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Matchlock 1st July 2010 08:10 PM

A Beautiful Mid-14th Century Handgonne
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Now this one is especially to both you, Alexander and Fernando ;) (in alphabetical order) but of course to all the others as well.

It is an extremely rare German wrought iron handgonne (German Handrohr) datable to ca. 1350-60. Its rarity is based on its special form, with the smaller breech to receive just the powder (German Pulverkammer) and the wider section for the ball (German Flug), both copied from bigger cannon. The small touchhole, placed near the rear end of the breech, and the fact that the whole barrel is wound of band iron give further evidence that we have here one of the earliest iron handguns ever made.

I do not trust the stock though it doubtlessly is a piece of old wood (so it makes an optimal replacement anyways) and the "hook" obviously is just a long nail which would never have successfully acted as a recoil stop. Apart from that, and as I have pointed out before, hooks on barrels do not seem to have appeared any earlier than ca. 1430. The "barrel band" is of course just a ridiculous piece of modern iron wire and there seems to be some clearance between the barrel and the forestock, according to which the barrel has slipped to the right a bit; the touchhole originally would have been on top of the breech.

This fine High Gothic hand cannon was in an Italian auction in 2004, and I am sorry not to have any measurements but on the basis of my experience I would estimate the length of the barrel to be ca. 30 cm all over. I remember the sale estimate was 3,000 euro (which I sadly did not have at that time) but it failed to sell and has never come my way again.


Matchlock 1st July 2010 08:17 PM

Oh my, this came out so big that is literally bursting the screen width - sorry. :shrug:

fernando 1st July 2010 10:49 PM

Hi Michl, what a great specimen :cool: .
But what am i missing here? Is the barrel made of two (separate) parts, or are the pictures that give such idea?
The caliber is quite a large one, right?
The stock might be a replacement, but the wood is rather nice.

Matchlock 2nd July 2010 09:39 PM

Hi 'Nando,

Great minds think alike (and so do ours! :D :eek: )

I had the same impression when first looking at the pictures but the staff of the auction house assured me that the barrel actually consisted of one singular piece throughout. I think the caliber could be about 30 mm. The balls at that period of time were most probably made of stone; I got a few in my collection. That's where the special name of this kind of earliest guns came from: stone gonne (German Steinbüchse).


fernando 3rd July 2010 01:47 PM

Hi Michl,

Originally Posted by Matchlock
... Great minds think alike (and so do ours! :D :eek: )

Such an appreciation is a trap for me ;). If i politely contest, in that my mind is a rather humble one, i end up simultaneously minimizing yours, which would undoubtedly be unreal :o .

Originally Posted by Matchlock
... I had the same impression when first looking at the pictures but the staff of the auction house assured me that the barrel actually consisted of one singular piece throughout. I think the caliber could be about 30 mm. The balls at that period of time were most probably made of stone; I got a few in my collection. That's where the special name of this kind of earliest guns came from: stone gonne (German Steinbüchse). ...

A great specimen, anyway.
At first sight i thought the caliber was some wider, but 30 mm should be the right thing.


Spiridonov 3rd July 2010 03:50 PM

Thank you, Michael! It seems that the barrel and the nail is not a one piece

Matchlock 3rd July 2010 07:42 PM

Originally Posted by fernando
Hi Michl,

Such an appreciation is a trap for me ;). If i politely contest, in that my mind is a rather humble one, i end up simultaneously minimizing yours, which would undoubtedly be unreal :o .


Hi 'Nando,

Though your comment made me blush I guess that unreal is almost the correct expression, considering all the absolutely crazy thoughts and ideas my mind is forced to comprise!!! - but in no way is it apt to describe the mental relations between you and me concerning earliest weapons and the love for cats! Just imagine where I would be today without my dear friends Ed and Jim inviting me to the forum?! Before that point, I was extremely lonesome and literally lost in the oceans of very few individuals thinking alike and seeking for a mind mate ... :cool: :eek:


Matchlock 3rd July 2010 07:48 PM

Originally Posted by Spiridonov
Thank you, Michael! It seems that the barrel and the nail is not a one piece

Hi Alexander,

Again great minds think alike (and so do ours ...) ;)

That's exactly correct im my eyes but you put it into better words than I did; when I said that the "hook" was just an old nail I meant that it was attached to the wood only and not integrally wrought to the barrel.

