We talk about matchlocks, and in the Japanese case, 'snap' (snapping) matchlock.
My first question is what do we call a non-snap/snapping matchlock, external to Japan, the kind that lowers the match as we squeeze the trigger, against an internal spring which raises it when we relax the trigger finger?
My second question is what about the earliest matchlock where one end of the serpentine itself is gripped to the butt in order to lower the match to the pan.
Question three concerns the 'tinder' lock which was discussed on another forum. Small pieces of burning tinder, or in Scandinavia a specific fungus were clamped in the head of the serpentine. Were tinder/fungus/match interchangeable depending on availability, or was the serpentine head fundamentally different in some way?
Following on from these, what are the differences in serpentine heads? I am aware of rounded flaps to hold a match cord, a a la Japonaise, but 16th C European pinch flaps with a screw are specifically designed for what?
Finally I am interested in the animal names for the cord holder or head (later hammer). Serpentine is easy as it looks like a snake. Cock is a good word to describe the head of a flintlock, which when not upright, appears to be pecking, and early ones were called dog locks. The Chinese called snapping matchlocks bird guns. Did they see a bird pecking in the pan? I have a European gun with a squirrel which bows down as the trigger is pulled; its mouth seems to be dipping into the pan.
In Japanese though they call it the hibasami, literally fire pincers/scissors. Hi + hasamu. Hasamu means primarily to wedge or peg; in battle it would be to catch from both sides in a scissor movement.
Is it the different languages of Europe, plus individual country technological refinements, that cause the difficulties in finding common terms?
Jan, It is not easy facing a barrage of questions so soon after playing with the faeries but here we go. 1. The earliest European guns were cannon, and were called that since the Italian for a tube was cannone which in turn derived from the latin canna - a hollow reed. The earliest handguns, which were really only small cannons had no locks, just a touch hole on top of the barrel that was ignited by a hot wire or glowing cord - match. There is one in Sweden that was designed to be mounted on the end of a pole. Much of this technology seems to have been brought from China, either along the Silk Road or by the Mongols, spreading into the rest of Europe from the Arab world and Byzantium. By the time the gun acquired a more usual stock, many also acquired a projection under the barrel that could be hooked over the wall of a castle to take the recoil. This eventually gave rise to such name Archibugio, Hackbut and Arquebus. These were eventually fitted with serpentine, again probably a Chinese invention, that was simply pivoted to the side of the stock - the pan having moved to the side as well. With this arrangement you could actually sight the gun by looking along the top of the barrel and not have to worry about igniting the powder in the pan because the serpentine was arranged to do that for you automatically. When this arrangement evolved into a gun with an actual lock, it still retained the names such as arquebus since all guns were matchlocks and didn't need a special name for the way it was ignited. Names such as caliver (from the calibre or size of the bore) or musket (from a male sparrowhawk) refer to the size of the gun not the mode of ignition. 2. Again not relevant since no other form of ignition had been invented. 3. Using tinder or fungus, a species that grows on trees being commonly used as tinder for making fire, did not as far as I know involve a special type of lock. I suppose it didn't matter what was glowing in the serpentine as long as it did the job. 4. I know that the early matchlocks used by the military in the UK had serpentines that were split at the end and fitted with a screw to close them up. I suspect this was because the two sides are very thin and made of iron, not steel, and would not grip the match without the screw. What is funny is that when these are shot the match is invariably blown out anyway. 5. A dog lock does not refer to the shape of the cock and so on, but to a catch attached to the lockplate that locks the cock in the 'half-cock' position. When the cock is pulled back to the full cock position the dog automatically disengages. 6. Yes, different countries did have different names for the bits and pieces and different shapes and arrangements. Don't forget very early gunmakers would be general iron workers and made things to work not to a specific pattern. Even as late as the Civil war, stuff was as far as we know being made to a written order not to an actual pattern or drawing.
