Regarded as the first real hand held firearm, the Hand-gonne consisted of a cast metal barrel with a smooth bore, affixed to a wooden staff, and a touch hole that could be primed and ignited by a red hot poker or slow burning match (or even the equivalent of a cannon fuse), like a miniature ship or field cannon. A range of calibers seems to be present throughout history, from as small as .17 to larger .75 caliber and larger still, not quite hand holdable models with much larger bores. The authors reproduction (below) is .36 caliber and measures 4 feet overall, with the brass barrel measure about 12 inches.


They saw use from as early as the 1300s into the 1400’s, and in Asia, well into the 1600’s. A military weapon, probably used in sieges, it was slow to reload and fire, a bow would have been a faster field weapon. Siege and bombardment (with the attendant smoke and noise) in conjunction with larger cannon, would seem to have been an ideal application. Its European use was supplanted by the matchlock muskets in the 15th century.

A “linstock” was used to hold the slow match for safer ignition:


Here is a video of someone “rapid firing” a Handgonne (this is not the author, just a random YouTube video):

Modern reproductions can be purchased here:

Interesting links: