Thanksgiving & The Firearms Used To Hunt in 1621

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The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 and was celebrated by Pilgrims and Native Americans but is now celebrated by Millions of Americans. On average “46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving”1, but how did the Pilgrims hunt for their Thanksgiving feast? Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower brought multiple firearms with them but would have hunted Turkey with Blunderbuss shotguns, Snaphaunce locks, or Matchlock Muskets. The firearm of choice during this time would have been the Matchlock Musket due to it being an affordable firearm. Pistols back in the 1600’s where not affordable for most settlers, so Matchlock muskets were the go-to alternative but required a lot of work to maintain and even use.

The Matchlock device was first manufactured in the 15th century and worked by pouring black gun powder into the firing pan, a small hole that holds gun powder, then filling the barrel end. A person would then drop a lead musket ball into the barrel end , use a ramrod,  “a rod for ramming home the charge in a muzzle-loading firearm”2, blow upon their lit match cord, fit it into jaws of the serpentine or the area the cord rests, and then pull the trigger. While loading a person had to make sure they cleared excess powder from the outside of the gun and had to make sure the length of their cord was long enough or the gun would not even fire. Since these firearms didn’t have sights, accuracy was very limited and typically a person would not hit their target unless they were close to their target. On average it could take up to a minute or more to load a Matchlock musket, which wouldn’t be practical in modern times but in the 1600’s worked for hunting. The Matchlock set up of a firearm was the starting point for hand-held firearms development and the first firearm to have a trigger. This monumental development shows in our current firearms, but we have stepped away from using loose black powder and improved safety massively.

The Matchlock musket trigger design can be seen in practically all firearms these days since most require a pull back and have some sort of firing mechanism or pin. A great example can be seen in newer pistols like the Glock 48 and the Sig P365. Now most pistols these days have a semi-automatic feed, meaning for every shot you don’t have to load in black powder and prime it for fire. What can be seen though is that the trigger when pulled back engages the striking pin and sends the bullet on its way, similarly to the Matchlock musket but with less steps, more compact ability, and superior accuracy.