Packing heat at the first Thanksgiving: The Mayflower wheellock rifle (PHOTOS+ VIDEO)

While it doesn't look like the blunderbuss guns cartoons would have you believe the Pilgrims used, this Italian-made wheellock was at Plymouth colony back in the day. (Photos: National Firearms Museum)

While it doesn’t look like the blunderbuss guns cartoons would have you believe the Pilgrims used, this Italian-made wheellock was at Plymouth colony back in the day. (Photos: National Firearms Museum)

One of the early Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony at the first Thanksgiving was John Alden, and a vintage rifle belonging to him has survived some 396 years.

A 20-year old barrel maker who came over on the Mayflower, Alden brought an Italian-made wheellock with him across the big pond and used it in Captain Miles Standish’s local Militia to protect the colony.

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Although it was mentioned in Alden’s will, it was not recovered until 1924 when his house was being renovated– found loaded in a secret compartment near the door of the residence, still ready for use at a moment’s notice.

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And Alden used the finely crafted gun extensively– research shows the rifling is well worn.

It is currently in the collection of the National Firearms Museum.

Curious on how a wheellock works? Check out the video below in between bites of turkey.