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I got to examine an original 17th Century Wheellock lock

This is a discussion on I got to examine an original 17th Century Wheellock lock within the Gus Fisher forums, part of the Gun Professionals category; Folks, I apologize as this is not related at all to M14's or modern rifles, but some of you know I am very interested in ...

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Old January 16th, 2013, 10:54 AM   #1
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I got to examine an original 17th Century Wheellock lock

Folks, I apologize as this is not related at all to M14's or modern rifles, but some of you know I am very interested in Matchlocks, Snaphaunces, Flintlocks and Percussion firearms.

I had an exceptionally rare treat to closely examine a very early 17th century Wheellock lock this past weekend. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, here is a link, though it does not show the inside of the lock as early as the one I saw this weekend. I REALLY wish I had a computer capable camera to show pictures of it. I'm working on getting the gunsmith working on it to take pictures of it.


I won't name the person who is working on the lock/gun, but he has repaired original wheellocks before and made excellent reproductions of them. He informed me the parts in this lock were a good deal different than often found on wheelocks and stated it was most likely the internal parts were made by a clock maker because the quality was so high for this early of a gun. Clock makers did get involved in making the springs for many wheellocks or wheellock makers got training from clock makers in how to make them.

One spring in the lock looks like a bridle with a long leaf spring on it, but it is all one part. Another spring is a sort of a V spring, but quite different than anything I've seen in gun locks before. EVERY part in the lock has decorative filing or filed edges that are only intended as decoration. The remarkable thing about that is that NO ONE but another gunsmith would ever see it because they did not take the lock off except to repair it or possibly clean it and then ONLY by a qualified gunsmith. So all the extra filing was for the satisfaction of the person who made the parts and yes, as a way to show other gunsmiths that they COULD do it and show off to other gunsmiths a little bit.

I was a little surprised the quality of the parts in some ways were not as nice as I thought I would see when I was informed it was made by a clock maker. However, I'm more used to 18th and 19th century clock mechanisms and this lock is about 150 years earlier than any clock mechanism I have ever seen. It was unusual that file marks were left in places I would not have thought to see them and some of the filing was not as precise as I would have thought. In other places, the decoratively filed edges were quite nice and even elegant. Still, it was a remarkable piece of technology for when it was made. I was able to study it for a little over 20 minutes and I would have loved to have studied it for a couple of hours. Though I don't consider myself a TRUE gunsmith in the oldest sense of the term because I have never made a barrel, the gunsmith who made this lock has my deep respect even well over 300 and now close to 400 years later.

The guy who showed me the lock said he thought some repair work was done around the early 18th century and I saw some of what he meant, though I would probably have not picked up on that unless I had studied the lock for many hours, had he not informed me.

Prior to seeing this lock, the oldest firearms I have ever been inside and actually did some repair work on were late 17th century Japanese Matchlocks. Many of them have bronze springs and even coiled bronze leaf springs in them, but nothing like in this wheellock. I have also worked reproduction Snaphaunce locks of a little later than this wheellock by a couple decades and they were held together by tapered pins instead of screws.

I'm going to try to see if the guy can get the owner to authorize getting some pictures of the inside of the lock, and if so I'll see about posting them here.

Don't get me wrong and I enjoy working on Garands, M14's, M1 Carbines, 03's and other 20th century guns, but there is a special place in my heart for Flintlocks and even earlier pieces.

Thanks from CAVman, GARRARD, budster and 6 others
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Old January 16th, 2013, 01:19 PM   #2
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Thanks for posting!

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Old January 16th, 2013, 03:53 PM   #3
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i also have a soft spot for soot burners.
thank you for the info.

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Old January 17th, 2013, 07:13 AM   #4
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Don't get me wrong and I enjoy working on Garands, M14's, M1 Carbines, 03's and other 20th century guns, but there is a special place in my heart for Flintlocks and even earlier pieces.[/QUOTE]

Gus. Your fondness for "smoke pole's" is fortuitous

as I fear that that's all we may be relegated to.

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Old January 17th, 2013, 10:15 AM   #5
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My future concealed carry:

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Old January 18th, 2013, 12:12 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by 500grains View Post
My future concealed carry:

LOL. That brings two things to mind.

Back when I was reenacting The War Between the States, at one tactical (war games that are usually not open to the public) I deliberately allowed myself to be captured because some of our troops had been captured. I turned over my rifle, cartridge box and pistol I carried and they THOUGHT I was disarmed. Well, I was put in with the other prisoners and when the fighting shifted further away, I pulled out my .31 caliber M1849 "pocket revolver" and relieved the guards of their weapons and we all got away back to our lines. When we got back, my CO asked me how I had done it. I pulled out the revolver and told him they had not checked me for "my baby." You know, you MIGHT have thought the Federal Reenactors would have remembered that, but two years later we did a reenactment of Confederate Prisoners in a Union POW camp. Sure enough, they did not check us thoroughly and ONCE AGAIN, "Baby" set us free. Grin.

The second reminder is the US Supreme Court case of " United States v. Miller" in that the court ignorantly ruled that short barreled shotguns had no purpose for the Militia. Part of the problem was though Miller was a crook, he was dead AND there was no one who represented him at the case before the USSC.

United States v. Miller

Besides the tens of thousands of short barreled shotguns used before, during and after WWI by the military PRIOR to the Miller case, the use of short barreled shotguns by the military goes way back to the late 17th and early 18th century guns often called "blunderbusses" today AND some pistols were even made with "blunderbuss" barrels to shoot shot at close range. They were mostly used aboard ships or to protect military transport, but they were used EXTENSIVELY by the military long before Miller. Confederate Cavalry and even some Union Cavalry in the early stages of the Civil War ALSO used short barreled shotguns.

The funny thing is just 8 years later in 1947, the USSC heard a case that involved short barreled shotguns and THIS TIME the Court was made aware of these things, though no one thought to bring up the Miller case during that case. "Precedence" was not as important in those days as it has become in recent years.

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Old January 18th, 2013, 12:51 AM   #7
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Luv me some smoke and sulpher smell. The wheellock ignition is one of the coolest and most ingenious designs. It's a faster form of ignition than a flintlock, just not as strong or reliable. Many a black powder arm rests in my safe, and any one of them always gets people to stop and ask "what IS that" at the range. My good friend and I were out shooting in the desert in the wind and pouring rain with my 2 .62 caliber English fowlers. We had almost no problems with ignition, or hitting a 6"X8" steel bar at 75+ yards with tightly patched round ball. We only stopped as we were soaked to the bone and shivering from the cold. Good times, good times.

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Old January 22nd, 2013, 07:06 PM   #8
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Very cool Gus!

I find that sort of thing very interesting, though I haven't shot black powder at all for quite some time.

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