Miquelet Lock

Miquelet Lock
A: Cock or hammer. B: Combination frizzen (steel) and powder pan cover. C: Bridle covering frizzen spring. D: Mainspring. E: Bridle supporting the cock. F: Heel of the cock. G: Poinçon or puzón. H: Full-cock or primary sear. I: Half-cock or safety sear. J: Toe of the front foot.
Spanish miquelet escopeta with unusual stock, possibly for use by soldados de cuera at a California presidio.
Spanish miquelet pistol from 1733.

This is about firearms. For the militia, see Miquelet (militia)

Miquelet (Catalan "Little Michael") is a modern collector/auctioneer/curator term, largely used by and for the benefit of the English speaking world, widely applied to a distinctive form of snaplock, originally as a flint-against-steel ignition form, prevalent in the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and Spanish America, in the late 16th to mid 19th centuries.

The origin of the term as it applies to this lock mechanism is a matter of opinion, one commonly held opinion being that the term was originated by British troops in the Peninsular War ascribing the term to the particular style of musket or fusil used by the Miquelet (militia) assigned to the Peninsular Army of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. (Held 1970:75)

There is often confusion, or at least a variance of opinion, as to what constitutes a snaplock, snaphaunce, miquelet, and a flintlock. The term flintlock was/is often applied to any form of friction (flint) lock other than the wheellock with the various forms sub-categorized as snaphaunce, miquelet, English dog lock, Baltic Lock, and French or "true" flintlock ("true" being the final, widely used form). Strictly speaking, all are flintlocks; however, current usage demands the separation of all forms from the "true flintock. (Blackmore 1965:28 and Blair 1983:67)



After the disastrous campaign of Algiers (1541) where "wind and rain" prevented firing his arquebuses, firstly by blowing away the gunpowder -on both wheellock and matchlock-(when opening the pan cover to shoot), or secondly, by wetting matches and gunpowder, Charles V might have expressed to his gunmakers the urgent need to devise an ignition mechanism less prone to be rendered useless in bad weather. In less than three decades, a lock did appear that is known today as the Miquelet Lock.[1]

The poet/novelist Ginés Pérez de Hita, in his historical novel Civil Wars of Granada, alludes to "su escopeta de rastrillo" being in common use in Xativa and Valencia prior to 1567 (revolt start) and during the Alpujarras Rebellion that ended in 1571.[2][3]

Cervantes says in the "Don Quixot" (in 1604) that in Catalonia their name was pedreñal[4], to the extent that pedreñal lock means miquelet lock, the long barreled wheel lock pistols were not called pedreñals.

As both de Hita and Cervantes allude to pistols, pedrenales, and escopetas being in use that were not wheellocks, it is reasonable to suggest some form of flint-against-steel gunlock was in use by the late 16th century. Indeed, from about 1580 on, estate auctions became continuous with listings for arcabuces de rastrillo and escopeta de rastrillo. Rastrillar, to comb or rake, perfectly describes the action of a flint down a battery (frizzen) face. Some listings used the term llaves de chispa (meaning spark locks, applied to all manner of flintlocks, miquelets included). Contemporaries did not use the term miquelet to describe any type of lock or firearm. (Lavin 1965:158-159)

Probably the oldest surviving example of what certainly qualifies as a patilla miquelet lock is item No.I.20 in the Real Armería, Madrid. That unique item is a combination lance and double barreled gun; its orgin unknown, dated almost certainly before 1600. (Lavin 1965:157-8; Spencer 2008:30; and Blackmore 1965:Fig 780-781)

The archaic form of Spanish lock was further developed by Madrid and provincial gunmakers, almost certainly including the Marquart family of Royal gunmakers, into the Spanish patilla style now most associated with the miquelet. (Neal 1955:II-5 and Lavin 1955:266-267)

Main characteristics

The miquelet lock, with its combined battery and pan cover was the final innovative link that made the "true" flintlock mechanism possible. It proved to be both the precursor and companion to the "true" flintlock.

