Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Matchlock 13th November 2008 12:35 PM

A matchlock chronology, ca. 1520 to 1720
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All (and many more) in my collection, many of them belonging to complete guns, some just being detached.


Matchlock 13th November 2008 12:54 PM

First half 16th century
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Note the cute sea-horse shaped snap serpentine of the smallest mechanism, which belongs to a small Landsknecht type harquebus in my collection that was most probably made in Brescia, Val Trompia, Northern Italy, in about 1520. I will post that gun later.

The one in the middle is a snap matchlock of Nuremberg make, ca. 1540.

The one at the bottom is North Italian, ca. 1550, retaining its original finely wrought tiller trigger. It also highly unusual in having a safety catch: a wing nut can be turned to block the sear inside the lockplate!


Matchlock 13th November 2008 04:52 PM

Combined snap and sear matchlocks, ca. 1550-60
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Tho two bigger ones from wall guns. The two photos taken in the Militärmuseum (Army museum) Dresden show the complete guns.


Matchlock 13th November 2008 04:57 PM

Serpentines, Nuremberg, ca. 1580, to Suhl, ca. 1620
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It takes a long study to be able and state the differences in both form and the style of engraving.


Matchlock 13th November 2008 05:04 PM

Nuremberg matchlock mechanisms, ca. 1550-60
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The one with the leaf shaped lockplate ends bearing the crossed sabers marks together with the initials HH of Hans Herold (aka Hörl), Nuremberg, active around 1550-60.


Matchlock 13th November 2008 05:34 PM

Mid 17th century matchlock mechanisms retaining all of their orignal blueing!!!
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Extremely rare to find! This is the way they looked like when handed out to the musketeers almost 400 years ago, who - of course, soon scrubbed off the blueing.

The image of three illustrates the comparison between the earliest known complete matchlock mechanism in existence, ca. 1510-15 (defined as all parts being mounted on a common plate - you may remember this from a previous post here), its snap serpentine released by the push button projecting out of the rear end of the plate (on top).

Most people would hardly notice any significant differences between this 500 year old ancestor and the two blued mechanisms below, the first Suhl, ca. 1640, the second Swedish, 1650's. 150 years of developmemt and yet they look almost all the same; even the size of the lockplate did not considerably change. Simple and reliable simultaneously, it was almost perfect from the start. That's why it used to dominate the battle fields for about 300 years, starting from its most primitive beginnings in the early 15th century (please cf. my post on the earliest known handgun in existence) till its most recent examples built in the 1720's.

It's a rarely plowed field ...


Pukka Bundook 14th November 2008 02:48 AM


Thank you for the wonderful photos!
I see some locks have both snapping and lever mechanisms.
This is the first time I have seen both types on one lock plate.

was the snapping lock used more for target work?


Matchlock 14th November 2008 10:52 AM

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All of these mechanisms are from military guns.

Actually, the snap matchlock, or snap tinderlock, was preferred for both hunting and target shooting guns but saw also extensive "service" in fighting.

The first matchlocks in the early 15th century were sear locks activated by pressing a long trigger bar upward which caused the serpentine to move towards the touch hole and return to its original position after the shot had rung out. From early to mid 16th century, the snap matchlock was peferred for military purposes, triggered by a horizontally working push button. In around 1530 we find the first snap tinderlocks activated by means of a "conventional" trigger. Sear locks, however, never came out of military use, and around the 1550's we often see both mechanisms combined, most probably in order to have another igniting system in reserve. E.g., if the match holder failed or the match had gone out, a piece of tinder in the snap cock (which was a real cock because it had to be cocked) could be lit. A complicated and intricate procedure, no doubt.

