Breechloading Wheel Lock

I have some photos of a pretty cool firearm today, although alas I have very little information about it. It looks like a more or less typical wheel lock, missing several parts…

Breechloading wheel lock
(click to enlarge)

On closer inspection, however, one finds that the breechblock opens up to the side like a Snider:

Breechloading wheel lock action open
…and here at the back of the action is the locking peg that keeps the breech closed.

The decorated latch on the back of the receiver pulls backwards to unlock the breech and allow it to open. I don’t know if this was intended for a complete paper cartridge or if one was supposed to load a loose ball and powder in the breech, or if the ball was to be rammed from the muzzle and just the powder loaded from the rear. I also don’t know if the bore if rifled or smooth.

Breechloading wheel lock action open
Note square recess in back of breechblock for locking plug


Breechloading wheel lock top view
Note locking peg at the rear of the open action. It is rounded to that the breech can be simply snapped shut, but will not open unless the thumb catch on the receiver is pulled rearward.

Breechloading wheel lock


  1. The odd part is the extractor slot on the barrel, which only would be needed if you had a metal cup to serve as a seal like in a shotgun. What makes me wonder if this is a 19th century conversion after the Snyder was invented.

  2. These used a steel (or iron) cartridge, and I have a photo of a similar breechloading matchlock which I saw at The Veste Coburg (Castle) in Coburg, Germany.

    • You are of course, correct, Bob. King Charles had at least one pair of these, heavily engraved in silver. He had some sort of sash made that had several pockets for the little iron cups. They had to be loaded before hand, and the ball had to be seated firmly enough in place to not fall out prior to loading, but still be able to travel down the barrel. Fantastically amazing piece, I’ve never seen a musket/rifle of this design before.

  3. I’ve always found old black powder guns incorporating ‘modern’ features to be fascinating. Kinda makes you wonder how many designs were made ‘early’ but simply didn’t get any exposure beyond the local nobles who could actually afford them.

  4. This is really cool. Imagine the hand work it took to make this. It must have cost a fortune, even then. That’s probably why it never caught on, like the Ferguson rifle a couple centuries later. Just too expensive and time intensive. But really neat!!!

  5. Could the “extracter slot” Be where the Breach block pivot rod locks in toto keep it closed on firing? It would be allot easier to guess if it was in my hands.

  6. I think this gun used a preloaded steel chamber with a small handle that sticks out through the ‘extractor slot’ we see in the photo. The touch-hole is concealed under the pan cover next to the barrel and above the wheel.

  7. A similar rifle is in the army museeum in Copenhagen, it is a chamberloading rifle, that was made as a show pease, not for shooting. another sample in the same class has the barrel, made of glas, these guns originated from the castle in Gottorp in the south of Denmark or in the north of Germany, dependinging witch year you look for it.

    • I believe, as others have stated, and as is visible in the above; that these were loaded be mean of reusable steel cups which functioned as cartridges. The notch in the barrel is both a means of extraction and a source for ignition. I seem to recall having read an article about these, but cannot find it just now.

  8. As best I could tell from the images, the matchlock version used an iron cartridge which had a covered pan for the priming charge. The pan also served as a handle to load, rotate and position the cartridge in the slot, then the breech block could be closed. Open the priming pan, ignite the priming charge and repeat!

    I hope someone will come up with the name of the system.

  9. For more information on the early breechloading wheellock gun, please see my thread

    It, like the pistol and gun I (Matchlock) posted there, was made by Simon Arnold, Augsburg, around 1540.

    There is another gun, almost identical to yours, the barrel dated 1540, in the Jagdschloss Grunewald Berlin.

    I have to go to hopital now and will resume contacting me as soon as I get home again.

    Best wishes,

    Michael Trömner,
    Renstr. 9
    93326 Abensberg


    Please see the thread linked here, especially posts #115ff, where I posted, along with two more by the same maker, your breechloading ca. 1540 Augsburg wheellock arquebus.

    The makers mark, a double-struck falchion flanked by two stars, for Christoph Arnold of Augsburg, is also on the breech of the finely preserved Berlin arquebus, which additionally bears the date 1540 on both the barrel and the underside of the stock.

    And please tell that guy Iain, who presented the gun in the video, that he told some complete rubbish when stating that the wheel was missing, etc.


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