Sinhala matchlock




How to fire an English Matchlock The Bess[ Taken off the web site]

FIREARMS. RAS Journal PEP Deraniyagala
Machine are mentioned in writing about India, but no reference to fire arms. Gun powder used in battle Zaragosa in 1118 AD. and Algecira in 1342 the Moors appear to have used cannons.
Vascoda de Gama’s ship had cannons of a kind, In 1502 the Samorin had at Calicut two inferior pieces, the following year his guns which were of Iron would shoot stones as hard as a man could throw them. In 1503 two Milanese deserted to Samorins on the Malabar coast and taught his people to cast cannons, and in 1505 AD four Venetians arrived in Malabar for the same purpose.
In 1514 there was a Moorish factory for the manufacture of weapons at Diu[ Barbosa p 68], Varthema states that in 1505 .There was no Artillery in use in Ceylon
Matchlocks were not introduced into Portuguese India till 1512. As the matchlocks took long to load, the Portuguese took a slave to carry a reserve weapons. In 1517 the Turks a Jeddah had a basilick which could throw a shot of three quarter of Cwt., though the Sinhalese employed them in the siege of 1518,


A Sinhala Flint Lock, note the Mechanism is on the left


The Vaddana Tuvakku or easily portable arms comprised Matchlocks or Gini Tuvakku , Flint locks or Bondi Kula or Gal tuvvaku, Ordinance or Kodi-tuvakku of two sizes and Pistols or Ath – Tuvvaku. The Sinhala Guns smith terms the Barrel as kandha , the Foresight as the Massa the Peep sight the Manama, the trigger is the Pathale, Trigger guard is the Val Pannuma, the Hammer is the Koka, the pan of the match lock is kan padiya, the touch hole is the Thiruva Kana, the stock is the Mitta or Atchuva, the Butt is the Colombuva, the Ram rod is the Atchu kura. The guns are generally held to have been introduced by the Portuguese, who reached Ceylon in 1505, but Ribeiro description of the Sinhla Guns and Ordinance of 1519 suggests that they were of types unfamiliar to him [Pieris 1909 p 16]; what Fria-y-Souza and Pyrard had to say about Sinhala Guns have been already mentioned. The Sinhala guns is unique in generally possessing a Bifurcated butt, and its nearest ally appears to be the Arab gun, the locks of the two being very similar and frequently placed on the left of the barrel. It is noteworthy that the Arabic for Gun is” “Bunduk of which the Sinhala’ Bondikula’ is doubtless a corruption. In view of the above and the distinctive types of guns depicted in the 16 and 17 Cent Sinhala frescoes, it is more likely that firearms were introduced by the Arabs and had evolved into a distinctive Sinhala Type by the 16 th Century. This would not have been so, had they been a recent Portuguese introduction.

The Dutch - Portuguese battle for Mannar. Firing a Musket placed on a Stand.

The Dutch – Portuguese battle for Mannar. Firing a Musket placed on a Stand.Notice the smoke of flash pan, which is the right of weapon. From drawing off -Ceylon-Phillipus Baldaeus

The dexterous handling of Guns by the Sinhala soldier evoked the admiration of the Portuguese De Queyros [1688] who states that they would fire at night and extinguish a lighted Match and 60 paces either split the bullet on a knife blade and five consecutive bullets into the same spot; he adds that to judge from the reckless valor with which they charged the Portuguese troops, these soldiers had no fear of death.

 Matchlock mechanism

MATCHLOCK.- are known from a single barrel 3 feet 10 ½ inch long which is damascened and possesses both for and peep sights and three eyelets loops for attachment to the stock it has a a peculiar bell mouth ornamented with circles of rectangular gilt plates, and ten longitudinal ridges ornamented with inlay of gilt crescent with rings near muzzle. The flash pan is to the right. Such weapons are probably the type referred to in the locally current humorous story;-
An excited night-sportsmen aim his gun at a pig and whispered to his friend,
“ Stick the match in the Kana’.
The word Kana in Sinhala means both the Touch Hole and the Ear, and the friend was even more excited, applied the flame to the ear of the shooter and thereby spoilt or improve the nights sport.



A drawing from the Dambulla Temple. notice the Flash Pan or Kan padiya is on the left Weapon.


Dambulla Fresco




Powder Horns


Dutch Weapons


The Soldiers are seen carrying on sling on the bandolier over left shoulder a number of spare chargers , the centre soldier has a Priming powder horn below the explosive  charge in small pooches.From drawing off -Ceylon-Phillipus Baldaeus


Above is a fallen warrior with his dropped weapon and the Bandolier with three charger unfired and the Y shaped rest on which he rested the weapon and used it as a ramrod.From drawing off -Ceylon-Phillipus Baldaeus


Please check wikipedia for more details. to make it easy I have copied from it for you.


