Original 1591 Dated German Wheellock Puffer Holster Pistol from the Electorate of Saxony Trabanten Guard
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. Incredible 1591 dated Wheellock Puffer Pistol of the Saxon Trabanten Guards, the lifeguards of the Elector of Saxony, most likely for Christian II who became the elector in 1591 and reigned until his early death in 1611. This very pistol was in the collection of the Royal House of Saxony, House of Wettin Albertine Line, until sold in the 21st century.
This is a magnificent example of a late 16th century German wheellock pistol, which at the time was cutting edge technology. The complexity of the action in these pistols is truly astounding. They were definitely high end items, and usually bear high levels of decoration fitting of an item that only the wealthy could afford.
Our example originates from independent German Electorate of Saxony, which at the time was under the rule of Elector Christian the First 1560 – 1591. He ruled from the new capital of Dresden, the seat of the Elector since 1547. After his death he was succeeded by his 8 year old son, Christian the Second, who reigned from 1591 until his death in 1611. Saxony was a protestant state and had been very much concerned by the Ottoman influence emanating from Turkey, which culminated in the Siege of Vienna in the 1680’s.
The Electorate of Saxony was quite wealthy, and equipped the Guard of the Elector very lavishly with
Measuring 22 1/2 inches in overall length, the pistol features a 13 inch long half octagonal barrel, which has a lovely blued finish. It is dated 1 * 5 * 9 * 1 on the top facet. As with all wheellock pistols, it has very complicated steel and iron lock mechanism, at the time the ultimate technology. It is marked with G o on the lock, which is repeated on the top of the barrel breech. We assume this is a maker marking, however we have not been able to identify the maker.
The metalwork is mounted in a black checkered hardwood stock, beautifully decorated with hand engraved stag horn. This puffer features decorative work such as faces on the staghorn inlays on the sides of the barrel tang. The ball-shaped pommel is inlaid with a staghorn medallion engraved with the arms of the Electorate of Saxony.
Very impressive and extremely old, this pistol is massive and is a truly fine example.
Year of Manufacture: 1591
Caliber: .65 inches
Ammunition Type: Lead Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 13 inches
Overall Length: 22 1/2 inches
Feed System: Muzzle-Loaded
A wheellock, wheel-lock or wheel lock is a friction-wheel mechanism which creates a spark that causes a firearm to fire. It was the next major development in firearms technology after the matchlock and the first self-igniting firearm. Its name is from its rotating steel wheel to provide ignition. Developed in Europe around 1500, it was used alongside the matchlock and was later superseded by the snaplock (1540s), the snaphance (1560s) and the flintlock (c. 1610s).
The wheellock works by spinning a spring-loaded steel wheel against a piece of pyrite to generate intense sparks, which ignite gunpowder in a pan, which flashes through a small touchhole to ignite the main charge in the firearm’s barrel. The pyrite is clamped in vise jaws on a spring-loaded arm (or ‘dog’), which rests on the pan cover. When the trigger is pulled, the pan cover is opened, and the wheel is rotated, with the pyrite pressed into contact.
A close modern analogy of the wheellock mechanism is the operation of a lighter, where a toothed steel wheel is spun in contact with a piece of sparking material to ignite the liquid or gaseous fuel.
A wheellock firearm had the advantage that it can be instantly readied and fired even with one hand, in contrast to the then-common matchlock firearms, which must have a burning cord of slow match ready if the gun might be needed and demanded the operator’s full attention and two hands to operate. On the other hand, wheellock mechanisms were complex to make, making them relatively costly.
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