Matchlock musket, around 1665

Caption: Matchlock musket, around 1665

This is the sort of weapon that the men of the régiment de Carignan-Salières carried during their service in Canada. Squeezing the trigger lever (seen sticking out below the weapon) made the serpentine (the curved metal arm at right) snap downwards. Attached to the top of the serpentine (but not seen here) would be a slowly-burning piece of string called a 'slow match'. When the serpentine snapped down, the burning match would drop into the priming pan (at centre). In this small depression sat a small amount of gunpowder. This would explode when the match hit it, and the explosion would carry inside the matchlock's barrel, setting off a second charge of gunpowder. This final explosion would fire a bullet down the musket's barrel (part of which is seen at right). This process could go wrong in a number of ways, but was very noisy and impressive when it worked.