Chinese matchlock pistol
This item has been sold.
Overall length

34 cm

Barrel length

20 cm

Caliber

11.5 mm

(0.45)

Weight

707 grams

Materials

Iron, steel, brass, wood, copper

Origin

China, Qing dynasty

Dating

19th century

Provenance

Scandinavian private collection

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Introduction

The biggest threat to China has traditionally been the nomad armies of the northern steppe, who fielded highly mobile horse archers. As nomads, there were no fortifications to besiege, they advanced from and retreated towards the vast steppe grasslands as they pleased. The only way to attack them was to raise troops much like them; fast , lightly armored horse archers. Early firearms were heavy, so Chinese empires had long ignored them as a major military innovation.

Without a reason to develop them further, China lagged so much that its imperial army was still fielding matchlock muskets in the Boxer Uprising of 1900. These guns were almost always long smoothbores with either an S-shaped serpentine simply moving over a pivot or a somewhat more advanced Indo-Portuguese snapping mechanism. The advantage is that a shot could be better timed.

 

This example

Here is an extremely rare pistol-sized matchlock.

It has the snapping mechanism using an external U-shaped spring to move the serpentine into the priming pan. The smoothbore barrel is held to the red hardwood stock by means of two brass and one iron band. The center brass band is engraved with archaic kuíwén (夔紋) dragon motifs, designs taken from old bronze vessels that re-gained popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The two-stage smoothbore barrel is octagonal at the breech and transitions to round for the rest of its length. Lock is in good working order.

 

Comparable example

The following photo shows a Guangzhou militiaman circa 1855-1860 with a similar pistol tucked in his belt. It is the only reference I've come across of a matchlock pistol

Guangzhou militiaman with matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol
Chinese matchlock pistol

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Currently available:

With a golden damascened lock of the Indo-Portuguese type.

Price on request

Probably of Southern origin, with a straight blade and flaring tip.

€2200,-

In the style of northern work of the 16th and 17th centuries

€3000,-

Made of iron, shaped as a gourd, with silver overlay.

€400,-

A simple utilitarian weapon, probably made for rural martial artists or militia.

€450,-

A robust and heavy example, crafted with care.

€750,-