Wendy’s Top Five Guns I Curator’s Corner Season 5 Episode 4

Hello, my name is Wendy Adamson and I am NOT a curator. I’m a Collections Manager here at the British Museum based in the Middle East department and welcome to my corner. So, here in my corner we are
actually in the Asia and Middle East arms and amour basement and we’re here today because we’re going to talk about firearms. We are not known here at the
British Museum for being a military museum because we’re not. But what you may be surprised to know is that we have over 6,000 items of arms and armour including 135 firearms, which is why I’ve brought you here. So firearms, even though we don’t have a huge amount compared to some other museums, are a really big deal
here. The reason they’re a really big deal is because some of these bad boys
can still cause a lot of injury. Because of that, somebody actually needs to take care of them, take charge of them and organise them. and that person is me. As a collections manager, I’m responsible for looking after a specific part of the
collection and as I already mentioned I work in the Middle East Department so
that means I get to play with everything that’s come from the Middle East from
prehistory up to the modern day. we have a mixture of different firearms here at the Museum in all kinds of classifications. We have a lot of antiques. Now, an antique is theoretically a firearm that cannot cause a lot of damage in the eyes of the law. We’re talking about the things that you would
need some match for and you’d be lighting it and realistically you’d only
get one shot off before, you know, you would actually be wrestled to the ground.
So in the eyes of the law it’s not really deemed as much as a threat as
some others. But we do go on and we have much more modern weapons where you could actually buy ammunition and you could actually fire them. We also have some that fall into another category which is a deactivated weapon, which is a
firearm that you could buy ammunition for but it’s actually been
deactivated to a stage where you can’t fire it anymore and it’s actually deemed
safe and doesn’t need to be dealt with in the same way. You’ve probably had
enough of hearing me talk about my job and the admin around firearms so why don’t we actually have a look at some
guns? So, what I’ve brought out first of all are two
matchlock rifles this one is the oldest one and this is 18th century and it’s a
Turkish style but found in Ethiopia and a century later we have the Japanese
matchlock which is much higher quality. What’s really interesting is in a lot of
the European countries by the end of the 18th century matchlocks weren’t really
being used much but what’s really interesting is these two items are
separated by about a century so you can see how much later the Japanese actually
embraced the firearms but as I say they really made them so well and they were
beautifully decorated. So for anyone who doesn’t know, the matchlock mechanism utilises a slow burning match cord. It still has the ultimate elements of a gun.
So you need a projectile, you need propellant which is gunpowder, and then
you need an ignition source so with a matchlock what you have is these are
muzzle loaders which means you actually load the ammunition into the end. So you
would put your propellant, your gunpowder, then you put your lead ball and
then what you do to ignite with a matchlock is you would put a piece of
slow burning match cord into this part of the gun which is called the
serpentine. Now the serpentine is basically a handle which is on a pivot
mechanism so as you actually pull the trigger it bobs forward and pulls back As you bob the slow burning match cord forward, it goes next to the touch hole
which is where your propellant is hopefully igniting it and causing the
gun to fire. By the time we get to the Japanese matchlock, what we have is a proper cocking mechanism called a snap matchlock where you can cock the item
and it is in a ready state until you then pull the trigger. This is Albanian and it has lots and
lots of embellishments. It has mikolay lock which is very ornately decorated and inscribed. It also has beautiful velvet in its stock, beautiful tassels and of course you can’t help but notice just how many semi-precious stones are
actually studied into the entire length of it. Oooo Aaahhh Watch them not sparkle. Now, a flintlock mechanism is very similar to a matchlock in that we still put the
propellant and everything into the muzzle end but our technology has moved on slightly. What we actually have here is a flint,
not surprisingly because of the name, and a steel plate now the way this creates a
spark is when you cock the mechanism. In the dog or cock which is this area is
where you would clamp the small piece of flint this plate here is called the
frizzen this is made of steel so when we actually fire the mechanism and you can
see that this has a very very tiny trigger down here it would cause the dog
to strike forward causing the flint to strike down the steel plate creating a
spark which would then travel into the touch hole and ignite the charge. What we’re always curious about though because this is a non-functioning gun, is
if we actually try to fire it would all the decoration actually stay put? As part of the training we run here at the British Museum, we do actually learn how
to check if an item or a firearm is loaded or not. Part of that with the
antique firearms involves pushing a stick down the muzzle and down the
barrel to actually see how far it comes down and see if there is still something
blocked up by the touch hole. Whenever we’ve done it on this weapon we
certainly get residue of gunpowder coming out so we assume that at some
point in the past it was fired and the decoration remained where it was. This has to be, despite its beauty, one of the most impractical weapons I think we have here. So I think this might be more for its
looks than its actual practicality. So we move onto something a bit more modern now. As part of our Africa collection we have three fairly odd guns. I’ve got one of them out on the table. Now there’s an interesting story behind these three firearms because nobody’s entirely sure if they are indeed improvised Kenyan Mau Mau
weapons or if they were made as props for an exhibition when the Museum of
Mankind existed over in Burlington Gardens. But what’s really interesting is either way this counts as a deadly weapon and has to be licensed as a shotgun. Now you can see it’s a really crudely carved stock, the barrel pretty much just looks like a piece of piping and the firing mechanism is a wing nut
and an elastic band. Ultimately nut of the wing nut is replacing the firing pin that you would find in a modern firearm. You need a firing pin in the modern firearm because by the time we have a
bullet we have combined all the separate elements of firearms into one handy
small capsule so what you’ll find in a bullet is you have your projectile which
is your lead end you still have your gunpowder or other accelerant in more
modern firearms and you have a primer and the firing pin or in this case the
wing nut as long as it strikes the bullet at the correct place it will
ignite the accelerant which will then set off the main charge which will then
fire out the projectile. So what I have here as the last
gun we’ll look at today is a Wild West revolver. This isn’t a traditional
Smith & Wesson this is actually a Belgian copy But it’s still the same technology. Revolvers alway use bullets you’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t
you don’t have to muzzle load them because that would be a lot of
hassle and one of the main differences between a revolver and some of the other
guns even some more modern firearms is that you don’t have the traditional
parts of traditional parts of a gun is always the lock stock and the barrel, as
you may have heard from the film ,whereas with a revolver almost everything apart
from inlay is metal. So apart from more modern repeating firearms a revolver is the only gun that allows you to shoot more than one round before you need to
reload. This is a traditional five-shot revolver which means you can get five
shots off before you need to reload with bullets. So we’ve collected for various reasons here at the Museum. Because we’re not a
military museum we’re not always interested in the actual technology it’s
almost a kind of by-product but what we are interested in is that it can tell us
something about the time and the people and the culture where it came from so
like this revolver we have and some of our items have been collected purely for
the decorative reasons so our beautiful flintlock we saw earlier has many
decorative qualities that for example our Islamic curators would be very
interested in to see the filigree work and the inlay and the decoration on the
the stock. It’s the same with some of the items behind me
you know the beautiful inlaid mother-of-pearl and all the other kind
of demeaning these are beautiful traits that you find through a lot of other
metalwork and a lot of other items so the reason we’ve collected them is
because they are beautiful and beautiful examples to add to our collection. I really hope you’ve enjoyed your time down here in the gun store with me. We’ve looked at five different firearms and I you’ve enjoyed every single one I picked for you. On behalf of myself and Jeff we’d like to thank you, in advance. If you’d like to watch more videos, just look under Jeff’s feet.

