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Matchlock 11th November 2008 02:16 PM

A fine Nuremberg matchlock Landsknecht harquebus, dated 1539
12 Attachment(s)
The stock of limewood, partly carved with triangular ornament; behind the barrel tang the Nuremberg city mark N. The barrel and lock of wrought iron, the first deeply struck twice with a Nuremberg maker's mark, two crossed crossbow bolts (also known from cranequins of the 1530's-40's), and the dated 1539. Although the upper end of the buttstock shows some damage the whole is preserved in unusually good condition regarding its great age; even the ramrod is the original, retaining its long iron finial threaded for cleaning tools. Overall length 112 cm, cal. 16 mm.

Only one other similar piece is known, the barrel bearing the same marks and date: it is on display in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg. I attach some details of that, too. It mostly differs from my piece in that the GNM's gun is in worse condition overall, especially the stock. The iron parts show traces of acid cleaning. The shape of the lock plate is slightly different from mine, the long tiller trigger is broken off and the ramrod missing. The barrel, however, is remarkable for having an incised serpent like wavy line ornament in its forward section ending in stylized Gothic trefoils consisting of three circles each.
The stock does not bear the N for Nuremberg, and the description reads that it is of walnut. The graining, however, is clearly that of limewood or possibly maple.
The measurements are almost exactly the same as in my piece.

These harquebuses were employed by those mercenaries who were called harquebusiers. The attached Nuremberg woodcuts of the 1530's show South German Landsknechte with their matchlock harquebuses.


Matchlock 11th November 2008 02:22 PM

Photos of the gun in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.

Matchlock 11th November 2008 02:28 PM

11 Attachment(s)
Here they are.

Matchlock 11th November 2008 02:33 PM

4 Attachment(s)
The harquebusiers.

The fist English, of Henry VIII's army, ca. 1540. The buttstock of his harquebus closesly resembles that of my gun.

The others Nuremberg, 1530's.


Matchlock 24th November 2008 12:12 PM

A Nürnberg Schützen letter, dated 1532
2 Attachment(s)
The Landsknecht harquebusier aims his short matchlock harquebus which closely corresponds to my fine Nürnberg piece dated 1539 at the target.

You can see the serpentine moved towards the pan.


Matchlock 1st December 2008 11:32 AM

A fine brass barrel dated 1539
12 Attachment(s)
At the Museum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck/The Tyrol.

The non-presence of a pan denotes that the barrel was originally stocked together with

- either a matchlock mechanism with integrally riveted pan


- a wheel-lock mechanism.

The present stock is a 19th century reconstruction; while its form seems quite correct the wood is not. It is pinewood whereas heavy pieces were originally stocked mostly in oak and sometimes in ash.


Matchlock 1st December 2008 11:34 AM

For matchlock mechanisms with integrally riveted pans, see


Matchlock 1st December 2008 11:36 AM

For wheel-lock mechanisms of the 1530's, see


Matchlock 1st December 2008 11:38 AM

For more matchlock mechanisms with integrally riveted pans, see also


Matchlock 1st December 2008 11:41 AM

For a fine 1520's wall piece stocked in ash, please see


Pukka Bundook 1st December 2008 02:27 PM


Very fine photographs again!

Comparing your piece to the one at the GNM, I would say yours has had a much better life, and is very preferable!

It appears that the GNM piece stood on the floor for decades, and the heel of the butt-stock rotted away, and wood beetle attacked it rather badly.
It is a shame it was cleaned with acid, and had new screws made with no attempt to age them a little, to look like they belong.
Still, it is a Very nice barrel, with unique decoration.

The barrel from Innsbruck is exceptional! The rather ratty stock is a dis-service in my opinion. It does deserve being stocked up in something better.

I have noticed the muzzle crowning of this type on a couple of yours, Michael.
Does it serve a purpose?....or is it just decoration?
I could imagine a sort of false muzzle fitting over this, with a tapered bore to help in loading.
I gather none of these pieces were designed to be held against the shoulder?

Thank you again for the pictures!


Matchlock 1st December 2008 05:00 PM


The buttstock of the GNM harquebus has indeed suffered from being left standing upright for a very long time. So did the buttstock of my Kronburg wall piece that was found, together with several others, standing upright on a board in a bricked up room at Schloss Kronburg during renovation work in 1953. Actually, the upper portions of the lime wood butt stocks of both my 1539 and my ca. 1540 Straubing matchlock harquebuses are somewhat damaged as well from being kept in an upright position and probably put down hard and carelessly again and again for too long.

