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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 9:45 am    Post subject: Wheellock Bore Diameters         Reply with quote

Allen;

Interesting about the bore-diameters of the wheellocks in the museums in Graz. I am rather surprised that they are all that small, but perhaps they are primarily of late 16th and 17th Century provenance. Most of the Puffers I have seen from, say, 1560 or there-abouts, are fairly large in calibre. Nifty that you have had the opportunity to enjoy them, though!

As far as effectiveness against armour, all I can do is quote the men who were there:

Francios de la Noue, and old Huguenot soldier, in his "Paradoxes" stated that "It is a miracle if any were slain by the Speare", while Marshall Gaspard de Tavannes dictated in his memoirs "The large pistols make close action so dangerous that everyone wants to leave, making the fights shorter". the former suggests that Lances were ineffective, while the latter suggests that pistols were.

At the battle of Courtras (1587), the Huguenot cavalry, armoured and carrying pistols, charged in three columns and smashed the Catholic cavalry which came at them in the old "en haye", or in line abreast, formation with lances. At Tournhout (1597) the Anglo-Dutch cavalry, armed with pistols, defeated the Spanish cavalry, which was armed with the lance, in a similar fashion. If pistols weren't an effective armour-piercing weapon (which lances certainly were not), there would have been no reason to adopt them, and they would have been no serious improvement on the lance, which had many supporters due to it's long association with Chivalry. Both would certainly kill horses, and the lance if used properly would probably unhorse an opponent, but killing him was another thing. There are many references to "pistoling" enemy cavalrymen from the period of the French Wars of Religion (1562- 1598).

After the obsolesence of armour, pistol calibres seem to have enlarged again, up to the then Carbine Bore (.65") in the late-18th Century British and French services. My belief is that it was to increase the horse-killing capabilities of the weapon, since they were no longer required to pierce armour with the smaller, high velocity bullets of the earlier age.

Just my thoughts,

Sincerely,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 9:59 am    Post subject: Oops         Reply with quote

Sorry about starting a new thread here, I had intended to simply add to the thread on Bow, Crossbow, and Musket! Wrong button!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I used to own an original wheelock pistol of nearely identicle form to those in the armoury at Graz. It was .45 or .50
caliber . The matchlock musket I have from Dixie Gunworks on the other hand , you could accidentally drop a quarter
down the barrel ( .75 if I remember right ) and it'd get lost .
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 1:09 pm    Post subject: Wheellocks         Reply with quote

Allen;

Very cool! I recall when the Graz exhibit was in the States that there were a number of different styles displayed. Which style was it that you owned? A ball-butt, lemon-butt, fishtail or other? In any event, I am quite jealous. I shall imagine that you got a pretty penny or two from it!

I have a very nice wheellock Puffer built by Dale Shinn which is of .58 calibre, which according to his research (which I trust implicity, but yes, I need to double check it on my own too!) is about average for that style of pistol. However, his later style pistols are of much smaller bore, such as yours. My Shinn Bastard Musket is a 12-gauge, though (.72") rather than the prefered 11-gauge (.75"). Still, I'm not going to complain! Both are well able to take a very sturdy charge, and kick quite forcefully.

Good discussing things with you, I enjoy such point and counterpoint with a well-read and knowledgeable colleague.

Thanks!

Gordon

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 3:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The butt was of fishtail form and of overall simple clean character . Definitely a military piece . I used to have a glass or two of scotch on a Saturday evening with the zischagge ( c.1630-40) I used to own on my head , and the pistol and my
Walloon broad sword ( c.1640-50) to "get the feel "for them . The pistol was rifled ( two grooves) which I thought was
odd .
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 4:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon;

Maybe it is a good thing to start a new thread: If nobody did there would be only one HUUUUUUGE thread on this forum since all these subjects are at least distantly related.

One thing I wonder about is why pistols were not used more widely by infantry since the range expected of 18th century muskets was below 100 yards and mostly closer to 50 yards: I could see some specialized shock troops armed with swords and shield being also armed with one or two pistols or short carbines or blunderbuss, these could have formed a line behind the standard line of infantry ????
(Maybe the Scotts could be the exception: I believe they often carried multiple pistols into battle.)

To partially answer my own question: I think for the sake of uniformity of equipment & tactics (Logistics) many usefull weapons were not used, as opposed to the 16th century were everyting was used; pikes, muskets, pole arms, double handed swords, sword & targes, even bows at the earliest point the the period.

(Appart from real history I seem to be curious these days with "The Path(s) Not Taken": Creative uses of historical weapons in non historic ways.) (Good for alternate history Sci. Fi.)

