The wheellock pistol is so-named because it relies on the wheellock mechanism, which is similar in concept to a modern day cigarette lighter, although more complex. The pistol had a smoothbore barrel and a shorter wooden handle than other pistols of the time.
- Range: 25 yards
- Weight: 3.5 lbs
- Ammo: .50 ball
- Wood and steel
The wheellock was an ignition system designed after the matchlock in the late 16th century. Although the cost of manufacturing and complexity of the wheellock slowed its widespread adoption, it was a more reliable mechanism than the matchlock and was suitable for cavalry. The mechanism was supplanted by simpler designs such as the English lock (doglock) that were later refined into the flintlock mechanism. The wheellock mechanism is actually faster firing than it's flintlock predecessors, but its complexity made it unreliable under the rigors of campaign. Wheellock mechanisms were made for sport rifles through the 18th and early 19th centuries because of their shorter ignition time. The misfire of the wheellock is between 15%-10% chance depending on maintenance.
Early pistols were frequently used by assassins. One infamous use of the Wheellock Pistol was the Assassination of William the Silent on 10 July 1584.
The Renaissance also saw Cavalry use pistols as well, using the speed of horses to flee after firing all their rounds at point blank range. These Cavalry units were very effective against pikemen, who were too slow to charge against the horsemen. The Caracole tactic was essentially when horsemen would rotate their ranks by shooting their pistol, then retreating so that the next horseman would shoot his pistol. This tactic became less effective as the firing rate of the Musket improved as time went on.
The Battle of Lutzen in 1632 was a noticable example of the use of pistol wielding Kurissers. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden became separated from his cavalry: suffering a gunshot that broke his left arm and his horse was shot in the neck. Catholic Kurissers intercepted Gustavus and shot him in the back, then a fatal shot to the temple.
The design of Wheellocks allowed lighter muskets to be made; including the first carbines and thus, the first Calvary-Musketeers.