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Arquebus muskets

The Arquebus is a matchlock firearm and forerunner of the modern rifle. It is the Long-Range weapon of Hernán Cortés


The arquebus was a shoulder-fired firearm which used the matchlock mechanism, the first mechanism to facilitate the firing of a handheld firearm. The trigger on early arquebuses were similar to those of medieval crossbows. When the trigger was squeezed, a curved arm known as the serpentine was lowered, plunging a slow-burning match into the flashpan and firing the weapon. An Arquebusier on guard duty would burn about 1 mile of slowmatch rope every day, if he kept the match lit continuously.

The show confirmed that it uses .69 to .80 caliber musketball rounds. The reloading time of an arquebus was about 30-60 seconds, depending on the model of the gun and the skill of the musketeer (The Deadliest Warrior test took: 56 seconds to reload, aim and fire).

This effective range is about 30 meters if firing at an individual or if the enemy was wearing plate armor; a shot from longer distance wouldn't be able to pierce a strong steel plate (as Muzzle Velocity decreases as distance increases). The maximum effective range of an arquebus against an enemy army is about 100 meters with some sources claiming it could extend to 120 meters.

Arquebusiers would use a bandoleer to carry their ammunition. The average Arquebusier carried 12 rounds into battle. As musket technology improved, the amount of ammo a musketeer would bring increased; with ammo pouches replacing the bandoleer.

  • Length: 44 inches
  • Weight: 9 lbs
  • Caliber: .69 to .80
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1351 fps


The arquebus was widely used across Europe and in parts of Asia, beginning at the end of the Middle Ages. Some historians consider the introduction and mass use of the Arquebus as the beginning of the Renaissance; although this is debatable.

Because of the matchlock mechanism, the user could hold the weapon with both hands and keep his eyes on the target, offering a more accurate shot than earlier hand cannons, in which the user had to use one hand to ignite the powder or have someone else ignite it. The arquebus also had a longer barrel; allowing the musketball to move parallel to the barrel instead of having its aim affected by wind resistance or the randomness of the gunpowder's explosive force.

Pike And Shot was a formation combining pikemen with arquebusiers to protect each other: the pikemen can counter cavalry and infantry charges with their massive pikes, while the arquebusiers can harass from a distance with their guns. Gustavus Adolphus is credited with introducing the Countercharge: where arquebusiers would swap rows so that those needing to reload would be safe in the back lines while those ready to fire will be out front.

The arquebus was one of the first muskets used and help popularised the idea of guns and modern warfare. Despite it flaws, arquebuses were widly used as it required less money and training than bows and can pierce armor. Musketballs could be made cheaply and by ordinary soldiers, while arrows needed skilled craftsmen.


Spanish general Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba is credited for inventing Pike and Shot formations during the First Italian War (1494-1498); using the formation to successfully repel Knight Cavalry charges used by the opposing French armies attempting to annex Naples. The 1503 Battle of Cerignola (of the Second Italian War) is considered to be the first battle to be 'won by modern guns', due to the effectiveness of defensive Tercio Arquebus and Cannon fire.

The Mughal Empire introduced musket warfare in their conquests of India; where in the Battle of Haldighati, they used musket volleys to kill Rajput Warrior War Elephants. Emperor Akbar is credited for modernizing the Indian military with the mass production of these muskets.

The Ottoman–Hungarian Wars favored the Ottomans when their elite Janissary Musketeers adopted the Arquebus. In The Battle of Mohács; Hungarian Knights were overwhelmed by Ottoman muskets, despite the fact that the Hungarians used heavy plate armor.

The Spanish and Portugese Empires used the Arquebus in their conquest of the Americas. The Native Americans were terrified by the noise, fire and lethality of the weapon. The Portugese used the Arquebus to raid West Africa and both hunt for slaves and establish trade relationships with African kingdoms that sold slaves; beginning Slavery in the Americas.

