The Arquebus is a matchlock firearm and forerunner of the modern rifle. It is the Long-Range weapon of Hernán Cortés
The arquebus was a shoulder-fired firearm which used the matchlock mechanism, the first mechanism to facilitate the firing of a handheld firearm. The trigger on early arquebuses were similar to those of medieval crossbows. When the trigger was squeezed, a curved arm known as the serpentine was lowered, plunging a slow-burning match into the flashpan and firing the weapon. The show confirmed that it uses .69 to .80 caliber musketball rounds. The reloading time of an arquebus was about 30-60 seconds, depending on the model of the gun and the skill of the musketeer.
This effective range is about 30 meters if firing at an individual or if the enemy was wearing plate armor; a shot from longer distance wouldn't be able to pierce a strong steel plate (as Muzzle Velocity decreases as distance increases). The maximum effective range of an arquebus against an enemy army is about 100 meters with some sources claiming it could extend to 120 meters.
- Length: 44 inches
- Weight: 9 lbs
- Caliber: .69 to .80
- Muzzle Velocity: 1351 fps
The arquebus was widely used across Europe and in parts of Asia, beginning at the end of the Middle Ages. Some historians consider the introduction and mass use of the Arquebus as the beginning of the Renaissance; although this is debatable.
Because of the matchlock mechanism, the user could hold the weapon with both hands and keep his eyes on the target, offering a more accurate shot than earlier hand cannons, in which the user had to use one hand to ignite the powder or have someone else ignite it.
The arquebus was one of the first muskets used and help popularised the idea of guns and modern warfare. Despite it flaws, arquebuses were widly used as it required less money and training than bows and can pierce armor. Musketballs could be made cheaply and by ordinary soldiers, while arrows needed skilled craftsmen.
The Ottoman–Hungarian Wars favored the Ottomans when their elite Janissary Musketeers adopted the Arquebus. In The Battle of Mohács; Hungarian Knights were overwhelmed by Ottoman muskets, despite the fact that the Hungarians used heavy plate armor.
The Spanish and Portugese Empires used the Arquebus in their conquest of the Americas. The Native Americans were terrified by the noise, fire and lethality of the weapon. The Portugese used the Arquebus to raid West Africa and both hunt for slaves and establish trade relationships with African kingdoms that sold slaves; beginning Slavery in the Americas.
As Portugal expanded their empire in Asia they established port colonies like the Portuguese Malacca. Malacca began establish trade with the Japanese Otomo clan in c. 1542. In 1543; a Portuguese ship was forced to land on the island of Tanegashima (which inspired the Japanese name for the Arquebus). The daimyo Tanegashima Tokitaka bought two Arquebuses from the Portuguese and attempted to reverse engineer them, only to simply hire an actual Portuguese gunsmith the next year. Trade with the Otomo increased as the Sengoku period intensified; and so the Otomo's westernization and western trade made them one of the first major clans to use guns. The arquebus was revolutionary for Japanese warfare, mainly during the Sengoku period. The intensity of war among the Japanese clans made most clans adopt the weapon, despite initially being avoided for being a 'dishonorable' weapon because of how easy it was to use. At the end of the Sengoku period, Japan had their own gun factories and had more arquebuses than all of Europe. 1/4 of the Japanese military (160,000 troops) involved in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea were arquebusiers.
Not all societies who witnessed the Arquebus adopted it. Native Americans and other tribes of the world considered the weapon to be too slow firing, they had few resources to mass produce ammunition and they didn't need an armor piercing weapon since most of their enemies were lightly armored tribesmen. They preferred the bow for several centuries to the musket.
Because the match and powder was exposed, the Arquebus was often unreliable in rain or high humidity. Future muskets would use wheellock or flintlock firing technology. Skilled archers could still outperform the Arquebus in range and accuracy, and so bows and crossbows still existed in certain armies.
Some armies created special steel plate that was noticeably thicker than before to be bulletproof, and was effective against guns until more powerful Muskets was invented: although such armor was expensive and rare.
Western warfare during the time of the Arquebus still used traditional medieval melee weapons to support the slow rate of fire and poor accuracy of the Arquebus. One of the most popular methods was the Pike and Shot, where spearmen would be a line of defense while the musketeers fired over them. As muskets improved this tactic was replaced by Napoleonic Warfare.