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Antique Rifles: 1500-1850
Early antique firearms from the 1500s to the 1800s range from flintlock and matchlock to percussion and single-shot rifles. In the early 1500s, the firearms used by Europeans expanding throughout the world were matchlock. The matchlock rifle was was what the settlers at Plymouth and Jamestown were armed with, and they were carried by Cortez in Mexico. Matchlock rifles were slow to fire and not very accurate, but were simple to use and could be a valued weapon in the right hands.
During the 1600s, the matchlock was largely overtaken by the more reliable flintlock rifle. Flintlock long guns were often faster and more dependable than the matchlocks they replaced. Both matchlock and flintlock rifles were well made from heavy metals and wood and these antiques are popular for collectors of not only firearms, but history.
The flintlock lasted until the late 1700s when the percussion cap was invented. Percussion caps were more reliable and had fewer moving parts than the flintlock and matchlock rifles they preceded. The percussion became a military standard, with some units like cavalry still using flintlocks for various specialized reasons. Near the end of the 1800s, the largest technological advancement in firearms was made: the metallic self-contained cartridge. This advancement led to rifles including the Springfield 1866 that were faster, more accurate, easier to reload, and supremely reliable compared to any weapon that came before. These single-shot rifles are very powerful and still used by hunters seeking an authentic experience.
The Enfield rifle became the weapon of choice for the Confederate military in the American Civil war as they were smuggled in massive numbers
It wasn’t until 1540 that rifling barrels came into fashion. Rifles before 1540 are often inaccurate and were only useful in volley fire
The Crimean War was the last war to use only muzzle loaders