purposes are regulated by the War Weapons Control Act (KrWaffKontrG).

Other substances falling under the general definition of a weapon (e.g. poison) have their own generic terms and definitions. B. Mentioned in the Criminal Code (StGB).

"Weapons are
1. Firearms or objects equivalent to them and
2. portable objects,

a) which by their very nature are intended to eliminate or reduce the ability of people to attack or defend themselves, in particular cutting and thrusting weapons;
b) which, without being intended, in particular because of their nature, handling or mode of action, are suitable for eliminating or reducing the ability of people to attack or defend themselves, and which are named in this Act. "
- Section 1 (2) of the Weapons Act

"The terms of weapons and ammunition as well as the classification of objects according to Paragraph 2 No. 2 Letter b as weapons, the terms of the types of handling and other terms under the law on weapons are regulated in more detail in Appendix 1 (Definitions) to this Act."

- Section 1 (4) of the Weapons Act

"Substances harmful to health", "poison" and "dangerous tools" are not defined in more detail in Sections 224, 314, 330a and 177 StGB.

In other European countries ( Austria , Switzerland ) the legal definition of weapons is similar.

Weapon effect

The physical effect of weapons or their ammunition is based on various physical, biological and chemical modes of action.

Physical effect

For by kinetic energy acting weapons, there are two principles:

  • Transferring energy over a large area: The B. when swinging a club, absorbed kinetic energy is released over a large area in a very short time when it hits a body. The consequences are severe bruises and broken bones .
  • Concentrate energy: The point of a knife, spear or bullet concentrates the applied force on a very small area. A high pressure occurs because pressure is force per area. This allows a target to be penetrated or the depth of penetration increases (see stabbing , gunshot wounds ).

In conventional bombs and mines, an explosive is detonated. This extremely fast combustion leads to the formation of large quantities of gases, so that a detonation wave is created. This works either directly through a tear in the lungs , impact trauma , burns or indirectly through kinetic energy when components of the shell are thrown into the environment at high speed.

Fire devices of all kinds work primarily through burns or the withdrawal of oxygen , which leads to asphyxiation .

Nuclear or nuclear weapons work in different ways at the same time. In the event of a nuclear weapon explosion , a. Detonation wave, thermal radiation , ionizing radiation and electromagnetic pulse .

Biological weapons act on living things through pathogens and natural toxins, causing epidemics and poisoning .

Chemical weapons usually act as poisons against the airways, blood, skin or on the nerves ( nerve poison ). Some remedies are also used as what is known as tear gas . Herbicides act as chemical weapons against plants (e.g. Agent Orange ).

Electro pulse weapons work on the principle of a controlled electric shock .

Energy weapons use the entire electromagnetic spectrum in order to generate high temperatures, bright light or high volumes in a concentrated manner.

Psychological effect

Weapons can have a threatening effect even without actually being used.

Replicas of weapons, especially in their original size, can also cause fears in other people or even lead to police operations in which the police must expect to be confronted with real weapons. Under certain circumstances, an outstretched finger in the pocket of an item of clothing is enough to initiate countermeasures as part of the putative defense in a sensitive environment .

Signs of power and wealth

Charlemagne, painted by
Albrecht Dürer in 1513

In different cultures, the carrying of weapons was and is an expression of the social, economic or political position of the bearer. In the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, weapons made from these materials were still very expensive and the weapons were decorated accordingly on the edge and handle. Elaborate engravings, gemstone jewelry, silver and gold or ivory were added later.

In Yemen , wearing the richly decorated curved dagger Jambia is a symbol of masculinity. Boys get these weapons as a visible sign of the end of childhood.

The Pope presented the Imperial Sword of the Holy Roman Empire to the Roman-German Emperor at his coronation as a symbol of the worldly power that he received from the hand of God. When the new emperor moved out of the church, the swordsman carried it with the point upwards as a symbol of worldly power and violence.

The scepter, which is also one of the symbols of rulership, is a modification of the mace made from precious metals and stones .

To this day ornate weapons, e.g. B. on state visits, presented as a gift. Many hunters also often afford hunting weapons made of noble materials (root wood), richly decorated with engravings, which can cost tens of thousands of euros even in large-scale production. For special anniversaries, weapon manufacturers often supply special versions or specially decorated weapons, which are mainly intended to meet aesthetic requirements and are not necessarily intended for use.


The history of weapons is as old as humanity itself. As with all other living beings, human beings also needed to secure their own existence. This includes the supply of food and the protection of the species. As omnivores ( omnivores ) people use tools for hunting as well as for preparing plant and animal foods.

