Ethnographic Arms & Armour

Ethnographic Arms & Armour (
-   European Armoury (
-   -   Breech loading 1450-1550 (

Matchlock 21st October 2008 09:29 PM

Breech loading 1450-1550
6 Attachment(s)
From top:

- an extremely rare wrought iron chamber for a small breech loading falconet (Kammerschlange), ca. 1450, length 23 cm, bore ca. 3 cm; yet in my collection, but for sale as I do not collect cannons any longer

- two views of such breech loading cannons: the first in the Historisches Museum Berne, ca. 1460-70, the carriage an early 20th century reconstruction; the second a line drawing from the Maximilianische Zeugbücher, ca. 1500

- a beautiful breech loading matchlock harquebus, dated 1553, made by Peter Peck in Munich


Matchlock 21st October 2008 09:49 PM

A huge breech chamber, ca. 1540
5 Attachment(s)
I sold this a few weeks ago:

46 cm long, bore 4 cm, weight 54 kilograms (!) - remember it's just a powder chamber that was closed by a wooden plug. The bullet(s) were shoved in the barrel from the rear before the breech piece was put in and secured by wooden or iron wedges.

It originally belonged to a big breech-loading cannon like the ones found on the Mary Rose of Henry VIII that sank in 1545 - see b/w illustration.


Matchlock 12th November 2008 04:00 PM

Breech loading pieces, mid 15th century
4 Attachment(s)
In the Bayerisches Armeemuseum Ingolstadt.


Pukka Bundook 20th November 2008 01:39 PM


Please forgive me digging up old posts, but we have had a friend from Scotland staying with us for six weeks, and as time was short, I appear to have missed a lot of interesting topics!

The harquebus by Peter Peck of Munchen must be the Very first bolt-action made! It is amazing, the quality of work, and the very clean action is identical to the modern bolt action. I have not seen anything quite like it for this date.
Gas leakage would have been minimised by such a long chamber, and I think it would be a very effective system.
Could not a number of such "cartridges" be carried, ready primed ?

Thank you for the images!!!!!


Matchlock 20th November 2008 06:17 PM

Iron "cartridges" for early breech loaders
11 Attachment(s)

No one could be any happier than myself about your shedding new light on one of my older posts (I joined the forum only two months ago).

Actually, the bolt action breech loading system has been employed with wheel-locks at least from 1540.

I attach some images of a combined snap tinder lock and self spanning wheel-lock breech loading harquebus (the snap tinder holder and iron "cartridge" now missing), the barrel bearing the double falchion mark of Christoph Arnold, Augsburg, ca. 1540 (an almost identical piece in the collection of Schloss Grunewald near Berlin bears the same marks together with the date 1540), and a short wheel-lock breech loading harquebus or pistol by the same maker and of identical date. I got allowed to take the photos of the latter in the Imperial Vienna collection 20 years ago. Its exceptionally fine condition strikingly illustrates the original impact of contrasting colored surfaces in those mid 16th century pieces!

You are doubtlessly right in assuming that such a costly and refined system would only have made sense if used together with pre loaded and readily primed interchangeable iron "cartridges". Only in wheel-locks the pan was an integral part of the lock and had to be primed manually prior to each shot.

Interchangeable breech loading with cannon was in use since at least mid 15th century. It took some time to get applied to harquebuses, though.

We know of some very rare breech loading break down action flintlock guns of early to mid 18th century date whose sets of spare cartridges are still contained in a leather collar, each of them equipped with its own frizzen and pan - perfectly ready and primed!
I enclose some views of one rare sample of such a rifle, ca. 1700 but re-stocked in mid 18th century, together with its original cartridge collar containing 11 numbered and rifled (!!!) iron cartridges, with number 12 inserted in the breech. I was granted to take the pictures in the reserve collection of the Princes of Thurn & Taxis, Regensburg/Bavaria, 26 years ago.

In all probability, mid 16th century "cartridge" containers for breech loaders looked very much the same.

Great mind job, buddy - and thanks for inspiring me to post the following attachments!

Btw, how do you like my photo archive?:D


Matchlock 20th November 2008 06:22 PM

8 Attachment(s)
The extremely fine and perfectly preserved Vienna breech loading wheel-lock pistol, like the harquebus posted above made by Simon Arnold, Augsburg, ca. 1540.

Matchlock 20th November 2008 06:28 PM

8 Attachment(s)
And the ca. 1700 Thurn & Taxis flintlock rifle, re-stocked in the mid 18 th century, together with its original leather collar containing 11 numbered rifled (!) cartridges - with number 12 inserted in the breech.


Pukka Bundook 22nd November 2008 01:05 PM


The piece by Christof Arnold shows Solomon was quite right............" There is nothing new, under the sun..."

It seems this very modern action was used with very little alteration (except putting hinge on other side) by Jacob Snider, to convert muzzleloading P '53 Enfields to breech-loading in 1860's.
Does pushing back on the tunnel sight withdraw a bolt which passes forward into the breech-block?

For some time, I've wanted to make a wheellock mechanism, and a self-spanning one would be very interesting!

Re. the snap tinder lock;
What was the tinder made from?
I know hemp was used when attainable as slow-match, but do not recall hearing what "tinder" was used in the snap-lock.

