Station: [14] Technical Development of Firearms

The rifles in the display case on the left provide an insight into the development of weaponry from the 16th to the 18th century. The matchlock is one of the oldest trigger mechanisms for firearms. These guns could be operated by a single person, and both hands could be used to hold it. Previously, the priming powder in the flash pan had to be lit manually by holding a slow match to it. The more advanced device featured a tensioned spring mechanism that automatically lowered the slow match on to the priming pan when the trigger was pulled. However, the system had serious disadvantages. First and foremost, it was very weather-dependent and sensitive to moisture. Besides, a slow match had to be kept alight at all times.

During the same period, wheel lock rifles were also in use. The wheel lock was more reliable than the matchlock, but also significantly more expensive, because the mechanism was very complicated. The rifle could be loaded and cocked in advance, but that technical progress also had a downside: there was a risk of accidental ignition. The wheel lock rifle was mainly used by the cavalry. The infantry preferred the simpler matchlock, which was easier to maintain. 

Over the course of the 17th century, both types were gradually replaced by the flintlock. The flintlock consists mainly of the hammer, which has a flint secured in its jaws, a hardened piece of metal called a frizzen, or steel, and the pan that holds the priming charge. The lower part of the steel covers the pan to shield the gunpowder. When the gun is fired, the hammer springs forward, the flint hits the steel and tilts it forward to uncover the pan, at which point sparks fly into the powder.

The rifle cabinet on your right contains magnificent rifles from the Baroque period that belonged to Count Wilhelm Moritz.

All depictions: © Schloss Braunfels