Two main forms of the miquelet were produced. The Spanish lock where the mainspring pushed up on the heel of the cock foot and the two sears engaged the toe of the cock foot. The other main form was the Italian type where the mainspring pushed down on the toe of the cock foot and the sears engaged the cock on the heel of the foot. Neither form was confined exclusively to either country. (Lavin 1965:148-186 and Spencer 2008:30)

The horizontal sears, acting through the lockplate, coupled with the external mainspring and the top jaw screw ring are the features most associated with the miquelet. Experts agree that the horizontal acting sears are the one true defining feature as some variations of the miquelet do not have the external mainspring and/or the large top jaw screw ring). (Lavin 1965:148)

Spanish miquelet grooved battery face.

Another seemingly ubiquitous feature on the Spanish miquelets was the striated battery face, or put another way, vertical grooved frizzen. Initially, the striated face was a detachable plate dovetailed and often screwed to the battery. This allowed for the replacement of worn faces without having to rework or replace the complete battery. The detachable grooved face went out of fashion around 1660-1675, replaced by the grooving directly in the battery face, almost certainly due to improved heat treatment and tempering of the battery. The grooving was to a great extent eliminated by the French influenced Madrid gunsmiths around 1700. However, the practice of using both the detachable and integral grooved face continued on with many Spanish provincial gunsmiths as well as by North African and Ottoman domain lockmakers. (Lavin 1965:168 and Graells 1973:137)

The fully developed lock was known by various names, depending on region or variation of design. In Spain, it was known as the llave española; or simply the patilla. The patilla is the classic Spanish miquelet and the designation of patilla is often used nowadays in lieu of miquelet. The term patilla derives from the fact that the front foot of the cock resembled a rooster foot. In Catalonia, it was clau de miquelet. In Portugal, it was known as the fecho de patilha de invenção.

Indigenous variations to the patilla had names such as the a la de invenciõn, later known as the alla romana or romanlock or just plain Italian. The Spanish miquelet is termed alla micheletta by Italian auctioneers. Serious writers and collectors in Europe eschew this term and use more precise, chronologically and geographically pertinent terminology, such as alla brobana for the Neapolitan (Naples) variety of external-mainspring lock due to its association with the Bourbons and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

The French influence on the Spanish lock coincided with arrival of the Bourbon Felipe V in 1701 as king of Spain. This influence produced a type of lock known as the ala moda or more commonly as the Madrid lock as it was produced almost exclusively in that city. The Madrid lock is almost indistinguishable from the ordinary French flintlock, with only the laterally operating sears being the only Spanish connection to the classic patilla lock. The French flintlock without any miquelet features was termed llave a la francesa . It was used very little on private arms, however, it was adopted for use on military arms under Carlos IV. (Lavin 1965:182-184)

Locks using features from Spain, France, and Italy, and retaining the patilla external mainspring and lateral sear setup, came to be labeled a las tres modas. This lock is without a doubt the final development of the miquelet flintlock before the percussion era. It was produced in Spain and Italy. (Corry 1985:23 and Lavin 1965:184)

Pedrenyal or Pedrenal with agujeta lock circa 1625-50
Castilian agujeta on a long gun depicted in a Puga painting circa 1636

The agujeta lock or la llave de transición, a contemporary of the patilla was produced in Ripoll, primarily on a long barreled pistol called a pedrenyal and on long guns for a short time before the patilla became the predominate lock of manufacture in Spain.. Ripoll was a gun-making center in Catalonia. In Italy, the romanlock seems to be the mechanical courterpart, and possibly the predecessor of the agujeta. The agujeta used a back catch on the cock in lieu of a half cock sear and the mainspring bore down on the toe of the cock as with the romanlock. A detached combination lock, wheellock and what is certainly an agujeta/romanlock form lock, in the Royal Artillery Museum, Turin, strongly suggests the agujeta/romanlock came to Spain from Italy, probably during a period of Spanish involvement there. (Lavin 1979:312-313)

The agujeta lock became established early and very solidly in North Africa, most likely being crafted in imitation of Spanish imports. One example would be the Kabyle miquelet (moukhala or moukalla), sometimes referred to as the Arab toe-lock. (Graells 1973:134 and Lavin 1979:298-313)

Ottoman long guns (tüfenk/tüfeng/tüfek)with miquelet locks.

