25 Comments

  1. The key recognition factor on the miquelet-type flintlock is of course that the mainspring is on the outside of the lockplate rather than on the inside, as on the “French” lock that became the flintlock as we think of it today.

    The worn condition of the arm is indicated by the state of the “steel”, the striking face of the frizzen (combined pan cover and striking face).

    The “spark grooves” that end about halfway up the steel originally should have gone clear to its upper end. The steel has been worn away by repeated firings, and probably by having its face dressed with a file and having the spark grooves recut with a graver two or three times.

    Generally, a good-quality flint was good for about twenty to thirty shots before it fractured to the point of needing to be replaced. A frizzen strike face, assuming the typical steel alloys of the time in its construction, was good for about 100 to 150 shots before needing to be “dressed” and re-grooved. After about three “redresses”, the frizzen’s metal was thin enough that it needed to be replaced entirely.

    It’s fairly obvious from this pistol’s condition that it didn’t spend its service life hanging in a display case or occasionally being shot at targets. Whoever owned it likely put it to frequent “practical” use.

    Probably right alongside a sword.

    cheers

    eon

    • Might have been used on a ship, salt water corrosion given it’s in the U.S…

      I always thought the term Miquelet was generic for a Spanish Snaphaunce, must have been the unusual lock style which makes them look older.

      • A miquelet is really closer to a “true” or “perfected” flintlock than a snaphaunce is. The snaphaunce has a separate steel on its own arbor, and a sliding, usually spring-loaded pan cover like a wheel-lock. The miquelet has a combined pan cover and steel, called the frizzen, like all later flintlocks.

        The snaphaunce was apparently first developed in the Low Countries. Its name apparently comes from the Dutch “schnap-hahn”, (“pecking cock”), describing its shape and the way it works. The miquelet, by comparison, was developed along the Mediterranean, and seems to have surfaced there about 40 to 50 years after the snaphaunce was first used “up north”.

        So you can make a good case that the miquelet could have been a progressive local development of the snaphaunce. Or maybe a parallel line of flintlock evolution. I’ve seen it argued both ways.

        cheers

        eon

  2. Great find Ian. I think a pointer of some kind would be handy for showing interesting details items, I didn’t want to say a pen as they are designed to mark stuff. Something sharper than your finger would be helpful from time to time. I’ve noticed this in a couple of your Rock Island videos besides this one.

  3. The angle of the hammer to the frizzen seems wrong. Though I’m sure it worked, you’d expect the hammer to engage the frizzen at a steeper downward glancing angle to better throw sparks into the pan.

    • The angle is consistent with a flint clamped “true edge up”, i.e. with its front end like this _/ rather than more typically like this_\.

      The object was to “hit” the steel further up, and have a longer “scrape”, generating more sparks.

      This was fairly common on the miquelets. One theory as to why is that the spring steel of the era lost temper over time faster than more modern spring steels, hence a longer “engagement” of the strike face was considered desirable to ensure sufficient and hot enough sparks to guarantee ignition. (Black powder ignition consists of the sulfur first igniting at 261 degrees C, then its combustion rapidly raising the temperature to the fusion point of the saltpeter, 335 degrees C.)

      An “inverted” flint would be consistent with the wear of the upper portion of the strike face and the lack of wear lower down.

      cheers

      eon

  4. That pistol definitely has the “been there, done that look.” In Cervantes “Don Quixote,” (1604) he mentions the “pedrenal” (sp.), that scholars have taken to be a weapon that was neither matchlock nor wheel lock, and most believe that he was referring to the miquelet. According to Severn, the design goes back to at least 1580, and possibly earlier. De Hilta describes a weapon known as an “escopeta de rastrillo” or “rake gun” in his “Guerras civiles de Granada” from the late 16th century, where the lock was described as being in use in the region before 1567. Many believe that the design was commissioned by Charles 1 after the failure of the military matchlocks and wheel locks in windy and rainy conditions, so the design itself is very old. Most assume that the term “miquelet” is an English word derived from the “miqueletas” or militas that fought beside Wellington in the Peninsular Campaign. There is no telling how old the particular example in the video is, but it is in the classic “patilla” style and thus not likely an archaic example, but it is at least as old as I am (or as old as I am feeling today after a morning duck hunt in freezing rain). It is a fine, well-used example and the fact that it still works and could likely still fire is a testament to the quality of both its design and manufacture. I wonder if it has been in the “New World” since colonial times, or is a more recent import. Either way, it could probably tell some incredible tales.

    • The word “pistol” itself is probably Spanish in origin, as well. While it has long been associated with the town of Pistoia in Italy, a more probable explanation comes from the fact that early handguns were carried by cavalrymen on horseback, who had a need for a gun that did not require both hands to use.

      They adopted the procedure with first the wheel-lock, and then the various flintlocks, of carrying them in pairs in holsters draped around the front of the saddle. Said holsters being hung from the saddle’s “horn”, which in the Spanish of the day was called the “pistallo”.

      cheers

      eon

      • That makes sense, considering that handguns developed in various regions with their own somewhat unique designs, it was always a stretch for me to believe that the term “pistol” derived from the name of a small Italian town(or a Shakespeare character). Spanish influence was widespread for a long time across Europe and the Atlantic, and their military terminology would seem a more likely source for such a widely-used term. As for the featured example, I would love to know the journey that thing has taken from the day it was finished to winding up for sale on the internet (after possibly 400 years).

    • It might be harder to age, if the Spanish kept making this type of pistol in its distinctive way without changing it from its inception, they didn’t invent percussion caps till after Waterloo etc.