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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 5:13 pm    Post subject: Wheellocks and More         Reply with quote

Allan; I am totally jealous now. Wheellock Pistol, Zischagge and Walloon Sword! EEK! Heck, share Scotch? I'm surprised you didn't bring it all to bed! ;o) It is VERY interesting that the pistol was rifled, though! I only know of a very few that were at that early date, among them being Prince Rupert's pair of turn-off holster pistols. Very nifty! I am even more impressed.

Jean; Actually pistols were used more than you might think for infantry actions. One of the earliest references to the use of pistols anywhere is at the Battle of Ceresole in Italy in 1544, where the Imperial troops (Landsknechts) were provided with armour, and pistols for the front rank. It was expected that when the two pike lines connected, that the pistoleers would shoot down the entire front rank of the French Army's Swiss. Unfortunately, the French had the same idea, and filled the second rank of the Swiss pike square with arquebusiers, and when the two pike-squares met, it was a huge crashing boom, and BOTH front ranks went down wholesale. Eventually the Imperialists lost, but it was still a novel tactic.

In the later 16th Century, it was standard to arm Targeteers with target, broadsword and pistol. I fact the military ordinances for the Colony of Virginia state that Targeteers will be so armed, with either a wheellock or snaphaunce pistol in addition to sword and shield. They were great for parades, and probably for dealing with Indians, but to be line infantry when the other guy had cavalry to hurl at you, Targeteers become simply Targets.

The biggest reason for not issuing out pistols en masse to the Infantry was, I believe, due to cost. When a wheellock pistol cost roughly 3 times as much as a matchlock musket, and 30 times a pike, it was economically unfeasable to pass them out to the, shall we say, less than technologically adept soldiers of the day? To issue them to Cavalry was one thing, since they were both in the minority, and already somewhat elite troops, but your average 16th and 17th Century soldier wasn't exactly your star performer. At least that would be my take on it.

Per the effective range of muskets, recall that as noted before, the 18th Century muskets were issued with much smaller ball in relation to bore size than were the 16th Century versions. It was believed that a musketeer (this is one using the 15-pound behemoth with a forked rest) was able to fire 40 rounds in an hour. Compare this to the 4-5 rounds a minute for a British or Prussian Infantryman. The rate of fire was increased enormously, but at the expense of accuracy and range. There is a reference to Turkish Arquebusiers shooting down soldiers during the Siege of Malta in the 1560's at well over 200 yards, and the French Marshal Strozzi was purported to be able to hit an individual enemy soldier at 300 with a musket in the 1540's. So they WERE pretty accurate, no question. Modern experiments have shown that a well-bored smooth-bore is indeed capable of such feats.

Anyway, still more interesting stuff to discuss, thanks to you both!

Sincerely,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 7:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordons point about the expense of mechanically driven firelock pistols limiting widespread use by infantry pretty much
sums it up . Matchlocks worked using a tiller type trigger not unlike a crossbow and were by comparison not very expensive . Additionally there was the expense of equiping the large and expanding "proto" national armies of this time .
The cost of keeping these large and by now largely proffesional armies equipped with the latest gear would have been
staggeringly costly .
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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 5:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon;

I would be curious about a side by side comparison of wheelocks versus Flintlocks.

Cost seemed to be a large factor favouring the adoption of flintlocks over wheelocks and possibly relative fragility.

How about ignition reliability? Having no practical experience with either, I guess that the wheelock would produce a reliably large amount of sparks to ignite the priming powder? Is there any lock time advantage to either?
Same for the delay between ignition of the priming powder and the main charge?

If cost was not a factor would you feel more confident, in battle, with a wheellock?(I do think that wheelocks look more ellegant to me and ironically more advanced in spite of being an earlier design.)

The wheelock normally uses Iron Pyrrite to produce sparks, I have read that Iron Pyrrite is more frangible than flint and would need to be replaced by a fresh one more often, can flint be used in a wheelock? (Even if this was not done historically.)
Quality reproductions of wheelocks seem to be much harder to find: Can you recommend a maker of reliable/ affordable wheelocks.( Cannot afford one probably, but would be of general interest to other Forumnites.)

To make reproductions less expensive what would you think of wheelocks that would externnaly respect the look & function of the originals but would use modern design (Coil springs?!) for the internal mecanism. (Might be more durable than the originals.)

Any other information that I haven't though of would be appreciated.