Thank you and best wishes as ever,
- and of course I'm looking forward to seeing you soon in my collection, my Russian friend - and I'm admitting counting the weeks!!!:cool:

Gratefully it seems like a widely scattered pouplation of a few whales drifting around in endless oceans and bearing in mind the same glowing interest finally gets together to meet for mating !!!!!!!!!! NOW AIN'T THAT CUTE?! :) :) :)

Actually I own this beautiful saying to one of our forum's founding members and my good fathering friend: Ed! ;) :cool:

Hi 'Nando,

I would be extremely glad to be able and welcome you next as the two of us have proved to be actual mind mates on both the cannon and heart ( SWEETLY PURRING CATS!!!) track!

Thank ya all so much out there,
Michl/Michail/Michael :D

Matchlock 4th July 2010 11:10 PM

Some very similar handgonnes, ca. 1350-1400
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The first little Steinbüchse was sold Christie's Rome, June 18, 1975.
It only measures 23 cm overall, no further measurements provided. And it, too, is made of wound band iron.
As it is very small, with a relatively little touchhole, there is a high probability for it to be of very early date (ca. 1350). All beginnings, whether in nature or technology, are small, and this is especially true for earliest firearms.

Next follows another, later Steinbüchse, ca. 1450, telling from its reinforcement rings and its general shape, of wrought iron, is in the Army Museum Bukarest, Romania. I doubt whether the stone ball shown next to it would actually fit the bore of this specimen. I estimate its length to be ca. 40 cm.

The third is a fragment of a larger ship cannon of ca. 1400 and made of iron staves and hoops (German Stabring-Geschütz), preserved in the museum at Maldon, Essex. Although it was found in an early 16th century shipwreck, together with stone balls and remnants of its original elm wood carriage, it is some 100 years older than that ship. The relic demonstrates its special way of construction, as well as another similar Stabring-Geschütz in the Musée de l'Armée Paris does, which is shown here next in line.

Next follows a series of 6 images depicting the cannon courtyard at the Musée de l'Armée Paris and details of a very special Steinbüchse, ca. 1380, which may even retain its original stock of characteristic Gothic form with stepped folded edges. I estimate its overall length to measure about 1 meter. In one of the pics it is seen together with an early 15th century breech loading cannon, its breech now missing.

Please cf. my former thread on early breech loading.

To be continued!:)


fernando 5th July 2010 12:41 PM

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Thank you so much for the great pictures, Michl,
Plenty material to study ... once more :) .
It'e precisely because of this, together with the sharing images of your collection and all the data you provide, that we need you around still for many years to contemplate us with all that early weapons pedagogy.
Not the slightest doubt that you are one of the (if not the) main props of this forum.
Yes, i would surelly love to get personaly acquainted to your highly selected collection.
Talking about cats, meet my last acquisition. For almost a week she was astray, crossing the road in panic; don't know where she came from.
Picture taken before urgent care; conjunctivitis eye drops, bronchitis tablets, flu antibiothic, parasite killer and blood tests.
You know pets; one week out in the streets and they catch the whole desease packet. So good our daughter is a pet Vet ... that helps a lot :cool:
Her name (the cat) is Rita and she says hello to you all.

Matchlock 5th July 2010 06:26 PM

Hi 'Nando and welcome, sweet lovely Rita! :) ;)

Thank you so much for taking care of that little smooth as silk lady. Hers is certainly the most beautiful and heart warming picture I've ever seen on the forum ...
I'm sure she is in the best of hands with you and your Vet daughter!

Thanks again and best,

Matchlock 5th July 2010 09:12 PM

More stone handgonnes (Steinbüchsen) and their sources of illustration, ca. 1400-1430
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The first Steinbüchse most probably Swiss, ca. 1420-30 (dating criteria: various reinforcement rings, large touchhole, and the cross of Switzerland - cross of Saint George - struck near the muzzle), sold Sotheby's London, Dec 8, 1988, Lot 276, for GBP 5,000. Length overall 34.2 cm, barrel (Flug) 11,3 cm long, bore ca. 6 cm, breech length 22.9 cm. The ring was clearly for suspension purposes but all kinds of speculations are allowed. Please see catalog description attached.

Please note the punched decoration of circles in the wrought iron surface; you will find almost the same arrangement on the breech of a similar but somewhat bigger Steinbüchse to be posted here soon.

Please also note the second to last illustration of a mounted knightly king firing a tiller handgun with various balls leaving the muzzle (ca. 1440)! We know of other instances in contemporary illuminated manuscripts illustrating the same phenomenon of either several caliber fitting balls or a larger amount of shot being fired from mid-14th to early-15th centrury handgonnes. That makes sense because the relatively short barrels were not apt to fire with the exactitude required.

