The British Association for Shooting and Conservation – Films

English Matchlock Musket – BASC Firearms Demonstration


This is a modern replica of an English matchlock musket of about 1645. It is typical of those used in the English Civil War 1642 – 1649. We use modern replicas to prevent damage to rare original antique specimens.

The matchlock musket was the standard firearm for foot soldiers from c. 1560 to c.1680. It takes its name from the slow-match which was used to fire it. Unlike modern matches, slow-match was a length of light rope which had been soaked in a solution of saltpetre (potassium nitrate) and allowed to dry. When lit – with a flint and steel tinder lighter – it glowed and burnt steadily.

The matchlock musketeer carried his ammunition in a “bandoleer of charges”. This was a leather sling to which was attached a small bag for the lead musket balls plus a flask of fine gunpowder and a number – normally 12 – of wooden or tin containers each containing a measured charge of coarse gunpowder.

To load, the musketeer gripped the burning match between his finger, keeping the glowing end well away from his powder charges. He opened one of the containers – often with his teeth – and poured the charge down the barrel. He then reached into his ball bag, removed a musket ball and dropped that into the barrel. Taking the wooden ramrod – known as a “scowering stick” – from under the barrel, he rammed the charge home and put the ramrod back.

On the right side of the barrel there was a little pan which held the fine priming powder which would ignited the main gunpowder in the he barrel. The musketeer filled that and flipped its cover shut. He took his burning match and clipped it into a lever called a serpentine on the side of the musket. When he pressed the trigger, the lever lowered the burning match towards the pan. The musketeer had to keep adjusting the match as it burnt down.

When ordered to fire, the musketeer opened the pan cover, and pressed the trigger. The burning end of the match set off the priming powder and the flash from that passed into the barrel through the touch hole and fired the main charge.

Musketeers were grouped in large bodies and each rank would fire together to maximise the effect. A good musketeer could fire 2 or 3 shots a minute. The matchlock musket was not accurate at ranges over 100m. There were several drill books printed at the time to show trainee musketeers the various drill movements involved in the loading sequence. The most famous is the Dutch manual “The Exercise of Arms ” by Jacob DeGheyn first published in 1608.