Guns That Changed the World

Guns that changed the world, from the Colt Peacemaker to the Maxim Gun

Firearms are one of many creations that have helped shape the world we live in. Pivotal moments in human history suddenly turned on a dime when one side brough a repeater rifle to a musket duel, or a machine gun to a bolt action battle royale. 

From the fields of ancient battles to modern warfare, and in the hands of law enforcers and civilians, certain guns have left an indelible mark on the world.  

These firearms have influenced military tactics, changed political landscapes, and even shifted the course of nations. For better or worse, they have had a significant impact on the world as we know it.  

Each of these weapons has a story, a legacy, and a place in the annals of history that has secured their status as icons in the world of firearms. 

Century Arms AK-47 replica

1. AK-47

  • Price: $700+

The AK-47, or Kalashnikov, is perhaps the most recognizable assault rifle in the world.

Developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov post-World War II, its durability, low production cost, and ease of use made it a favorite among militaries and insurgent groups globally.

It has had a profound impact on global conflicts and various revolutionary movements. They famously can withstand massive abuse from the elements and simple lack of maintenance.

And the ammo is so cheap that these guns have found their way into the hands of militia in the Eastern Bloc, the Middle East, Africa and South America.

This gun has probably seen more warzones than all the others combined. It’s that popular.

You can get a range of modern semi automatic AK-47 rifles ranging from $600-$2000+.

The Colt M16 is an assault rifle that changed the world. It appeared in Vietnam and got better, fast. And the AR-15 is America's favorite rifle.

2. Colt M16

  • Price: $1,000

The M16, the U.S. military’s standard-issue rifle, first saw extensive use during the Vietnam War. There were early issues, but the M16 has overcome.

Its lightweight design, high velocity, and rapid-fire capability represented a new era in military firearms. The M16 and its variants have been a staple in modern warfare and influenced numerous other assault rifle designs. 

The basic M16 produced by Colt and FN Herstal is the first port of call for armed forces and law enforcement agencies all around the world.

With a red dot up top and firing three shot bursts, this is one of the most effective battlefield weapons in history.

The semi automatic AR-15 has become Pro 2A America’s sweetheart, and a nemesis for the gun control lobby on the other side of the aisle. You can spend as little as $400 or more than $4000 on the same basic recipe, cooked to their own version of perfection by hundreds of manufacturers vying for your dollars.

Charleville Infantry Musket. One of the first standardized service rifles for military and militia

3. Charleville Infantry Musket

  • Price: $1,000

The 0.69 caliber French musket hit the market in 1717 and kept going strong until the middle of the 1800s.

In that time it helped America achieve independence and the French army to conquer all those that stood in their way before then.

This flintlock rifle was faster to load, more reliable and more accurate than the muskets that went before it. It also used standardized barrels, ammunition and parts, which made them much more dependable and reliable in the field.

Percussion firearms took over in the mid 19th Century, but the Charleville Infantry musket had a hell of a run at the top of the food chain.

Read more about the history of firearms here.

Thompson Machine Gun Replica Auto Ordnance buy online

4. Thompson Sub-Machine Gun

  • Price: $1,400

Commonly known as the “Tommy Gun,” the Thompson submachine gun became infamous during the Prohibition era in the United States.

It was a favorite among gangsters and law enforcement due to its high rate of fire and was also used in World War II. 

You could strap a 50 round drum mag to a Tommy Gun, and that was a game-changer when it came to Close Quarters Combat.

You can buy a full auto Tommy Gun from the old days, but it will cost you a lot. Alternatively you can buy a modern day semi auto rifle version for just $1,400.

The Colt Single Action Army. The Colt Peacemaker was the gun that helped shape the Wild West

5. Colt Single Action Army

  • Price: $800-$10,000

Also known as the Peacemaker, this revolver became synonymous with the American West.

It was favored by lawmen and outlaws alike during the late 19th century and became an icon of the American frontier. 

God created man and Samuel Colt made them equal, so the saying goes.

Mauser Model 1898 rifle. Get yours today.

6. Mauser 98

  • Price: $600-$3000

The Mauser 98, designed by Paul Mauser, is one of the most successful bolt-action rifles ever made.

It is often considered as the grandfather of the modern bolt action rifle. The controlled round feed bolt action was a revelation in 1898 and went on to form the action for the Karabiner 98K, one of the main German military rifles in World War 1 and World War 2.

At the time it offered a unparalleled rate of fire, thanks to a magazine feed, a rapid bolt action and a quality extractor.

It was widely adopted by many countries and its design influenced many later rifles and remains popular among hunters and shooters. 

You can buy the Mauser M98 to this day, and the modern version is a more sophisticated rifle.

Colt M1911.

7. Colt M1911

  • Price: $1,000

Designed by John Browning, the M1911 was the standard-issue sidearm for the U.S. Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985.

Known for stopping power and reliability, it remains a popular choice for military, law enforcement, and civilian use. 

The 1911 has evolved and now you can get one in 9mm and a double stack pistol, as well as the classic single stack 45 ACP.

See the best 1911 pistols under $2000 here.

Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44)), the first assault rifle.

8. Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44)

The StG 44, developed by Nazi Germany during World War II, is considered the first modern assault rifle.

It combined the rapid-fire ability of a machine gun with the cartridge of a rifle, influencing the development of subsequent assault rifles, including the AK-47. 

The 9mm Uzi SMG changed the face of the world.

9. Uzi

  • Price: $1000

Developed in Israel by Uziel Gal in the late 1940s, the Uzi became famous for its use by Israel’s military forces and its rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute.

Its compact design and high rate of fire made it effective for close-quarter combat and a popular choice for military and police forces worldwide. Forces in 90 countries placed orders, it was that influential.

When the HK MP5 took over as the dominant force in the 9mm SMG market, the Uzi maintained its position as top dog with the criminal underworld. It went on to settle gang wars big and small from Chicago to Mexico, and the Uzi’s reliability meant it never really went out of fashion.

You can still buy a semi automatic pistol, but they’ve changed a lot since the glory days.

Glock changed the firearms landscape with the first polymer frame pistols in 1982.

10. Glock 17

  • Price: $530.00+

When Gaston Glock launched his first polymer semi automatic pistol in 1982, it was a game changer for the personal defense market.

Now plastic pistols are normal, but the Glock was a pioneer. He had no experience whatsoever with firearms, but his work with advanced plastics was the key to his success.

It revolutionized the handgun market with its polymer frame, reducing weight and increasing durability. Its simplicity and reliability made it a staple among law enforcement agencies and civilian shooters around the world.

Of course it did get a mythical reputation thanks to Hollywood, with plenty of folks thinking a Glock was a ceramic gun that could outfox metal detectors. Which is ridiculous when you think about it.

The Glock P80, also known as the Glock 17, was the first pistol off the line. It was the first of many…

Winchester Model 1873 lever action rifle. The gun that won the West

11. Winchester Model 1873

Known as “The Gun that Won the West,” the Winchester Model 1873 was one of the most popular rifles on the American frontier.

Its lever-action design allowed for quick shooting and was a favorite among settlers and cowboys. We could make a case for the Henry Repeating Arms rifles that helped settle America’s Civil War, but the Winchester gets our vote.

Despite technology ramping up all the time, this classic lever action remained in production for 52 years and Winchester sold more than 700,000 of them.

You can still buy a Winchester Model 73 to this day and deer hunters love them.

HK MP5, a new breed of Sub Machine Gun.

12 HK MP5/SP5

  • Price: $2,999.99

Developed by Heckler & Koch in the 1960s, the MP5 became one of the most widely used submachine guns by military and police forces worldwide.

Its precision and versatility in close-quarter combat have made it a standard in counter-terrorism and law enforcement operations. 

And you can still buy the semi automatic 9mm today.

The Maxim Gun, a gun that changed the world.

13. Maxim Gun

This was the first fully automatic machine gun in the world when it was revealed to an unsuspecting public in 1884.

It was heavy and awkward, water cooled and needed 4-6 men to operate smoothly. But the 600 rounds per minute rate of fire was a miracle in those times and it made the Gatling Gun that preceded it look like a child’s toy. Kind of…

This British invention went on to complete its military service in the messy Colonial wars towards the turn of the Century. it then went on to take a defining role in World War 1 and was even still going for World War 2.

Browning Automatic Rifle. A great innovation.

14. Browning Automatic Rifle M1918

Designed by John Browning, the BAR was a light machine gun used by the U.S. military in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. It provided infantry units with the firepower of a machine gun combined with the mobility of a rifle.

Of course we could also go for the Browning M2 Machine Gun. That vehicle mounted machine gun changed the face of war and is famous for strafing the Vietnam landscape with 50 BMG rounds at insane rates of fire.


  • Nick Hall

    Nick is a lifelong gun enthusiast who has a simple mission. He wants to find the best deals for guns online and help you make the best choices with weapons your life may depend on one day.Nick won a minor league shooting competition at the age of 11 and it all went from there. Now he runs one of the biggest firearms websites on the net and his work has featured in Playboy US, Tatler Asia, Forbes and a whole host of national magazines and websites.

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