The slow burning match had to be kept alight, difficult in rain etc, as  keeping watch,  it need a long burning wick. Many time it did not fire the shot, it was just a FLASH IN THE FAN

The musket had a smoothbore barrel; it had no rifling groves in the barrel. By today’s standards, muskets are not accurate due to the lack of rifling. A rifle bullet will spin, allowing greater accuracy. Owing to this lack of accuracy, officers did not expect musketeers to aim at specific targets. Rather, they had the objective of delivering a mass of musket balls into the enemy line.

Rifling technology preceded the mustket, but wasn’t used by it. The disadvantage of the early rifle for military use was its long reloading time and the tendency for powder fouling to accumulate in the rifling, making the piece more difficult to load with each shot. Eventually, the weapon could not be loaded until the bore was wiped clean.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



The Drill for loading of Weapon as per British Army Manual 19 th Cent AD

The Drill for loading of Weapon as per British Army Manual 19 th Cent AD

An English Civil War manual of the New Model Army showing a part of the steps required to load and fire an earlier musket. The need to complete this difficult and potentially dangerous process as quickly as possible led to the creation of the military drill.[19]
In the 18th century, as typified by the English Brown Bess musket, loading and firing was done in the following way:
• Upon the command “prime and load”, the soldier would make a quarter turn to the right at the same time bringing the musket to the priming position. The pan would be open following the discharge of the previous shot, meaning that the frizzen would be tilted forward. If the musket was not being reloaded after a previous shot, the soldiers would be ordered to “Open Pan”.
• Upon the command “Handle cartridge”, the soldier would draw a cartridge from the cartridge box worn on the soldier’s right hip or on a belt in front of the soldier’s belly. Cartridges consisted of a spherical lead ball wrapped in a paper cartridge which also held the gunpowder propellant. The end of the cartridge opposite from the ball would be sealed by a mere twist of the paper. The soldier then tore off the twisted end of the cartridge with the teeth and spat it out, and continued to hold the now open cartridge in his right hand.
• Upon the command “prime”, the soldier then pulled the hammer back to half-cock, and poured a small amount of powder from the cartridge into the priming pan. He then closed the frizzen so that the priming powder was trapped.
• Upon the command “about”, the butt of the musket was then lowered and moved to a position against the soldier’s left calf, and held so that the soldier could then access the muzzle of the musket barrel. The soldier then poured the rest of the powder from the cartridge down the muzzle. The cartridge was then reversed, and the end of the cartridge holding the musket ball was inserted into the muzzle, with the remaining paper shoved into the muzzle above the musket ball. This paper acted as wadding to stop the ball and powder from falling out if the muzzle was lowered.
• Upon the command “draw ramrods”, the soldier drew the ramrod from the musket. The ramrod was grasped and reversed when removed, and the large end was inserted about one inch into the muzzle.
• Upon the command “ram down cartridge”, the soldier then used the ramrod to firmly ram the wadding, bullet, and powder down to the breech of the barrel. The ramrod was then removed, reversed, and returned to half way in the musket by inserting it into the first and second ramrod pipes. The soldier’s hand then grasped the top of the ramrod.
• Upon the command “return rammers”, the soldier would quickly push the rammer the remaining amount to completely return it to its normal position. Once the ramrod was properly replaced, the soldier’s right arm would be held parallel to the ground at shoulder level, with the right fingertips touching the bayonet lug, and lightly pressing the musket to the soldier’s left shoulder. The soldier’s left hand still supported the musket.
(At no time did the soldier place the musket on the ground to load)
• Upon the command “Make Ready”. The musket was brought straight up, perpendicular to the ground, with the left hand on the swell of the musket stock, the lock turned toward the soldier’s face, and the soldier’s right hand pulled the lock to full cock, and grasped the wrist of the musket.
• Upon the command “present”, the butt of the musket was brought to the soldier’s right shoulder, while at the same time the soldier lowered the muzzle to firing position, parallel to the ground, and sighting (if the soldier had been trained to fire at “marks”) along the barrel at the enemy.
• Upon the command of “fire”, the soldier pulled the trigger, and the musket (hopefully) fired. A full second was allowed to pass, and the musket was then quickly lowered to the loading position, butt against the soldier’s right hip, muzzle held off center to the left at about a forty-five degree angle, and the soldier would look down at his open pan to determine if the prime had been ignited.
This process was drilled into troops until they could complete the procedure upon hearing a single command of “prime and load”. No additional verbal orders were given until the musket was loaded, and the option was either to give the soldiers the command “Make Ready”, or to hold the musket for movement with the command of “Shoulder your firelock”. The main advantage of the British Army was that the infantry soldier trained at this procedure almost every day. A properly trained group of regular infantry soldiers was able to load and fire four rounds per minute. A crack infantry company could load and fire five rounds in a minute.
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (June 2012)
Matchlock Muskets took a long time to reload and many were very inaccurate, so army tacticians typically deployed musketeers in formations to maximize firepower.
