The arquebus was medium weight gun that evolved from the heavy and awkward hackbut. The arquebus was also the first gun to resemble a modern gun with lock, stock and barrel. As technology advanced the arquebus was fitted with more advanced forms of ignition. There were three major types of arquebuses; those with serpentine locks, those with snapping matchlocks and those with sear lock matchlocks.

1) Arquebus with Serpentine Lock

The serpentine lock was essentially an "S" shaped piece of metal with a central pivot attached to the side of the gun. By pulling on the bottom half of the pivot you lowered the upper half, which held a burning slow match, into a touch hole or priming pan. Although more advanced matchlocks were developed, many arquebuses still used the simple serpentine lock up until the time of the muskets introduction.

2) Arquebus with Snapping Matchlock*

The snapping matchlock operated by cocking a spring powered serpentine and by pushing a button on the lock plate (a conventional trigger was used on later guns) to release the serpentine allowing it to snap into the priming pan. This type of matchlock lost popularity in Europe due to the fact that the slow match was often extinguished when it was snapped to hard into the powder.

3) Arquebus with Sear Lock Matchlock*

The sear lock matchlock operated by squeezing a trigger lever attached to a sprung sear inside the lock allowing the serpentine to be lowered into the priming pan as the hand squeezed, and then retracted when pressure was released.


The petronel was a short and lightweight arquebus like weapon that was developed in France during the sixteenth century. The petronel was designed to be held against the chest for firing, which was facilitated by the use of a trigger lever.


The caliver was a more advanced form of arquebus with a standardized bore size. The caliver used either a trigger lever or conventional trigger to operate the matchlock mechanism.


Introduced in Spain in the early sixteenth century, the musket quickly gained popularity throughout Europe due to its power and reliability. Many muskets were five feet long and weighed around twenty pounds. Due to its weight the musket required the use of a forked rest to support the gun during firing. The musket used either a trigger lever or conventional trigger to operate the matchlock mechanism.

Bastard Musket*

The bastard musket was shorter, lighter version of the musket with a bore size in between that of the caliver and the musket. The bastard musket used either a trigger lever or conventional trigger to operate the matchlock mechanism.

Late English Matchlock

This English musket of the 1690's was one of the last matchlocks to be used by the British. The priming pan is now part of the lock making it a complete mechanism. All other features of this musket are the same as the early flintlock muskets of the time. Matchlocks of this pattern were used up to the early 1700's.

Wheellock-Matchlock Combination

This type of combination gun was fairly common due to the fact that many wheellock firearms were unreliable. This gun would function as a regular wheellock, but if the wheellock broke or malfunctioned you would be able to still fire the gun using the matchlock.

Breech-loading Matchlock*

This breech-loading matchlock was a custom gun made for King Henry VIII of England. This gun loaded through the rear by lifting the breechblock, placing shot followed by powder into the barrel and then closing the breech block. Then you would prime the pan and fire as a conventional matchlock.

Revolving Matchlock*

This revolving matchlock was a custom gun made for King Louis XIII of France. This gun had multiple chambers and each chamber had its own priming pan. To fire you would rotate each chamber into place and open the pan and fire as a conventional matchlock.

Bandukh Torador*

The Bandukh Torador was an Indian form of matchlock musket that was in use in India until the 20th century.


The Jezail was matchlock musket from what is now Pakistan. The Jezail used the unusual Sind shaped stock, which made the gun easier to fire from horseback. Many of these guns were later converted to flintlock and percussion.


Tanegashima matchlocks were based on matchlocks introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in 1543. These matchlocks differed from most European designs by using snapping matchlock mechanisms and by having no shoulder stocks. The butt of the gun was placed against the cheek and the left-hand applied pressure forward while the right-hand applied pressure rearward to balance the gun during firing. These matchlocks were used almost unchanged until the 1860's.

Matchlock Pistols

Though never really popular in Europe, Matchlock pistols were very popular in India and Japan well into the 1800's.

1) Indian Matchlock Pistol*

2) Japanese Matchlock Pistol*

*New images based on drawings from Weapons: An International Encyclopedia
**New image based on the drawing from R. H. McCrory's Making a Matchlock
All other images on this page are original images created by J. E. Quest
Copyright 1999-2007. All Rights Reserved.