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Old 17th January 2009, 06:42 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
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Default A unique bronze barrel wall gun (doppelter Doppelhaken), Nuremberg, ca. 1515-20

This has been with me for exactly 20 years. I have never seen such a fine sample retaining its original oak stock and patina in any museum. If ever, all you are likely to find are detached barrels or, at best, re-stocked in later times.

The term bronze for this sort of cast barrels has become widely accepted. In illumitated manuscripts of historic periods, however, they were called "brass" haquebut barrels (Messing Hakenpuchsen). As this, of course, depends on the actual part of the components, copper and pewter (bronze) or copper and zinc (brass), we should maybe just call them copper alloys. Metallurgical research has shown that 16th century copper alloy barrels often contain traces of silver.

There is no doubt about this barrel being cast at one of the famous Nuremberg workshops the finest of which, at that period of time, were those of Beham (Peheim) und Pegnitzer. Sadly this barrel does not bear a maker's mark.

Its early Renaissance bronze four stage barrel allows for a close dating to 1515-20. As only bronze barrels follow roughly this scheme of staging it shall be referred to at large here.

Starting at the rear section, we have a short square section (quadratisches Bodenstück) which bears the integral back sight and pan (its cover now missing) and is decorated with a scale pattern and a fir-cone scale frieze (Tannenzapfenschuppen-Fries). Next, divided by an incised double line and fish scales cast in high relief, there is a long twelve sided section (Hinterstück), followed by another, shorter twelve sided section (Mittelstück) which is shifted to the first and also divided from a long round section (Vorderstück) by two incised lines and a fish scale frieze. Divided by another fish scale frieze and two incised lines, a moulded band between, there is an elongated muzzle head (Mündungskopf) bearing a long integral fore sight. The rounded hook is cast to about the middle of the barrel and is incised with a primitive sign composed of various dashes and symbolizing a cypher: this, of course, is not a mark but an improvised form of a number still found in a similar manner, in markings on beer mats today.

This fine and important piece retains its original oak stock attached by three iron nails which enter through two barrel loops beneath the rear end and before the muzzle head respectively, the one in the middle entering through a piercing in the hook.

Its statistics are: overall length 207 cm, barrel 126 cm, cal. 26 mm, overall weight 35 kg, barrel 25 kg, stock 10 kg.

With these measurements it was actually a piece of light artillery, not a long gun.
It was mounted on a wooden tripod and two men were required to fire it: one for aiming the piece and, this done, the second for igniting it (Richt- und Feuerschütze).

I attach two watercolor sources of illustration from the Maximilian arsenal inventories, early 16th century, showing a somewhat more archaic form of of the barrel. Note the headline in the first referring to the arms as "Maximilian Messing hagkenpuchsn" (brass barrel haquebuts). In the woodcut by Erhard Schön, Nuremberg, ca. 1530, the same primitive way of imitating cyphers is depicted on a slate board in a saloon scene.

Michael
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