Hand Firearms in 15th-Century Poland. Why Did the Breakthrough Happen?

  • Tadeusz Grabarczyk Institute of History University of Łódź
Keywords: firearms, Poland, 15-16th centuries, arms, mercenaries, handgonne, hackbut

Abstract

The first mention of the use of artillery in Poland comes from 1383. Information on hand firearms is slightly later. In 1410, the use of one handbuchse by municipal guards in Kraków was recorded. However, over the next decades, hand firearms in Poland did not play a significant role. According to the records of mercenary infantry from the 1470s, less than 1% of soldiers owned firearms (simple handgonnes and hackbuts). Small arms started to play a bigger role only in the 1490s. According to the lists of mercenary infantry from 1496, 27% of shooters had firearms, while the rest still used crossbows. In the following years, the percentage of soldiers with firearms increased, exceeding 80% in 1500. It should be noted that in the late 15th century in mercenary censuses there is a new type of weapon called rusznica, a term that should be associated with matchlock handgonnes. The weapon quickly gained recognition from mercenaries. After 1498, matchlock handgonnes also appeared in the equipment of mounted mercenaries and members of the court banner. Matchlock handgonnes almost completely replaced crossbows in the armament of mercenary infantry. The author tries to present these changes in a European context, and explain how such changes in the armament of foot soldiers were possible in such a short time.

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Published
2021-12-13
How to Cite
Grabarczyk, T. (2021). Hand Firearms in 15th-Century Poland. Why Did the Breakthrough Happen?. Fasciculi Archaeologiae Historicae, 34, 107-121. https://doi.org/10.23858/FAH34.2021.008
Section
Materials and Discoveries