100 thoughts on “Wendy’s Top Five Guns I Curator’s Corner Season 5 Episode 4

  • Matchlocks were used pretty extensively by Oda Nobunaga in Japan and General Qi Jiguang in China in the mid-16th century, from technology introduced by the Portuguese, although they didn't totally supplant the earlier style firearms in northern China until the Qing conquest of Mongolia. There is some textual evidence that the matchlock arquebuses used by Qi Jiguang's troops were in some ways superior to the weapons encountered by the British in the early 19th-century opium war, but it is also suggested that early 19th-century coastal troops, especially the Green Standard (constabulary) troops the British encountered, were not well equipped compared to troops elsewhere in China.

  • Hudreds of guns from hundreds of years and these 5 guns are the ones you pick to show us ? Nothing personal to the nice young woman but these must be the 6 most boring guns in the entire collection ………. Not only was the technology boring but there was no history on the guns or nothing interesting anyway ………
    Example of a better choice – This fire breathing gun was the very first gun used in the year 1640 by King Alaba in the Meccan war creating new nation state of Saudi Arabia …..

  • And for a really jaw-dropping arms and armor collection, if you ever get a chance, visit the Tower of London. I was only supposed to be there for a couple hours; ended up spending an entire day.

  • Slightly misleading description of how the muzzle loaders fired. The spark doesn't travel down the touch hole and the match doesn't ignite the main charge.

    They actually light a secondary charge which is in the pan…the bit just below the flint striking plate and where the match actually touches. That catches fire and burns through the touch hole and that ignites the main charge.

    When it doesn't work the secondary lights but doesn't burn through to the main charge….which is where we get flash in the pan expression from.

    Wendy also doesn't mention there is a firing delay with these. From igniting secondary charge to firing can be a second or two delay….which makes clay pigeon shooting much trickier 🙂

  • "Revolver is the only fjrearm that allows you to shoot more than one round before having to reload"… Not really, heard of a derringer? Or if you call a shogun a firearm, how about an over and under or side by side?

