"The crossbow may be more reliable, but nothing elicits fear like a pair of pistols. When you stare down those barrels, a few Marks in exchange for your life seems perfectly reasonable."
Tilmann, Wayward Highwayman[1a]
Pistols Warhammer Fantasy
The Old World is currently in a revolution of sorts. The Dwarfs introduced gunpowder, also known as black powder, with their devastating cannon. When used on the battlefields, most leaders quickly learned, despite its obvious flaws (unreliability for instance), that gunpowder was far superior to the old ways of fighting wars. Armour was virtually useless, as cannon dealt impressive damage, capable of shredding soldiers with a single blast of grape shot, or toppling walls with cannonballs. At first, these weapons were simple cannon, but soon smaller varieties were developed, allowing individual soldiers to use them. As Nuln engineers refined the process, they devised handheld firearms, repeating pistols, and more. Though there were several early and impressive advances, the technology is still experimental and costly, and few warriors are willing to risk themselves and pay the expense of acquiring such weapons.[1a]

The old guns were quite primitive, being little more than a metal tube with a wooden stock and a hole at the top where the wielder ignited the gunpowder with a punk or candle. Now, most gunpowder weapons are matchlocks and flintlocks. All black powder weapons in the Old World are muzzleloaders, requiring the wielder to load powder and shot down the barrel. Most black powder weapons in the Empire are imports from the Dwarfs or are manufactured in Nuln and Altdorf.[1a]

Apart from the Dwarfs and The Empire, several other nations and races use gunpowder weapons. These include Kislev, Araby, Tilea, Estalia, Chaos Dwarfs, Skaven, Ogres and the eastern empire of Cathay.

Bretonnia does not use gunpowder weapons in it's land armies as they are considered unchivalrous. However it's navy is equipped with cannons.

While Undead are not usually armed with gunpowder weapons, the thralls of Luthor Harkon - zombified pirates and the like - have been known to use firearms and ship's cannon.

Early Firearms

The earliest firearms in the Old World were the hand gonnes. Essentially, it was a scaled down version of the cannon used by the Dwarfs, consisting of a metal barrel fitted with a stock. Near the base of the barrel was a touch hole, where the user placed a burning wick to ignite the gunpowder. Because it required the user to manually touch the gunpowder to ignite the larger charge, they were never really accurate and usually required some sort of stand to use effectively. They had a maximum effective range of about 30 yards.[1a]


Shortly after the development of the hand gonne and its profound failures against both Chaos’ heavy cavalry and mere rival knights in service to rival Elector Counts, engineers in Nuln developed a firing mechanism to allow the user to wield the weapon in two hands, thereby reducing the need for a stand. Essentially, a moveable arm that holds a burning wick is locked back. When the wielder depresses the lever, he releases the arm, which falls into the flash pan and ignites the powder to send a flame into the barrel chamber of the weapon. This action then ignites a larger powder charge and sends the projectile forward.[1a]

Though the matchlocks are a drastic improvement over the early gunpowder designs, lighting the wick takes a long time, making the weapon virtually useless unless the wielder is prepared in advance. Furthermore, the Empire’s climate makes keeping the wicks lit an arduous task, with gusting rains, and damp clime being murder on the firing mechanism. As a result, longbows are still the preferred weapon for most regiments.[1a]

Wheellocks and Flintlocks

In response to the continuing difficulties of firearm use, the Empire’s engineers developed a new mechanism for firing. They replaced the spring-loaded arm with a spinning wheel. When the trigger was depressed, it caused the wheel to spin against a metal plate, causing sparks to fall into the flash pan. Developed simultaneously by Araby was the flintlock, a variation on the wheellock design. In this improved mechanism, the trigger released a small piece of flint to strike a steel plate to drop sparks into the pan.[1a][1b]

With the development of flintlocks and the lesser used wheellocks, engineers in the Old World could devise all manner of variations on gunpowder weapons. Some have multiple barrels, while others are smaller pistols. These variations allowed the Empire to create a bevy of weapons like the duelling pistols for those preferring smaller weapons, and more accurate ranged weapons like the Hochland long rifle for example. In fact, the Guild of Engineers has come so far, they have begun to experiment with multi-chambered weapons that fire multiple shots before needing to be reloaded.[1b]

It’s important to remember that gunpowder weapons are still relatively new and experimental and do not see widespread use in the Old World. Expensive and unreliable, most would rather use longbows or crossbows for ranged attacks, having no interest in experiencing the all-to-frequent misfires that claim the lives and maim far too many soldiers to be used with any regularity.[1b]


Gunpowder weapons are certainly appealing in that they allow heroes to use devastating weapons, giving them an advantage in combat. However, these weapons require a great deal of maintenance to use with consistency and, more importantly, are expensive and the gunpowder can be hard-to-get. All gunpowder weapons require firearm balls and gunpowder to use properly.[1b]

Selected Engineer Weapons

Gunpowder weapons in this category represent the cutting edge of Old World technology. Included in this category are the dangerous repeater pistols and handguns, the impressive Hochland long rifle, and the unusual duck-foot. All engineer weapons are flintlocks.[1b]

Selected Gunpowder Weapons

This collection of firearms is rarely as good as the Engineer weapons, but gunpowder weapons the benefit of being more widespread. Many of these weapons require the use of a stand to fire properly, but those of the best craftsmanship have matchlocks. These weapons all require gunpowder, but most can use a variety of ammunition from actual bullets to nails and glass.[1c]


  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Old World Armoury
    • 1a: pg. 43
    • 1b: pg. 44
    • 1c: pg. 46

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