Your remarks on the swamped and decorated muzzle sections are extremely important, thank you. There are two main reasons for that shape of muzzle sections that were in use even with 18th century sporting rifles:

- A reinforcement of the muzzle portion by swamping added both to the barrel's stability in firing heavy loads and to the handling and balance of the gun

- As the earliest barrels are from the Mid and Late Gothic periods (14th-15th centuries), their overall form closely corresponded to e.g. that of the Gothic and 16th century architectural columns: six or eight sided first, with reinforced base and top, then, from the late 1500's, round and staged.

Actually, most wall pieces were intended to be aimed and fired from the shoulder, with a second man ingniting the piece through the touch hole (Richt- und Feuerschütze). The hook helped absorb the recoil. When you look at the buttstock of my Kronburg wall piece the early fishtail shape indented for the sholuder clearly suggests the way it was heald.

Must I add that your notes are very inspiring to me? :)

Thank you so much, I'll tip my next Bavarian dark beer to you overe there!


Matchlock 1st December 2008 05:18 PM

3 Attachment(s)
For the buttstock of my 1520's Schloss Kronburg wall piece, indented for the shoulder, please go to

I also attach details of the slightly damaged tips of the limewood buttstocks of my 1539 and ca. 1540 matchlock harquebuses, as well as of the specific damage of the tip of my Kronburg wall piece.


Matchlock 1st December 2008 08:05 PM

16th century screws

I have to say that your remarks on the incorrect form of the replaced screws on the GNM 1539 harquebus are extremely appreciated: You have really got THE eye, buddy!

Of course, their heads and patina should look like in my almost identical piece - great!

I did some close study in early screws from my pieces and detached samples in my collection some twenty years ago and would like to post them soon, disregarding the fact that they are analog pics - btw, so are most of my pics that I shared with the forum ...


Matchlock 1st December 2008 08:19 PM

Two men needed to aim and fire a 500 year old wall piece
5 Attachment(s)
From the Maximilianische Zeugbücher (Maximilian arsenal inventory books), ca. 1507, and posted in earlier threads, depicting both the aiming man (Richtschütze) and the firing one (Feuerschütze) at work.

Have fun,


Pukka Bundook 2nd December 2008 05:11 AM

Thank you for answering my questions, Michael.

Is there a reason for the muzzle of the brass barrel from Innsbruck/The Tyrol being half-round, right at the muzzle?.........purely decoration?

I just went to your thread re. the Schloss Kronburg wall piece, and found it very fascinating, how it and other arms survived bricked up in a small room for hundreds of years!
Finding something like that is the stuff of dreams!
It is good that the wall-pieces were stood on a thick plank, and not on a damp floor.
May I ask if your Landsknecht's harquebus of 1539 is meant to be fired from the shoulder?.....I think not, but do not really know!

Re. the slightly damaged butt-stocks, I would suppose that a form of butt-plate would be quite an early invention, as the constant up-and- down in loading, and just carrying and setting dowm, would soon leave their mark.
That these pieces have survived with such small amounts of damage after all these years, is truly remarkable!
Thank you for tha additional pictures, and links!

Very best wishes,


Matchlock 2nd December 2008 03:10 PM

2 Attachment(s)

The half rounded muzzle is an ornament characteristic of the 1520's-1530's and disappears right after.

The stock of my 1539 harquebus is definitely apt to be fired from the shoulder; please study the Nürnberg illustration of 1532 posted again below - it depicts almost the same kind of stock. On the other hand there are historic illustrations showing harquebuses being held freely in front of the breast or even the belly well up to mid 16th century. So these short guns were handled either way. We sometimes even see them put on top of the shoulder, which actually hardly makes any sense.

Actually, the first butt-plates appeared in the 1530's and were made of bone, like in crossbows, but only for high quality decorated pieces. Plain military guns were generally made without butt-stock protection up to the early 17th century although in some cases we find iron butt-plates as early as the 1580's. They seem to have become standardized widely only by the beginning of the Thirty Years War, though.

Btw, I started a thread on its own on the aiming of guns in late 15th to mid 16th century illustrations.


Pukka Bundook 3rd December 2008 02:41 PM

Thanks for your reply, Michael.

