The Wheellock Pistol is a smoothbore, single shot handgun of the 16th Century; a gun so intricate it could only be produced by the skilled hands of watch makers. It was the Mid-Range weapon of the Musketeer.
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. The German Black Riders are believed to have introduced this tactic in the mid to late 16th century. Black Riders could carry 6 pistols at a time into battle, due to the small size of the guns. These Pistol-Cavalry units did not need as much training to be as effective as a Lancer, and so were viewed as cheaper without being less effective in combat. These Cavalry units were very effective against pikemen, who were too slow to charge against the horsemen. Heavy plate armor was able to resist pistol rounds, but the majority of units on the battlefield wore light or no armor. 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. The cavalry unit could follow up with an abrupt saber charge to break the lines of the weakened enemy army. This tactic became less effective as the firing rate of the Musket improved as time went on, especially when Musketeers were in formation alongside their pikemen (like in the Tercio Formation).
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.