The miquelet is often termed the Mediterranean lock due to its diffusion to areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, particularly in the Ottoman sphere of influence. As one author quaintly describes: "It was to Arabia and Tartary and from there to Russia that the new Spanish lock found its way." (Neal 1955:6)

The miquelet may have come to the attention of arms makers in Istanbul from long established trade routes from Italian city-states through the port of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) to provinces on the Balkan Peninsula. Other avenues probably were a result of booty from corsair raids and/or from the many Ottoman-Euro conflicts of the period. (Ágostan 2005:17)

Detail of Turkish longun showing the fastening bridge on the miquelet lock

The Ottoman Empire gunmakers adopted the conventional Spanish patilla in its basic form, albeit with an additional feature in the form of a fastening bridge between the cock screw and the frizzen screw. This bridge or long bridle had the effect of decreasing torsion on the cock axis. And it provided ample space for decoration to suit the local traditions. (Neal 1955:9)

Dog shaped hammer on a Spanish percussion pistol

A percussion cap lock mechanism styled on the patilla and romanlock pattern miquelets were used on pistols and sporting guns right up to the advent of the cartridge firearm. Sculpturing of the hammer in the form of wildlife (lions, dogs, mythical beasts, or fish) was a common practice on these percussion miquelet locks. Miquelets fashioned in this way were particularly well represented by the gunmakers of Eibar. (Neal 1955:43 and Corry 1985:24)

See also


  1. ^ William Robertson (1857). The history of the reign of the emperor Charles the Fifth. Phillips, Sampson, & company. pp. 382–. http://books.google.com/books?id=2XdAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA382. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Ginés Pérez de Hita (1833). Guerras civiles de Granada. D. Leon Amarita. pp. 469–. http://books.google.com/books?id=5vACAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA469. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  3. ^ Ginés Pérez de Hita (1972). Guerras civiles de Granada. Editorial MAXTOR. pp. 400–. ISBN 9788497616799. http://books.google.com/books?id=BwUdzVQWavEC&pg=PA400. Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; Diego Clemencín (1839). El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha. E. Aguado, impresor de cámara de S.M. y de su real casa. pp. 228–. http://books.google.com/books?id=pVFKAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA228. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  • Ágoston, Gábor. Guns for the Sultan: Military Power and the Weapons Industry in the Ottoman Empire. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005
  • Blackmore, Howard L. Guns and Rifles of the World. London: Viking Press, 1965
  • Blair, Claude. Editor. Pollard's History of Firearms. New York: MacMillian, 1983,ISBN: 0600331547
  • Brinckerhoff, Sidney B. and Pierce A. Chamberlain. Spanish Military Weapons in Colonial America, 1700-1821. Harrisburg, PA: Stockpole Books, 1972
  • Chapin, Howard M. and Charles D. Cook. Colonial Firearms Part I in Guns & Other Arms. William Guthman, Editor. New York City: 1979
  • Corry, Noel, Major. "The Miquelet Lock" The Gun Digest, 39th Edition. Northfield, IL: DBI Books, 1985
  • Daskalov, Nikola, and Vyara Kovacheva. Weaponry of the Past. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1989
  • Elgood, Robert. Firearms of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait. London: I B Tauris, 1995
  • Elgood, Robert. The Arms of Greece and Her Balkan Neighbors in the Ottoman Period New York: Thames & Hudson, 2009
  • Graells, Eudaldo. "A Primer of Ripoll Gunlocks" in Arms and Armor Annual, Vol. I R. Held, Editor. Northfield, IL: DBI Books, 1973
  • Held, Robert. The Age of Firearms. Second Revised Edition. Northfield,IL: DBI Books, 1970
  • Held, Robert, Editor. Arms and Armor Annual, Vol. I Northfield, IL: DBI Books, 1973
  • Lavin, James D. A History of Spanish Firearms. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1965
  • Lavin, James D. "Spanish Agujeta-Lock Firearms" in Art, Arms, and Armour: An International Anthology, Vol.I: 1979-80. R.Held, Editor. Switzerland: Acquafresca Editrice, 1979
  • Neal, W. Keith. Spanish Guns and Pistols. London: Bell, 1955
  • Spencer, Michael. Early Firearms 1300-1800. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2008
  • Winant, Lewis. "Getting the Gunpowder Going-Development of Ignition in Gunlocks" in Guns & Other Arms. William Guthman, Editor. New York City: 1979