In the pictures above, I could not decide if the stock was being held against the shoulder or not. To me, it looked short, as though it was being held in the hands, and not against the shoulder.
This may be just the artists impression, and makes it rather difficult to say for sure.
If your gun is long enough in the stock to fit aginst the shoulder, then this is very good information to have! (even if the stock is rather short for a modern man,,,)

A Q. re. the rests the guns are fired from in the above paintings;

I see in each of the pictures, the plank of the rest is half-lapped in the centre, and bound with iron.
Do you know if they were joined such as an aid in transporting them?
I cannot think they each had a join like this simply because the planks were too short.

Thank you again for your time!


Matchlock 3rd December 2008 04:13 PM

You are right, Richard,

Short harquebuses usually have very short buttstocks mostly meant be held in the firer's hands in front of his breast.

My Straubing harquebus is an exception from that rule in having a rather long buttstock while its pal, still preserved at the Straubing museum, is proportioned perfectly. Maybe mine was stocked for a guy with longer arms.

Like you, I have often wondered because of those Maximilian rests. I am not able to solve the problem, sorry. Your command of physics is much better than mine, no doubt about that.


Pukka Bundook 4th December 2008 05:17 AM


Thank you for again answering my questions re. buttstock lengths.
I know of no other source I could turn to for this information!

Thank you for sharing details on early butt-plates, as I was in the dark about these as well!
Maybe the Maximilian rests must remain a mystery....and a mystery it is, how each one is joined in exactly the same manner.

All the best,


Matchlock 5th December 2008 06:58 PM


I am afraid that no one ever cared for such minuteae (in fact, Jim's gotta be credited my for teaching me that charmin' Latin word - hope I spelt it right; I used to be good at Latin at grammar school but forgot most of it by now ...:) ) before.

We do, though ... ;)


Matchlock 7th December 2008 01:09 PM

Landsknecht's matchlock harquebuses, partly of Nuremberg make, ca. 1520-1540
8 Attachment(s)
... at the Brukental Museum, Sibiu/Romania.

The scans taken from very bad prints in a 1970's Romanian catalog.


Pukka Bundook 7th December 2008 01:58 PM


These locks appear to be the most "rustic" I've seen whilst still having all the essentials of a matchlock mechanism!

I think it is more the blacksmith construction than anything, as these snapping mechanisms appears of sound enough design.
By the stocks, it looks like they have been badly neglected for a very long time!
I see an exclamation mark after the calibre of the first one, (12mm) I sometimes think we might miss important details if we don't take note of your notes!
This does appear a rather small bore. Is this very rare?

The last lock appears of a rather advanced design, with it's trigger sear, yet the quality of work seems very provincial.

In a way, One would think it was a lock similar to this that the Japanese copied forever.....except their springs were never up to much!

You really do post some interesting stuff!
Can you tell me Michael;
The snap-lock with button on the side-plate, Is the button pressed with the thumb?
I have never had hold of one, so must ask!

Also, The Snap-locks often work the opposite way to a sear lock, the cock moving forward to the pan.
Is this for ease in cocking?, or because the cock snapping down into the pan could send powder back over the fence into the firer's eyes, if made with the cock snapping backwards into the pan?........or some other reason?

Thanks again, and please forgive my questions!


Matchlock 7th December 2008 02:33 PM


I knew that would get you started. ;)

As you remarked perfectly, the early harquebuses used to have rather small bores, ca. 12 mm. As there are so few around it is vey rare indeed to find one of such small caliber.

I also fully agree with you in that the stocks do look rather provincial. I think maybe Romania had the barrels and locks delivered from Nuremberg and other manufacturing centers while the stocks were home made.

As to pressing the lateral push button trigger, this was quite certainly done with the index finger, just as in later trigger development. Using the index finger allows one to keep quite a good grip of the stock with the thumb and the rest of the hand.

I am afraid that my own pondering has not led to any different explanations of the snap lock cocks moving either backwards of forwards into the pan than those considered by you. I think the old gunmakers were just trying, offering both methods to be tested by the shooters.

Thank you again for all these brilliant questions,


Matchlock 7th December 2008 02:46 PM

4 Attachment(s)
I attach images of my earliest snap tinder lock with a lateral push button release, ca. 1510-15.

It was in heavily rusty excavated condition when I got it, with the cock frozen in the cocked position (!) - and still the one armed spring had retained much of its original tension ...

A close before/after comparison should illustrate that the long time and careful restoration work has really saved the extremely rare piece.


Matchlock 7th December 2008 03:53 PM

A Styrian wallgun with snap tinder lock, ca. 1525
5 Attachment(s)
The barrel struck with the maker's mark of Peter Hofkircher, Styria.