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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The biggest drawback of the wheelock mechanism that i've heard is that the spring that was wound(sp) to drive the
serrated wheel that drags on the pyrites is under so much tension that they could break . Secondary but not as big
a deal was that because you were relying on a shower of sparks created by the pyrite and the steel wheel rather than
the flash of flame from powder in a pan the ignition was not quite as reliable so the tendancy was to fire the pistols
held on thier side with the wheel up ( gangsta' style ) and you can see this in military manuals of the period .
On the plus side you could use wheellock mechanisms on horseback with ease something that with a matchlock
would be at best dangerous and cumbersome and at worst just plain impossible . The wheelock woulld take
slightly longer to reload than a flintlock mechanism just because of the extra step of whinding the spring to drive the
serrated staeel wheel .
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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 7:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
The biggest drawback of the wheelock mechanism that i've heard is that the spring that was wound(sp) to drive the serrated wheel that drags on the pyrites is under so much tension that they could break .


The wheelock mechanism is more fragile than a flint system, so it probably would have been reserved for uses that required less wear and tear, and less frequent use overall, even if there was plenty of cash available to buy the best of everything.

Remember that the requirements for a cavalry firearm are considerably different that those for an infantryman. A rider would need to aim and fire with a single hand grip, reserving the other hand for control of his horse. I don't believe I have seen or read any account of 16th-17th Century riders using firearms that required two hands to operate, like a bow and arrow, though I suppose it could have been done in a pinch. Same consideration goes for the need to reload. Horsemen don't have two free hands to reload a muzzleloader in combat. One or two handguns holstered on the saddle, used without reloading, would seem to be standard for that era. So pistols were most suited to mounted warfare, while larger weapons with the ability to reload repeatedly were more suitable for foot combat.
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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allen;

I always though that priming powder was also used in a wheelock????

If I understand correctly the shower of sparks had to get to the powder charge through the touch hole without any help from a priming charge: If this worked at all, then the amount of sparks must have been impressive. (Some powder from the main charge may also have reached the pan.)

Looking at one of my reference books page 10, SMALL ARMS by Frederick Wilkinson, first printing 1965

"The mechanism was spanned or wound up, and a pinch of priming powder placed in the pan,the bottom of which was formed by the roughened edge of the wheel. a sliding cover was then pushed over the pan, rendering accidental discharge impossible.When action was imminent the arm was pulled back so that the pyrites rested on the top of the pan cover; the pan cover itself was automatically removed when the trigger was pressed."

I think that flintlock pistols were also commonly tilted to the side to increase the odds that the flash of the priming powder would reach the primary charge. ( Except for Box Lock pocket pistols were the touch hole was on top of the barrel instead of the side.

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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean you are correct but if you'll note the area where the priming powder is placed for the wheelock is actually slightly
below the touchhole in the barrel as the wheel is below the barrel so while ignition of the priming charge is pretty well
assured the sparkes from the priming charge have to leap up slightly to hit the touchhole and set off the primary charge .
On a flint lock the priming pan and charge are next to the tochhole because the shower of sparks for ignition of the priming charge is created by the flint comming down along the frizzen creating sparks that fall into the pan (actually my
dixie gun works matchlock is layed out this way as well ) . Because of the large spring and wheel in a wheelock mechanism they need sit slightly lower in the stock to be fit in than the more simple and compact mechanism of the of flint lock or matchlock mechanisms . The rate of missfire or spring breaks with the wheelocks was small enough that they continued to be popular for hunting into the first half of the 18th century but must have been frequent enough that a better
alternative was sought and found for field use . Your point about different tools for different jobs ( wheelock pistols carried
in pairs (braces) on horseback becuase reloading in the thick of it was impossible , and matchlocks for infanty where
frequent reloading was required ) is well made and taken . Definitely another factor in the different weapons for the two branches of service .
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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 10:22 am    Post subject: Wheellocks and Flintlocks         Reply with quote

I have to agree with Allan that the very different uses to which a wheellock and a matchlock were put allowed for the differences to be accepted. A matchlock is actually a VERY serviceable arm, and with good match, it is, in my own experience, much more reliable than a flintlock. Even in rather damp weather, the burning match can dry out the priming powder to the point of ignition, when the sparks of a flinter are bouncing off the swollen and damp grains of priming powder. One of the tell-tale signs of the serviceability of the matchlock for doing LOTS of shooting is the large number of "combination guns" which combine both a wheellock as well as an "auxilliary" matchlock. My guess/understanding is not just that the matchlock portion was there "in case the wheellock broke", but more importantly, if you wanted to sit at the range and shoot a LOT, the matchlock was just more efficient. For hunting, or for shooting off the back of a horse, the wheellock wins hands down, though.