As Portugal expanded their empire in Asia they established port colonies like the Portuguese Malacca. Malacca began establish trade with the Japanese Otomo clan in c. 1542. In 1543; a Portuguese ship was forced to land on the island of Tanegashima (which inspired the Japanese name for the Arquebus). The daimyo Tanegashima Tokitaka bought two Arquebuses from the Portuguese and attempted to reverse engineer them, only to simply hire an actual Portuguese gunsmith the next year. Trade with the Otomo increased as the Sengoku period intensified; and so the Otomo's westernization and western trade made them one of the first major clans to use guns. The arquebus was revolutionary for Japanese warfare, mainly during the Sengoku period. The intensity of war among the Japanese clans made most clans adopt the weapon, despite initially being avoided for being a 'dishonorable' weapon because of how easy it was to use. At the end of the Sengoku period, Japan had their own gun factories and had more arquebuses than all of Europe. 1/4 of the Japanese military (160,000 troops) involved in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea were arquebusiers.

Native Americans fought against early Europeans during the conquest of the Americas. Europeans managed to frequently defeat Native Americans tribes in battle due to the Arquebus: especially since many Native Americans were initially terrified of the unusual, loud and intimidating weapon. Throughout the 1600s the Iroquois led The Beaver Wars and both the Iroquois and their enemies used the Arquebus with deadly efficiency. While the Iroquois expanded into one of the largest Native American empires; the Natives (including the Iroquois) were severely weakened by the genocidal nature of the war combined with the continuous spread of diseases like Smallpox.


Not all societies who witnessed the Arquebus adopted it. Native Americans and other tribes of the world considered the weapon to be too slow firing and they didn't need an armor piercing weapon since most of their enemies were lightly armored tribesmen. Native Americans also could make arrowheads out of the relatively abundant stones like flint, but did not have access to lead or gunpowder without trading with or raiding from the Europeans. Native Americans eventually did adopt the arquebus on a large scale; most noticeably during the Beaver Wars.

Because the match and powder was exposed, the Arquebus was often unreliable in rain or high humidity. Future muskets would use wheellock or flintlock firing technology; which was relatively more water resistant.

The match itself was a long rope, normally hemp, that needed to be constantly lit to allow the Arquebus to fire at a moment's notice; not having the match pre-lit would mean the arquebuseer would need to spend time to ignite the match, making him vulnerable to an ambush. Gustavus Adolphus attempted to solve this weakness by having only 10% of his arquebuseers with their matches lit while his army was on march; the Swedish would be able to fire back at an ambush, potentially slowing down the ambush long enough to get the other Arquebuses within the army lit. It is estimated that a match loses 10-15 cm per hour.

Skilled archers could still outperform the Arquebus in range and accuracy, and light bows and crossbows can compensate their relatively inferior range with a higher rate of fire: so bows and crossbows still existed in certain armies. While Knights and Tercio could block arrow fire with their steel armor; units without such high quality armor would be exposed.

Some armies created special steel plate that was noticeably thicker than before to be bulletproof, and was effective against guns until more powerful Muskets was invented: although such armor was expensive and rare.

Western warfare during the time of the Arquebus still used traditional medieval melee weapons to support the slow rate of fire and poor accuracy of the Arquebus. One of the most popular methods was the Pike and Shot, where spearmen would be a line of defense while the musketeers fired over them. About 1/3 of a Tercio unit was purely pikemen only. As musket technology improved and bayonets replaced pikes; this tactic was replaced by Napoleonic Warfare.

The Arquebus was so heavy that using the gun without a rest could fatigue the user or make aiming more difficult. Gun-rests were used to stabilize and balance the weight of the arquebus while aiming. The Swedish under Gustavus Adolphus would use a 'Swedish feather', which was a hook on the side of their spear to act as a gun-rest while still functioning as a spear in close combat; this was done as a substitute for the bayonet, which wasn't invented yet. The Bardiche, famously used by Russian Streltsy, filled this role as well. The Dutch were one of the first armies to replace the Arquebus with the Musket: primarily because the Musket was relatively lighter. Gustavus Adolphus would also adopt this military reform, making his Musketeers as light as possible. As Muskets became lighter throughout the 17th century, the use of a gun-rest became increasingly less necessary.


  • Aztec Jaguar generals were not expected to engage in combat and used very large feathers, clothing and staffs to identify themselves in battle. Hernán Cortés would Thirty Years War, the Spanish eventually developed a tactic to better endure enemy Arquebus fire: immediately ducking to minimize the size of their army to dodge some of the bullets. Since the Arquebus had a slow reload time, the Spanish had enough time to counter attack. The Battle of Nördlingen (1634) was an example of this tactic seeing success. As more advanced Muskets were introduced with faster reloading speed, this tactic became less useful.