Alamo de Parras
The Miquelet Lock
figure 1.
The firing mechanism for the typical Spanish musket (fusil) was the Spanish lock (llava española) of the flintlock type commonly referred to as "miquelet". 

The miquelet lock shown at the left (figure1) was made by Guisasola, probably in Eibar, Spain, circa 1800. It is of the classic patilla style most often encountered in Spanish Colonial America. 

This size and style of patilla was to be found on officer's fusils,  and almost without exception on the escopeta, the workhorse of New Spain. Pistols and ornate non-military firearms utilized a smaller version of the patilla lock. 

Patilla locks of less refinement were used on Spanish military arms during the late 17th and entire 18th centuries. The miquelet lock in figure 1 is shown at "full cock", that is, the curved toe of the cock or hammer is resting on the full cock sear protruding through the lock plate (see close up below). The main spring exerts upward pressure on the heel of the cock. The half cock sear protrudes through the lock plate to engage the toe of the cock.(see close up below) 

FIGURE 2. Photo by Author
The second picture (figure 2) shows the position of the cock and battery on completion of ignition. Note that the lower jaw of the cock is resting on the "fence" of the powder pan. The fence arrests the forward movement of the cock. On less robust locks, that could be a serious fault. On this lock, much of the energy initiated by the powerful main spring is absorbed in producing ignition. For example, the flint, clamped in the cock jaws, scraping the battery face plus the resistance
provided by the battery spring keeps any damage to the fence and lower jaw at a minimum.

Locks of refined quality often had features built in to bring the cock to rest just short of striking the fence. Note the size and range of adjustment of the upper and lower jaws. That allows, in concert with the large ring on the jaw screw, the clamping of large and/or irregular pieces of flint should supplies of manufactured (knapped) flints not be available, certainly a virtue on isolated frontiers. Most patilla locks had grooved battery faces that helped facilitate ignition. Replaceable battery faces, grooved and secured with a screw in a dovetailed slot were common.

FIGURE 3. Photo by Author FIGURE 4. Photo by Author
The main spring, cock and battery bridles have been removed on these close-up pictures in order to show the relationship of the horizontal acting sears to the toe of the cock. The half cock sear is shown on the left with the toe of the cock resting in a groove of the round half cock sear protruding through the lockplate. In practical terms, this was a "safety" as the firearm could be carried fully primed, ready to fire. A simple rearward pull on the cock until the full cock sear engaged the toe of the cock was all that was needed before pulling the trigger to fire. The full cock sear engaging the flat bottom of the toe is shown on the right. 

These pictures reflect one of the common characteristics of the classic patilla, i.e., the "wasp waist" outline of the lockplate. Spanish gunsmiths tended to use just enough lockplate surface for all the components to perform their office and no more. Couple that with having all the major lock components, like the main spring, on the outside of the lock meant less wood needed to be cut out in a critical area of the gun stock to accommodate the lock. 

The lock maker's stamp or punzón can be seen on both close ups. This particular lock reflects a very typical stamp with three stacked rows of three letters each surmounted by a crown. The letters, originally inlaid with brass or gold, on this lock are: GUI SAS OLA. The presence of the "crown" in a punzón does not necessarily reflect the fact the lock maker was a "Royal" gunsmith, as some liberties were known to be taken with that royal regulation. 

It is generally accepted that the characteristics that classify a flintlock mechanism as a miquelet are the horizontal acting sears. That is, the full cock and half cock sears pass through the lockplate at right angles and the one-piece battery and pan cover. The most recognizable features associated with the miquelet are the large external mounted main spring and the large ring of the top jaw screw. Those features, when present, do not, by themselves, classify a lock as a miquelet. 

One could notice a French influence in Spanish gunlock making in Madrid in the first quarter of the18th century. The Spanish lock had the French flintlock appearance, but the gunsmith mounted the main spring on the inside of the lock. It operated in the classic Spanish style (i.e., the horizontal acting sears). This style of miquelet was called the llave a la moda to distinguish it from the traditional patilla lock so popular with provincial gunsmiths. 

The Italian miquelet was a style of lock that developed concurrently with that of the patilla. It was also known to the Spanish as the Roman lock or llave a la romana and achieved some measure of success in Spain, and subsequently throughout the Mediterranean. Its distinguishing features were the main spring that exerted a downward pressure on the toe of the cock and the full cock sear acting on the heel of the cock. 