Last not least please note the earliest small rectangularly bent igniting irons of that period of time. As I stated before, there is only one single specimen of that characteristic form known to have survived, and it is in my collection; see last attachment, the upperrmost of four.

To be cont'd ...


Matchlock 6th July 2010 04:06 PM

Single balls and shot as earliest ammunition
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Attached, among more historical sources of illustration, please find some pictures of earliest balls for handgonnes from my collection, comprising one singular stone ball, diameter ca. 3.6 cm, bearing an old paper strip stating that this ball was found while plowing a field near Regensburg in 1879. The others are of iron or heavily oxidized lead, some consist of cast iron and are covered by a thick layer of lead (probably to save the inner walls of bronze of brass barrels from abrasion), and one is even of brass.

One of the two bigger stone balls was for a larger piece of ordnance, the other being a stone hand grenade with a fuse of some sort of dried grass, the inner tube filled with a mixture of powder and adhesive the burning time of which must have been defined. Thus the thing could be ignited and just dropped from the wall to explode among the raiders below.


Spiridonov 6th July 2010 04:34 PM

Thanks! Have attantion, the person hold the loading beaker in his hand :)

Spiridonov 6th July 2010 05:20 PM

Michael, do you have X-rays of any handgonnes?

Matchlock 6th July 2010 05:34 PM

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First more of the two stone balls and the stone hand grenade in my collection.

Next a small stone gun (German Steinbüchse) retaining its original oaken carriage (German Lafette); the wood, on the basis of the South German oak chronology, is datable to ca. 1460 or later - who would have assumed such a comparatively 'late' date?! Note the fixation by means of two iron clamps which is also shown on contemporary illustrations. This type of carriage, as seen in several 15th sentury documents, was originally fixed pivotable on a large round wooden base which sometimes even had a quadrant for more exact adjustment (see following posts).

This Steinbüchse, preserved in The Museum of Weißenburg, Bavaria, measures 61.3 cm overall, barrel length 31.6 cm overall, length of ball chamber (Flug) 26.0 cm, caliber at muzzle 5.6 cm, narrowing to the rear.


Matchlock 6th July 2010 06:19 PM

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The upper three, including a sectional drawing, of two Steinbüchsen in the Historic Museum Berne, Switzerland; the carriages are late 19th century replacements when these pieces were still in the famous collection of Robert Forrer who then handed everything down to the Museum, which 'gratefully' has not been exhibiting anything since WW II.

Alexander, I am afraid that have no X-radiography of such handgonnes but I do hope the sectional drawing and detailed photography will do. I some of the photos you can even see the banded iron coming off in thin layers as a consequence or rust and the great age of these pieces.

Now on it goes with the beautiful and completely preserved Weißenburg gun.
Note the fixation of the barrel by two pivoted iron clamps which can also be seen in early 15th century illustrations attached.
Please also note that the touchhole is larger now and has moved definitely forward of the rear end of the breech - also a criterion for dating the piece to the second half of the 15th century. Please bear in mind that there usually is a remarkable delay in the development of time-proven forms and techniques in rural areas as compared with the big leading city centers.


Spiridonov 6th July 2010 06:34 PM

The touch hole of last gun is too wide. How to explane it?
By the way about the manual weapon i have a theory (I will wright it later)
But i have not explanation for this case.
Michael, please look at your privat messege (i have some x-rays of bombards) :)

Matchlock 6th July 2010 06:37 PM

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The rest of the Weißenburg Steinbüchse.

Of course, due to its relatively late date of manufacture, the barrel is no longer wrought of band iron. You will even see the forging lap on the inner barrel wall where I put cold light into it.

Did you notice the traces of original red minium paint (Mennige)?

Also, the punched circles over the breech remind of the almost identical decoration on the Sotheby's stone gun (cf. b/w photos above)!

Alexander, as I have tried to explain before, the 'younger' the barrel is, the larger is the touchhole. The largest touchholes occur on guns around 1500 - please cf. my earlier posts on haquebut barrel from my collection. After that turn of the century - and with the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance - touchholes tend to become notably smaller once again.

Now, and on thinking twice, the Sotheby's Swiss Steinbüchse could even be as late as the second half of the 15th century when measured by its large touchhole, and considering the long and traditional Swis way of keeping oblique styles. On the other hand, the piece might well be ca. 1430 and the touchhole just burnt out or was widened during its later working time.