The point about the friability of pyrites is also well taken. As I understand it, there is a specific area of Saxony where the best pyrites were mined, and they were a major trade item in the 16th and 17th Centuries. But your run-of-the-mill pyrites (like the kind I can get!) have a nasty tendency to shatter after a few shots, and if not totally destroyed, I certainly have to re-adjust the position of the pyrite in relationship to the wheel in order to get a decent spark. With a good flintlock using a nice sharp flint, you can get 15, 20, even more consecutive shots off without adjusting your flint, or just pushing it with your thumb to one side or the other, but not so with the wheellock. Between that, and the extra motion of spanning it (one 360-degree turn), it becomes more clear why flintlocks became popular.

Another point to consider is this: a wheellock, after being loaded, spanned and primed, can be holstered or carried for a number of hours ready to fire and is perfectly safe, given that you keep the dog-head up and away from the wheel. But if you leave it overnight, or worse, spanned for a few days, you are very likely to either "set" the mainspring so that it has no more "spring" to it, or allow the chain to lock together. General Ludlow, in the English Civil War, left his wheellock pistols spanned overnight, and when surprised by the enemy the next morning, discovered to his dismay that his pistols wouldn't do anything when he pulled the triggers. On the other hand, a Snaphaunce can be loaded, cocked and primed, with the steel thrown forward and the cock let down with the pan-cover still holding in the priming, and the gun is ready to use with only a moments notice, yet no springs are under tension. In an era of rather hit-and-miss spring technology, this is a real boon. Later flint locks such as the English Lock were provided with a "dog" catch to hold the cock at half-cock (thus the term "Dog Lock" for them), and the later French Flintlocks could also be carried half-cocked and primed, ready to fire by just pulling back the cock with the thumb. (That it wasn't always successfully carried so is shown by our term "Going off half-cocked"!)

I would certainly argue with the contention that a military wheellock is a delicate weapon, though. I have handled enough to realize that they put a lot of meat on those items, making them as "soldier proof" as was possible, but nothing is totally unbreakable, as we well know. The fact that the much larger spring of a wheellock is required to have more wood removed from the stock does in fact make the stock weaker than that of a comperable flintlock. But most wheellock pistols and carbines are still pretty beefy weapons, well able to withstand a fall from a horse, or even being stepped on by same (as long as it's on soft ground!) It's interesting that the French version of the wheellock has a totally separate mainspring distinct from the lock-plate, which rests directly under the barrel. The small lock-plate takes up very little room in the stock, but of course, the mainspring takes up the entire middle section of the stock, under the barrel. Still, a novel way of trying to simplify things.

Anyway, long post for some simple answers! Too much of the professor in me, I guess.

Cheers,

Gordon

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http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 12:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon;

Post are never too long when the content is all good: I was really thirsting for more when I got to the bottom of the post.

Interesting about the reliability of matchlocks: This is probably why they were still used long after the first wheelocks were invented.(Why it took so long for the flintlock to become the standard lock for muskets.)
I also conclude that the snaphaunce was a more versatile design than the flintlock: I guess simplicity won out !

Question: If one wanted to conserve his supply of match during target practice (Modern use, not historical use.)
could one substitute the match with a smoldering cigarette?

Another non historical idea: With a 14th/15th century Hangonne, no firering mechanism, could one use a piece of flint on the steel (Iron) near the touch hole to produce sparks to ignite the priming powder, instead of using a match or a heated wire?
I guess that the matches were lit using some form of handheld flint and steel, and I wonder if some genius got the idea to strike his flint on the handgun itself to fire the handgonne. Or if the iron would not produce sparks, simply shower the touch hole using his handheld flint &steel. (This when two people were firering the larger version of hangonne or even canon.

All this just a speculation about how the idea of using sparks to fire could have led to the inventionof wheelocks!

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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 1:12 pm    Post subject: Firing Mechanisms and such         Reply with quote

Jean; Interesting speculations. I would expect that you are right in that somewhere down the line, someone with a flair for mechanical contraptions got tired of lighting his match with hand-held flint and steel, and decided that it would be a lot easier if it were done mechanically. What is interesting is that the hand which moves usually holds the steel, while the stationary hand holds the flint, which is of course entirely backwards to the mechanical version. But it makes sense the way it's built. One might say that the wheellock is closer to the hand-held, in that the moving part is the steel, while the stationary part is the stone (in this case pyrites). One might say that the wheel is simply a long "steel" on a pivot (like the shoulder) which moves against the stationary pyrite. There is an argument that in fact Leonardo DaVinci was the inventor of the wheellock, which does make a certain amount of sense when you consider it's intricacies! Others dispute this (one Italian scholar in particular), in favor of a German origin: in any event, whoever came up with it liked clocks and mechanical marvels!

