Actually I graduated from University 26 years ago to become a teacher but hardly ever worked in that profession. So I see my part among the forum community not as teaching but rather sharing my knowlegde and archives.
I fully agree with all the possibilities that you noted.
The main thought behind the elongated 14th to early 16th century butstocks was in fact the intention to be in "safe" distance, just for the worst case when the gun would burst. We have a nice saying in German: "Weit ab vom Schuss sein
", meaning to be far away from something dangerous. Schuss
, of course, means a shot ringing out.
You are perfectly right as well in assuming that accurate aiming was not really the most important thing in war in those time periods; it sufficed to fire into a mass of enemies - which was characteristic of all warfare as long as muzzle loaders were in use. Actual aiming in those days was important only when practising on targets or when hunting.
Interesting enough, the earliest forms of sights arise in about 1460 and develop quite rapidly from then. In the early 16th century, which is the age of Maximilian I, we find fully developed back-sights at the extreme rear of a barrel and blade or bead fore-sights at the muzzle. The farer the back-sight moves forward the younger, i.e. more modern, is the barrel. By the mid 16th century the back-sight has moved forward from the rear by ca. 8-10 cm, and it will have moved another 10 cm by the beginning of the 17th century.
Honestly, I do not understand why. In my opinion, the farer the distance between the sights, the more accurate the aiming. Anybody prove me wrong?