The lock with part plate of brass, only for the serpentine cock. The blackened full stock of limewood, with the muzzle section of the barrel left unstocked. The ramrod channel drilled a bit out of the middle to avoid contact with the recoil hook.

The whole piece photograped standing upright against a row of matchlock wall pieces of mid 16th to early 16t centruy dates.


Pukka Bundook 8th December 2008 01:23 PM

Good morning Michael.

Your excavated lock looks wonderful now. the 'before' pic. looks like it was about ready for the junk pile!
Brilliant job in saving the 'life' of such an early and rare lock!

The wall gun by Peter Hofkircher has some very interesting details.
Can you tell me why the short lock-plate, with spring nailed to the stock,...when locks were being made with all parts mounted on the plate before this date? Economy measure?

What calibre would such a wall-gun be?
The off-set ramrod hole makes sense, but is it not rare for a wall-gun to be fitted with a ramrod?
I thought I knew a little bit about matchlocks, but the more I learn, the less I know!

I also note the use of limewood, It appears to have been rather common for stocks at this time.
What characteristics does limewood posess, to make it desirable for gunstocks?
Is it very resistant to splitting like beech, or some other property?

I find it fascinating that limewood will still give off its aroma after 450 years!

looking at the row of wall-guns, the butt-stocks look as varied as can be! it would appear that the artist was coming out in the men who did the stocking.
Those with a very narrow butt-stock would be I think, rather painful to fire,...except for the wall hook.

You do give me much to ponder!...


Matchlock 13th December 2008 02:58 PM

Hi Richard,

I am afraid there is no certain reason for employing so-called part lock mechanisms at a time period when complete lock mechanisms were known long since. It may have been a regional thing, like an old arsenal armorer who may have preferred to cling to a form that he had become familiar with.
Generally, during the first half of the 16th century, both 'obsolete' and 'modern' forms are found side by side.

The overall length of the Hofkircher wall gun is 179 cm, the relatively small bore is 15,7 mm, the weight 6,7 kg, so there is really no need for a hook and the piece is quite light for a wall gun.

It is very unsual for an early 16th century wall gun to be fiited with an ramrod, indeed, while there are many heavy pieces known from the mid-17th century to have their ramrods mounted to the left side of the stock, held by small iron pipes.

As to the use of limewood, it is said to be easy to work on and quite tough at the same time. And - exactly, it does retain its beautiful aroma!

A great variety of butt-stocks is found at the mid 16th century.


Matchlock 27th March 2009 04:27 PM

See what that sleeping Landsknecht guy has rested on his knees!
1 Attachment(s)
A 1530's matchlock harquebus with blued iron parts, brass tunnel back sight and heavily swamped muzzle section, the stock left 'in the white'!!!!

Detail of a painting of the Resurrection by Simon Franck, ca. 1540, in the basilica of Aschaffenburg/Northern Bavaria.


Jim McDougall 29th March 2009 01:44 PM

I have been meaning to focus on these wonderful threads by Michael one at a time and try to learn more on these medieval firearms, and today was one of those opportunities. I am such a neanderthal when it comes to the dynamics and complexities of firearms, that much of it is difficult for me to connect...however in reading the brilliant discourse between Michael and Richard it seems remarkably understandable.
Its like textbook medieval firearms with two brilliant professors presenting a completely captivating course, and with Michael's amazing photos, its as if I am looking upon and handling the actual weapons.

In reading this, my only observations and questions are admittedly elementary, but I will state anyway.
It does seem like the Thirty Years war did bring many innovations and changes in weapons production, along with obviously profound other effects and influences in many perspectives. I had never thought of exactly how long an element so simple as a buttplate had been around, and now I can better realize its purposes as well. I have always had an addiction to discovering such details and minutiae (thank you Michael for the note on that word ! :) and it seems that often such seemingly irrelevant things can offer important clues in investigating weapons and thier developmental forms.

Excellent observations ,Richard on the screws, as noted by Michael (I think we should have a thread, no pun intended :) on screws as used in early weapons). I think we have discussed this briefly on screws used on sword hilts, but need to look more into the topic.

I cannot help but wonder on these larger wall gun versions, if there was any problem with recoil. Would these have been like cannon used in naval situations, using lower charges due to closer quarters as the targets were so close? I am under the impression that firing these early firearms that the detonation on relatively uncompressed powder would not have produced very much recoil...would that be somewhat correct?

Thank you so much guys for continually developing this fascinating field of study here!!!

All very best regards,

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