16-Shot Wheel Lock

posted on May 10, 2014
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Michael Ives

Technologically ahead of its time, this highly decorated firearm achieved a multi-shot capability that would not be reached again until the American Civil War. 

An unknown German gunsmith before 1600 crafted this oval-bore .67-caliber rifle that was designed to fire 16 stacked charges of powder and ball in a rapid “Roman candle” fashion. One mid-barrel wheel lock mechanism ignited a fuse to discharge the upper 10 charges, and another rearward wheel lock then fired the remaining six lower charges. In the event of a failure of either of the two wheel locks, a backup matchlock could be utilized to fire the charges. Elaborately embellished, this unusual shoulder arm has many bone and ivory inlays depicting period dress and even shows an individual loading a firearm. Numbers representing each charge are engraved in order along the side of the barrel.

On loan from Wanenmacher’s Tulsa Arms Show, this unique rifle is just one of thousands of historic firearms on display in the extensive galleries at the NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va.

Interested in engraved arms? Visit either of the two NRA museums—the NRA National Firearms Museum at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., or our new NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo. Both locations include exemplary handguns, rifles and shotguns available for viewing seven days a week. Admission is free (donations gratefully accepted). For more details, visit www.nramuseum.com or call (703) 267-1600.

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