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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheellock
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.