In 1600 the next major change in firing mechanisms arrived in the early 1600s. The flintlock uses a simplified and more reliable version of the snaplock’s triggering mechanism which strikes a flint against the steel frizzen to drop sparks into the flash pan and ignite the charge.
The flintlock firearms enjoyed an extremely long lifespan starting in the late Renaissance and lasting through the American Revolutionary War and beyond. Flintlock rifles were even used in the early parts of the American civil war.
The next step in firearm evolution after the matchlocks are the wheellocks.
This weapon uses a trigger to release a spring-loaded rotating steel wheel against a lowered piece of pyrite which strikes sparks to ignite the powder. They were expensive to produce and were often used by nobility. With the expense of creating the striking mechanism, the overall quality of the gun was often improved as well. The weapon could be pre-loaded and then fired later without a lit match which made it ideal for cavalry and assassination. William the Silent was the first head of state assassinated with a handgun.
After the age of Handgonnes came the Matchlocks in the 1400s. The weapon has a lit fuse or “match” attached to a trigger mechanism on the weapon. Pulling the trigger drops the burning match into the flash pan and the powder charge is ignited.
Matchlocks improve the previous manual ignition systems but maintain the smoothbore barrel. Their weight can make them difficult to aim and the wielder must ensure that the burning match stays lit. There can be a considerable delay between pulling the trigger and firing the projectile. Matchlocks are the least expensive firearms to produce for soldiers which makes them relatively common even when newer firing mechanisms are still available.