New processing options, materials and inventions have led to a constant further development of weapon technology over the past 2.5 million years. This development was influenced not only by technical changes, but also on a cultural level. Hunting methods and weapons changed e.g. B. by the fact that first in groups, later also alone and since the formation of states then in Europe only by privileged people.

Hardly any industry has produced more innovations in the course of history than the armaments industry , which carried out intensive research in the fields of chemistry, physics, metallurgy, materials science, processing techniques, internal and external ballistics, etc. very early on . Since the beginning of industrial weapons development, there has been an interaction between military requirements for weapons technology and the related requirements for the armaments industry and its developments, which should be tested and applied "in the field ".

Modern weapons include semi-automatic and automatic weapons, large weapons equipment and weapon systems as well as all forms of warfare agents and nuclear weapons, as well as radio and laser-controlled weapons.

The human use of weapons is of particular importance in the cultural evolution : the historical spiral of armament pushes collectives to ever higher technical and cognitive performance , since weapon technology exerts selective pressure on entire cultures in conflict situations .


Flint dagger

Even in prehistory , the weapon was used by individuals who were physically or numerically inferior in obtaining food (hunting game). But it also served in attack and defense as a compensation for physical inferiority and thus to secure individual existence.

In the Paleolithic Age (Old Palaeolithic), rubble was first used around 2.5 million years ago, and was given a cutting edge by hitting it ( Oldowan ). 1.5 million years ago, in the Acheuléen , finely worked hand axes were used. 400,000 years ago there was already a large-scale production of weapons made of flint on both sides of the English Channel called Clactonia . There were also bows and arrows as early as the Paleolithic, albeit in a slightly different form than today.

The younger Paleolithic Age (Upper Palaeolithic) began in Europe with the Aurignacia around 35,000 years ago. Typical weapons of this time are long, narrow blades (up to approx. 26 cm) that are made using the chisel-hammer technique. When they have a blunt back, they are called knives. In this period of human history, devices made of bone, horny substance (antler tips) and ivory can already be found.


Bronze Age weapons

The first metals were used in the Bronze Age . During this time the sword was developed, which is the first weapon for armed conflicts, i.e. not for hunting.

In ancient times , great importance was attached to the development of weapons technology. The Roman short sword Gladius , stylistically adopted by the Celts, was, for example, a progressive development in weapons technology, well balanced, with grip protection and a wooden, leather-covered scabbard , and as a mass product in the 1st century.

All civilized peoples of this time already had protective weapons in the form of shields , helmets and body armor made of wood, metal and leather as well as all combinations of these materials. In ancient times, the first heavy military equipment in the form of scaling ladders and siege towers, which were used to attack fortifications, as well as throwing machines and field guns that were able to shoot stones, burning straw bales and heavy arrows.

Weapons at the end of late antiquity: two spathae, sax and spearhead (from left to right)

At the beginning of the Roman Empire , the Germanic peoples were lightly armed in contrast to the Roman military and hardly included armor or helmets. The most important weapons were spear or lance and shield. Roman legionaries were typically uniformly armored foot soldiers, supported by partially mounted auxiliary troops. The equipment of the Roman army changed at the end of the imperial era. The Roman articulated armor had been completely replaced by chain mail or scale armor in late antiquity . In the 3rd and 4th centuries Germanic tribes increasingly took over typical Roman equipment. In addition, the Roman army experienced a strong Germanization through the admission of numerous Germanic warriors, which ultimately led to the fact that in late antiquity the weapons of high-ranking Teutonic warriors could hardly be distinguished from those of Roman soldiers. Since the end of the Roman Empire , the long sword, called the spathe, was also used on a larger scale, while the gladius was increasingly displaced. The spathe was also used heavier and increasingly as a cutting weapon. Bows and arrows were also increasingly used in late antiquity. A special throwing ax, the Franziska , was mainly used by Franconian fighters in the 5th and 6th centuries, but disappeared from armament again from 600 AD. Since the late 5th century, Germanic peoples had used the spathe as a short, single-edged sword in addition to the spathe.

Typical protective weapons of late antiquity were round shields with iron bosses, chain mail and helmets. When the helmets at the beginning of the period were mainly comb helmets widespread in the Roman military, which later became increasingly Spangenhelme , tape and helmets from the 6th century through slats helmets were replaced. These helmets were increasingly used by Teutons. Armored riders such as cataphracts are typical of the era . As a typical weapon they wielded the very long Contus lance , which was wielded with both hands. But armored, mounted archers, who also had lances and swords, were used in particular in the Eastern Roman army. These units were praised by Prokop as particularly quick-witted, especially during the Gothic War .

