chapter  3
3 Pages

History of Ignition Systems

WithJames Smyth Wallace

Ignition of the propellant was a major problem from the introduction of gunpowder in the early fourteenth century until the development of a percussion primer by a Scottish clergyman, the Reverend Alexander John Forsyth, in 1805. The first means of igniting the propellant was by placing a glowing twig or a hot wire into a touch hole at the rear of the barrel where it came into contact with the propellant. The powder in the pan was ignited by the glowing match end and the flame was passed through a small barrel vent to ignite the main propellant charge. This was a major improvement in ignition systems, as the time of discharge closely coincided with the pull of a trigger. The next major improvement in ignition systems was the wheel lock. It worked in the same way as the matchlock by conveying the flame from the gunpowder in the flashpan through a barrel vent to ignite the main propellant charge.