The Spanish were still using the Arquebus in the 30 Years War. DBR annoyed me for several reasons but the fixed ratios of musket to arquebus and the relatively ineffectiveness of the arquebus were two of them, particularly because the Spanish came out badly in this formula. As a result I wanted to find out what the difference was and why the Spanish may have retained the arquebus longer than others (if, in fact, they did).
Soldiers of the period used balls smaller than the bore of their weapon to facilitate loading in combat (Brzezinski, 1991).
The arquebus was the main firearm during the 16th century and was used into the 17th century (Gush, 1975). In the early 16th century the term arquebus covered quite a range of weapons but the most common type was a weapon about 3′ 6″ long (~108cm), weighing about 10 pounds (4.5 kg), and firing a ball of 1 1/2 ounces (~10 to the pound). From the 1540s the heavier muskets became a separate class of firearm and arquebus (called Caliver in England) standardised around 4′ (~123cm), weighing 12 pounds (~5.5 kg), and firing a ball somewhere in the range 10-16 to the pound.
Brantome stated that the arquebus could not be loaded and fired “more than one time in eight or ten minutes” (quoted in EMW: The French Army of the Thirty Years’ War: Line Infantry citing Louisy, 1887).
A shortage of muskets forced the Swedes to continue using arquebus as late as 1630 (Brzezinski, 1991).
Similarly, the arquebus was the main French firearm until 1627 and was still used until at least 1635 (EMW: The French Army of the Thirty Years’ War: Line Infantry citing Lacolle, 1901, and Louisy, 1887).
The arquebus was also called: “hachebuchsen”, “hagbut”, “hagbush”, “harquebus”, all of which mean hook-gun. Later it was also called a “caliver” or carbine.
Muskets were longer, heavier, and at least initially, fired a heavier ball than the arquebus. The Spanish introduced them in the 1540s (Gush, 1975) but by the 1570s the musket was established in much of Europe and had even reached backward Sweden by 1592 (Brzezinski, 1991).
Like the arquebus the term musket covered a range of weapons (Gush, 1975). In the 16th century a typical musket might have been 6′ (184cm), weighing 16 to 20 pounds (7.3-9.1 kg), and firing a two ounce ball (8 to a pound). These required a musket rest to fire with any accuracy.
Nations and manufacturers continued to try to lighten the musket, including smaller stocks, plus shorter and lighter barrels (Brzezinski, 1991). By the Thirty Years War a ‘True’ or ‘Full’ Musket weighed about 7.5 kg and was bored to fit a ball weighing “8 to the pound” and firing balls of “10 to the pound”.
Many considered the ‘Full’ musket too heavy for the average soldier (Brzezinski, 1991; Brzezinski cites Wallhausen as one example of a contemporary making this claim). The Dutch introduced a lighter musket in 1599, called by the Swedes the ‘Ordinary’ or ‘Half’ Musket. This weighed about 6-6.5 kg and was bored to fit a ball weighing “10 to the pound” and firing balls of “12 to the pound”. By the English Civil War muskets were firing even smaller balls, of only 12 or 14 to a pound (Gush, 1975), i.e. as small a calibre as an arquebus. As muskets got lighter the musketeer no longer needed the assistance of a rest.
In the Swedish army during the Thirty Years war muskets were meant to be have a barrel 118.7cm (3′ 10 3/4″) long, although anything over 113.7cm (3′ 8 3/4″) was accepted from the manufacturers.
The French abandoned the musket rest in 1635, presumably as a result of lightening the weight of the weapon (EMW: The French Army of the Thirty Years’ War: Line Infantry citing Lacolle, 1901). I find it interesting that this is the same year the last use of Arquebus is recorded (see above).
By 1678, i.e. after our period, the standard infantry musket had a maximum range of 240 meters and an effective range of only 60 meters (EMW: The French Army of the Thirty Years’ War: Line Infantry citing Gaya, 1678).
Brzezinski, R. (1991). The Army of Gustavus Adolphus (1): Infantry [MAA 235]. Osprey.
Gaya, L. de (1678). Traité des armes. Paris.
Gush, G. (1975). Renaissance Armies 1480-1650. Patrick Stephens.
Lacolle, N. A. J. (1901). Les gardes-françaises: leur histoire, 1563-1789. Paris.
Louisy, P. (1887). L’armée depuis le moyen age jusqu’a la Révolution. Paris.