Heritage, 2009, Volume 2 Page: 9
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he early 18th century was a period of tremendous advancement in the technology of firearms.
The most significant discovery was made by Alexander Forsyth, a Scottish minister, who
developed the percussion cap ignition for firearms. Before this leap of technology, guns were
ignited by either a burning fuse or flint-striking steel and creating a spark. Both these systems
were very cumbersome and unreliable, and most importantly, neither was waterproof. The percussion
cap, on the other hand, simply had to be struck by a hammer blow that would cause a spark, igniting
the powder in the barrel; when properly used, the cap was fairly waterproof. The percussion cap was a
simple copper cap with mercury fulminate (an explosive) in the base, which when struck on a hollow
nipple, would produce a spark, much like the modern cap pistol. The nipple would be threaded into the
base of the barrel, allowing the spark to ignite the charge. This percussion ignition system revolutionized
firearms development and made possible numerous advances in design that rendered guns simpler and
O ', T r J
Above: Various percussion caps with nipple. Right, top: Spanish escopeta and, right,
below, pistol, used by troops in New Spain.
Texas was just coming of age when these developments took
place. Mexico had won independence from Spain in 1822,
and by 1835 Texas was ready to fight for independence from
Mexico. These events were to change the world and were
paralleled by the development of the first successful repeat-
The only guns present in Tejas/Coahuila in the 16th
and 17th centuries were the flintlock escopetas and pistolas of
the Spanish troops. These were smooth-bore weapons, much
like a shotgun, which had to be re-loaded after each shot and
were only accurate at close range.
The Indians of the Tejas plains proved to be tough opponents
for the Spanish soldados (soldiers). The military was at a distinct
disadvantage, especially when they were fighting against Coman-
che and Kiowa warriors, thought to be the finest light cavalry of
An Indian armed with a bow could fire five to 10 arrows in
the time it took a soldier to reload his gun. In effect, the Co-
manche had a "repeater." He could hold a bow and five arrows
in his hand and fire repeatedly from horseback.
VThe first Anglo settlers of Texas were also armed with single-
shot flintlock guns such as the famous Kentucky rifle. These
guns were the product of Eastern gun makers and were quite
accurate at a distance of 200-300 yards. The inside of the rifle
barrel was cut with spiral grooves. When the gun was shot, the
grooves imparted a spin on the ball and caused it to fly in a
HERITAGE Volume 2 2009
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2009, Volume 2, periodical, 2009; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254213/m1/9/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.