“Small opening in the butt of the arquebus …”

The author with a wheel pistol in his hand (right view) in the hall of the Penza Museum of Local Lore. It turned out that it is not at all heavy and very comfortable to hold, despite its great length.

“Gentlemen, you are getting involved in a bad story and will be riddled with bullets. My servant and I will treat you to three shots, the same amount you get from the basement. “
A. Dumas. Three Musketeers »

Military affairs at the turn of the eras. An amazing thing is the life and fate of a person. Once I wrote that I sang “Black Face” since childhood, not knowing that it was the anthem of the Italian fascists, and that fate was destined for me not only to find out, but also to write an article about it on “VO”! But, perhaps, the most amazing event happened on November 28th, and … I am sitting here now writing about him and I never cease to be amazed at him. And it so happened that in the distant Soviet childhood I was brought to our Penza museum of local lore and it struck me in the heart for the rest of my life. And what was not there: a huge mammoth skeleton and only slightly smaller – a woolly rhinoceros. Illuminated dioramas with views of the Proterozoic, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras. Triceratops and tyrannosaurus, cavemen are stoning a cave bear … A soldier of Suvorov in full growth! A cannon on wheels! Model of the Penza fortress at the time of its foundation in 1663! Mauser in a holster, German assault rifle “Sturmgever”. In a word, it was possible to walk on it for a long time, and there were just a lot of exhibits in it. Especially for a little boy.

Diagram of a wheel lock.

But I remember well that a special impression on me was made by the “West European musket XVII” and the “flintlock pistol”, with a large wheel on the side on the right. It was decorated in a minimal way and therefore looked especially impressive.

The handle and mechanism of the Penza wheeled pistol.

Well, then my wife began to work in this museum, and I literally spent the day and slept there. He made them for the exposition models of ships on which the Penza residents served: Potemkin, Aurora, Oleg and Ochakov, the T-34 Penza Komsomolets tank, which was bought, of course, with whose money, and the first Soviet tank M “…” to the heap. He worked both in their archives and in the library, re-furred all the magazines “Soviet Archeology”, all the magazines “Great War”, the whole “Niva” … In a word, that was a wonderful time. But that pistol and the “musket” were just then removed to the storeroom and I could not hold them in my hands, and, honestly, I did not strive.

The trigger with jaws for clamping the pyrite and the shelf cover are clearly visible. The cover is slid and the pilot hole is visible. Also on the wheel, when the photo is enlarged, the transverse spark-cutting groove is clearly visible.

And now years have passed, but what are there years – decades! On “VO” my materials on weapons of past eras began to appear. I managed to admire the same wheeled pistols (and they are closer to knightly times than percussion-flint, with a French battery lock!) In the museums of Dresden, Vienna, Paris, Venice and here, just the other day, I remembered that there are weapons “With a wheel” and we, in our Penza Museum of Local Lore. Remembering how reluctantly they reacted to my requests in recent years, I, frankly, went there with some apprehension. But it turned out that the leadership there changed and they greeted me there, one might say, just sincerely. They brought both a gun and a pistol and provided an opportunity for photographing.

View of the pistol on the left. By the way, his caliber turned out to be 13.5 mm. That is, less than the Russian pistols of the war of 1812, which was equal to 17.78 mm

It was very strange to hold a cuirassier’s wheeled pistol with a long barrel and without a front sight, that is, obviously from the 16th century, when they shot almost point-blank at the enemy dressed in armor, which is why he did not need a front sight. But it was even more surprising to look at the arquebus. It was not a musket, of course, but a light arquebus with a caliber of only 12 mm. First of all, it became obvious that this was not a military weapon. Engraved patterns on the trunk, on the key board. In addition, the wheel on it was secret, and this was never done on a military weapon. And the caliber is too small, such a bullet cannot kill a rider dressed in armor. And not every animal can be killed with such a bullet. In addition, the trigger was most likely equipped with a trigger. In any case, it is unlikely that what was found inside the trigger guard could be something else … True, the trigger springs on both the pistol and the arquebus were missing and I could not “click”. At this point, apparently, the “competent authorities” have tried. The weapon, after all, and then how … But everything else worked properly, that is, the trigger could be opened and closed, and the ignition hole cover also worked perfectly. And judging by the design of the analogues and their appearance, it could belong either to the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century. Well, and be used … as a target weapon, for entertaining target shooting! And if now dozens of AR-15 varieties are being produced specifically for such shooting, then why not produce something similar for those who like to shoot at that distant time ?!

