By Lars Dalseide | September 12 2013 12:05

.68 caliber Austrian rifle on loan to National Firearms Museum from Tulsa Gun Show's Wanenmacher

Action & trigger of Wanenmacher's 16th Century double wheellock rifle at National Firearms Museum
The action of a 16th century Austrian double wheellock rifle on loan to the NRA Museum.

Fairfax, Virginia - There are thousands of guns on display at the National Firearms Museum. Big guns, small guns, old guns and new guns. A little bit of every gun for everyone. The collection grows every day. Yesterday, thanks to the generosity of Tulsa Gun Show's Joe Wanenmacher, we have what amounts to a 16th century full auto rifle.

"It's 16 shot wheellock with a matchlock backup system," said Doug Wicklund, Senior Curator for the NRA National Firearms Museum. "Probably made around 1600. Very elaborately embellished. Something only a very wealthy gentleman could afford."

Wheellocks first came to prominence in the 1500s. The Reader's Digest version on how it operates reads pulling the trigger causes a steel wheel spins against a piece of pyrite. That friction causes a spark which ignites the powder that fires the projectile. In this case, 16 of them.

Wanenmacher's 16th Century double wheellock rifle with a matchlock backup at National Firearms Museum
A full length view of a double wheellock/matchlock backup rifle from 16th century Austria.

"The first lock fires the first ten charges in roughly one to two second intervals thanks to a superimposed charge," Wicklund explained. "Bullet powder, bullet powder, bullet powder all the way down the barrel. Sort of like a fuse."

After those shots fire, the second wheellock mechanism takes care of the final six. Unless you run into problems with the pyrite.

"That's why they included the matchlock backup."

Ivory inlay on buttstock of Wanenmacher's 16th Century double wheellock rifle at National Firearms Museum
A well dressed Austrian gentleman on the buttstock of a 16th century double wheellock rifle.

The rifle is adorned with more than twenty ivory inlays. A man on the hunt decorating the buttstock, a couple of cupids by the trigger, gods in elaborate headdresses, a dragon, a sun and a collection of clouds or two to make things fun (See more of the inlays below).

Ivory inlay of noble by the trigger of a double wheellock rifle at NRA Museum
A sun, set of wings and a stately gent in inlayed ivory by the trigger of Wanenmacher's double wheellock rifle.

Ivory inlay of 16th century man on double wheellock rifle at NRA Museum
Ivory carvings on the double wheellock rifle reflect the dress of the 16th century day.

"Mr. Wanenmacher collects wheellocks and this is one of the best pieces he has. He offered to loan it to us, we said yes, and soon it will be on display."

The NRA National Firearms Museum is open from 9:30am to 5:00pm daily. To catch a glimpse of Wanenmacher's Austrian double wheellock for yourself, or any of the other 3,000 guns on exhibit, come down to the NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Admission is always free.

Looking down the barrel of a 16th century double wheellock rifle at NRA National Firearms Museum
A look at the ivory inlays down the barrel of a .68 caliber 16th century double wheellock rifle.

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