The matchlock trigger was the first significant evolution from cannon lock - and arguably the first true trigger mechanism. Pretty much an exclusively small arms technology the match lock solved the problem of needing three hands to operate a cannon lock by adding a little metal arm to hold a piece of burning slow match and a lever, conveniently placed for one of the hands that held the gun, to raise and lower it with.
The user could thus use his hands (and frequently a monopod rest as well) to hold the gun securely in place and then, when ready to fire, he could work the lever (or "trigger" in today's parlance) and the metal arm would bring the burning match down in contact with the propellant, firing the weapon. Usually.
This was unquestionably an improvement over cannon lock (as far as small arms were concerned - for heavy weapons and ordnance it was less significant) but it still had its drawbacks - for a start, you still had to carry a length of burning slow match and/or a firepot to light it from around with you1 - and, more importantly, with your loose black powder… The match in its holder was also vulnerable to being put out by the weather and needed to be constantly adjusted as it burnt down.
There was also an amusing delay between pulling the trigger and the weapon actually firing, which made firing at a mobile target something of an art form. Most of these bugs wouldn't start being ironed out until the introduction of later technologies such as wheellock and flintlock.
Game and Story Use
- If your RPG system doesn't severely penalise matchlock in most fields relative to self-sparking designs, and yet give it a considerable bonus over cannon lock, it's probably doing something wrong.
I have, Pro tem, preserved Quark's note to the original C&P'er of this page, since it remains true:
[quark here: This page as originally posted was simply a cut-n-paste from Wikipedia. That's not what we do here. Summaries of information acquired from other sources are cool; so are paraphrases; but wholesale duplication of text from other people is not.
If the original anonymous poster would like to rework his entry to put it into his own words, he is welcome to do so and more power to him; or if anyone else would like to take a stab at it, go right ahead.
And keep in mind, please, that this site is not just a compendium of encyclopedic information. Heck, Wikipedia already does that far better than we could. What we want to do here is grab factoids, fancies and fabrications and put them to use in a gaming context.]