Flintlock Firearms 4E (1600 – 1830)

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.

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Snaplock Firearms 4E (1540-1600)

The Snaplock Firing Mechanism

The Snaplocks and the Snaphaunce are early forms of flintlocks that use a trigger to release a spring-loaded flint onto steel to strike sparks which ignite the powder.

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Wheellock Firearms 4E (1500-1540)

William the Silent: Assassinated with a Wheellock Pistol (July 10, 1584)

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.

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Matchlock Firearms 4E (1400-1500)


February 25, 1525: Gunmen at the Battle of Pavia

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.


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Handgonnes: Hand-Cannons and Culverins 4E (1100-1400)

In 1476 the Battle of Morat Featured 6,000 Swiss Handgonnes

With the majority of the design work finished (The Joy of Guns: part 123 | 4 ) , we can now present our first collection of weapons: The Handgonnes.

The Old Guns

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The Joy of Guns – Part 3

In the last article we made some design decisions about firearm accuracy and tied muzzle energy to damage dice based on Dr. Wilson’s study on gunshot wounds.

You can follow all of the design choices by clicking the links below:

Next, we’re going to handle weapon ranges and reloading time for guns in Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition.

Adding Guns to Your 4E D&D Game

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