That's one of the points when I wish there would be more input from my fellow members!!! :o :shrug:


Matchlock 6th July 2010 08:52 PM

Another fine and completely preserved Steinbüchse in Salzburg
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This is preserved at the Fortress (Veste) of Hohensalzburg, Austria, and like the Weißenburg gun it too retains its original oaken stock to which the wrought iron barrel is attached by three fixed iron bands.

The round, staged barrel features a smaller breech and a notably wider ball chamber (Flug).

Although I took a lot of photos of it back in the 80's I sadly do not have any ecxact measurements but I estimate its data to nearly the same as those of the Weißenburg Steinbüchse: ca. 65 cm overall, barrel ca. 28 cm, bore ca. 8 cm.

The touchhole is still rather small and not too far off the rear barrel end, the caliber is already rather big for a manually operated piece and the barrel is already wrought of one piece around an iron bolt and fire-welded together. This latter part of the inner barrel is seen in the pics. A dating of early 15th century (ca. 1410-20) would therefore seem quite right but mid-15th c. is also possible.

It too was doubtlessly mounted pivotable and adjustable on a heavy wooden base.

What's highly interesting is the iron tongue of a longitudinal band nailed to and sticking out from the underside of the carriage. I guess it must have had some function either in connexion with the (missing) wooden base or with the loading process. The rest of such a tongue seems to be present on the Weißenburg Steinbüchse as well. Mabye it just acted as a sort of grip when adjusting the piece or revolving it on the socket.
Anyway, I once had an idea that might have presented a solution but sadly can't seem to remember. Must study the contemporary illustrations - and hope for your brain storming, of course! :) ;)


Matchlock 9th August 2010 04:26 PM

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A medium size wrought iron Steinbüchse made of staves and hoops (German Stabring-Geschütz), ca. 1400, in the Army Museum (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) at Vienna, Austria, inv.-no. NI 81588; the wooden carriage is a modern reproduction.


overall length: 90 cm
maximum width/outer diameter: 26 cm
caliber: 16 cm
powder chamber: 46 cm long, inner diameter at the front 5.5 cm, narrowing to 4.5 cm at the rear
length of ball chamber (Flug): 22 cm, meaning that the ball of lime stone with a diameter of ca. 15.5 cm was placed very close to the muzzle and had to be plugged by wooden wedges!
distance between touch hole and and muzzle: 83.5 cm
weight: ca. 125 kg.

This gun is assumed to have been manufactured in Venice between ca. 1390 and 1410.


Matchlock 9th August 2010 05:16 PM

Two Early Guns Firing Lead Balls (Bleibüchsen), ca. 1420 and 1470
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On top there is a watercolor of ca. 1530 illustrating the taking of the counties of Burgundy and Arthois in 1495.

The smaller Bleibüchse is preserved standing upright (second image, to the left) in a row of various little noisemakers (Böller) in the world famous arms collection at the castle (Burg) Forchtenstein near Vienna, Austria (second and third images). It is of wrought iron and can be dated to the early 15th century, ca. 1410-20. The fact that the touch hole is unusually large for that period of time leads me to the supposition that it was probably considerably widened during the long working time of the barrel.
The muzzle is not swamped but reinforced by a thick iron ring that was drawn over the barrel in red hot condition. Due to rust and great age, it is coming off in layers nowadays.

Its measurements are:

length overall: 37.5 cm
maximum width: 13.7 cm
caliber: 5 cm
weight: 17.5 kg

The lead ball of a diameter of nearly 5 cm weighed 700 grams, the powder charge 500 grams!
The firing distance is estimated to have been about 1,000 meters.

BTW, the round little barrel to its right may also be dated to the 15th century.

The last image shows a larger sample of a wrought iron cannon barrel of ca. 1470 also firing lead balls which is on display in the Army Museum (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) in Vienna, Austria.


length overall: 1.66 m
maximum width: 13.0 cm
outer diameter of the swamped the muzzle: 12.3 cm
caliber: 4.5 cm
weight: unknown
weight of lead ball: 480 grams
weight of powder charge: 240 g


Matchlock 9th August 2010 07:29 PM

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Here is a watercolor of ca. 1410 from the famous Cod. vind. 3069, fol 40, Austrian National Library, Vienna. The gunner is depicted firing a smaller Steinbüchse by means of a long igniting iron* (Loseisen). A lime stone ball (not to scale as was usual at that period of time) is seen leaving the muzzle and flying over the moat towards a tower as part of the wall of a city laid siege to.