This tactic was pioneered by Maurice of Nassau, who taught it to Dutch troops in the Eighty Years’ War. It was originally known as the countermarch, where troops were arranged in lines up to twelve, but more usually eight or six deep. After the front rank fired it would file away to the rear to reload. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden made two important advances in the use of this tactic. First, he simplified and standardized reloading, then drilled his musketeers ceaselessly until they reloaded in action by reflex, without becoming distracted. Second, he pioneered the use of the volley or “salvo” as an offensive tactic for Swedish infantry in the Thirty Years’ War.
Because of the musket’s slow reloading time it was necessary until 1700 or later to use pikemen to protect them from cavalry. After the invention of the bayonet and flintlock musket, infantry were no longer equipped with the pike and their firing formations were reduced to three ranks deep. By having the front rank kneel, all three ranks would be able to fire at the same time. This allowed all the men in the unit to fire at the same time, unleashing a withering volley that would slam into the enemy.
As muskets became the default weapon of armies, the slow reloading time became an increasing problem. The difficulty of reloading—and thus the time needed to do it—was diminished by making the musket ball much smaller than the internal diameter of the barrel, so as the interior of the barrel became dirty from soot from previously fired rounds, the musket ball from the next shot could still be easily rammed. In order to keep the ball in place once the weapon was loaded, it would be partially wrapped in a small piece of cloth.[20] However, the smaller ball could move within the barrel as the musket was fired, decreasing the accuracy of musket fire[21] (it was complained that it took a man’s weight in lead musket balls to kill him).[22] The only way to make musket fire effective was to mass large numbers of Musketmen and have them fire at the same time. The tradeoff between reloading speed and accuracy of fire continued until the invention of the Minié ball.
The main tactic for infantry attacks from 1700 or so was a slow measured advance, with pauses to fire volleys at enemy infantry. The aim was to break the enemy by firepower and leave the pursuit of them to the cavalry. If the defenders did not break and flee, however, a bayonet charge and hand-to-hand combat would be necessary. Many officers in the French army preferred the a prest attack – a rapid charge using swords or bayonets rather than firepower and British General Charles Grey became known as “no flint” Grey because of his fondness for bayonet attacks.
The British Army was the first army that fought in two ranks rather than three. This allowed the infantry soldier to fire his musket without the need for the front rank to kneel. Another British tactic was platoon fire. At the time a platoon was a half-company. The right-hand files of a company would form the first platoon and the left-hand files of that same company would form the second platoon. The platoon fire would begin at one of the flank platoons of the battalion or regiment, and one or two seconds after the platoon beside them fired, the next platoon would fire. The effect would be platoon volley after platoon volley rolling down the face of the battalion or regiment, and the result of such disciplined fire was a constant hail of bullets on the enemy formation.
By the 18th century a very experienced soldier could load and fire at a rate of four shots per minute. Soldiers expecting to face musket fire learned disciplined drills to move in precise formations and to obey orders unquestioningly. British soldiers in particular acquired a reputation for drilling until they could perform coolly and automatically in the heat of combat.[citation needed] Use of musket infantry tactics was utilized to the fullest by King Frederick the Great of Prussia during the Silesian Wars and the Seven Years’ War. Prussian troops under his leadership could fire a shot every fifteen seconds with almost unrivaled discipline, and his finest infantry units could fire a shot every ten seconds.
In the 19th century, a new tactic was devised by the French in the Napoleonic Wars. This was the colonne d’attaque, or attack column. This tactic involved a large number of troops, from one regiment up to two brigades of infantry. These men packed close together in a tight column which, encouraged by the drums, marched slowly forward. The French Army at the time mostly consisted of conscript troops, who were not heavily trained. The column gave them confidence and a feeling of safety due to the huge number of men in the column. The amount of men in the column also made it more capable of sustaining enemy fire as well. The sight of a huge column slowly and inexorably making its way towards its enemy was often enough to make the enemy break and run. Disciplined troops who could fire fast enough into the column, however, could stop the column with its own fallen soldiers. Another flaw with this formation was the devastation that could be inflicted upon it by an opponent firing into the side(s) of the column, and artillery could also wreak havoc on the massed formation.
In New Zealand during the period 1818 to 1842 native Maori bought increasingly large numbers of Trade Muskets which were regularly used in inter tribal warfare. Maori developed a number of special techniques to over come their lack of professional training. The first was to enlarge the priming hole to ensure combustion with the course grain trade black powder that was available to them. The second was to do away with the ram rod altogether. The balls were inserted in the muzzle and then the butt thumped hard on the ground to settle the ball. In battle the barrel was never cleaned so progressively smaller balls were used to load the musket to compensate for lead and ash fouling. The balls were held between the fingers of the right hand.

There was an interesting comment about a doubtful matchlock pistol in Vikings swords  on 12/6/ assigned to perhaps Ceylon  , pictures are shown below.

Matchlock pistol  AT from top

There is a mark TA , found on Portuguese coins used in Ceylon


pistol marks

There are marks engraved on copper coloured attachment, is similar to the Sword of Portuguese blade with Sinhala Kastana sword hilt. as show below.

coin TA


Portuguse sword blade sinhala hilt



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