What is a wheellock gun and how does it work? (VIDEO)

A couple hundred years ago, when a man called you a “dilberry maker,” you’d adjust your powdered wig, take off your glove and challenge him to a duel. You’d meet him by the large oak, pull out your wheellock guns cock back the hammer, take 10 paces out, and if everything worked correctly – as in your puffy shirt didn’t catch in the hammer – the gun would fire. Sorry for ruining the end of Hamilton for you.

Needless to say, guns have evolved since then. But those wheellock pistols pushed firearm technology to the next level because, unlike matchlocks, they could fire without a match or fuse. That’s at least “the five-second Cliff’s Notes of firearms” answer Joel Kolander, of Rock Island Auction Company, told Guns.com.

During the company’s Premiere Firearms Auction in September, Kolander gave the down and dirty as he showed off a Saxon-era wheellock pistol, one of the most unique and highly decorated guns on the auction block.

To use a wheellock, he explained, you’d first have to load it and then you’d have to charge the wheel by cranking it with a spanner. Once charged, you would cock the “dog” by lowering this spring to the pan of the gun. The “dog” would hold a small piece of pyrite in its mouth, which would cause the sparks needed to project the bullet. When the trigger was pulled, the wheel spring would engage causing the hardened steel wheel to spin rapidly against the pyrite. It functioned much the same way a modern-day Bic lighter does, with a toothed wheel engaging pyrite.

The jump in innovation for the firearms didn’t come without a checkered history. “It’s a bit of a nefarious spot in history, while matchlocks would not allow for political assassinations the wheellock had no such qualms. Because there was no burning wick it could easily be concealed in a coat, away from guards or security forces,” Kolander said.

Although this gun is uniquely fascinating and beautifully decorated it isn’t one of the higher ticket items. This wheellock gun sold for only $9,775, which Kolander called “quite a steal.”

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