The troop contingent of steppe peoples such as Sarmatians , Huns and Avars consisted primarily of cavalry units. Armored lancers were typical of Sarmatians, while the Hunnic warriors were usually lightly armed and wore down their opponents with volleys of arrows that they fired from their horses. In particular, the Hunnic reflex arc was considered a “miracle weapon”. Armored lancers were also used in the armies of the Sassanids and, based on Eastern models, increasingly in the Roman army. Stirrups were probably first used on a larger scale by the Avars. Even among the Germanic peoples, especially the Goths, the cavalry warriors who made a decisive contribution to the victory in the battle of Adrianople , for example , were of great importance. The Ostrogoths adopted this type of warfare from the horsemen north of the Black Sea.

Overall, the armies of the "barbarians" and the Roman armies in late antiquity were similar. The clout of the late Roman army, however, was still high.

middle Ages

In the early Middle Ages, typical forms of weapons from late antiquity were still in use, but these were transformed into high-medieval weapons. This is how the classic knight's sword developed from the Roman-Germanic spathe . At the same time, the wooden round shield with iron humps changed over oval shapes to a triangular shield made of wood or metal. In the high Middle Ages, the rider's lance was clamped under the arm and - unlike the throwing spear - no longer held in the raised hand. In the late Middle Ages, two-handed sword types emerged, e.g. B. Hand and a half swords , so-called long swords and finally two-handed swords . But also specialized polearms like the halberd became more and more popular.

Catapult (replica)

In the Middle Ages, weapons were manufactured under industrial conditions. Respected for their artistic craftsmanship, gunsmiths moved from employer to employer like land servants and sold their services. Sometimes gunsmiths carried their semi-finished products with them, which were then made into special weapons according to the requirements of their customers. In preparation for military campaigns, weapons were needed in large quantities and manufactured by armories in production chains. Smelting and ironmaking, blacksmiths and grinding shops worked hand in hand, plus wood and other materials processing trades. The development of war machines and siege devices such as catapults and slings continued until the use of gunpowder.

The development of protective weapons such as body armor was also continued to a certain degree of nonsense; there was armor that simply overwhelmed its wearer despite being in good physical shape. Given the great need for soldiers and weapons in this warlike epoch of mankind, farmers and farm workers were often used to replenish the armies and armed due to a lack of sufficient stocks of weapons - and partly because of the inability of the common people to handle these weapons the rural folk with what was available; wooden pitchforks , flails , scythes, clubs , hatchets and axes .

Another development took place mainly in bow weapons. The double and horn bows, which were still very popular in antiquity, have been replaced by well thought-out constructions with a higher spring effect and thus better energy utilization. Crossbows (the term comes from 'Arcuballista' and has nothing to do with arm or chest) of various stages of development gained a top spot in the popularity list because of their high penetration power, because they were able to penetrate body armor, but above all because the training time for a crossbowman was much shorter than that for a longbowman. The crossbows were later replaced by firearms.

The invention of black powder (beginning of the 13th century) soon found its way into weapon development. Primitive hand tubes were used quite early on . However, the new technology was still difficult to use, so that it took another century to develop efficient firearms and finally initiate the displacement of previously used weapons.

Early modern age

Cannon on mount

With the end of the Middle Ages, the type of warfare also changed due to the further development of firearms. Chivalry disappeared in favor of new military strategies based on the new weapons. Hand-to-hand combat was gradually being overtaken by the use of ranged weapons. Artillery gained importance on the open battlefield. The multitude of mobile and stationary cannons and mortars available in different calibers and for the various purposes was hardly manageable.

The arms manufacturers of this time and especially the cannon founders had to take special care in their work because of the considerable amount of energy that was already available. It was customary for cannon founders to stand next to the first shot of a cannon they made, to demonstrate their confidence in the quality of their work. This period also saw the development falls drawn barrels of firearms and the development of ignition systems for small arms from the matchlock to flintlock .

In order to replace the common spears against cavalry but also infantry in hand-to-hand combat until the increased use of firearms, the firearms were equipped with a bayonet . The infantryman was able to counter the attack of the cavalry in the square and repel it.

