War never changes, right? Violence has been a hallmark of human behavior as far back as anyone knows. What has changed are the tools people use to carry out violence. Throughout the ages humankind has invented countless weapons. Some have filled specific niches while others became massively popular and were adapted around the globe. One thing is certain, though: The means we’ve developed for killing one another have gotten progressively more efficient at the purpose.
To identify history’s deadliest weapons, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a report called “Quantification Related to Weapon Lethality,” originally issued in 1964 by the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization for the U.S. Army Combat Developments Command. It rates the lethal potential of various weapons on such quantifiable measures as number of potential targets per strike, relative effect, effective range, accuracy, reliability, and mobility.
Some weapons on the list also point to the rapid evolution of technology since the Industrial Revolution. The sword, for example, was used for thousands of years in numerous different forms and cultures, and still has a ceremonial place in military life. On the other hand, many of the weapons used in World War I were already obsolete by the start of World War II. (If you want to get an idea of what battle was like in those eras and beyond, these are the best war movies ever.)
Many military advancements have come from scientific breakthroughs in other areas. For example, the airplane, initially conceived simply as a means of rapid transportation, was quickly adapted for use in warfare. It works the other way, too: Gunpowder was used in warfare as early as the 10th century in China — but it can also be used to blast tunnels or even to entertain us (in the form of fireworks). (Here are some examples of commercial products invented by the military.)
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