The Matchlock Firing
Mechanism

Matchlocks were in use from the late 1400ís until the early 1700ís, and although most had smoothbore barrels it was not unusual to find some that were made with rifled barrels. The earliest known rifled matchlock was made for Emperor Maximilian I between 1493-1508. It is also interesting to know that cloth patching was already a common practice by the early 1600ís. Around the year 1500, front and rear sights were more common, even on smoothbore guns. It is worth noting that the writings of the early American colonist of the 1600ís give more references to matchlock muskets than firelocks.

By the 1700ís, the British and French removed all the matchlocks from their forces. The shape of these early stocks may look odd, however, anyone who has ever held one can attest that these stocks hold extremely comfortably.

I have tried match cord from twisted hemp rope and found that it does in fact work much better than cotton rope. The majority of original match cord that I have tried with matchlock firearms is between 7/16" and 1/2" in diameter, both twisted and braided. Many shooters today use cotton rope soaked in salt peter, but Nathaniel Nye wrote in 1647 on making good match cord: "Take cords of hemp thatís not very fine, or of toe, which is better, although it will sooner consume, and let every cord be as big as a mans little finger, this done, boil the cords in strong lye, ashes and a little salt peter till all the lye be wasted, then dry."


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