Slow Match
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Basic Information

A form of slow burning cord used as a source of ignition for early firearms and cannon - particularly those operating by cannon lock or matchlock - and as a general port-fire for pretty mutch everything else until reliable friction matches became available.

The match cord was generally manufactured by impregnating hemp or flax cord with saltpeter (potassium nitrate) or some similar compound.

Good slow match was reckoned to burn at about a foot an hour - depending on climatic conditions. The British Army estimated that a single soldier on guard duty, for one year, could use an entire mile worth of match cord.

Not to be confused with fuse match, which was a very different beast.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Until the advent of the friction match, this was a critical military store (although wheellock and flintlock mechanisms made it less vital than it had been).
  • Part of being a professional soldier in the matchlock era was knowing how to look after your match - both stopping it from going out and stopping it igniting your supply of black powder.
  • Obviously, this is also your default pre-modern delay timer - you measure off a foot of match per hour (or fractions thereof), tie it onto the fuse for your charge and light the other end. You then know (roughly) how long you have before the charge fires … assuming the match burns evenly and doesn't go out. For real accuracy, you may want to burn a test length first and time it but you still may be looking at an error of a minute or two, especially on longer trains. Obviously you need to lay or hang the match straight - coil it and the flame will jump ahead but hanging it in a breeze stands a good chance of making it burn much faster and laying it on the ground increases the chances of it going out…
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