This seventeenth-century Italian folding-stock snaphance bears a tapered barrel signed by Giovanni Batt Dafino with an elegantly scalloped lock made by Claudio Beretta, and was made around 1620.
“Snaphance” arms were forerunners of the flintlock. They produced ignition from sparks struck from the frizzen (the metal arm of a muzzleloader’s lock) by the hammer into the covered pan. The Dutch word snaphaan, which describes the pecking action of a chicken, quickly came to be associated with this type of lock.
The seventeenth century was a turbulent period in Europe; any lightweight firearm that could be folded neatly into a compact size would have had many uses. This snaphance fowling piece has a hinged buttstock that can be folded quickly at the press of a button on the wrist. Tucked under the concealing folds of a cloak or out of sight under the seat of a coach, this portable smoothbore would have offered personal protection with considerable elegance.
This folding stock fowling piece is currently loaned to the National Firearms Museum by Robert Bonaventure and can be seen daily in the "Old Guns in the New World" gallery near the front of the museum.
The National Firearms Museum, located at NRA Headquarters at 11250 Waples Mill Road, is free to the public; NRA membership is not required. To learn more about the Museum, or to see more beautiful photographs of some of the firearms on display, log on to www.nramuseum.com.