Check out this spectacularly engraved breechloading wheellock firearm from 1625. That’s right, a breechloader from almost four centuries ago!
This should surprise some folks, but there were practical experiments in creating breechloading firearms as far back as the 1400s. This 1625 breechloading wheellock gun is just one example (and an absolutely beautiful example it is). The engraving and inlays on this firearm are out of this world. The entire weapon is a work of art, or more accurately, craftsmanship and art combined.
This gun was obviously made for a very wealthy client. The decorative bone and mother-of-pearl inlays are amazing.
Above and beyond the phenomenal decoration, this is an actual breechloading wheellock. That makes it very unusual.
A spring-loaded cover over the breech block opens up to reveal an interesting mechanism. There is a removable metal “cartridge,” for lack of a better term, that can be loaded and inserted into the barrel. The shooter would have had several of these, each loaded with powder and ball, to insert back into the gun after each shot.
It would have been like having a shooting pouch full of preloaded cartridges at the ready. All the shooter would have needed to do was prime the pan and engage the wheellock mechanism before firing again.
This would have made the firing process much quicker than your typical muzzleloading musket.
But guns like this were horrendously expensive to make, and each one would have taken the craftsman many, many hours to complete. They would not have been made en masse.
Nevertheless, this is one of the more beautiful and unusual guns we’ve ever seen.
Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.