18th Century Brass Mounted Albanian Flintlock Pistol
Flintlocks may be any type of small arm: long gun or pistol, smooth-bore or rifle, muzzle-loader or breech-loader.
Flintlock pistols were used as self-defense weapons and as a military arm. Their effective range was short, and they were frequently used as an adjunct to a sword or cutlass. Pistols were usually smoothbore although some rifled pistols were produced.
Flintlock pistols came in a variety of sizes and styles which often overlap and are not well defined, many of the names we use having been applied by collectors and dealers long after the pistols were obsolete. The smallest were less than 6 inches long (15 cm) and the largest were over 20 inches (50 cm). From around the beginning of the 1700s the larger pistols got shorter, so that by the late 1700s the largest would be more like 16 inches long (40 cm). The smallest would fit into a typical pocket or a hand warming muff and could easily be carried by women.
The largest sizes would be carried in holsters across a horse’s back just ahead of the saddle. In-between sizes included the coat pocket pistol, or coat pistol, which would fit into a large pocket, the coach pistol, meant to be carried on or under the seat of a coach in a bag or box, and belt pistols, sometimes equipped with a hook designed to slip over a belt or waistband. Larger pistols were called horse pistols. Arguably the most elegant of the pistol designs was the Queen Anne pistol, which was made in all sizes.
Probably the high point of the mechanical development of the flintlock pistol was the British dueling pistol; it was highly reliable, water resistant and accurate. External decoration was minimal but craftsmanship was evident, and the internal works were often finished to a higher degree of craftsmanship than the exterior. Dueling pistols were the size of the horse pistols of the late 1700s, around 16 inches long (40 cm) and were usually sold in pairs along with accessories in a wooden case with compartments for each piece.
Jezails were generally handmade weapons, and consequently they widely varied in their construction. Jezails were seen as very personal weapons, and unlike the typical military weapons of the time which were very plain and utilitarian, jezails tended to be well crafted and were usually intricately decorated.
Jezails tended to have very long barrels. Weapons of such length were never common in Europe (with the exception of the Spanish “espingarda” circa 15th century), but was more common in American rifles like the Kentucky Rifle. The American rifles were used for hunting, and tended to be of a smaller caliber (.35 to .45 or so being typical). Jezails were usually designed for warfare, and therefore tended to be of larger calibers than the American rifles, with .50 to .75 caliber and larger being common. Larger calibers were possible because the long length of the typical jezail meant that it was heavier than typical muskets of the time. Jezails typically weighed around 12 to 14 pounds, compared to 9 to 10 pounds for a typical musket. The heavy weight of the jezail allowed the rifle itself to absorb more energy from the round, imparting less recoil to the weapon’s user.
Many jezails were smooth bore weapons, but some had their barrels rifled. The rifling, combined with the barrel’s long length, made these weapons very accurate for their time.
The firing mechanism was typically either a matchlock or a flintlock. Since flintlock mechanisms were complex and difficult to manufacture, many jezails used the lock mechanism from captured or broken Brown Bess muskets.
The stocks were handmade and ornately decorated, featuring a distinctive curve which is not seen in the stocks of other muskets. The function of this curve is debated; it may be purely decorative, or it may have allowed the jezail to be tucked under the arm and cradled tightly against the body, as opposed to being held to the shoulder like a typical musket or rifle. The argument against this method of firing is that the flash pan would be dangerously close to the face and the weapon would be harder to aim. It is more likely that the rifle was only tucked under the arm whilst riding a horse or a camel. The curve may also have saved weight; by shaving away some of the heavy wood used for the stock through employment of the new curved shape, whilst maintaining the same structural integrity of the stock it could still be fired from the shoulder safely whilst also being lighter. The weapon was fired by grasping the stock near the trigger, like a pistol, while the curved portion is tucked under the shooter’s forearm, allowing the rifle to be fired with one hand while mounted.
Jezails were often fired from a forked rest, or a horn or metal bi-pod.
Late 18th Century French Military Pistol made in the style of Boutet, Versailles (original flintlock officers/dueling pistol).
Nicolas-Noël Boutet (1761 – 1833), was a French gunsmith and director of the Versailles rifle manufactory. He was born in Paris as the son of the royal gunsmith and became his assistant. In 1788, he married Leonie-Emilie Desainte, the daughter of his father’s colleague, which gave him an even better position at court and the title “Gun maker in Ordinary” to King Louis XVI. During the revolution he worked for Napoleon as director of the state arms manufactory. He died in Paris.
Kubura or the antique flintlock firearms that are filled with gunpowder and fired one of his hands. It is like antique guns. First mentioned in 1476 as a weapon used to defend against the Turks.
They remained in Croatia during the Easter Triduum when they were worn by the guardians of Jesus’ tomb, as well as the ancient custom of cracking for Easter, which was held to this day.
The firing mechanism for the typical Spanish musket (fusil) was the Spanish lock (llava española) of the flintlock type commonly referred to as “miquelet“.
The miquelet lock was made by Guisasola, probably in Eibar, Spain, circa 1800. It is of the classic patillastyle most often encountered in Spanish Colonial America.