Finally It is worth considering why snapping matchlocks were made at all. Firstly they were definitely most often made in Northern Europe, from the German speaking speaking areas. The only reason I can think of as to why they were made is that if you are in a battle and are shooting a normal matchlock, you squeeze the trigger and might not squeeze it enough for the nmatch to touch the priming. I know this sounds unlikely but there are plenty of reports of guns found that have multiple loads because the gunner hadn't realised his gun hadn't fired. With a snapping gun there is no possibility of this happening. You pull the trigger and the serpentine is in the pan and bang. Hope this all helps. Ian
Ian, what is in that Campari of yours? This is brilliant stuff, and right along the path that I am wandering, showing off my blissful ignorance as usual!
Other thoughts keep bubbling up, such as the possible reasons for forward vs backward directionality of serpentine heads, but please ignore or tackle as you see fit. A) Forward would seem to follow the snake body, but Europe seems to have chosen b) a lock that bends it back to the shooter's face, until in Bohemia they switched it back around to configuration a) for some reason. Could b) be a desire to hide the glowing match from the enemy while a) assured relative ease of cord placement?
Piers, Good questions. With the squeeze type lock the serpentine pivots though the lockplate and has a small slotted arm fixed to the same spindle on the inside. This is pulled down by being linked to the forward end of a long lever pivoted to the lockplate about the middle, pulling the serpentine backwards and downwards as the other end of the lever is tilted up. Now we come to the why of this arrangement. Originally the rear end of this lever had a rod hanging down that then bent to lie parallel to the underside of the stock - exactly the same as the tricker (ie trigger) of a crossbow. As this was squeezed by the fingers of the right hand, it forced the back end of the lever up and the serpentine down. To have reversed all this so the serpentine was behind the pan would have positioned the trigger bar way up the fore-end. With a snapping lock, the sear acts on the tail of the serpentine and that has to be pivoted (as on a teppo). again, this all has to be behind the pan to bring the trigger in the right place - imagine a teppo with the internals of the lock going the other way, again the trigger would be too far forward. Ian
Having read and reread what you say, Ian, I can only say that I will need to see it and play with it before it is 'mine' mentally. A hands-on session with the lock internals that you describe would be extremely interesting.
People who understand and even invent new clock and lock mechanisms seem to have a strange genius. That our forefathers were playing with these things way back in Rome, and in the Dark and Middle Ages, fills me with renewed respect. They had a delicate understanding of the peculiar qualities of different metals, and how they did or did not work together as pins, levers, springs etc.
Keeping the same configuration, but update to a mid 1500s (?) more familiar vertical non-snap trigger. I wonder how that would look internally? A backward falling squeeze type, with a squeeze finger pull, not a squeeze tiller?
I agree with Piers regarding a need for visuable support to sort out what is what. The picture in Ian's previous post is of an old matchlock as the text says. But it looks more complicated than the earliest form, right? But not a snapping matchlock? From what I can see there is only on little spring that pushes the trigger lever back to it starting position. Interesting yet complicated
Jan, No, not a snapping matchlock. What I was trying to show is why an ordinary matchlock has the serpentine in front of the pan and moving towards the shooter. If you reversed all this, the trigger would be up in the fore-end of the gun. You must not keep looking for standardised locks construction and meaningful terminology in European guns. Yes, the parts of a lock probably had names but it would be different in each country, was probably only descriptive and only used by the blokes who actuaally made the locks. Europeans were generally illiterate at this date so non of this would be written down. The users of the guns would possibly know the word 'lock' and little else, if it went wrong simply returning it to a maker for fixing. Ian
Piers, Going back to your question about forward or backward moving serpentines, if you look at all the snapping locks in the two references they all move forward. What I found informative was the innards are exactly what was copied by the Japanese. Ian
I guess if you are squeezing a tiller, then you can watch the end of the glowing tinder/match and see it touch down in the pan. That would help you judge the application, and give you warning of it firing, but it would not do so much for your aim!
My own experience with matchlocks has been 100% within the Japanese context. Now I am slowly starting to build a background understanding of the preceding and subsequent evolution of European types, with your help Ian. Many thanks.