      It looks sort of like a pirates though, might be 17th c

    • ‘Pedrenal’ is not ignition system specific – they can be one of several forms of flintlock, or indeed wheellock. The English equivalent term (with a clearly common ancestry) is ‘petronel’. In both cases it refers to a proto-carbine (though there is a period of overlap and blurring between what’s a petronel and what’s a carbine) with an abbreviated stock for use from the chest, or no stock at all. Think of it as a long-barrelled pistol for cavalry use, akin to a stocked C96 of later times and replaced by the fully developed carbine during the early C17th. It’s a term in use throughout the C16th and into the C17th.

      • 1.I met with the explanation of “petrinal” from French “poitrine” meaning “chest” – that is the firearm, a carbine, that was designed specifically for cavalry, for firing while mounted (when the other hand was needed to control the horse), which meant that it was more practical to support it with one’s chest rather than with the shoulder.
        2. Another explantion of “pistol” was given as that of a Czech word “pistala” meaning a pipe (an instrument – like a flute). Granted, it was in a Czekh book published in English.
        Regards, Andrzej

  5. What about the gravity sensitivity of flintlocks. İs it possible firing these guns flash pans facing sideward or downward.

    • It literally depended on the quality of the lock. Some of the better French and British gunmakers (Marin le Bougeoys, the Mantons, etc.) made locks with such short “lock times” that they could indeed be fired laid sideways or even upside down, because the “snap” of the cock was so fast that the priming would be ignited before it could fall out of the pan.

      Some wheellocks could also be fired inverted, if they were the type with a spring-powered pan cover that was snapped out of the way as the wheel spun and the cock brought its pyrite chip into contact with it. (A wheellock works very much like a Zippo lighter.) The sort that required the pan cover to be manually opened before firing could not be.

      The automatic pan cover wheellocks tended to have even faster lock times than the best flintlocks, because there was no “hammer fall” time with a wheellock.

      cheers

      eon

      • Thanks Eon. In fact, gravity is a very important but neglegted limiting factor at firearm design and functionality. Even today, for most of users, pump guns are gravity bonded and excepting a very small samples, most of them, even the well known ones, can not feed the chamber with their ejection ports looking sidewards or downwards which should be lethaly important in tactical use.

        • Along with other trainees, I discovered this disconcerting fact about pump-action police shotguns a long time ago in my misspent youth.

          We found that about the only pump shotgun that would consistently feed and eject in any orientation but “right-side-up” was the old Ithaca Model 37, which ejected downward. Of course, if you tried to fire it inverted, and pumped it to reload, there was about a 50-50 chance that the ejected shell casing wouldn’t come all the way out, and would either fall back into the feedway or “smokestack” the action, either way jamming the whole production.

          Self-loaders aren’t immune, either, as they tend to be very dependent on ammunition. The combined self-loading/pump systems, like the Benelli 90 or the Franchi SPAS-12, seem to offer the “best of both worlds”, but they are also easy to fumble, as I learned working extensively with the Franchi 20 some years ago. Its confusing multiple safeties don’t help any either. BTW, the movie “Jurassic Park” shows a classic Franchi SPAS-12 “smokestack” jam, that I became very familiar with.

          When all is said and done, there’s a lot to be said for the old double-barrel, preferably with outside hammers.

          cheers

          eon

          • It is really a good feeling to hear some facts from another source. However, it should be stated that, according to limited tests made, there are one bottom and one side ejecting pump guns being partly free of gravity bondage. But being aware of short stroke pumping and slow ejection failure on some kinds, it should be said that pump guns are not the firearms to be preferred in the stress situations.

          • By the way, regarding to that pump and auto gun of inertia working kind, on some test with magnum loads, the pump section worked as auto by the fact that side bars connecting the front mode changer engagement with the bolt carrier funcioned as a energy collector source instead of blocked inertia spring.

  6. As to Shakespeare’s Character “Pistol” (Henry IV, Henry V, Merry Wives of Windsor, etc) The Name/description “Pistol” referred both to the Gun then in use in Elizabethan (1590s) England, as well as to a Person of “flighty characteristics” ( ie, liable to be rash and over-excitable).
    The term exists also in Italian “E’ una Pistola” ( He is a Pistol; ie, a rash, show-off type person).

    The Connection to “Pistoia” ( originally Late Roman “Pistola”) seems to be backed by Chronicles of the time ( in Latin, of course…Late 15th Century)

    But the habit of “Horse Pistols” as described in the whole 15-17th Century also has some credence… Wheel-locks “Pistoles” were used well into the 1600s ( Siege and Sack of Magdeburg, Thirty Years War,(1618-1648); as well as the English Civil War ( 1640s).

    BTW, the “Pistole” was also a silver coin used during this time as well…Maybe this is also connected with “Pistoia”…a Merchant Town in Italy.

    Doc AV

  7. A couple of observations;

    Slow-match was impregnated with saltpetre specifically rather than ammonia.

    The piece is ‘early’ by comparison with FW’s usual subject matter, but this piece is actually c1750 in date, which is ‘late’ to some of us ;). The Iberians and North Africans kept using miquelet style locks well into the ‘fully developed’ flintlock era.

    The metal cover is known as the ‘butt cap’. As to using it as a club, I’m not sure how common that would have been. Metal reinforcement for firearm butts is more about preserved the most easily damaged piece of the stock from bangs and scrapes (and to look splendid of course)! Not to say cavalry didn’t club people with their pistols, but if they’re doing that, they’ve made a tactical error. You ought to be drawing your second pistol or using your sword/sabre, which you should have on hand or even already have drawn if you’re close enough to effectively use your pistol.

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