one inch in diameter and fired a lead ball weighing two ounces, so an
added difficulty arose in providing for the tremendous recoil of the piece.
All these factors soon led the gunsmiths to construct a wooden stock that
would enable the piece to be fired from the shoulder. In addition an iron
spur extended from the barrel and was used to hook the weapon against
the top of the rampart and deaden the recoil. This last improvement gave
the gun its name of "harquebus"; German for "gun-with-a-spur."
The next improvement in the harquebus (or arquebus) was the
invention of the serpentine, an "S" shaped piece of metal attached to the
weapon by a pivot. The top end of the serpentine held a burning match-
cord, while a touch of the finger on the lower end would bring the fire in
contact with the priming in the flash pan. Although now allowing both
hands to be used in steadying the gun, this device was both awkward
and dangerous. Awkward because the piece would fall off the target
when the serpentine was pivoted; and dangerous because the flash back
from the priming pan on top of the barrel often caused injury to the
soldier's face and eyes.
However, by the time of Ponce de Leon, Menendez, and De
Soto, the priming pan had been moved to the side of the barrel and a
mechanism invented whereby a pull of the "tricker" or trigger would
guide the match accurately towards the firing pan without endangering
either the soldier's face or the trueness of his aim. This weapon was
called the "matchlock harquebus."
The matchlock required that men armed with this weapon should
always carry several feet of slow burning match rope with them.