Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The gunsmith's craft

Firearms were a "must-have" weapon for the monarchs and rulers of Europe. In addition to their beautifully crafted armour and edged weapons, these leaders had firearms made to order, and gunsmiths came up with some ingenious designs that were pointers to the future. A revolving matchlock was presented to King Louis XIII of France. This gun had multiple chambers, each of which had its own priming pan. To fire it, the user rotated each chamber into place and opened the pan and fired as a conventional matchlock.

King Henry VIII of England had a custom-made breech-loading matchlock. This gun was loaded through the rear by lifting the breech block, placing the shot followed by gunpowder into the barrel and then closing the breech block. The pan was then primed and the gun fired as a conventional matchlock.

The beautifully engraved breech-loading matchlock used by Henry VIII; his crest featuring a rose can be seen on the barrel. The carefully engineered breech was designed to give an effective gas seal for the exploding powder.

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