The Wallace Collection

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Wheel-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Wheel-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Attributed to Hans Schomann
  • Germany
  • 1554
  • Steel, gold, copper, wood, antler, inlaid and engraved
  • Length: 47.8 cm, overall
    Length: 25 cm, barrels
    Width: 1.2 cm, calibre
    Weight: 1.71 kg
  • Maker's mark: A shield charged with a man's head in a tall cap between the letters 'HS', and dated 1554 Stamped
  • A1135
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
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  • Double-barrelled wheel-lock pistol, the barrels octagonal to a distance two and a quarter inches from the muzzle, where they are decorated with a succession of mouldings. They are arranged on the 'over and under' principle. Both barrels are stamped near the breech with a maker's mark: a shield charged with a man's head in a tall cap between the letters H and S, and dated 1554 on both pan-covers.

    The two locks both have external wheels, covered by plates of gilt copper engraved with the Imperial eagle. Safety-catches and release buttons for the pan-cover springs. The locks are placed on opposite sides of the stock., so that after one charge is fired, the user then spun the grip 180 degrees in the hand to ready the second for shooting.

    Stock of dark wood inlaid with bands and insertions of antler, engraved with designs of fruit, flowers and human heads. The butt is oviform and is terminated in an antler button. Wooden ramrod with steel tip.

    German, dated 1554

    This pistol belongs to an interesting group. The same mark occurs on two pistols, dated 1555, of the Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol at Vienna (G. & T. VIII 6/7; Böheim, Album, II, Pl. 19th) and another, with the same date, of Heinrich VII zu Meissen (G. & T. VIII, 8).

    The locks are of an unusual type, apparently typologically earlier than the conventional wheel-lock. The trigger acts directly on a lug on the rear end of the sear. A peg on the other side passes through the lock-plate and can be prevented from moving by closing the hole in the lock-plate by means of a safety-catch. On both locks when un-spanned, the end of the sear fits into a hole on the inner face of the wheel, indicating that the locks are at present wrongly assembled. The point of the sear, which is not tapered, fits further into the wheel than on conventional wheel-locks. An exceptionally heavy pull is therefore required to release the sear from the wheel against the sideways pressure exerted by the wheel. The normal sear-release was a great improvement on this method (G. Espig, personal communication). One lock is marked X on the spindle. The other lock is possibly a later replacement.

    Provenance: possibly from the collection of W. S. Sanders, sold Christie's, 25-28 February 1867, lot 451, 'A double-barrel wheel-lock pistol, the stock inlaid with engraved ivory, the barrels dated 1554. £12' (marked catalogue in the archives of the Collection).

    The mark and initials which N. Støckel, II, p. 1248, no. a 3094, ascribes tentatively to an unidentified man working at Wasungen, Saxony, 1566, have recently been attributed by W. Glage to Hans Schomann of Goslar in Brunswick (1983, pp. 45 and 110). The pistols at Vienna referred to above all have very similar silver stocks, that of Heinrich VII, Burggraf of Meissen, bearing Leipzig silver marks. The two pistols of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol are of different sizes. The larger one is dated 1555 (Schedelmann, 1972, pp. 5-7, figs. 9-11). A smooth-bore gun barrel in the Tøjhusmuseum, Copenhagen, dated 1566, also bears this mark and initials (cat., no. B104; A. Orloff, letter of 13 July 1983).