  • I would hope the other employees at the museum are more competent than her! I guess she can't be blamed though, since firearms are icky scary devil sticks in her castrated country

  • what is it with you curators of antiquities…is red hair symptomatic…the Belgium 'fabrique national'..is it a copy or made in Europe under licence?👜💣☣

  • Rifles, can’t prove it but I bet the two matchlocks were not rifled. Fusil-fowling piece- musket- arqubus? Maybe but not rifle.

  • Clever form of gun control, manufacture all guns with gemstones encrusted in them. Nobody will want to fire them in fear of loosing them.

  • “I am not a curator … I am a collections manager.”
    I’d like to know the difference between a curator and a collections manager (at the British Museum).

  • Actually, black powder revolvers do not use bullets, they are loaded at each chamber. You should do a little research on American Civil War and early Western pistols or pistols from The British Raj period.

  • Good presentation, however, weapons made the History. All weapons can be considered mass destruction weapons. How many Brits died to the Assegai?

  • Ha! Manager for museum. Should know intricate detail of possessions. Gets 30% of it wrong! Average Yank got the ‘bullet’ point list out correcting her down to the finest minutia of detail. Looks like they should be giving this chat.

  • quite the informative video , however several inaccuracies regarding multi shot weapons, would love to see some in more depth, l'd love to see what Ian McCollum would make of them , they should invite him along….

  • Uh, I have most definitely shot a muzzleloading revolver.

    I am really hoping that I heard wrong, and she didn't say that they dont exist.

  • I am here to welcome our American comrades, which i'm sure should be getting their recommendations adjusted as we speak

  • Thank u
    Fire arms
    and u have antiques that can still put a hole in u
    That means the maker was very talented to me

  • Yes I enjoyed your video I only have limited knowledge of firing mechanisms
    But u gave studious detailed account of it’s operation
    Thank u
    And guns elaborately incrusted with jewels stones and gold need to be preserved for their beauty if they can be fired that’s the extra

  • "…revolvers were the first guns that let you shoot more than one round before you reload."
    Wow, she really doesn't know anything about forearms.

  • Dear British Museum:


    These others are real nice – and bright, BUT IRVING IS THE MAN!

    Hurry would ya?

    Thank You,

  • @10:33 Poor "Jeff," standing around for the entire video, and couldn't get a word in edgewise… [he did seem to perk up when Wendy was displaying the Albanian flintlock]

  • Thank you Wendy for showing us these items from the vaults. Please show us more, sometime, but may I suggest, restrict your comment to dates and places. I can tell that you are a bit out of your depth on the technical side – but do show us anyway! Some of the stuff in museum back rooms hardly ever gets seen. by the public which is a great pity. Mind you, there seems to be a fair bit of confusion among your commenters too… Here's a few points which might help.
    Most modern small arms use what is called fixed ammunition – projectile, propellant and igniter all fixed together in a single handy package thus enabling a much higher sustained rate of fiire. Muzzle loaders initially used loose powder and ball which were inserted from the muzzle along with one or more wads or a cloth patch wrapped round the ball in order to get a better seal. The ignition source was usually on the outside of the gun – slow match, some sort of friction fire lock or percussion cap. Military musketry advanced to the point of using pre measured charges of powder wrapped up in (cartridge) paper together with a ball. It reduced wastage and rigorous drill enabled a higher rate of fire than messing about with powder horns etc. Their lubrication provided the tinder from which the Indian Mutiny took off
    FWIW in the uk, like it or not, cap and ball revolvers are legally classed as muzzle loaders and that is why they are one of the few types of handguns we are still permitted to own so I'll thank you not to argue the point too loudly. Again, before the introduction of metallic ammunition cartridges were sometimes made by wrapping powder in tissue paper specially treated to burn fast and without residue (Think Rizla!). These often used a conical bullet rather than a ball. It is not illegal to do this today – the ignition source is still separate – but opinions I have read suggest that loose loading is more accurate.

  • A lot of misinformation here ! "Pepperpot" or "pepperbox" revolvers were muzzle-loading revolvers, and there were many multiple-shot firearms before revolvers – guns with multiple barrels or super-imposed charges. The matchlock and flintlock sections were misleading by the omission of reference to priming the pans- the match or spark doesn't directly ignite the main charge, One would expect the British Museum to produce a better quality video than this, even if their main interest is only the superficial look of the weapons

  • I think that deactivation is abhorrent. You are destroying something, so that it can't be used to rob banks mentality is just retarded.
    These guns should be kept operational or restored to an operational state where they can be researched properly.
    If any of them can be fired with an original loading and projectile then this needs to be filmed in hi def and slow motion.
    Numbers need to be taken for ballistics, accuracy and operation.

