The Wallace Collection

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Breech-loading wheel-lock gun with ramrod
  • Breech-loading wheel-lock gun with ramrod
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Augsburg, Germany
  • c. 1600
  • Steel, gold, copper alloy, wood and antler, blued, engraved, gilded and stained
  • Length: 102.8 cm, overall
    Length: 78.1 cm, barrel
    Width: 1.3 cm, calibre
    Weight: 3.85 kg
  • Stamp: The fir-cone mark of Augsburg
  • A1081
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
Further Reading
  • Breech-loading wheel-lock gun, the barrel of blued steel, octagonal at the breech, and deeply engraved at breech, muzzle, and at the end of the octagonal section, with leaf ornament which is gilt. Near the breech is stamped the fir-cone mark of Augsburg.

    The breech mechanism resembles the Snider system of the 19th century. The rear part of each half of the back-sight, which is divided longitudinally, has to be raised and then, by exerting pressure downwards and backwards on the backsight, a short bolt can be withdrawn from the rear of the breech-block, which is hinged on its left, allowing it to spring open, being hinged on the left side. A steel cartridge, which can be introduced and withdrawn through the opening thus formed, fits into the breech, which is chambered to receive it.

    The cartridge has a small extension at is rear end drilled with a vent, which communicates with the pan of the lock. Originally the cartridge (of which a number would be carried by the user of the gun) may have possessed its own pan to fit into that of the lock, which is exceptionally large and deep.

    The lock incorporates an external wheel covered with a casing of gilt brass, pierced and engraved with figures of mermen. It is spanned by the act of moving the cock into contact with the wheel. Alternatively, the operation can be effected in the usual manner by means of a spanner, and for this purpose the cock can be disconnected from the winding mechanism by withdrawing a hinged staple on the pivot (see also A1118). The surface of the lock-plate is blued. On the inside the two plates which serve as bearings for the mechanism are etched and engraved, in the case of one with monsters and of the other with a figure in peasant costume surrounded by scrollwork. There is a safety-catch, but the release button for the pan-cover catch is missing. The flat surface of the cock is engraved with a monster, and has a short cocking spur with a knob.

    The stock, stained to look like ebony, is of German fashion, inlaid with strips of antler engraved with scrollwork, between which are lively hunting scenes. On the opposite face to the lock-plate are scenes of the Creation of Eve, the Temptation, and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, whilst the butt is decorated with scenes of the Triumph of Youth and Love, respectively. The two ramrod pipes are engraved with nude female figures, the lower one representing Venus. The butt-trap is closed by a sliding cover which has a knob at the end carved in the form of a dog's head, and on the heel of the butt a antler button serves to preserve it from damage when in contact with the ground.

    Trigger-guard indented for the fingers and etched with a floral pattern on a gilt ground. Wooden ramrod with steel worm and antler tip.

    German (Augsburg), about 1600.

    Blackmore, Guns and Rifles of the World, 1965, fig. 355; L'Art Ancien, III, 368 and V, 587; Musée Rétrospectif, 1865, possibly; although F. Spitzer is credited in the captions of L'art ancien with the ownership of this gun, it cannot be identified among the pieces he exhibited in the Musée Rétrospectif, 1865.

    Provenance: Frédéric Spitzer.

    The decoration of the stock resembles that on A1077. A very similar breech-loading gun is in the Musée de l' Armée (no. M 952), with Augsburg mark and self-winding lock. Compare also no. M 953, ibid. Guns with similar breech-loading action are: Henry VIII's gun in the Royal Armouries (inv. no. XII. 1); a gun in the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh; a gun with lock, dated 1638, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (Bashford Dean Collection, Kienbusch and Grancsay, no. 189); three guns and a pistol in the German Historical Museum, Berlin; a gun in the Tøjhusmuseet, Copenhagen; two guns in the Scott Collection in the Glasgow Corporation Museum. In the Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer at Vienna (Böheim, Album, 1898, pl. L (3)) there is a wheel-lock rifle, the stock of which is by the same maker as no. A1081, and the barrel also of Augsburg make. There is a pistol, by Hans Stockmann of Dresden, dated 1610, with similar mechanism in the Farquharson Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum (M 641-1927). The gun of Don John of Austria at Madrid (K 14) has a similar stock, but Nuremberg marks on the barrel and lock. See also nos. A1148-9.

    Of the comparable weapons listed in the 1962 Catalogue, that in the Royal Scottish Museum is No. 1869.9.3 (Norman, 1972, no. 59, with a list of comparable examples); that in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, which also bears the Augsburg town-mark, is no. 29.158.671; the whereabouts since the Second World War of the Berlin weapons is unknown; neither of the Glasgow guns are strictly comparable, since no. E.1939.65.up is self-spanning but on a different principle, while E.1939.65.un is not self-spanning. That in the Victoria and Albert Museum is not self- spanning. On a comparable pistol, formerly in the collection of Lord Astor at Hever Castle, the pan was fixed to the removable cartridge (sold at Sotheby's, 5 May 1983, lot 61, repr. in cat). Another list of comparable pieces is given by Carpegna in which he distinguishes between the various methods of self-spanning (Firearms, 1975, under cat., no. 14, p. 63, n. 6 and 64, n. 11).