Two details are remarkable:

- the way the guy is balancing a bowl with stone balls in his left hand (which does not really make much sense :rolleyes: )

- the carriage is already adjustable in height and its wheels show a very special form of parallel spokes (Parallelspeichenräder) characteristic of the alpine regions where they were kept in use for hundreds of years until the early 20th century.

*For a detailed discussion of igniting irons and linstocks, please see my thread


Spiridonov 21st July 2011 02:25 PM

It seems that spiral welding is on the barrel on the top of the topic

Matchlock 21st July 2011 02:44 PM

Absolutely, Alexander! :)


Matchlock 5th May 2014 02:12 PM

For two rare bombards/Steinbüchsen sold at auction, please see my thread:


Spiridonov 22nd May 2017 08:21 PM

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The wrought-iron gun has a total length of 260mm a bore 31mm. It was found in Southern Germany.

Spiridonov 22nd May 2017 08:24 PM

4 Attachment(s)
One more
"A VERY EARLY & EXTREMELY RARE NORTHERN ITALIAN (PERUGIA?) 14th/15th CENTURY WROUGHT IRON HAND-CANNON, ca. 1400: In overall fine untouched condition. Lightly oxidized and rust-patinated wrought, iron surfaces with the expected patches of wear, discoloration, scattered pitting and roughness. Of very early, mid-14th Century, small-sized, Hand-Cannon form: having a wrought forged, twisted, bulbous-type, 7”, iron barrel with a slightly irregular, 1.25+ caliber bore: the underside of the muzzle with its original, rectangular, pierced, hook/hack for the attachment of a “Tiller”/Stock. A pronounced twisted midsection and an integrally forged rear handle/powder-chamber with its early type, top-mounted, vent-type/touch-hole. The exterior surfaces retain a fine, untouched, chocolate-brown age-patina and the expected signs of wear from use and exposure. In overall fine condition with a russet-brown patina and scattered forge-roughness/pitting. Some expected bore-irregularity, rust-stains, signs of age and wear. Exhibits a hand-forged, wrought-iron, "twist" pattern with evident hammer-marks and laminations. Overall length 11": and possibly one of the 500 Hand-Cannons/”Bombards” described in the Perugia Arsenal inventory, of 1364; as this and several other similar surviving examples, similarly to those described, is made with a 7” barrel. “500 bombarde una spana longhe” (a span being approx. 9”). {For additional information, Please see M. L. Brown’s: “Firearms in Colonial America…”, pg. 7 & H. L. Peterson’s: “The Treasury of the Gun”, pg. 39). An extremely rare, early and original 14th/15th Century European (Northern Italian) Hand-Cannon, ca. 1400. Rarely seen outside of large European Estate or Institutional collections. One of the earliest examples of a European Firearm on Today’s Market. For a similar example, please see Dudley Pope's: "Guns", “Firearms in Colonial America”, C. Blair’s: “European & American Arms…”, & Jan Durdik's: “Alte Handfeuerwaffen”, pg. 20.

No markings other than a large "18" at the muzzle, twist pattern on the barrel, mounting peg on the muzzle, 4 1/4" grip area with touch hole to the rear. Definitely old, but cannot identify.
BBL: 6 3/4 inch round "

fernando 23rd May 2017 10:51 AM

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A gun with a similar profile may be seen in Prestige de lármurerie Portugaise, an exhibition held at Musee d´Armes de Liege, in 1991.
It belongs (or belonged) in the collection of Rainer Daehnhardt and is said to have been excavated in the field of the battle of Aljubarrota, which took place in 1385. We know that this is a very early date and a Portuguese specialist doesn't agree that small artillery was used in this battle by Portuguese, also there is a chronicler of the period (Fernão Lopes) who describes how the Spanish side used a number of 16 heavy bombards (trons). Mr. Daehnhardt pretends that, for the same logic, nothing rejects that small hand cannons were used by the Portuguese side.


Marcus den toom 23rd May 2017 02:55 PM

Spiridonov, i think Michael dealt with this example as well.. bexause these two are one and the same cannon. More over, they are the sad remains of two hand cannons forced into eachother.
The hole where the small " hook" was positioned used to be the touchhole of the second cannon... if you where to request pictures from the inside of the bore you would see the cruel operation... sad :shrug:

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