Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Matchlock 19th December 2013 02:38 PM

The Famous Ambras Wheellock-Crossbow Combination of ca. 1526, BNM Munich
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On the grounds of the gilt barrel etching FERDINANDUS, the initials, the coat-of-arms and the emblems of the Order of the Golden Fleece, this famous wheellock/crossbow combination has been traditionally attributed to Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Anna von Böhmen, and accordingly dated to ca. 1520-26.
It therefore represents the world's earliest datable wheellock gun.
The oldest known dated wheellock is a small arquebus bearing the date 1530 on the barrel, and once bought by the Emperor Charles V directly from the Marquardt gun shop in Augsburg on occasion of the Augsburg Reichstag in that year.

Like many other highly important historical early firearms, this combination gun in discussion originally came from the Rüstkammer (armory) of Schloss Ambras near Innsbruck, Tyrol. While a great lot of good weapons are still kept at Ambras, the more famous of them were handed on to the museums in Vienna (Wiener Waffensammlung, Neue Burg) and the Bavarian National Museum (BNM) Munich in the 1860's, when these museums were founded.

For more but older photos please see my thread,
post #10ff.

Here, among others, I have now posted better images that I found on facebook and which I am grateful for to Bolek M.

Thanks to these excellent images, which I additionally 'photoshoped' on, I can now tell with adequate certainty that

- a date at the upper end of the traditionally given spectrum, ca. 1525-26, should be assigned to the piece, as the latest, most 'modern' criterion seems to be the elongated and very slender, tapering!, round muzzle section divided from the rear part of the barrel by moldings. As the outer barrel diameter clearly tapers to the muzzle, instead of the earlier-style swamping, this is a safe dating access of 'ca. 1525-30'!

- the lateral push button on the lock plate, on the rear left-hand side of the wheel, is not a means to secure the nose of the sear in the wheel pit when the wheel chain is spanned - it is the actual trigger that lifts the sear nose from its pit in the wheel releasing the latter! The crossbow section of course had its own trigger on the reverse side.

- the foot/base of the pyrite dog (its upper half including the jaws now missing) is slit and figured in order to achieve a safe contact with the arm of the sickle-shaped dog spring running around the wheel.

- the wing-nut left of the wheel is a safety catch blocking the internal sear when driven in.


Matchlock 19th December 2013 02:50 PM

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More images.

Raf 19th December 2013 06:33 PM

I thought we had already established that in this case the button was the release button? Not to be confused with the button on some other early wheelocks which is used to manually push the sear into the wheel slot . Also that the small wing nut forward of the button has the dual function of ensuring the sear fully enters the wheel slot and also functions as a safety. The wheel cannot turn until this nut is unscrewed.
The shape of the cam on the base of the dog is unusual . But might be transitional towards locks where the dog, at rest, can be folded down below the line of the barrel . This can be seen on Leeds Armoury X11 1566 . C 1535.This feature is found on some , but not all , locks with sickle - shaped springs but then seems to have been abandoned in favour of a more conventional arrangement where the dog , at rest , lyes roughly in line with the barrel . Locks that may be equally early show a flat spring and a conventional over- centre cam on the base of the dog.

Matchlock 19th December 2013 10:08 PM

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Hi Raf,

Don't you worry, we are on the same page; I just wanted to correct my earlier statement and make it perfectly clear what that knob actually is.

I attach images of my earliest snapping tinderlock mechanism, Maximilian I period, ca. 1500-20, which employs the same lateral push-button trigger.


Raf 20th December 2013 09:59 AM

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... which of course makes a useful comparison with another early Italian lock you posted which I am re posting here. Uses the same long spring as a sear but is in this case released by a cam on the trigger rather than a button. Whats interesting about this lock is that the detent on the sear bar uses the same slot that operates the ( missing ) horizontally swivelling pan cover. Because the slot passes all the way through the wheel its highly unlikely to get blocked with rubbish therefore minimising the safety issues endemic to single locking bars.
Also the shape of the foot of the dog is very similar to the German lock which might be used to argue a much closer connection , at an early date between German and Italian locks even though Germany seems to have been quicker and better at developing the idea.
Iv'e never been convinced that Da Vincis drawing is , as some have argued , a device drawn from life and certainly isn't his unique invention. It looks more like a concept sketch of either a device he has seen , or has been described to him, or a device that he is trying to improve perhaps by suggesting that the parts could usefully be housed inside the lockplate. Placing the hinged locking bar on the outside of the lockplate is a clumsy solution , and the cranked mainspring simply silly. They may be drawn that way simply to make it easier to illustrate the principles involved so perhaps should not be taken to literally.

Matchlock 20th December 2013 12:10 PM

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Totally agreed, Raf, and on Leonardo da Vinci's drawings as well. :) They should in any case be taken cum grano salis.

What makes me think that wheellock mechanism from the combination gun in Venice that you reposted could be somewhat later than my tinderlock is the fact that the internal trigger release spring already employs a screw, instead of the plain rivet there is on my lock.

Here's another early snapping tinderlock from my collection with a highly interesting mechanism, ca. 1520's-30's. It is remarkable for having an internal tumbler and a double-arm serpentine main spring. It's all riveted and bolted, no screws.


Matchlock 31st December 2013 06:53 PM

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Discussing earliest wheellocks, we may not forget this arquebus in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris. It is generally dated 'ca. 1520', which in my eyes is not justified.
The earliest date I would seriously assign to it is 'ca. 1525-35', with a main focus on 'ca. 1530'.
The stock is in all probability limewood, with a lesser possiblity of maple.


Matchlock 31st December 2013 07:06 PM

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The remaining images.

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