  • Rick from Pawn Stars would offer $500 for the collection.

    ‘I’m taking a risk here. Also, they need to be framed and that ain’t cheap’

  • Looks like Wendy needs a little coaching from Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons, (or were the errors deliberate viewer engagement?)

  • You can't do middle Eastern firearms without the classic – a poorly made, locally produced AKM, covered in rust. Extra points for the rifling being gone completely, key parts missing and/or broken (especially if the rear trunnion is mostly gone, and a bunch of rags are stuffed in there instead), absurd local design features like a vertical foregrip in such a position that the magazines can't be easily inserted, etc. That is THE classic middle Eastern firearm, and no collection of firearms from the region is complete without one.

  • (sigh) None of those would even require paperwork to own here in the US. You could literally buy them through the mail. Sad what has become of the mighty British Empire. Now you won't even sell eggs or flour to anyone under 16, for fear that they will get in trouble with them.

  • Wendy, your description and knowledge of Firearms and De Ac law are clear and simple, a lot more informed than some of those who 'Officaily' interact with the public. Go on you know you want to try the flintlock. How can members of the public get to see the collection?

  • I'd suspect that Albanian Flintlock was bedazzled after it had been used which would account for residue in the barrel.

  • Are those two matchlocks really "rifles" given that I assume they are almost def smooth bore and not 'rifled' ie)have grooves lining the barrel to impart spin to the projectile. Just curious.

  • The British empire developed and used some pretty iconic fire arms…Brown Bess, Martini Henry, Lee Metfords, Enfields, M1913, Webly revolvers, Stein gun….not to mention the civilian hunting masterpieces like Holland and Hollands, Rigbys, Greeners…the old ‘stopping rifles’ for dangerous game. How sad is it that THE BRITISH MUSEM has only 135 firearms in its collection…Mostly for ‘decorative purposes’. Doesn’t take much to see an agenda there.

  • Dear Lord. Of all the beautiful guns ever made and you have these. I dig, they're curios, and that's about it. I hope the British Museum corrects their course, if this is their course. A Brown Bess beats any of these, save the shitty Belgian SW copy. Stop being apologetic.

  • Very interesting and informative. Another film on the same theme that you might enjoy is 'Naked Nuns with big guns'.

  • I've been to the British museum (free admission btw) and expected better from a custodian of firearms. True, the museum's collection is small but Wendy's lack of knowledge is disappointing…to say the least.

  • 1/2. "Matchlock 'Rifles"!?: I have heard of "Muskets" that typically didn't have rifling grooves in the barrel, such as the ones shown.
    3. Flintlock: That Albanian "bedazzled" firearm is worth more in the royal treasury than the armory, fired or not.
    4. Fairly Odd: An "African shotgun" made of modern hardware store parts?
    5. Revolver: Belgian copy of a Smith & Wesson cartridge revolver. (1840's Muzzle loading Colt revolvers aren't found in the Middle East?)
    **"Mae Winchester" of C&Rsenal wouldn't have made as many mis-statements as this British Museum Middle Eastern collection curator.

  • Poor guns, I bet the bores are completely rusted out. When you describe guns as being deadly they are only as deadly as the fool using them. I aim to keep what little gun culture we have in the UK alive and describing inert guns as deadly does not do our sport any favours.

    The third gun is most likely an improvised gun, this is actually still common in Africa today, they are often very crude and some indeed are muzzle loaders, must be easier to get your hands on propellant than it is to get bullets, muzzle loaders will shoot just about anything and given the guns they will be building are smooth bore as they will not have access to the technology which allows them to make rifled barrels they could load anything from nails, rocks, nuts and bolts. They are often used to hunt creatures like Elephants for their ivory which can then be sold on the black market.

    The revolver could possibly be a large bore stopping revolver, I don't know the caliber. Basically if your in a jungle or on the plains of Africa and something big is coming at you, you better have something big to stop that thing coming at you.

  • you brittards cant own weapons why have a museum for guns lmao. i guess its to be expected of subservant people…i mean germany owns you all and runs your laws soooo theres that funny thing…..bend the knee slaves lmao

  • I do it with bare hands. It's more fun. The skin touch is awesome. ROFLMAO

    I mean I don't like guns. But I can do it with hands. They call me Picasso. ROFLMAO

    Fk off punjabi.

  • Always a hoot to watch these, there were black powder revolvers that required each cylinder to be reloaded from the front and did not use "bullets" by which she means rounds.

  • 2:30 well I apologize for being sexist. I thought when she said rifles that she was simply referring to the length of the guns and it wasn't until 3:35 that I saw the upper one was actually rifled.

  • "ooh, watch me not sparkle" is even funnier when you realise the amount of time it would have taken to construct the flint lock. 😂 😂 😂 😂.

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