In fact, in some instances we find double matchlock mechanisms on wall guns up to the end of the 16th century. The tinder snaplock, though, had long since made its way as an additional or reserve mechanism on wheel-locks from the 1530's. This snap or sear matchlock-wheel-lock combinations were highly favorized from ca. 1550 to 1600, then seem to have diappeared from the battlefields for the period of the Thirty Years War, only to face a renaissance in the 1660's/70's. By then, the flintlock had begun taking over from the wheel-lock - and again we find wheel-lock-flintlock (extremely rare) and sear matchlock-flintlock combinations on the same lockplate for a couple of years.
It seems that the "new" ignition system respectively was not quite trusted to work reliably on its own in its early years.

The attachments show:

a snap tinderlock/sear matchlock combination, Nuremberg, ca. 1550

some snap tinderlock/wheel-lock combinations:

- Munich, dated 1532, the lock and barrel etched profusely

- dated 1544

- ca. 1580, from a wall piece

- a fine Suhl military musket in my collection, dated 1602, in my collection

- a Suhl wall piece, ca. 1610

- a Suhl military musket, 1660's, and

- a sear matchlock/flintlock combination, Suhl, ca. 1666 (the famous Montecuccoli system), both in my collection

a highly unusual dummy wheel-lock mechanism, ca. 1565, which really is a snap matchlock in that it never had a wheel and chain! (in my collection). At first sight, it has the appearance of a high tech wheel-lock but is really a simple snap matchlock.


Matchlock 14th November 2008 10:54 AM

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More views of the dummy wheel-lock.

Pukka Bundook 16th November 2008 01:58 PM


Thank you for the wonderful pictures and very detailed explanation on the use of snapping locks.
I knew the snap-lock was used for target work, but had large gaps where military and sporting use was concerned.

I have only seen one other matchlock dressed up as a wheellock, and find this fascinating and somehow understandably "human"...(A desire to appear of a higher status than where one actually belongs!)

As you know Michael, I do love playing about building archaic guns and such, and your incredible photographs are a real inspiration, ...but I don't try and 'forge' originals!
I can't thank you enough for the time you have taken to share these pictures with us!


Matchlock 16th November 2008 08:16 PM


Thank you so much for your kind lines.

It seems I cannot make any money out of my specialized knowledge, so appreciation is the best I can get for having chosen a domain that far out of the average interest.

And I must say that I feel greatly rewarded by your comments, folks - please keep going keeping me inspired. It's too lonesome a l life ...:rolleyes:

And, Ed and Jim, very special thanks go to you for kicking my lazy a.. so many times, buddies! You are great, all of you.

Best wishes from Bavaria to all of you out there; I'm drinking my next dark beer to you - and our forum!


fernando 16th November 2008 09:46 PM

Thanks for my forum share of that dark beer, Michael.
It is an honour to be in the same place as you and your collection, supported by such skilled knowledge.
With all that you have for sharing, you will allways be willkommen.


Pukka Bundook 17th November 2008 12:28 PM

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Please keep sending us photos of these fascinating arms! I know it is an awful lot of work, taking the pictures, selecting the appropriate ones, etc, and all I can offer in exchange is thanks!
If I were in a position to own an original, I think I would spend many hours sitting holding it, contemplating the first owner, and the so-different world he belonged to!
Such arms are a window to this other age....and maybe even a door, if one were to take a similar arm into the woods and fields and become thoroughly conversant with the every-day workings and peculiarities of such an arm....In other words, we could "remember" things long lost simply by 'doing', and live to some degree, a lifetime beyond our own.

Though bending the forum rules a bit, this is my only matchlock.

Thank you again, Michael.


Matchlock 17th November 2008 05:10 PM

Thank you so much, Fernando, for that hearty willkommen!
It makes me feeling at home with you guys.


Matchlock 17th November 2008 05:28 PM


I fully agree with what you said about old weapons being our window, and even door, to periods and people long forgotten.

Sometimes I feel just the same, especially when handling such highly important historical pieces like my 1481 Munich haquebut barrel. This piece comes from the collection of the Veste (castle) Oberhaus in Passau/Eastern Bavaria, bordering on Austria, where rivaling parties fired at each other at a short fight before the election of new archbishop in 1482. Just imagine my barrel being fired from the high castle down at the citizens! And, as is the case with my fine haquebut/wall gun from the Kronburg: I am only the second or third owner of these two pieces in their 500 years of history!

