View Single Post
Old 19th May 2014, 09:06 PM   #4
Matchlock's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310

As mentioned before, the cast brass/bronze barrel was re-used from an even earlier arquebus of 'Maximilian' type, ca. 1490-1510.
The dating criteria are based on its styistic elements: the barrel is divided into three stages, reflecting the Maximilian sense of style at the turn of the 15th to the 16th century, with the Renaissance replacing the Late Gothic stylistic characteristics.
The first, rear stage (German: Hinterstück) is dodecahedral, with the slotted rear sight cast integrally on the rear end (German: Bodenstück), and a maker's mark struck over the breech.

The original pan was cast integrally, on the right-hand side of the barrel - please cf. my threads


Both that first pan and cover were removed when the barrel got its present cherry wood full stock in about 1520, retaining most of its original varnish after almost 500 years.

The second, round stage (German: Mittelstück) is separated from the first by a delicately filed, raised brim, forming the longest barrel section. It terminates in another delicate and raised brim, before merging into the third stage, the short and noticeably reinforced, round muzzle section (German: Mündungskopf), being characteristic of barrels from ca. 1490-1510; it bears a long and low, integral blade foresight over its entire length - another indication of early 16th century barrels.
An important reference for the specific shape of the muzzle - short, reinforced and round - is another relevant guiding principle for assigning a date to a firearm, backing up the limited span of time when the barrel of my gun must have been made. These are the dating criteria set up by the autor, and confirmed by all contemporary sources of illustration, and period artwork in general, as well as by existing objects; cf. the illuminated Maximilian armory inventories, e.g. the guns shown in post #1.

The bore, of course, is smooth, and characteristic of arquebus barrels of that period, when the bores of these light infantry firerarms differ in diameter between ca. 11 and 16 mm. On the underside of the barrel, normally covered by the stock, there are the typic and crude file marks found on all early barrels, as the surfaces of cast barrels had to be finished by using the file as well as those made of wrought iron.

Here comes the lock mechanism. The first lock of this arquebus was most probably a snap matchlock mechanism, its single parts not yet united on a common lock plate, and the cocked serpentine triggered by a lateral push button.
Such mechanisms are depicted on Heller's painting of The Battle of Pavia - see attachments to previous posts - and are retained on a number of long arquebuses of about 1525, preserved in the Západočeské Muzeum Pilsen, Czechia (four attachments), as well as on a wall gun by Peter Hofkircher, ca. 1525-30, at the Graz armory in Styria, Austria (following two attachments). I did extensive research in both of these old armories, taking more than 4,300 photos.
This primary, primitive and accident-sensitive mechanism obviously was out of order soon, and the gun probably got laid away in some arsenal, as obsolete and outdated - for both its mechanism and the shape of the buttstock, the latter regarded as impractical by the mid 17th century. This was the very reason why some of those early guns actually survived up to the 21st century, and sometimes preserved in 'untouched' condition.
But the present matchlock mechanism, the wrought iron lock plate and integral pan, showing the round trough typic of pans up to ca. 1550, its swiveling cover and the fireshield, all obviously dating from about 1560, and evoking the impression of a more valuable wheellock merchanism to the inexperienced eye of a superficial contemporary.
See my thread on matchlocks pretending to be wheellocks, ca. 1560-1620:

The serpentine (match holder), though, is of early 17th century Suhl type, denoting that this 'sleeper' of an obsolete arquebus saw service again: more than a century later, which was ca. the 1640's.
In that final phase of the Thirty Years War, and in extremis, literally any gun that would still fire got reactivated and crudely converted, often times by adding a topical igniting mechanism. The Old European armories, like the Landeszeughaus (armory) of Graz, Styria, still preserve numerous pieces of evidence, e.g. wrought iron Late Gothic haquebut barrels from wall guns of ca. 1490 to 1530, datable closely by both their characteristic sectioning and the shape and length of the respective muzzle section. Most of them retain their original minium (red lead) paint, and were restocked and combined with a matchlock mechanism in the 1630's], and later (attachments).

As several parts of the mechanism on this arquebus were assembled from different periods, ranging from ca. 1560-1620, there is only one conclusion: the piece had become an obsolete gun anyway, so a detached and older lock mechanism from ca. 1560, identifiable by its very long and narrow rear end of the lock plate, was 'modernized' by re-using an older serpentine from about 1600-20, its shape denoting a Suhl/Thuringia make. The unusually narrow strip of wood benath the underside of the lock plate, hardly supporting the lock action, gives proof of the fact that the present mechanism was crudely mounted, by enlarging the former lock recess, and attached by two side nails. Nobody cared, and the piece was ready to fire again.

Thus, this early Landsknecht's arquebus bears witness of having been used in different big wars for at least 130 years, with the barrel withstanding firing for an even longer period, from ca. 1500 to at least 1650.
In conclusion, it can be called an unusually early and rare, historically important and characteristic arsenal gun, its correct and exact identification constituting a demanding task for 21st century weaponry research.

The reddish cherry wood full stock, with its thick varnish of original brown lacquer, is shaped in the characteristic early 16th century manner. The forestock is faceted the usual way before the mid 16th century, and the stock is attached to the barrel by three transverse wooden pins, probably the original, making safe contact with loops on the underside of the barrel Most remarkably, it features neither a ramrod channel, nor any other provision for a ramrod - indicating that this arquebus was, in all probability, made as an auxiliary weapon for e.g. a gunner, allowing him to fire one final shot before getting run down by the enemies. Reloading an arquebus was an action practically impossible for a gunner, anyhow.

Remarkable traces of a modern museum display are retained on the underside of the stock, where two holes were drilled, still showing the threads of wood screws, securing the piece to a wooden stand.
In 1990, in the museum of the town of Gerolzhofen, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, I photographed a long wall gun, the barrel early 17th century, and struck with Suhl marks, and restocked in ca. 1670 - screwed to its simple wooden stand in the same manner. This was obviously done regardlessly of inflicting damage to the old stock ... see three attachments below.

The measurements of the arquebus are:
overall length 99.8 cm, length of barrel 62.4 cm, cal. 16 mm smoothbore, weight 4.3 kg.

All author's photos.

Attached Images
Matchlock is offline   Reply With Quote