From the 16th to the 18th century, however, not only the use of weapons in military conflicts changed, but also in personal disputes. Noble and better-off bourgeoisie used edged weapons in disputes, whereas farmers and the rural population in disputes over objects of daily use, e.g. B. knives and hatchets. Gradually this picture changed, and firearms were increasingly used in duels and other disputes, initially among nobles and military personnel, then also in student circles.

19th century

Repeating system M96

The age of modern weapons began in the 19th century. The technical development of weapons advanced rapidly and ranged from the development of the first firearms with percussion lock to the introduction of the first breech-loading rifles , some with a magazine . The more powerful rifles changed warfare. In the German-Danish War of 1864 and the American Civil War of 1861–1865, fighting in trenches took place . The rate of fire, range and precision could be increased enormously. When breech-loading rifle loading lying was possible, which together with the new smokeless powder , the camouflage significantly improved. The introduction of the machine gun at the end of the 19th century was to change warfare even more massively.

Much has also changed in naval warfare. While sailing ships fought against each other at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, steam-powered ironclads faced each other at the Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862 . However, the cannons of these ironclad ships still came from the time of the wooden sailing ships, so that neither party could penetrate the armor. The next generation of ship guns was then developed.

The first weapons were also introduced in the air. The airship troops of the German Empire were set up as a test department as early as 1884.

20th century

The 20th century brought a big leap in the technological development of weapons , especially with the introduction of weapons of mass destruction (ABC weapons). Even if many of the foundations for conventional weapons were laid in the 19th century, other wars such as the two world wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars , the Cold War and the Second Gulf War advanced and perfected many decisive developments. The general technical development in the fields of metallurgy, material processing, electrical engineering and electronics was used for this.

The many wars of the century offered weapons developers in all industrialized countries a suitable platform to have their products tested by the military. This is the only way to understand that the technical development of weapons in this century went from the biplane to the space weapon , from the 4 kg bomb with an impact fuse to the neutron bomb and from the V2 rocket to the GPS and computer-controlled cruise missile .

21st century

MQ-9 unmanned armed drone

In the military sector, the number of “ asymmetrical wars ” is increasing and the armed forces are facing new challenges. Until the end of the 20th century , the focus was still on the " combined arms battle ", i.e. the interaction of different weapons on a battlefield, but now there are more guerrilla and civil wars as well as terrorist threats, which focus on spatially narrowly limited areas, lay house warfare and the securing of objects.

With programs such as Future Force Warrior (USA), FIST (UK), FÉLIN (FRA) or Infantryman of the Future (IdZ, Bundeswehr) one tries not only to better protect soldiers in this new environment, but also to equip them with new weapons. The focus is on combined weapons consisting of a rifle and grenade launcher as well as new, even more effective ammunition. Weapons such as blinding weapons , which are not lethal but can lead to blindness or excessive suffering, are prohibited under the Hague Land Warfare Regulations.

Precision-guided ammunition is being used more and more in the course of increasingly powerful electronics. While in the Second Gulf War (1990) less than 10 percent of aerial bombs were precision-guided, in the Iraq War (2003) it was already around 70 percent.

There is a clear desire to pull soldiers more and more out of the fighting. In addition to advancing automation, autonomous systems support this trend. More and more combat robots and drones are finding their way into the arsenals and make it possible to carry out reconnaissance or attack opposing forces from a command post without endangering the soldiers. At the same time, poorer countries are still armed with weapons from the Second World War or the immediate post-war period.

Current weapon systems are usually designed in such a way that they can fulfill various operational patterns and so one system can replace several other systems. On the one hand, this makes logistics easier, but on the other hand, it increases the complexity and thus the price of the systems. For example, the F-15 , the F-16 , the Eurofighter and the Dassault Rafale can be used as both a fighter and a fighter-bomber . Among other things, this also serves to reduce costs.

In the police and private sector, firearms can in future be equipped with electronic safeguards that only allow the legitimate user to fire a shot. Technical innovations such as electronic trigger systems are also finding their way into series production.

Weapons categorization

There is no universal and standardized categorization of weapons. Distinctions are made according to the area of ​​application, effect, use, origin, purpose and many other criteria.

A distinction is made, for example, between melee weapons and long- range weapons .

Melee weapons include

The ranged weapons are differentiated into

Projectile firing weapons are

In the military sector, a distinction is made between near and long-range weapons as necessary

  • Battlefield weapons, the effect of which is achieved in the field of vision, are classed as close-range weapons (e.g. light and medium-weight infantry weapons).
  • Weapons that achieve their effect outside of the visible range are classified as long-range weapons (e.g. artillery or missile weapons).