It's a very special way of being simultaneously happy, humble and grateful, just sort of bowing down before the people that made and handled these pieces. Nothing is left of their bones but we can admire their weapons still ... :cool:


Matchlock 17th November 2008 07:10 PM

Though bending the forum rules a bit, this is my only matchlock.

Thank you again, Michael.



I posted a comment on your fine matchlock musket but by mistake inserted it in the wrong thread - sorry. :confused:

You will be happy going to:


Pukka Bundook 19th November 2008 01:21 AM


I read and responded to your post re. my matchlock over on the other thread,
I am pleased you like it!

Best wishes,


Matchlock 19th November 2008 05:21 PM

Thanks, Richard,

I found it and liked it a lot!

Best wishes,

Matchlock 7th December 2008 04:05 PM

A Styrian snap matchlock with pan, 1550's, retaining its original blued surface
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Extremely rare.


Pukka Bundook 9th December 2008 12:49 PM

Good morning, Michael.

A very nice lock and in just about 'as new' condition!
was it ever fitted to a gun?
The notch in the pan for the touch-hole looks very narrow, and made me wonder if it had ever been fitted or not.
It is a lock roughly similar to this, that I thought may have been originally fitted to the two harquebus' from the Tower.

Looking again at the dummy wheellock above in this thread, I must say an awful lot of work went into it. It is a very nice lock!
I see the pan withdraws when fired via a link inside.

All best wishes,


I have just been looking at the dummy wheel-lock again.

Do I see stains inside the lock-plate where a longer spring was once fitted? also, I see a cut-out for the wheel.
I was just wondering, with the quality of work here, Do you think this was originally a true wheellock, and when it broke down, converted more cheaply to a matchlock?
An interesting lock!


Matchlock 13th December 2008 02:19 PM

Good morning, Richard,

The blued matchlock mechanism in as new condition belongs to a gun which is not in my collection. I just took it off for the pictures. You will see the complete guns with this kind of lock later on.

The dummy wheel-lock in fact never had a wheel mounted, and there never was a U shaped mainspring. The pan is not cut out for a wheel and there are no other screw holes than those with the screws present.

It was built just to be a dummy. Nothing more to it.


Matchlock 14th December 2008 11:42 AM

Snap matchlocks ca. 1555 in the Graz armory
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Hi, Richard,

Here are digital pics a friend of mine took that show details of a ca. 1555 Styrian wall gun; some of the barrels of this group are dated 1554, 1556 and 1557 respectively.

I took the measuremts of one of those big pieces:
overall length 215 cm, cal. 24.8 mm smoothbore, weight 26.5 kg.

Some of the butt-stocks resemble that of my Straubing harquebus but there are other variations as well.


Matchlock 14th December 2008 11:57 AM

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That's how these matchlock wall pieces are stored on their original shelves at Graz.


Pukka Bundook 14th December 2008 01:51 PM

Good morning, Michael.

Thank you for the reply.
I am surprised the dummy wheellock was made that way. I have never seen one before with such nice internals, inc. engraved spring!
It shows that at this time, the old matchlock was not looked down on, as something inferior.

Re. the Styrian wall guns, a few things surprise me;
The barrels look to be of high quality, Very well finished!.....something not always seen at this early date.
More surprising to me, is the use of a conventional trigger and guard!
(When we think that sear locks were being made for about 100 years after this time, and many snap locks were still using the button on the lock-plate, or an early unguarded trigger.)
It is interesting to see the trigger and guard off-set, so as to make the reach shorter on the heavy, thick stock.
Also. this is the first time I have seen this simple method of tightening the jaws of the cock on the tinder. .....Very simple! I would like to try making an arrangement like this!
Looking at these pictures, I started to itch to give these guns a 'drink' of oil!....they look a bit dry and thisty.

