Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > how 'successful' was the wheellock firearm Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,436

PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 7:14 am    Post subject: how 'successful' was the wheellock firearm         Reply with quote

ive heard it opined that essentially the wheellock never really 'took off' as fa firearm lock

since it was never used on foot

however, if im not mistaken didnt the fact thewheellock was the first non matchlock firearm and, without the burning cord, make it far more useful and less fussy on horseback thus spawning new inventive ways of cavalry tactics via pistols?

how long did the wheellock really last in cavalry usage?
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Daniel Staberg




Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Likes: 2 pages
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 562

PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 9:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Whoever made the claim that the wheellock was "never" used on foot proved that he/she had very limited knowledge of the subject. There was plenty of use of wheellock firearms on foot but mainly as a civilian firearm used in hunting and target shooting. But there was military use as well that went beyond the use of civilian firearms pressed into service in emergencies, for example the state armoury of Steiermark in Graz recieved over 500 infantry calivers equipped with wheellocks in the late 1570's.

But the chief usage as you yourself have already pointed out was the use of wheellock firearms on horseback, first in the shape of wheellock arquebus (i.e the first carbines though that name was only used later on) and the a couple of decades later the pistol which had a profound effect on western cavalry combat.

The wheellock carbines and pistols were manufactured into the last decades of the 17th century and undoubtedly saw used into the early 18th Century. It was replaced by the flintlock which was a less efficient ignition system but had the advantage of being cheaper and also more robust and able to withstand the rigors of a campaign much better.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
View user's profile Send private message
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,436

PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Whoever made the claim that the wheellock was "never" used on foot proved that he/she had very limited knowledge of the subject. There was plenty of use of wheellock firearms on foot but mainly as a civilian firearm used in hunting and target shooting. But there was military use as well that went beyond the use of civilian firearms pressed into service in emergencies, for example the state armoury of Steiermark in Graz recieved over 500 infantry calivers equipped with wheellocks in the late 1570's.

But the chief usage as you yourself have already pointed out was the use of wheellock firearms on horseback, first in the shape of wheellock arquebus (i.e the first carbines though that name was only used later on) and the a couple of decades later the pistol which had a profound effect on western cavalry combat.

The wheellock carbines and pistols were manufactured into the last decades of the 17th century and undoubtedly saw used into the early 18th Century. It was replaced by the flintlock which was a less efficient ignition system but had the advantage of being cheaper and also more robust and able to withstand the rigors of a campaign much better.


while i realise they wernt as cheap or common as a matchlock arquebus or later heavy musket. just how much more expensive were whelllocks? also it seems the first snaphances were invented around the mid 1500's, how fast did they start replacing matchlocks and especially wheellocks
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Daniel Staberg




Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Likes: 2 pages
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 562

PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is next to impossible to make a straight comparison in prices because the two types of lock were used for diffrent types of weapons and there were other factors that had an impact on the price as well. But to take an example, the Swedish army of Gustavus Adolphus paid about 4 times as much for a pair of wheellock pistols as it did for a matchlock musket.

Snaphaunces never replaced matchlocks & wheellocks, they were considered inferior for military use and for example the Swedish army which had used them in some numbers in the early 17th Century quickly replaced them as soon as possible. The Swedes had used a considerable number of snaphaunces because match was mostly imported so resupplies of match were both costly and erratic. (Armies consumed match at a steady rate even when there was not much fighting and when engaged in combat the consumption of match soared, shortages of match could be every bit as serious as a shortage of powder or shot.)

The major armies of Europe did not even bother with using snaphaunces as they had much easier access to match and had no reason to not chose the efficient and well tested matchlock.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,180

PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, on the plus side the wheelock could be loaded and used in advance of any expected need. The matchlock would reveal it's presence at night by a burning ember and/or the smell of a burning match would make any surprise attack, ambush or scouting with a lit match impossible.

The matchlock would be very robust and fairly reliable if one kept the match hot by blowing on it before firing, even if the mechanism was broken in hand to hand close fighting, where one used the matchlock as a club, one could still use a lit matchcord by having it in hand.

Wheelocks could be compared to a fine swiss watch in the complexity of the mechanism, and even a plain wheelock meant for ordinary soldiers would be expensive, but probably worth it for skirmishers and for guards protecting gunpowder: having a lit match near barrels of gunpowder was probably not a great idea.

