EARLY HANDGUNS in MUSEUMS

Material in this page is based upon observations and images taken from William Reid's Weapons Through the Ages (Crescent Books, New York, 1986).
The 'Loshut Gun' was uncovered in the mid ninteenth-century at a site in Loshult, Skane, Sweden. It is made of cast bronze and is now at the Statens Historika Museum, Stockholm. Although is is much smaller than the vase-shaped gun of the Milamete MS illustrations [earliest image of a firearm], it appears to be of the same design. As their is no other basis upon which to estimate the date of this piece, it is assumed to be of the date of the Milemete document, ca. 1326. It is the earliest firearm still in existance. Bore is 36mm diameter at the muzzle end, tappering to 30mm diameter to where it meets the powder chamber of 36mm diameter. A touchhole leads from the outside into the powder chamber. Weight is 9.07kg, overall length is 30cm. The small size suggests that it was used much as a handgun. It is assumed that the gun was strapped to a a wooden stock. However, some of the the earliest 'canon' pieces were quite small and fired from wood mounts resting on the ground. The projectiles shot by this gun could have been bolts or some shaft-type missile, or stone or metal small shot.

The Middelalder Center in Denmark has made a reconstruction, with which they performed some firing tests. For more information on this, see their webpage Cannons, That Diabolic Instrument of War.


Another early, cast bronze gun found in the bed of the Baltic, near the island of Mörkö, Sweden, is shown in the drawing above. This is unquestionably a handgun, as behind the breech end of the cast is a socket to receive a wooden stock. The 'Mörkö Gun' is now at the Statens Historika Museum. It is estimated to date prior to 1400, based upon descriptions of such guns at that time. The hexagonal barrel is typical of many of the early small-arms. This one contains religious inscriptions. The lug beneath the barrel is for bracing over a fortress wall to absorb the recoil force.

Another early, cast bronze handgun was discovered at the site of a castle in Tannenberg, Hess, Germany. The castle was known to have been destroyed in 1399, and the piece is reasonably assumed to predate that event. This 'Tannenberg Gun' is now at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. This piece, along with the image below, appear to be typlical of the western European handguns around 1400. The projectiles were small stones or cast metal shot. The powder in the rear chamber was ignited through a touchhole, to which the gunner held a hot metal rod, or glowing coal ember, or a lit match.
An iron barrel handgun, strapped to its original wood stock, estimated to be ca. 1400, is at the museum in Berne, Switzerland.

Canon primitif, collier tourillons rapporte vers 1330.
L. 87,5 cm; Calibre 33 mm [inv. M.P. 307]
Photographed in 2001 at Musée de Provins et du Provinois.

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Gunpowder Weapons of the Late Fifteenth Century

This page was created in February 2000 and was last updated 20 May 2004.
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