Graz looks like a place to not miss if I ever get to that part of the world!
I could be los in there for hours...days!

Thank you for posting these pictures!!


Matchlock 7th October 2009 01:59 PM

A Very Rare ca. 1550 Nuremberg Combined Snap Tinder and Matchlock Mechanism
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A detached mechanism for an arquebus, retaining its long tiller trigger acting on the forward match serpentine while the rear snap tinder cock is released by a lateral push button.
Length of lock plate 21 cm.

On the fore end of the lock plate, right underneath the foot of the serpentine, a small Nuremberg city proof mark is struck - please see detail image.

Both the cock and dog (serpentine) retaining a piece of tinder and match cord respectively and of corse both served the same pan alternatively.

Sold October 5, 2009, Hermann Historica, Munich, at a hammer price of 1,500 euro.

Cf. similar combination locks in my collection posted in this thread.


Gonzalo G 7th October 2009 11:56 PM

Very interesting and informaative, Michael. Can you post something likewise with flintlocks and wheelocks? Sorry if I ask too much, it was just and idea.


Chris Evans 8th October 2009 02:33 AM

Hi Matchlock,

Thank you for yet one more extremely instructive and intersting post.

I am, as surely the other forumites are too, appreciative the not inconsiderable effort that you put into your contributions.

Keep up the good work,
Chris Evans

Matchlock 8th October 2009 08:53 AM

It always does me good to learn that there is someone out there apprectiating my efforts - thank you so much,Chris! :)

Best wishes,

Bolek 12th March 2011 06:03 AM

I want to thank you for a very good study topic. Here in Poland, your work is very important.
Thank you and best regards.


Matchlock 12th March 2011 06:52 PM

Hi Bolek,

I'm glad that my work is appreciated.

Btw, I like your replicas too. :)


David R 12th March 2011 09:21 PM

A wonderfull resource, thank you for your work and generosity sharing this.
This is the sort of stuff that is so hard to access, but so usefull.

Matchlock 13th March 2011 04:28 PM

Hi David R,

Just the fact that it is much appreciated is worth doing all that. It's my life work after all.


Matchlock 15th March 2011 12:13 AM

Originally Posted by Bolek
I want to thank you for a very good study topic. Here in Poland, your work is very important.
Thank you and best regards.


Hi Bolek,

How about posting photos from Polish museums here, just like I do with Western museums?!

This would be a great adequate for what I am trying to do here and we all would greatly benefit from such contributions by German neighbors! :)


Matchlock 15th March 2011 01:41 AM

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A recent acquisition for my collection:

A very rare and early matchlock mechanism, Northern Italy, ca. 1500. This one has no screws yet, its all rivets. The delicate serpentine has not yet a wingnut, and the sear and long bar trigger are wrought of one single piece. As I said: no screws or threads yet.

The piece of match cord is an original.

Length of the lock plate: 12.7 cm


Spiridonov 15th March 2011 09:46 PM

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Michael, thank You so much for sharing of this locks and arquebuse with this lock. It is a very important find because I am sure that this lock is a similar type with lock of Martin Merz. It its brilliantly fact 'couse it is the firs lock of this type wich i have ever seen "in iron" .

Bolek 16th March 2011 04:20 PM

This is my reconstruction of which ,I completed a week ago

Matchlock 16th March 2011 06:37 PM

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Exactly, Alexander,

That illustration was the first thought that came into my mind when I spied that tiny mechanism at an auction about ten years ago. Somebody had used it to build a short 'matchlock gun' around it. Well, I bought the piece and threw the ridiculous barrel and stock in the trash can.

I doubt though that the Bavarian gun master Martin Merz, who lived and died in Amberg, made this drawing as early as 1475. That of course was the time when he started out with his draught book but he died only in 1501. I believe that he added this illustration to his notes at about the end of the 15th c.
Attached find images of his epitaph on the outer wall of the Amberg city parish church; please note his feet rested on a cannon barrel and the eye patch indicating that he lost his right eye in duty. Also note the early cannon and carriage in the armorial shield on the right below symbolizing his profession.