A distinction is also made according to the effect of the weapons, e.g. B. incendiary weapon , explosive weapon or weapon of mass destruction .

Further distinctions are made according to use, e.g. B. horsebows , sniper rifles , sport pistols , anti-aircraft missiles, etc. hit.

A categorization according to exclusively technical aspects, as it is carried out by engineers and technicians, has the advantage of the least amount of overlap within a differentiation area. The list of weapon categories on the Wikipedia weapons portal serves as an example .

Weapon areas

Guns are used in a variety of ways. The boundaries between the various arms areas are fluid and are also defined differently by national arms laws.

Utility weapons

Glock 23 self-loading pistol

Weapons of use are weapons of daily use by employees of state, semi-state and private organizations, institutions or individuals who are not subject to the purpose of warfare and therefore cannot be classified as war weapons. In the case of the utility pistols , there may well be an overlap in the assignment. Weapons of use can be, for example, handguns, non-lethal weapons, or cutting weapons . Important criteria for these weapons are safe operation and quick readiness for use, low weight and safe function even under adverse conditions (e.g. frost, mud).

Hunting weapons


Main article: Hunting weapon

As hunting weapons , all weapons will be designated specifically for the needs of hunting developed, manufactured or modified. Basically there are edged weapons and firearms . Firearms are mainly used for hunting today. Hunting weapons are primarily used to hunt wild animals from a hunter's point of view, that is, the hunted game should be hunted down quickly, gently and - for the animal - without suffering. For this reason, the use of weapons that do not meet these criteria for various reasons is banned in some countries or is sometimes classified as questionable by the hunters (e.g. bows, crossbows, boar pens, etc.). Since many hunts were and are also a social event, hunting rifles are often correspondingly elaborate constructions that show the prosperity of their owner. In many hunting rifles, fine woods (e.g. root wood) are used for the stock, metal parts are engraved with hunting motifs, which are emphasized by precious metals. The price spectrum for shotguns ranges from around 300 euros to over 30,000 euros.

Hunting weapons should u. a. enable hunting of different types of animals. Therefore, among other things, multi-barreled combined weapons are used. These are rifles of different types and calibres, which allow an appropriate caliber to be used. So z. For example, a shotgun barrel for shotgun, a rifle barrel larger caliber for large game and, where appropriate a ball race (also called insert barrel ) of smaller caliber for small predators, z. B. Marten.

Weapons of war

Leopard 2A5 tank of the Bundeswehr

By definition, weapons of war are all weapons that can be used in a war. They are intended for attack or defense.

In terms of technical means, a distinction is also made between offensive and defensive weapons. This distinction is difficult, as most weapons can be used for both attack and defense. For example, surface-to-surface missiles are typical offensive weapons because they cannot be used, or can only be used to a limited extent, for defensive battles. A surface-to-air missile , on the other hand, is the typical representative of a defensive weapon. Ultimately, the terms offensive / defensive weapon are defined by the tactics used and the location.

Only to a small extent and after all means to conserve human resources have been exhausted are military weapons used in “man against man” combat in modern wars. In general, military weapons are directed against units of different sizes of enemy soldiers, equipment and / or against the civilian population and infrastructure of the enemy and its resources. Even if a weapon is aimed at a military vehicle, its use often has fatal consequences for the crew.

Mushroom cloud over Nagasaki

A special feature in the military area is the division into tactical and strategic weapons. Tactical weapons are primarily used to gain advantages in the narrower or wider battlefield, ie when fighting military units directly or indirectly; For example, sea mines are used to obstruct passages in sea areas or to restrict them to certain controllable routes, which is intended to give the user of these weapons a tactical advantage. In some cases, tactical nuclear weapons already cross the threshold to strategic weapons. Strategic weapons are the main component of military strategies, which are broadly known to the potential opponent long before military conflicts and thus belong to the intimidation or deterrent potential. Used or not, they can be effective long before tactical weapons are used. During the Cold War that held the balance of terror , the nuclear powers from them to begin a nuclear war. To date, strategic nuclear weapons have only been used in the form of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki .

Although a nuclear Third World War has so far failed to materialize, the dispute has shifted to proxy wars and regional armed conflicts with asymmetrical warfare with millions of dead, in some cases caused by the simplest of hand weapons (axes, machetes), such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda . Since the Second World War , more people have died from apparently outdated weapons than from state-of-the-art systems. The Kalashnikov assault rifle is a contemporary weapon in large parts of the Third World, as it can be manufactured or rebuilt and repaired even under difficult conditions.

