On one of my more or less frequent museum trips, I finally found it. I have seen pictures of handgonnes with up to four or five barrels, and I have always wondered why the medieval hillbillies never bothered to make an old fashioned shotgun, just like Elmer Fudd’s. But this time it was waiting for me at the Schloss Gottorf Museum in Schleswig, northern Germany. I took millions of pictures, but I won’t be producing any reproduction of it; it is (sadly) dated to circa 1420. I’ll just look at it as a grand piece of fire, smoke, noise and death. Now – you do it!
Peek-a-boo! Note that the hook is placed under one of the barrels rather than in between them
Note the square touch holes; I would be surprised if they were both primed at the same time – at least if the shooter’s intention was to fire one shot at a time
Here she is, in full length. I really like the socket
The earliest firearms didn’t use granulated powder, but finely ground. Previously, I have posted a link about slow burning powder, where a guy (the same one as in these clips?) argues that a gunner had the time to ignite his powder, take aim and wait for the actual shot.
These movie clips show that principle, which indeed makes it possible – if not probable – that handgunners acted alone, although other evidence suggests they also could have acted in pairs.
The serpentine lock – the earliest known form of trigger – is depicted in Johannes Hartlieb’s Kriegsbuch from 1411. This guy has reproduced a handgonne with this kind of lock.
Here, the same guy is readying and shooting his handgonne:
The distance to the target is not far, and his shooting conditions are perfect, but it is still a reminder of that the handgonnes of the age had at least decent accuracy, which made them usable in combat.
This forum hosts a very interesting discussion on the firing of handgonnes; the theory is that the finely ground black powder burns slow enough to enable the shooter to ignite it and then aim the handgonne.