Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   Re: The oldest known handgun in existence, ca. 1400-10 (

fernando 22nd October 2008 09:39 PM

Originally Posted by Matchlock
Done, Ed.


Can i also be contemplated, please ? :)

Matchlock 22nd October 2008 11:30 PM


Unfortunately I have no knowledge of

- any original illustration from the Gothic period

- any photo of a doubtlessly original piece

- any existing piece that is undoubtedly original comprising barrel and stock

with a "wooden hook".

I will, however, ask Herr Rietsche about his reference and report to you.


Matchlock 22nd October 2008 11:39 PM

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Originally Posted by fernando
Can i also be contemplated, please ? :)

Sorry, Fernando, and all of you,

Here are the details of the catalog and video, and the contact.

Maybe the URL will not work; I do not know how to copy it.

Matchlock 23rd October 2008 07:18 PM

Were recoil support hooks on guns made of wood?
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I hope to be able now and sort out the qestion if there were wooden hooks to guns. Let's stick closely to terms, meaning that a hook has to look like a hook and a lug is - well, a lug.

In his Park Land Arms Fair catalog article, Bernhard Rietsche refers to ZHWK, vol. 2, 1900-1902, pp. 119. This article by Paul Sixl is based on the Pilsen guns and solely refers to the piece that I posted twice above, and a third time below, with the large wooden base to its underside. In fact, Sixl does not call this a "hook" but attributes its function to absorbing the recoil. He writes that pressing the heavy piece down on its rest must have reduced the kick back.

He also mentions a historical drawing in Vienna codex ms. 53 (actually, in his first quote in ZHWK vol. I, 1897-1899, p. 182, he calls it codex ms 55) arguing that the stock of that drawing was absolutely identical ("in voller ▄bereinstimmung") to the one in Pilsen.

Let's check out the two pieces ourselves. Here is the Pilsen gun once more, contrasted to the gun from the Vienna codex.

Not only is there almost no similarity, let alone "identity" between their stocks, the Vienna gun has in fact no wooden lug or "hook" at all. So this argument is missing any base.

Things remain the same they used to be:
There is no original historical source evidence of the existence of "wooden hooks".
What makes the Pilsen gun special is the big wooden lug on its underside that was certainly used to rest the heavy handgun (Sixl gives its length with 130 cm and its weight with 10,37 kg) e.g. on a wall. This lug alone was doubtlessly apt to soften the recoil a bit, but, as I pointed out before, it does clearly have a rudimentary iron lug protruding from the underside which must have served as the real recoil stop. It may even be the rest of a regular hook.
The Pilsen gun is not really an example for a wooden hook.

Only iron hooks could stand the recoil and prevent the wood from being heavily damaged. It cannot be categorically excluded that heavy wooden lugs were the first stage in recoil prevention, but if so, they were certainly not "hooks", and it was not for long. The next stage were iron hooks nailed thru the stock (as is the case in the Berne gun) oder drawn over the barrel and rivited, as in my piece. From ca. 1440-50 we know both the earliest illustrated sources and various surviving haquebut barrels with integral fire welded wrought iron hooks. Bronze barrels had cast hooks, of course.


fernando 24th October 2008 01:05 AM

Hi Michael,
Thanks a lot for investigation and consequent revelations.

Originally Posted by Matchlock
... Let's stick closely to terms, meaning that a hook has to look like a hook and a lug is - well, a lug ...
... He writes that pressing the heavy piece down on its rest must have reduced the kick back ...
... There is no original historical source evidence of the existence of "wooden hooks".

Allright, no wooden hooks :shrug: .
Now, if you allow me the impertinence ...
What if we don't (strictly) stick to terms ?
Like if we are flexible to the extent that when we mention hook, this may as well be a figure of speech; after all, hooks have so many shapes ... i mean, what instead of mentioning hook, we just call it a 'device', comprehending hooks, lugs, stumps, when they all serve the same purpose?!
If you allow me the correlation, i was reading about the appearance of the stock in portable firearms; the author reminds us that, after all, the stock is ( or also is) an implement to absorb the recoil.
Is this 'reasoning' any 'reasonable' ?
I know, in this case the human shoulder, or chest, plays the role of the wall.
This is what happens when you pay attention to laymen :shrug: .
If you don't have any more patience, just send me to that part :eek: .

