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Ahead of its time

Henry VIII’s matchlock breech-loading gun (XII.1)

This gun may well have been the first of its kind to have been made in England. Although it was made in 1537, its breech-loading mechanism (which allows rapid reloading while lying down or firing from a bench) is years ahead of its time. It was commissioned for none other than Henry VIII. The gun is capable of accurate shooting to 100 metres and Henry would likely have used it for target practice. Although he had a personal interest in modernising the English military, it would still be another 300 years until soldiers would have had access to guns like this one too. It was handmade by William Hunt, a gunmaker who became Henry's first 'Keeper of the King's Handguns and Demihawks’. It would have taken hundreds of hours to complete, using many skilled techniques like forging, grinding, filing, reaming, chiselling, gilding, and cutting, carving and polishing wood.

View Henry VIII's Matchlock Breech-Loading Gun in our collection