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Old 21st June 2012, 02:57 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Default A Myth: Early 16th C. European Matchlock 'Pistols'

One of the most cryptic myths is 'the European matchlock pistol', often alleged to have been in use from the early 16th c.


First of all we should define a matchlock pistol, strictly confining it to a small and single-handed firearm that was actually ignited by an attached matchlock mechanism. Just any short 'handgonne' without a matchlock mechanism which had to be ignited externally by either a hand-held length of matchcord, an igniting iron or a linstock is NOT a matchlock.

There are many 'reproductions' around, all claiming to be made 'after an original' but none of these 'originals' has actually ever been presented.


Original European period artwork does not give one single evidence of any firearm employing a matchlock mechanism and light and short enough to be meant for single-handed use.

On the other hand we cannot exclude categorically that they existed, however useless as they must have been; remember, pistols in the 16th c. were only used on horseback and all pieces, both actually surviving and such depicted in period works or art, are mounted with a wheellock which in those days was called the self-igniting lock, in contrast to the matchlock.

It is also true that in Japan and other Far Eastern countries matchlock pistols seem to have been in use since the 16th c., and they all are based on (and were made in the same, almost unaltered style for centuries as) samples imported from Central Europe.


Only one single and completely original 16th c. matchlock pistol is known to have survived but it is clearly an exemptive 'high-tech' weapon: with three manually turned barrels, which actually makes it a matchlock revolver. Each barrel is fitted with its own pan and pivoting cover, plus rear sight with an additional tube and bead foresight; no provision for a trigger guard.
It is made in clearly North Italian (Brescian?) style, ca. 1530's, and preserved in the Doges Palace Venice, inv.no. B 83: 53 cm long overall, the barels 29.9 cm, bore, 10 mm, weight 1490 grams (attachments).

In the reserve collection of the Ashmolean Museum Oxford, I detected and photographed a detached bundle of three barrels, obviously from the same type of firearm but with an additional muzzle ring including a ramrod recess; on two of the barrels the faint rest of an unidentified maker's mark can be seen, and two of the sighting tubes are missing (attachments below).


That's it for European matchlock pistols. Worldwide.

Please see also:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...1167#post141167


More on 16thc. European multi-barreled matchlocks:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=12712



Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 21st June 2012 at 07:53 PM.
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Old 21st June 2012, 03:01 PM   #2
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More photos of the Oxford barrels, all by the author, 1990.
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Old 21st June 2012, 03:06 PM   #3
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And the remaining three.

For stylistic comparison, especially of the butt toe, two photo of a characteristic contemporary Nuremberg wheellock holster pistol, ca. 1540, in the Musée de l'Armée Paris (author's photos).

m
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Old 28th December 2013, 12:35 PM   #4
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We actually have records of two highly unusually construed fishtail-butted multi-barrel 'organ' pistols: the first ca. 1600, eight-barreled, and ignited by a wheellock mechanism that lit a slow-smoldering piece matchcord in a tubular conduit along the touch holes to ignite the other barrels in turn, and the other once dated 1607 (a former small bone plaque with that date now missing from the stock!!!), on the Roman candle principle, with no mechanism at all but ignited by a hand-held length of matchcord, is preserved at the Hugarian National Museum in Budapest. A third one, ca. 1650, featuring a wheellock mechanism and also built on that Roman candle superimposed-load system, was sold from the Hohenzollern museum collection at Schloss Signmaringen, and is now preserved at the Military Museum Rastatt, Baden, Germany.

The first was sold at Christie's London, from the Schloss Dyck museum sale part I, on April 15, 1992, lot 546, where a German dealer bought it for his private collection.


Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 28th December 2013 at 03:21 PM.
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Old 28th December 2013, 12:38 PM   #5
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Old 28th December 2013, 01:38 PM   #6
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Hi Michael,

I came across ths question on a facebook page as well some time ago.
I found that there are lots of matchlock pistols, but only as toys!!.

first one was found in Essex, England now at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England. It is stated to be 17th century.


also one or more at the Vam (victoria and Albert museum in England).
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O...ck-gun-unknown/

And this detached matchlock revolver barrel and cilinder, it is very short (31cm barrel) but no evidence it belonged to a pistol excists (eventhough the auction states otherwise). It is now mounted on a carriage. (thomas del mar sale 4th december 2013, lot 389).
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Old 28th December 2013, 03:17 PM   #7
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Right, Marcus,


Matchlocks did exist as tiny copper-alloy cast pistols and muskets with fishtail butts in early 17th c. Great Britain. Interestingly enough, the pistols all are shaped like ball- or lemon-butted wheellock 'puffers' but the (mostly missing) mechanism is a matchholder (this the first sample I see to have a spring attached).
They were used with real powder, as some samples with blown barrels prove, their bore being ca. 2-3 mm.

I photographed an impressive number of them in the reserve collection of the Museum of London, where most of them were excavated.

What I do like a lot is that finely made revolving cylinder and barrel now mounted on a carriage. I am convinced that it originally was part of a wheellock or snaphaunce revolver shaped like the 8-shot 'puffer' attached; it bears the mark of Hans Stopler of Nuremberg and the date 1597 - does anybody happen to know in what museum it is?
Btw, this is definitely not 'the world's oldest revolver', as the text states; revolving cylinder systems were known since at least the 1580's. When Samuel Colt undertook a vacation, he employed the idea from 16th c. weapons he saw in old collections, and from Elisha Collier et al.


Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 29th December 2013 at 10:36 AM.
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Old 28th December 2013, 06:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
... Btw, this is definitely not 'the world's oldest revolver', as the text states; revolving cylinder systems were known since at least the 1580's. ..

Generally people tends to claim that 'this or that' is the world's oldest, forgetting to add the term known. One wonders whether the percentage of unknown specimens is greater than that of known ones.
...And among the unkown ones, one wonders how many are lost, earthed or destroyed and, on the other hand, how many are kept secret, unpublished or simply ignored by their owners.
How's that for an approach ?
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Old 28th December 2013, 06:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
Right, Marcus,


Matchlocks did exist as tiny copper-alloy cast pistols and muskets with fishtail butts in early 17th c. Great Britain. Interestingly enough, the pistols all are shaped like ball- or lemon-butted wheellock 'puffers' but the (mostly missing) mechanism is a matchholder (no springs attached).
They were used with real powder, as some samples with blown barrels prove, their bore being ca. 2-3 mm.

I photographed an impressive number of them in the reserve collection of the Museum of London, where most of them were excavated.

What I do like a lot is that finely made revolving cylinder and barrel now mounted on a carriage. I am convinced that it originally was part of a wheellock or snaphaunce revolver shaped like the 8-shot 'puffer' attached; it bears the mark of Hans Stopler of Nuremberg and the date 1597 - does anybody happen to know in what museum it is?
Btw, this is definitely not 'the world's oldest revolver', as the text states; revolving cylinder systems were known since at least the 1580's. When Samuel Colt undertook a vacation, he employed the idea from 16th c. weapons he saw in old collections, and from Elisha Collier et al.


Best,
Michael



I am very happy to finaly be able to answer one of your questions the pistol is kept in the Norwegian museum in Maihaugen ( http://www.maihaugen.no/en/Top-menu...ns-collections/ )
http://www.primusweb.no/things/revo...1&count=1&pos=0
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Old 28th December 2013, 06:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
... revolving cylinder systems were known since at least the 1580's...

Are you referring to this nice Drehling, Michl ?

.
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Old 28th December 2013, 07:17 PM   #11
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No, 'Nando,

Actually I'm looking for earlier samples in the Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg. The one you posted is in the GNM Nuremberg and should be dated to ca. 1620, and I guess it was me who took the image.

Best,
Michl
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Old 28th December 2013, 08:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
No, 'Nando,

Actually I'm looking for earlier samples in the Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg. The one you posted is in the GNM Nuremberg and should be dated to ca. 1620, and I guess it was me who took the image.

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Michl


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Old 29th December 2013, 10:59 AM   #13
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Yes, this German snaphauce revolver petronel, ca. 1570-80, was what I was looking for. It is preserved at the Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg.

m
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Last edited by Matchlock : 29th December 2013 at 11:16 AM.
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