View of the key board and trigger. The shelf cover covers the ignition hole and the powder shelf.

Lock board with engraving.

A stock with a characteristic cheek lug on the left, a trigger, a snorkel and a case cover.

Well, in general, I began to examine the butt, and on it on the right side is a pencil case, closed and held in this position by a latch. I ask the employees: “Have you opened it?” No, they say, we are afraid to break! Well, I knew how such latches open and where to press to move its cover. I pressed it, moved it, opened it, and there, in the recess of the pencil case, there were several lumps of crumpled paper. And again, well, paper and paper. But … this is how the bullets were supposed to look, which shooters often wrapped in paper before pushing them into the barrel. And when we unrolled these lumps, they actually found bullets cast with a bullet (there was a cut on them!) From lead, orderly oxidized.

Open pencil case.

Bullets, and the pieces of paper they were wrapped in.

But the most interesting was one “piece of paper” on which the inscriptions in German with all the curls accepted then were preserved! That is, no one has opened this pencil case since the last time this gun was fired! The shooter put the bullets in a pencil case, wrapping them in advance in pieces of paper from those that were at hand to use them as wads. He used part of it – there was still room in the pencil case, but he didn’t fire three bullets and… forgot that they were there. And then … then centuries passed! A ramrod, a remontuar key, a screwdriver, which was supposed to be tied with a strap to the trigger guard, was lost from the gun. The gun was sold and resold. Our valiant militia examined him and … could not open this pencil case and find these bullets. The museum workers, and the arquebus came to them somewhere in the late 40s, either from the funds of the Artillery Museum in Leningrad or from the police confiscation, where it, in turn, came from some landowner’s estate, did not pay attention to this pencil case either … I admired it as a seven-year-old boy, and now 62 years have passed, and I finally got my hands on it and found a thing that no one has taken in their hands since that time. So amazing. Now the museum workers want to turn to linguists, specialists in the Middle German language, in order to try to read at least some of the words written on this piece of paper.

Paper with text in German.

Another small discovery for me was the design of the spark-generating wheel itself. Everywhere it is written that it was notched. And I imagined, but I was sure that I was not alone, but everyone who did not hold a wheeled pistol in their hands, that it had a cross-cut, well, like a wheel on a modern lighter, that is, it looked like a large fine-toothed gear. But no! In fact, the wheel (both the gun and the pistol!) Had … longitudinal grooves, and quite deep. And there were also transverse notches, single (!) In number no more than six for the whole wheel! That is, when turning the wheel when pressing the trigger, it touched the pyrite only once and that’s it! But at the same time, not one sheaf of sparks was obtained, but several, according to the number of grooves, or rather protrusions between them with transverse grooves. Pyrite got into them, pressed by a spring to a wheel and – this is how sparks were obtained that set fire to gunpowder.

The sight on the barrel was very simple: a flap with a semicircular notch.

But the front sight, soldered with tin, alas, could not stay in the groove. The faceted barrel itself has eight edges, and elegantly expands to the muzzle with a small bell.

This is how historians make their little discoveries and … rejoice! However, there is still a lot of interesting things in our Penza Museum of Local Lore, so it’s time to write about it too …

The author with a pistol. Left view.

PS The administration of the VO website and the author would like to thank the staff of the Penza Museum of Local Lore for the opportunity to study the artifacts in their museum and take photographs of them.

To be continued…

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