Up until about 200 years ago almost all portable weapons and also many tools, especially during uprisings, were used as weapons of war. This only changed with the widespread use of handguns. Cut and stabbing weapons lost their value more and more, and pistols and rifles, as personal equipment of soldiers ( ordinance weapons ), were specially designed for use in war. So there was B. particularly short rifles (carbines) for the cavalry.

Large equipment had been developed much earlier specifically for use as a weapon of war. Ancient catapults, spear throwers or siege towers had only one purpose, namely war. Modern artillery pieces and most medium and heavy machine guns are also part of the large equipment. The transport and operation of such weapons requires several people, which is why they are referred to as " crew-served weapons ".

With the industrial revolution, weapons also continued to change. Long-range cannons, automatic firearms, torpedoes and missiles found their way into the arsenals. In the last few decades, the industrialized nations have increasingly relied on high-tech weapon systems . Poorer countries, on the other hand, often use weapons that still correspond to the technology of the First or Second World War.

The German War Weapons Control Act essentially restricts war weapons to NBC weapons , large military equipment, fully automatic weapons and mines.

Many weapons are not aimed directly at killing an enemy. This is not only due to various international agreements, but also because injured people put a heavy strain on the enemy's logistics. In addition, z. For example, a nuclear weapon ignited at high altitude can destroy all electronic components with an electromagnetic pulse over thousands of square kilometers. Vehicles, electronically controlled weapon systems and so on become unusable.

Many states have decided in international law not to use all technically possible weapons in wars. For example, B. the Geneva Protocol chemical weapons. Other weapons that cause unnecessary suffering or act indiscriminately (no distinction between combatants and civilians) are also considered to be outlawed means of war .

Cult, ceremonial, ceremonial and status weapons

Decorative ceremonial saber for uniform

This type of weapons is distinguished by external decorative design. They are made with particular care or enlarged, they are decorated or valuable materials are used, e.g. B. Ivory is used. This can certainly limit the combat value so that use as a combat weapon is no longer sought. A status weapon should signal the social status or power of the wearer and make him recognizable in the crowd. As these weapons are often used in ceremonies or parades , a distinction between cult, ceremonial and status weapons is usually not possible. The technological progress and changes in tactics can cause once actively used Weapons get a new symbolic function as Standes- and Zeremonialwaffen. There was this change in meaning for swords or maces, but also for some firearms. Thus, the German uses Wachbataillon the Ministry of Defense the carbine 98k from the time of World War II.

Large ceremonial weapons are depicted on prehistoric rock carvings , which shows that the impressive display of weapons is a very ancient human behavior.

Non-lethal weapons

Use of pepper spray

Main article: Non-lethal weapon

Weapons for civilian self-defense, riot control and arrest aid are very often non-lethal weapons. They achieve their effect through the use of means that are perceived as very unpleasant or that extremely restrict the ability to act.

For personal use, electric pulse weapons and irritant gas spray devices (often also as irritant gas pistols) are offered here.

This area also includes, for example, water cannons, tear gas or CS grenades and nebulizers. In addition, special ammunition is sometimes used in large-caliber firearms. This should mark an opponent or knock them over.

New approaches were found in the use of expanding, sticky substances (similar to insulating foam) and particularly slippery agents (similar to washing-up liquid). But old ideas, such as throwing nets, are also coming back into use.

New developments in the electronic / acoustic area include means such as the Active Denial System or the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). For example, new non-lethal weapons use low frequency sounds, sound waves, microwaves, and so on to incapacitate attackers. Blinding weapons use light.

Even weapons classified as “non-lethal” can be lethal if used improperly (e.g. too close a distance, overdosing, etc.). Individuals with physical or health impairments are at increased risk for targeting these weapons.

Collectible weapons

Collector's weapon - Bavarian costume knife

Collector weapons are an expression of the technological and artistic creativity of the epoch in which they were manufactured.

As the first industrially manufactured tools, they often exert a fascination. Since they are subject to legal restrictions in many areas, they are also something "that not everyone has". Police and military weapons, in particular, are cultural assets with which history was immediately written, even if this must always be viewed critically from the point of view of violence.

Many weapons were and are manufactured with purely aesthetic characteristics and are primarily to be seen as an object of art.

In Germany, single-shot firearms that are not designed for metal cartridges can be freely acquired before the development year 1871, provided that the purchaser has reached the age of 18.

Weapon collections are usually classified according to geographical or historical characteristics, intended use, manufacturer or technical characteristics.