I assume that those using a matchlock carbine would be better trained elite troops who would be careful with the delicate mechanism ? And they probably couldn't afford to buy their own wheelocks and where issued them.

Officers and nobles would buy their own weapons and their wheelocks pistols or carbines would be even more expensive as they would be richly decorated and using the most sophisticated and complex mechanisms ?


Disclaimer: The above are my somewhat " random thoughts " about wheelocks versus matchlocks, and may be more speculation than taken as proven facts. Wink

Here is a Topic thread by Gordon Fry about wheelock who owns some wheelock reproductions and actually shoots with them that you might find interesting, also Gordon is very much an expert on Renaissance Cavalry Warfare:

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=1551&start=0

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Gottfried P. Doerler




Location: Tyrol, Austria
Joined: 11 Oct 2009
Likes: 4 pages

Posts: 228

PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 4:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

wheellocks for use on foot were very popular in the richer central european countries.
just not so much in a military context.
but every hunter/nobleman who could afford to, would try get himself a wheellock in the course of the later half of the 16th all through the 17th century.
in the collection of ambras, there are some very intriguing examples of civilian wheellocks of said timespan.
i`ll add some photos, i took in may this year. most of them are 1570ies-1580ies.
the military examples are smoothbore, the civilian hunting guns rifled.

also in a military context, wheellocks stayed very popular in central europe, for quite a long time.
i dont know why, i hear people saying, that the wheellock is more reliable than the early snaphaunce/flintlocks.
the austro-hungarian army introduced their last pattern of wheellock troopers pistol as late as 1704 for example.



 Attachment: 193.38 KB
military wheellocks of the 1590ies [ Download ]

 Attachment: 180.11 KB
military wheellocks of the early 1600ies [ Download ]

 Attachment: 266.5 KB
over 6 foot long hunting rifles of the 1570ies-80ies. ivory inlay [ Download ]

 Attachment: 278.68 KB
obiously they did not completely trust the reliability of the wheellock, so this one features a back-up matchlock [ Download ]

 Attachment: 259.52 KB
hunting rifle 1580ies with double set trigger [ Download ]

 Attachment: 265.55 KB
1580ies hunting rifles with double set triggers and v-notch back sights. simple post front sights. [ Download ]
View user's profile Send private message
Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posts: 158

PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 11:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Humfrey Barwick was recommending light cavalry be armed with snaphaunces in the 1590s.

The wheellock is an odd one since it was expensive, delicate, hard to make, and very shortly after its introduction there were snaplocks, snaphaunces, and flintlock precursors which were in theory much better designs. But nonetheless the wheellock quickly became extremely popular and large numbers were being used all the way through the 17th century.

The effect of wheellock weapons on mounted combat is extremely significant. Bert S. Hall in his book argues that wheellock pistols did more to put an end to the lance-wielding medieval knight than musketeers or pikemen did. By the end of the century heavy lancers were in the minority compared to reiters and mounted harquebusiers.

It wasn't used on foot as often as the matchlock or the later flintlock, but there were quite a few wheellock muskets made. The 18 kg wheellock "Doppelhaken" from the Graz armory definitely isn't meant for cavalry. The last time I visited the Stockholm army museum they had a very nice collection of wheellock infantry muskets from the 1600s.
View user's profile Send private message
Tim Harris
Industry Professional



Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 162

PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 9:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The wheellock was not without lingering appeal in some quarters, it would seem. There are several pistols in the Littlecote collection with wheellock shaped stocks and flint or dog locks. According to David Blackmore in Arms and Armour of the English Civil Wars, these guns were not conversions from the older system. Perhaps a case of old habits dying hard.
https://www.facebook.com/TimHarrisSwords
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,218

PostPosted: Mon 12 Sep, 2016 3:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The snaphaunce, while it was cheaper and a bit less prone to breakage than the wheel lock, had problems of it's own. The chief difficulty lay in the operating rod which was attached to the tumbler and the pan cover. The pan cover moved back and forth when the lock was cocked and fired. Powder fouling easily found its way into the lock and caused binding and eventually breakage of the operating rod. The snaphaunce did not have the half cock safety notch of the later true flintlock, relying instead on a portion of the sear protruding through the lock plate to catch a "dog" on the rear of the cock. The system worked pretty well but would eventually cause maintenance problems and breakage.
Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > how 'successful' was the wheellock firearm
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum