Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matchlock drill

In 16th-century European armies, there was a strict set of orders for firing a musket. On the command "Handle your piece',' the musketeer placed the weapon on the rest, near the point of balance. On receipt of the order "Take forth your match',' he transferred the burning match from the left hand to the right hand. On the order "Blow off your coal" he blew off any loose ash from the burning end of the slow match. On the command "Cock your match" he clamped the burning end of the slow match between the jaws of the serpentine.

He flipped the pan cover over the priming powder and on the order "Try your match", operated the serpentine to ensure that the match would hit the powder. On the command "Guard your pan" he
placed two fingers over the pan to ensure that random sparks did not fire it prematurely as he followed the order "Blow off the coal". He would then blow the match to make it glow.

On receipt of the last order "Present and give fire" he would swing the stock into his shoulder, open the pan cover and slowly pull the trigger to ensure that the match was not stubbed out as it was lowered into the pan. What followed was a spectacular bang and cloud of white smoke, and the lead ball went on its short and inaccurate journey.
This illustration indicates the complexity of firing a 16th-century musket correctly; the musketeer was required to follow no less than 16 precise steps.

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