I wouldn't really try to use a cigarette instead of a match, though I imagine it would work. To begin with, you'd go through a lot of cigarettes, and I think that they cost a LOT more than cotton wash-line! Pure cotton line actually burns well and carries a nice coal on it, though other forms of match usually need to be soaked in saltpetre to keep them going. Another thing is that you really do need to light both ends of the match, since the one you use to shoot with gets blown apart with the explosion in the pan, and won't return to a nice coal for another minute or so... thus if you are doing anything like "rapid fire" (one shot a minute or so) you need both ends lit. About 3 foot length is good, and what was standard as well.

I've tried using flint and steel to fire off a swivel-gun, but it ain't easy! (Lots easier to hold a flintlock pistol to it and fire it off that way... better yet, just use the match). I'm sure that someone way back when did try it, and pretty much was the progenetor of self-igniting arms. According to some things I've read, however, it was supposedly common to use a red-hot wire rather than a match to fire off the "hand gonnes", though it would require a ready source of fire. But I think the big reason for NOT doing this, is that you would have to ignite a powder train, rather than ignite the powder directly above the touch-hole, for if you did that, your chances of being severely burned would be pretty high indeed. A LOT of hot gas escapes from even a fairly small firearm, enough to spit out and nail you on the neck if you are standing next to a fellow shooting a flintlock pistol even.

I appreciate your ideas about the snaphauce vs flintlock too. Indeed, the French-style flintlock is quite a bit simpler, more efficient and probably easier to manufacture and repair too, but certainly not as safe. One thing that I forgot to mention, though, in this context is that, as opposed to a wheellock or matchlock which takes two hands to get into operation (assuming that it's already loaded and primed) a flintlock only needs one hand to get into battery. By holding on to the wrist of the stock, it's a simple affair to simply reach up with the thumb and cock the piece, and it's ready to fire. With a matchlock, it's a total pain in the backside, and with a wheellock, while you don't NEED two hands, it sure helps to get the dog into battery without smashing the pyrites against the top of the pan-cover. A snaphaunce could be likewise cocked and readied with one hand, though you would have to hook the steel on something to bring it down into battery. This too may well have been one of the reasons for the eventual dominance of the French-style flintlock, as opposed to it's rivals.

Anyway, there we are, yet another tome!

Cheers,

Gordon

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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 1:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

About five years back Aguy I used to know built a couple of hand gonnes . We used cannon fuse (quick match ) to set them off . Just cut a little length and stick it in the touch hole . With school children bringing explosives to class these
days I don't know how easy it is to get now .
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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 1:18 pm    Post subject: Hand Gonnes         Reply with quote

Allan;

That's actually what I used to do, too... cannon fuse lets you get your face well away from the blast! LOL!

Gordon

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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 2:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon;

A short reply this time: My idea for using handheld flint for direct ignition of a hangonne comes from the "sparker thing" one uses to light acetelyne torches. (Did a lot of welding in art school decades ago.)
I think you could try using this to fire handgonnes or small canon, keeping most of your hand away from the touch hole &/or using a glove. (Would work better if the touch hole has at least a small priming pan even if there is no pan cover as with a musket.)

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PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2004 3:11 pm    Post subject: Igniting Hand Gonnes         Reply with quote

Jean;

Oh, no doubt that sort of thing would work, especially if you primed the sparker a bit first, too. I guess it's sort of a high-tech solution to a rather low-tech problem. But I think I understand where you are coming from, using a separate ignition system, not fixed to the actual weapon, to ignite it.

I know of some makers of "wheellocks" who actually recomment the use of those magnesium igniters to fire off the pistols, rather than pyrites. Put a couple or three of them in the jaws of the dog, and it sparks like heck, though the sparks are of a lower "wattage" in my opinion than pyrites produce. It DOES usually work, but just isn't "right". At least not for me.

Interestingly, as early as the 1750's the Royal Navy was begining to issue out flintlock mechanisms for their upper-deck cannons. They were fixed to the side of the touch-hole, and set off the priming, which was communicated from the flintlock's pan to the cannon's pan by a hole in the lockplate. If the lock failed to work, a slow match could quickly be substituted to fire the piece. But it was felt that the lock gave the Gun Captain better control on just when the gun would go off, making for more accurate shooting from the upper-deck of a sailing Man-of-War.

Gordon

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