The origin and initial development of the patilla lock took place almost certainly under royal patronage and in Madrid around 1570. By 1620, it was fully developed and remained substantially unaltered for the next 200 years. The advent of the "caplock" firearm in the first quarter of the 19th century initiated the demise of the classic miquelet patilla lock. 

The term miquelet was not applied to the lock until about 1815, most likely as a result of British troops in the Peninsular campaigns in Spain against Napoleon applying the term to the patilla mounted fusil carried by the Spanish mountain fusilers, known as "miqueletes". Periodic references to the Spanish styled lock, as miquelets became common usage over the remainder of the 19th century. The Spanish lock and all variants are now termed "miquelet". The accepted classification for the miquelet must now include the country, region, or tribe as the identifying style, i.e., Turkish, Russian, Spanish, Balkan, etc.

Sources: Claude Blair (Ed), Pollard's History of Firearms; S. D. Brinckerhoff & P. A. Chamberlain, Spanish Military Weapons in Colonial America 1700-1821; J. D. Lavin, A History of Spanish Firearms; R. Held, The Age of Firearms.

Jerry White, 09/99 About the Author



Battery: n. That part of a flintlock musket that when struck by a piece of flint creates a spark to ignite the gunpowder in the charge.

Bridle: n. Bridge-like supports added to lockplates to keep lateral acting parts in alignment, usually on the sear mechanisms, battery[syn:{frizzen, steel}], [cock[syn:{hammer}].

Caplock: n. Percussion lock that utilizes a small copper percussion cap containing detonating powder. It is fitted over a nipple in the end of barrel(breech) and when struck by the hammer(cock), it ignites the powder. Most Civil War muskets were caplocks. Analogus to modern toy cap pistols.

Cock: n. The pivoted arm holding the match or flint, energized by a spring. When released by a holding device(sear), it is rotated forward to provide ignition to the powder by either dipping a match cord into the pan, or by causing a flint to scrape hot steel bits(sparks) from the battery into the pan. On percussion arms, the cock was referred to a the hammer, which struck a cap to ignite the powder.

Flintlock: n. A gunlock that uses a piece of flint clamped in cock(hammer) jaws, that when the trigger is pulled, rotated forward to scrape steel off the face of the battery(frizzen) causing sparks to enter the powder pan and ignite the powder.

Fusil: n.[sp.] a light musket. Originally, of smaller calibre, shorter, and more refined, patterned more on that of a sporting gun that gentlemen and officers were entitled to use. Due to French Bourbon influence on the Spanish court, muskets used by the Royal Army were called fusils. A formal continental term for the infantry musket.

Fusilers: soldiers that used the fusil or light musket. Later the name applied to military units as part of an official designation, such as, "The King's Own Royal Fusilers".

llave a la moda n.[sp.] term applied to a style of flintlock introduced and almost solely produced in Madrid that was indistinguishable from the common French flintlock except for the patilla style horizontal acting sears.

llave a la romana n.[sp.] means "a lock in the Roman style". What the Spanish called the Italian version of the miquelet, which had the main spring bear down on the toe of the cock rather than bearing up on the heel like the patilla lock. The "roman" lock also had the full cock sear located to act on the heel of the cock.

Lock [syn: {gunlock}] n.That part or apparatus of a firearm by which the charge is exploded; as, a matchlock, flintlock, percussion lock, etc.

Matchlock n. an early style of musket; had a slow burning wick that could be lowered into a hole in the breech to ignite the charge.

Miqueletes: n.[sp.] also Migueletes. Catal·n and Castilian diminutives of the name "Miguel" that was applied in Catalu·(Spain) to irregular units of mountain fusilers. Supposedly derived from Miquelet, the name of an early leader.

Punzón: n.[sp.] also punzone. The gunsmith's or lockmaker's mark, invariably, some form of lettering. Stamped in the lockplate with a metal stamp. Many times covered with gold or brass. In effect, the maker's logo or icon.

Sear: The pawl or catch in a gunlock mechanism that holds the cock or hammer at half or full cock and is released by the trigger.

Toe: In the patilla lock, the foremost foreward portion of the curved foot (any part below the pivot screw) of the cock or hammer. Conversely, the "heel" of the cock is the rearmost portion. The cock on the patilla lock indeed resembles the foot of a rooster!