Protective weapons

Special protection vehicle of the type Mercedes-Benz W 126 after being shot at

Main article: protective weapon

Objects that are unsuitable for attack or injury, but which protect against injury, have been referred to as protective weapons or passive weapons in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1989 . This includes, for example, cut-resistant gloves and clothing, protective vests and armor .

Sporting weapons

Shoot with the sports crossbow

Main article: Target shooting

Sports weapons are mostly optimized for sporting purposes and often only limited in use for the use of force. The hunt or a fight are abstracted or simulated with these weapons. Sometimes there is no longer any connection with these historically founded areas of application and purely sporting tasks dominate the corresponding discipline.

With sporting weapons, the goal is to optimize one or more of the following points in sporting competition:

  • Precision (shooting sport)
  • Speed ​​(fencing)
  • Expanse (javelin throw)

Some Olympic disciplines use weapons that most people are no longer aware of as such, including the spear and the discus . In sport, the actual purpose of handling these weapons is no longer pursued, such as hunting game or fighting an opponent. Rather, the goal of the competition is solely to achieve the greatest possible distance, if used correctly.

Cutting and stabbing weapons are z. B. used in fencing . As a sporting weapon, they are usually neither sharp nor pointed and instead usually have electrical contacts for determining hits. This is different with basket and bell strikes , which are used in the scale length . These cutting weapons are also sport weapons, but they are sharpened. In contrast to this, in other sports, especially in the field of Asian martial arts, people even fight with padded weapons.

The bow weapons , new techniques have been introduced. So-called compound bows achieve high performance with relatively little effort.

Walther GSP sport pistol , with interchangeable system

Many firearms, such as B. the Walther GSP , have a clearly sporty appearance (plywood, colored, etc.) and thus only a low threatening effect . Often, due to special grips, sights and attachments (weights, etc.), sports weapons are so unwieldy that they can hardly be carried in pants or in a holster. Other firearms, such as B. the SIG P210 have the appearance of military weapons (in the case of the Ordonnanzwaffen disciplines) or of utility weapons (in the case of many large-caliber pistol and revolver disciplines), some of these weapons can also be optimized for sport shooting, but these are changes usually less noticeable.

Small caliber cartridges or types of ammunition specially optimized for sport shooting are often used as ammunition for sporting weapons . But even with high-performance calibers, the projectile is selected for optimal flight characteristics and hit display accuracy, but not for its target effect ; Exceptions are so-called steel challenges , in which metallic targets have to be knocked over, or the so-called bowling pin shooting , in which bowling pins are brought down. In any case, in the case of ammunition used for sport, in contrast to ammunition used in the military, the environmental compatibility, e.g. B. respected the bullet materials.

Toy guns

The toy guns are mostly plastic-made replicas of real weapons or fictional weapons (for example from science fiction films). They are often designed in eye-catching colors and have sound effects. The most common weapons available are bows, knives and swords, pop pistols, and pea and water pistols.

The real danger emanating from these weapons is small, since the weapons are either made of soft materials or emit only little energy.

Depending on the distance or visibility, there is a risk of being mistaken for real weapons, which can lead to wrong decisions and the associated erroneous use of weapons by the police and security forces.

Decorative weapons

There is a multitude of products that are offered in the form of a weapon as a decoration and an object of daily use. This starts with the key fob and goes all the way to the grenade-shaped lighter.

There are also cutting and stabbing weapons or firearms that have been rendered unusable, or replicas of weapons that cannot be fired and which are often used as wall decorations.

Since April 8, 2016, the EU Implementing Regulation 2015/2403 on the deactivation of weapons has been in force, which is intended to make reactivation - similar to the previous German provisions - impossible.

Film and theater weapons

Main article: Film and theater weapon

Film and theater weapons are modified real weapons that remain unchanged on the outside, the internal technology of which has either been removed or subsequently manipulated in such a way that the restoration of functionality is made difficult or impossible. The group of theater weapons also includes replicas and fictitious weapons used as props that are harmless. The term "theater weapon" did not exist according to the old legal provisions, the weapons used in theater or film fell under the provisions of the WaffG on salute weapons.

Cultural reception

Weapons play an important role in many stories and sagas, e.g. B. the apple shot motif, among other things in Wilhelm Tell , or the sling in David's fight against Goliath . Some weapons are equipped with mythical abilities, e.g. B. the sword Excalibur .

Weapon symbols depicted on coats of arms often testify to a warlike past. Modern national flags also contain these symbols and indicate a warlike background for the founding of the state.