Btw, very similar lock plates nailed to haquebuts are depicted from the Weimar Ingenieurbuch, ca. 1500 - see following attachments. The exception, of course, is that these seem to be more advanced as the long lever triggers are already mounted inside. Either they were screwed into the sear or the drawing is inaccurate because there is no recess for the trigger cut in the stock.
On the other hand, the pans on these guns are not yet fitted with covers!
It's a really tricky and painful, let alone painstaking, topic dating these pieces ... grrrr ;)

The reasons for my assumption are:

- there is no known record of a fully developed lock plate combining the complete mechanism parts before ca. 1500. The earliest document of such is Burgkmair's illustration of the triumphal march of the Emperor Maximilian I of ca. 1516. And - they still are nailed to the stocks of the arquebuses.
Even from as late as the 1520's there are hundreds of surviving Nuremberg made snap matchlock arquebuses preserved in the Pilsen Armory, Czechia, which are only equipped with a small bras plate bearing the serpentine whilst the rest of the mechanism is still nailed to the stock.

- the use of that 'modern' type of screws to fix the lock is not documented before the 1520's, at least to my knowledge; even then most locks were simply nailed to the stock.

- the earliest screw heads from about 1500 had no slits but formed a small ring (eye) to handle them or put some simple tool like a nail through the eye for fixing.
This earliest known form of lock retaining srcews is retained on a stocked haquebut in the famos Vienna Hapsburg Armory (one only, the other screw being a modern replacement) and the other two are in my collection. I posted them in an earlier thread and re-attach them.
The next step in lock retaining screws seems to have been an angled upper part of the screw to retain the mechanism, and next that angled part became a slit for a screwdriver.
The earliest known 'modern' screw heads can be found to retain the wheel-lock of the higly decorated combined crossbow gun, datable closely to ca. 1520 based on the inscription it bears, which is preserved in the Bavarian National Museum Munich - please cf. to my earlier thread.

- moreover, the pivot of the serpentine is not simply riveted as in my sample but is fixed to a pinion square by means of a pin, which doubtlessly is a quite advanced method that was still in use with matchlocks of ca. 1600!

- side-mounted pans already featuring a pivoted swiveling cover (!) like the one on Merz's drawing are not known before the end of the 15th c.

- the sliding clamp of the serpentine to fix the piece of tinder is pictured here for the first time ever and is found on surviving guns as late as the 1550's (!) in the Graz Armory. During the whole span of time between ca. 1500 and 1550, there is no proof of the simple means of clamp, which of course was the predecessor of the later wingnut (known in Italy as early as the 1520's) on matchlock serpentines.

Please note the broach or vent prick (Räumnadel) surspended on a delicate chain in front of the lock. Interesting enough, this useful piece of accouterment is not known to have survived on any actually existing Central or North European gun, but is retained on many of the better quality Oriental (esp. Indian and Turkish) 17th-19th c. matchlock guns.


fernando 16th March 2011 07:35 PM

Grrrrreat material, Michl.
Great knowledge :)
Oh, that picture with the XVI century screws :cool: :cool:
... immediately saved to my archives; who wouldn't ? ;) .

Spiridonov 16th March 2011 07:58 PM

Michael, this is awesome! Where did You get this high quality Martin's picture? Do You have all manuscript?

Matchlock 16th March 2011 09:06 PM

Originally Posted by fernando
Grrrrreat material, Michl.
Great knowledge :)
Oh, that picture with the XVI century screws :cool: :cool:
... immediately saved to my archives; who wouldn't ? ;) .

Oh, 'Nando, 'Nando,

You are not gonna say you missed my former thread on the develoment of screws, are ya?! :rolleyes: :cool: :eek:

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