External links

Further reading

  • Blair, Claude and Leonid Tarassuk, Editors. The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982
  • Brown, M. L. Firearms in Colonial America: The Impact on History and Technology, 1492-1792. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1980
  • Carpegna, Nolfo di. Brescian Firearms from matchlock to flintlock. Rome: Edizioni De Luca, 1997
  • Carpegna, Nolfo di. "A Summary of Notes on Central-Italian Firearms of the Eighteenth Century" in Art, Arms, and Armour: An International Anthology, Vol. I: 1979-80. R.Held, Editor. Switzerland: Acquafresca Editrice, 1979
  • Chase, Kenneth. Firearms A Global History to 1700. Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Cipolla, Carlo. Guns, Sails, and Empires: Technological Innovation and European Expansion, 1400-1700. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996
  • Corry, Noel, Major. "Guns and Pistols of Kurdistan and the Caucasus". The Gun Digest, 42nd Edition. Northfield, IL: DBI Books, 1988
  • Crosby, Alfred W. Throwing Fire-Projectile Technology Through History. Cambridge University Press, 2002
  • Daehnhardt, Rainer, and W. Keith Neal, Translator and Editor. Espingarda Pferfeyta or The Perfect Gun. London: Sotheby Park Benet, 1974
  • Garavaglia, Louis A. and Charles G. Worman. Firearms of the American West, 1803-1865. Albuquerque: UNM Press, 1984
  • Given, Brian J. A Most Pernicious Thing: Gun Trading and Native Warfare in the Early Contact Period. Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1994
  • Hall, Bert S. Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe. Baltimore: JHU Press, 1997
  • Hayward, J. F. The Art of the Gunmaker, Volume I 1500-1660. New York: St Martin's Press, 1962
  • Kelly, Jack. Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, & Pyrotechnics. New York: Basic Books, 2004
  • Lenk, Torsten. The Flintlock: its origin and development. Translated by G. A. Urquhart, Edited by J. F. Hayward. New York: Bramhall House, 1965
  • Lindsay, Merrill. One Hundred Great Guns. New York: Walker and Co., 1967
  • Masini, Sergio and Gian Rodolfo Rotasso. Complete Book of Firearms. New York: Portland House, 1988 Translated by Valerie Palmer. Original Publisher: Mondadori, Milan
  • McNeill, William H. The Age of Gunpowder Empires, 1450-1800. Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1989
  • Murphey, Rhoads. Ottoman Warfare 1500-1700. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1999
  • North, Anthony. An Introduction to Islamic Arms. Victoria and Albert Museum Introductions to the Arts. Owings Mills, MD: Stemmer House, 1985
  • Parry, V.J., and M. E. Yapp, Editors. War, Technology and Society in the Middle East. London: Oxford University Press, 1975
  • Peterson, Harold L. Arms and Armor in Colonial America 1526-1783. Harrisburg, Pa: Stockpole Books, 1956
  • Peterson, Harold L. The Treasury of the Gun. New York: Golden Press, 1962
  • Russell, Carl P. Guns on the Early Frontiers. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1957

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