The pistol you show above, is one of the very best I have ever seen, and the file-work is beautifully executed! a very crisp and stunning example.
On this arm, I can clearly see the bolt which engages the breech-block.

Re. the flint-lock,
What a headache it must have been! ...making each cartridge with exactly the same geometry so each frizzen would spark well! It was a long way ahead of it's time!!

Thank you again for the marvelous pics!!


Matchlock 22nd November 2008 05:10 PM


Tinder was made of fungus growing on the trunks of trees. It was dried, soaked in salpeter and cut in rectangular, rather short pieces, each meant to be used for one shot only. This piece of tinder was put in the small head of the matchholder; with 15th to mid-16th century guns, the heads of their matchholders were actually too tiny to receive the rather thick matchcord.

The tinder was lit by means of a piece of glowing coal or smoldering match.

If I may direct you to

you will see a piece of tinder in the head of the matchholder of an early 15th century gun.

I have to say that exchanging opinions with you is much fun, thank you for keeping me going.


Matchlock 22nd November 2008 05:58 PM

Snap tinder locks
12 Attachment(s)

Here are some historical early 15th (the b/w one dated 1411) and early 16th century illustrations showing the use of pieces of tinder in snap locks - and sometimes the thick matchcord employed to light them.

I posted some these before in my thread on the Battle of Pavia, 1525.

In some of the illustrations you can clearly see that the matchholders' heads are way too small to take the thick matchcord wrapped around either the guns or the harquebusiers' arms.


Matchlock 22nd November 2008 06:02 PM

4 Attachment(s)

Matchlock 22nd November 2008 06:03 PM

1 Attachment(s)
One more.


Matchlock 22nd November 2008 06:26 PM

This might also be helpful:

Pukka Bundook 24th November 2008 01:07 PM


Thank you for the information re. tinder.
It seems it's the same fungus I use to make tinder for fire-lighting, but treated in a different manner. (When charred, it catches and holds a spark very well.)
The soaking in saltpetre would make it much less brittle, ...must try some!

The pictures you have posted show the small pieces of tinder very well, as well as the rope - sized matchcord!

Thank you for these pictures Michael.


Matchlock 24th November 2008 01:25 PM

Hi, Richard,

I sent you an email containing further information. The German guy who sells tinder would also give you his recipe.

If you are interested I would gladly assist you in translation etc.



Gonzalo G 24th November 2008 11:29 PM

Matchlock, I just wanted to tell you that I find very interesting and stimulant your threads. I have no real knowledge about this early fireweapons, or about the construction of a crossbow (and I would love to), but I enjoy all this instructive material you manage on the forum. Thank you.


Matchlock 25th November 2008 12:35 PM

Thank you, Gonzalo,

It is a great pleasure to me to learn that you like my threads.

That will keep me going.

Thanks again,


broadaxe 26th November 2008 09:44 AM

1 Attachment(s)
very interesting thread, thank you. I especialy liked the gun & bandoleer combo on #7.

Here is my contribution to the subject: a breech loading swivel cannon, found in very shallow waters off the coast of Israel, south to the city of Haifa, north to Caserea Maritima. Probably a relic from slave/pirate galley, as at that time - 15th century, there was very little buisness for merchant vessels to do there. Interestingly enough, found with the breech, swivel and breech-locking bar. The barrel used to be 30% longer but only the front rings survived (not shown). It is on display in the National Maritime Museum in Haifa. I will be able to bring measurements sometimes later.

Matchlock 26th November 2008 10:55 AM

Very nice 15th century naval breech loading cannon indeed - thank you, broadaxe!


fernando 13th December 2008 04:31 PM

Michael, you have a PM.

fernando 14th December 2008 03:17 PM

You got new PM, Michael.

Matchlock 21st February 2009 04:29 PM

1 Attachment(s)
At the Tower of London.


Matchlock 8th March 2009 04:49 PM

15th Century Breech Loading Cannon at the Museo d'Artilleria, Madrid
5 Attachment(s)
Only these b/w photos available, taken as early as 1883 .


Matchlock 5th April 2009 02:37 PM

Army Museum Stockholm
1 Attachment(s)
From Kisak's great thread:

Thanks a lot, Kisak!

Matchlock 28th June 2009 04:16 PM

8 Attachment(s)
15th century breeches and cannon at the Tojhusmuseet Copenhagen.


fernando 28th June 2009 05:08 PM

Amazing; at first glimpse i thought this was the Military Museum in Lisbon.
By the way, have you ever been there, Michael ... or anybody else?

Matchlock 28th June 2009 07:28 PM

Hi Fernando,

Sadly I've never been to either Portugal or Spain.


broadaxe 8th July 2009 12:41 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Lately I was lucky enough to find an old b&w photo of the very same cannon on post #18; on the day it was found (1978) with the underwater debris intact.

Matchlock 8th July 2009 01:23 PM

Hi broadaxe,

Thanks for that perfectly documentary contribution!


Matchlock 8th July 2009 05:54 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Two multistage barrel breech loading pieces in a ca. 1480 woodcut from a chronicle of Flanders, printed 1531.

Note the guy kneeling in the fore ground hammering a wooden plug into a breech. The interchangeable breeches contained only the powder while the ball was shoved separately into the rear of the barrel.


All times are GMT. The time now is 02:40 PM.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.