Matchlock 24th October 2008 05:06 PM


I think that most reasoning is "reasonable". This is why I did not exclude the possibility of a real existence of wooden devices to reduce the recoil.

Of course such existed as the lug of the Pilsen gun sure does, apart from being a rest, effect one more thing: it makes the gun heavier where this is most useful to keep the kick back low.

I hope the two of us can happily meet under this compromise.


fernando 24th October 2008 05:09 PM

Originally Posted by Matchlock
... I hope the two of us can happily meet under this compromise ...

Sure thing, Michael :) ;) :cool:

Matchlock 27th October 2008 09:24 PM

Graz catalog
Originally Posted by Matchlock
Sorry, Fernando, and all of you,

Here are the details of the catalog and video, and the contact.

Maybe the URL will not work; I do not know how to copy it.

I have been informed that the video is sold out.

Those who are interested in the catalog (in German but the measurement results like muzzle velocity, impact etc. are perfectly understood and there are lots of b/w photos) please email:

The link should work this time.


Spiridonov 16th November 2008 07:34 PM

what is the calibre of handgonne with matchlock? what is the barrel length?
Barreel is 6 or 8 meshes?

Matchlock 19th November 2008 03:42 PM


The barrel is 33 cm in length measured from the touch hole, the caliber is 23 mm smoothbore.


Matchlock 19th November 2008 03:43 PM

The barrel is hexagonal (six-sided) throughout.


Spiridonov 24th January 2009 12:08 PM

I think? that this handgonne is fake

Matchlock 27th January 2009 06:00 PM

Originally Posted by Spiridonov
I think? that this handgonne is fake

Anyway, what makes you think so? :( :shrug:


fernando 27th January 2009 08:37 PM

Yes, let's see what Spiridonov has to say; he seems to be qualified in this field :cool: .

Matchlock 28th January 2009 02:09 PM

Right, Fernando,

I'm keen to profit from his competence. Hope he'll share it. :cool: :rolleyes:


Pukka Bundook 29th January 2009 01:17 PM

Good day to you, Michael and Fernando!

I am also waiting with interest for a reply, but I'm beginning to turn a funny colour.....

With best wishes,


fernando 29th January 2009 01:43 PM

Spiridonov, are you still around ? :confused:

Matchlock 29th January 2009 04:17 PM

Thank you, Fernando and Richard,

Well, I guess that Spiridonow obviously has taken his time studying profoundly what I posted in November and consequently drawn his expert conclusions. After all, he may have a far better collection than I, more books and may have been to more museums than I have. Who knows? :D

We should not worry too much, though, my friends - to each his own ... :rolleyes:


Matchlock 21st February 2009 05:52 PM

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A similar tiller gun preserved at the Springfield Armory - wooden staff replaced, no mechanism.

Sadly no better photo available.


Matchlock 21st February 2009 06:28 PM

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The description of the Springfield Armory piece.

Matchlock 25th February 2009 07:38 PM

One of the Oldest Known Stocked Guns, ca. 1400-1440
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The so called Berne gun, preserved at the Historic Museum Berne, Switzerland; sadly not seen on display for decades like almost all their weapons.:o :(

The oak stock is the original one while the hook nailed thru the stock seems to be a working addition of ca. 1430-40 when the first hooks turned up.

The stats are:
oa. length 95.2 cm, oa. weight 4.15 kg, barrel length 18.5 cm, octagonal throughout, length of bore 15.0 cm, outer muzzle diameter 5.6 cm, bore 3.5 cm.