In the Middle Ages, many cities held weapons exercises for the population so that they could support regular troops in the event of a defense. The rifle festivals are derived from these weapons exercises .

In modern mass media ( cinema and television ), weapons and their use are mainly addressed through action films . The deployment is often depicted unrealistic, be it exaggerated (e.g. people hit by bullets are thrown through the air) or played down (e.g. excessive firefights without injuries). This unrealistic representation has been adopted in a similar way by computer action games since the 1980s .

See also

Portal: Weapons  - Overview of Wikipedia content on weapons


  • David Harding, Waffenenzyklopädie: 7000 years of weapons history , Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-613-02894-4 .
  • Terry Gander, Peter Chamberlain Encyclopedia of German Weapons 1939–1945 Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-613-02481-6 .
  • Alexander Lüdeke, Weapons Technology in World War II , Parragon, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4054-8584-5 .
  • AE Hartink, Michael Störmer, Messer-Enzyklopädie , Edition Dörfler im Nebel-Verlag, Eggolsheim 2002, ISBN 978-3-89555-078-2 .
  • Frank C. Barnes: Cartridges of the World. A Complete and Illustrated Reference for Over 1500 Cartridges. , Krause Publications, Iola (Wisconsin) 2009, ISBN 978-0-89689-936-0 .
  • Beat Kneubuehl : Bullets . Volume 2: Ballistics, effectiveness, measurement technology. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-7276-7145-9 .
  • Karl T. von Sauer: Outline of the weapon theory , Volume 2, Cotta, 1876 (Volume 2 mainly with many images online )

Web links

Commons : Category: Weapons  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: weapon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Weapons  - Sources and Full Texts

Gun history


Individual evidence

  1. Kim Zetter: An Unprecedented Look at Stuxnet , in: Wired 03/11/14 [1]
  2. ^ Franz Kiener: The word as a weapon. On the psychology of verbal aggression. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1983, ISBN 3-525-01406-6 . (on-line)
  3. ^ Friedrich Wolf Society
  4. Arms Act
  5. Explosives Act
  6. Law on the Control of Military Weapons
  7. Criminal Code
  8. Deadly mistake: police shot 14-year-olds because of toy guns. On: Spiegel online. September 6, 2002.
  9. ^ OFF Company: Meaning of the crooked dagger ( Memento from January 14, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  10. Matthias Pfander: It was designed by a Swiss man: the smallest weapon in the world. Blick.ch .
  11. Niels Johannsen, Davor Löffler, John McGraw: Arms history . In: Gerd Jüttemann (ed.): Developments of humanity. Human sciences in the perspective of integration . Pabst, Lengerich 2014, ISBN 978-3-95853-004-1 , pp. 191-199 .
  12. Klaus Raddatz: The armament of the Teutons. In: Wolfgang Haase, Hildegard Temporini (Hrsg.): Rise and decline of the Roman world (ANRW) / Rise and Decline of the Roman World. History and culture of Rome as reflected in recent research. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1985, ISBN 3-11-009519-X , 3rd part, p. 281 ff.
  13. Heiko Steuer: Historical phases of armament according to statements of the archaeological sources of Central and Northern Europe in the first millennium AD. In: Early Medieval Studies. 4, pp. 348-383 (1970).
  14. a b Herwig Wolfram: The Goths. 4th edition CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-33733-3 , p. 302 ff.
  15. Walter Pohl: The migration of people. 2nd Edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart a. a. 2005, ISBN 3-17-018940-9 , p. 101 f.
  16. Gundolf S. Freyermuth: War Version 3.0. In: NZZ Folio . 01/2005.
  17. Manfred A. Zirngibl : Seltene African Kurzwaffen , Morsak, 1983, ISBN 3875531981 , pp. 8–9
  18. Matthias Rogg : Military history up to the French Revolution 1789 in: Basic course German military history, Volume 1: The time until 1914: From the war heap to the mass army , Walter de Gruyter , 2009, ISBN 9783486850383 , p. 48 [2]
  19. State visits: swastikas presented in: DER SPIEGEL 38/1995
  20. Sven Frederik Sager: Verbal Behavior , publishing Stauffenburg, 1995, ISBN 9783860570937 , page 59 [3]
  21. ^ P. Dobrinski, G. Krakau, A. Vogel: Physics for engineers. Issue 11, 2006, p. 439.
  22. Motivation is the weapon. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , May 5, 2002 (interview with Arne Niederbacher).
  23. Archive link ( Memento from April 20, 2016 in the Internet Archive )