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Old 26th July 2010, 03:19 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,694

Hi Fernando, and welcome to our forum! What a fascinating topic to enter with, nicely done. As you know we are interested in the history of all kinds of weapons here, and what more intriguing subject than the amazing Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). I feel certain that if we look far enough into his drawings or if more are found, we will find he may have invented the computer, or at least the concept.

I must confess I know extremely little on firearms, but am always willing to look into things with some research, and enjoy learning more. I will share what little I have discovered while we wait for our firearms sages to return from thier vacations

If I understand correctly, this codex (Madrid Codex 18v) holds a design for an 'automatic matchlock'. I am assuming, since I am unclear on the correct terminology, that this is perceived to be a 'wheellock', which uses a piece of material (typically iron pyrite) to ignite the powder and a rotating to wheel to strike it.
Since a match was of course a live burning cord in the matchlock (where are ya Michael!!!? this 'automatic' term must be toward the action of ignition, in this case automatically by striking a component rather than burning cord.

References I have found on the history of the 'wheellock' note that this action is believed to have been invented by a German mechanic, with a drawing from Germany dated 1505, with a subsequent Austrian purchase of one of these mechanisms in 1507. It is also noted that there are a number of scholars suggesting the DaVinci device as the true origin of the wheellock, presumably from these drawings.

For those just entering the realm of firearms, the terminology used in these early weapons is formidable, as there seems to be considerable dispute on correct application and usage. The term 'matchlock' seems pretty straight forward, as does wheellock, but others such as snaphaunce, doglock, and others seem confusing......with the venerable flintlock finally largely superceding all.

From what else I could discover, the wheellock was tremendously expensive for the times, and was never really widely used in the military, with the larger use of the matchlock in place until later in the 17th century with the advent of the flintlock firmly in place.

I really do look forward to hearing more views on this seemingly rather obscure DavInci development, and if it perceived by the early firearms community as a viable claim to the beginnings of the wheellock. Also, does anyone out there have information on the German drawings or origins?

Attached self portrait of Leonardo, and two illustrations of a later 16th century wheellock mechanism.

Again Fernando, welcome!!! and thank you for the great post!!!

All best regards,
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