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Firing Mechanisms

44PG302/EU889-88, F-320  Matchlock 1546


        44PG307/614-42   Matchlock 2032

         matchlock with


The simplest and earliest gun-lock plate used in the colonies was the matchlock.  Its main feature is a split arm, sometimes shaped like a snake head and referred to as a serpentine, that gripped a burning saltpeter-soaked match.  When the lever (trigger) was pulled, the arm swung down into a pan full of powder.  The pan cover had to be opened manually.

   44PG302/EU 2089, F-320 S-8   Matchlock 443


           44PG302/EU1041-28   Matchlock Powder Pan 1451

            Powder Pan 

   44CC178/16/2C   Snaphaunce 458


44CC178/2/3E   Snaphaunce Battery 2076

Snaphaunce Battery 

44CC178/37D-4   Snaphaunce Cock 455 

Snaphaunce Cock 

Snaphaunce Locks

The snaphaunce can be considered the direct ancestor of the 18th-century flintlock.  The term is now used to describe a mechanism where a flint, held in a cock, was struck against a battery that was separate from the powder pan cover.  Excavations of 17th-century Virginia sites have recovered a surprising number of this type of lock plate.  

44CC178/37E-2   Mainspring 751


44CC178/37D-3   Battery Spring 807

Battery Spring

44CC178/37/2C-6   Cockscrew 755


    44GL  English Lock 2039  
 "English" Lock 

"English" Lock

Another innovation was to combine the flashpan cover and battery into one L-shaped unit, now referred to as a frizzen.

Although these different types of  gun firing mechanism plates may be looked at as a progression of improvements in the design, and each development did occur at succeeding timesby the 17th century in Virginia all of these types may have been in use at the same place, or in different places at the same time.

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