The "Snapping Matchlock" was Europe's first attempt at what might be considered a "modern firearm" by today's standards. That is to say, these crude muskets were the first guns that could be fired at the push of a trigger (or button), rather than having to be lit by a separate lever or "linstock" held separately in the shooter's other hand. These guns featured spring loaded serpents that could be locked into a "cocked" position; ready to fire the musket with the simple twitch of the shooter's finger, without ever having to remove oneself from the weapon's sights. This allowed for more accurate shooting and the beginning of the concept of "marksmanship" as we know it today.
These early snapping matchlocks are unique in that the lock parts are all attached directly to the wood stock, with no traditional lock plate. When the serpent is set to full cock, it is held in place by a simple sear. A button located at the end of the sear lever is pressed with the shooter's indexed finger to release the serpent and fire the gun.
This particular matchlock is a newly-built custom reproduction of the original "mechanically-fired" weapons depicted in paintings, wood cuts, and tapestries from the late 15th Century (the first snapping matchlocks date to the 1470s). It is entirely hand-made with no mass-produced parts whatsoever. This gun is of a Germanic style, and would have been seen throughout Europe and into the Western fringes of the Ottoman Empire. The Spanish used these snapping matchlocks during much of their expeditions throughout the Caribbean and the Americas during the late 15th/early 16th Centuries.
The stock is made from lightly figured walnut and features faceted flat sides with some simple decorative moldings. An integral ramrod "thimble" is cut into the forestock - these are a common feature of guns from this era, as metal ram rod pipes didn't show up until the 17th Century.
The 30" barrel is .54 caliber; smoothbore. It was supplied as a blank from master barrel maker Bob Hoyt. This blank was then custom turned to include a flared muzzle and several decorative molding. A 5/8 x 18 breech plug was installed in the barrel and the tang section of the plug was fitted neatly into a socket cut into the rear of the barrel channel; the same way the originals were made. Steel underlugs were mounted to the bottom of the barrel and pinned to the stock to secure the barrel to the stock. Simple, period correct sights were installed on the barrel for more accurate shooting (original sights varied from simple bead front sights, to more complicated breech-mounted tube sights). Two Germanic proofmarks were added to the breech to finish out the barrel work.
The firing mechanism features a simple "serpent" with a ferruled match holder. The serpent is set up to hold a 1/4" match cord securely in place. The match cord is pressed into the serpent and held in place with simple tension (screw tensioned serpents would not show up until the end middle of the 16th Century). Spring tension against the serpent is provided by a long flat Spring which is secured to the stock with two screws; allowing the spring to removed for maintenance or adjustment if necessary. A spring-loaded sear is located behind the serpent, which smartly snaps into place when the serpent is drawn to full cock. The serpent is then fired via a button secured to the opposite end of the sear bar.
This gun is brand new, and has been extensively test-fired by its builder; Steve Krolick. Steve found optimum target loads were achieved with 35-40 grains of FFg black powder under either a .530 patched round ball or .538 unpatched ball. For a demonstration of this beautiful matchlock being fired, follow this link: https://youtu.be/9YTkPMiCgJM
Included with this beautiful weapon is a reproduction 15th Century powder horn. This large powder horn is painted black to match the finish found on many of the surviving originals from the period.