A very similar wrought iron barrel, ca. 1380-1400, and retaining one of its originally two iron stock bands, is in my collection (attchaments below). Its eight sides alternate in width which, according to my experience, is characteristic of almost all of the earliest octagonal barrels. Like on the Berne gun, the touch hole is some 3 cm forward of the rear end. Unlike the Berne gun, the bore of my item has been drilled out within its working life. You can see the drill marks on the inner wall of the barrel, as well the place on the bottom which the point of the drill left. This accounts for its present cylindrical bore which most probably was of conical shape originally.


Matchlock 27th March 2009 05:40 PM

See more!
Please go to


cornelistromp 3rd April 2009 07:22 AM

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Hi Michael,

found yesterday in the real armeria in Madrid two early examples.
Dated 1450 but both can be a bit earlier.

sorry, I could not make better pictures with my mobil phone

best regards

Matchlock 3rd April 2009 12:48 PM

Earliest Firearms at The ArmerÝa Reale, Madrid
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Thank you so much, Cornelis.

I found the attached pictures.

These items are very difficult to date. I should assign a dating of "early 16th century" to the first and "ca. 1400" to the last, though, based upon the specific shapes of the barrels.

Best wishes,

fahnenschmied 26th September 2009 01:36 AM

Not the oldest handgun around...
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Some time ago I found some inspiration in the interesting mechanism posted by Matchlock at the beginning of this thread. No, I haven't set out to duplicate it, but it did seem a useful addition to my handcannon.
Yes, that was going to be a Tannenberg style gun....I only wanted my father to bore it and turn the exterior roughly - I was going to rasp it off much like the original, all crooked and irregular - but my father spent alot of money on a milling cutter to cut the angles, so I only filed the milling marks off, for the moment. I make "serpentine" powder for it too...
This modernization didn't take long to make, once I figured it out. The spring limits the upward travel of the tinder-holder....the shorter you trim the front off the spring, the higher it will rise. At first glance, I thought the "trigger" part was made thick to give it weight, and I had no idea what the spring was doing on top. Besides, it looked too weak for anything. With careful looking, though, I saw that the spring wraps underneath the serpentine arm. Simple, only two nails, and a stub of the spring is driven into the shaft.
Sighting is good - I "pinch" my target between the muzzle and the tinder, and unlike the later matchlock, I can see my ember all the way down, and also see if my priming is still there. I am still a little frightened by the loud cracking report given by my "primitive" powder! Ordinary FF powder just makes a big boom like a flintlock pistol or so.

Matchlock 27th September 2009 03:32 PM

Well done, fahnenschmied!


Spiridonov 5th November 2010 10:18 AM

Originally Posted by Matchlock
You can see the drill marks on the inner wall of the barrel, as well the place on the bottom which the point of the drill left.

Michael, Hallo! Do you really think that it was drilled at the 1380-1400 yaer?

Matchlock 5th November 2010 02:56 PM

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Hello Alexender,

No, there definitely was no drilling of barrels before ca. 1430, a time when they were mounted first with hooks, but not yet wrought integrally.

As I wrote, I surmised that both the Berne gun and my barrel were drilled out somewhen in their later working life, which may have been during the 15th century.

As you know I have a Nuremberg wrought iron haquebut barrel which cannot have been made before ca. 1490/1500 but the inner surface of which has never been drilled! Not only is it of totally irregular 'bore' :rolleyes: at the muzzle but one can look inside and see heavy distortions going on down to the rear! The only ammunition it could have possibly fired would be some kind of shot ... I am sure you recall seeing it in my collection when you were here in August.

Attached please find images. It is the second last in the first pic and the one on the right in the row of muzzles.


Matchlock 5th November 2010 03:27 PM

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One more detail, this time it's the one on top.


Spiridonov 5th November 2010 04:40 PM

Michael, I have made a mistake in translation of your post (25th February 2009 10:38 PM). That is why i was so wondered. I know that drilling is not possible for early 15 century. Shall you say me, when did this barrel was drilled? 100 years later that time when it was made? :D

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