Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Artillery - Portugal (1), Museu Militar de Lisboa (Portuguese Army Military Museum of Lisbon)

Artillery in Portugal (Part 1)

Museu Militar de Lisboa (Portuguese Army Military Museum of Lisbon)

Data current to 12 Dec 2019.

The aim of this website is to locate, identify and document every historical piece of artillery preserved in Portugal.  Many contributors have assisted in the hunt for these guns to provide and update the data found on these web pages.  Photos are by the author unless otherwise credited.  Any errors found here are by the author, and any additions, corrections or amendments to this list of Guns and Artillery in Portugal would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at

Artillery and Military Museum Artifacts, Lisbon, Portugal

Artillery on display in Lisbon - a short history

Artillery is the Army’s way of “reaching out and touching someone” in support of the Combat Arms Family in the Field of Battle.  Over the years it has been moved by hand, horse and vehicle, mounted on ships and aircraft and generally made itself useful in ways most appreciated by those on the protecting end of it, and of course least appreciated by the recipients of its lethal effects.  Gunners serve them, most often in batteries of three guns or more, with the guns either towed or self-propelled.  Towed guns have been used primarily to defend a fixed line of defence, while self-propelled guns are designed to provide continuous fire support while accompanying a mobile attack force.

The earliest forms of artillery were engines of war such as the catapult, onager, trebuchet and ballista.  The first documented use of gunpowder took place on a battlefield in China on 28 Jan 1132.  The invention found its way into the Middle East and reached Europe in the 13th century.  Most of the early firearms and pieces of artillery were muzzle loaded, with breech-loaders, while crude and dangerous, followed as ways to improve their use were developed.

In 1415 the Portuguese invaded the Mediterrannean port town of Ceuta, and set up bombardas, colebratas and falconetes to defend it.  In 1419 Sultan Abu Sa’ud brought cannon with him to retake the city.  Artillery was in use in Europe during the Hundred Years’ War, and between 1420 and 1430 artillery technology grew to have the power to knock down the walls of strongholds and fortresses.  The army of Mehmet the Conquerer used artillery in its conquest of Constantinople in 1453, dragging 69 guns in 15 separate batteries with them to blast the walls of the city.  The barrage of Ottoman gun fire lasted 40 days and it is estimated some 19,320 rounds were fired on the city.  Mehmet’s bronze guns breached the city’s walls which led to the end of the Byzantine Empire.

Bombards were large smoothbore weapons primarily used in sieges.  Often they were made of metal staves or rods bound together with hoops, giving them a barrel-like appearance, thus the name “gun barrel”.  Cannon were guns developed in the 15th century with a dedicated field carriage, usually horse-drawn, while the gun barrels were reduced in size and weight as technology improved.  Trunnions were added to the side of the gun, becoming an integral part of the casting process and allowing the barrel to be attached to a more moveable base and easily elevated.

Shot and powder were combined into a form of fabric bag or cartridge in the 1620s, speeding the loading of guns and greatly improving their safe operation.  Shells, which were explosive-filled fuzed projectiles were also developed in the 17th century.  Development of artillery for use on ships as well as various forms of howitzers and mortars quickly followed.  Over time, the guns became smaller, lighter and more effective at longer ranges.  Modern breech-loading artillery was developed in the 19th century.  Rifled guns with improved range and accuracy came into the battle lines.  Recoil mechanisms were added, which allowed a gun to return to its firing position without having to be moved.  With improved range and elevation, indirect fire became a significant part of the process of dominating a battlefield.

Artillery use in Canada has been primarily based in its early years on French equipment – Jacques Cartier is documented as firing his ships guns to ward off Micmac warriors in the Bay of Chaleur in 1534.  Following the English conquest of New France in 1758, British equipment has been the mainstay of artillery in service in British North America.  With the Confederation of the provinces to form Canada in 1867, most of the guns in service with the Canadian Militia and later the Canadian Army have been British or American, occasionally supplemented with weapons from other European nations such as Sweden, France, Germany and Italy to the present day. 

There are many separate artillery histories for the development of guns by nations in their preparations for war.  The photos of historical guns found in Lisbon, Portugal, presented here should give the reader some idea of the vast number of incremental developments of smoothbore muzzle-loading artillery and later rifled breech-loaders that have had to unfold to reach the level of technology available to us today. 


Artillery and Military Museum Artifacts in Lisbon

Cast Iron Mortar, No. 75, 9070, guarding the front entrance to the museum.

Museu Militar de Lisboa (Portuguese Army Military Museum of Lisbon)

The Museu Militar (Military Museum) located at Largo do Museu da Artilharia in Lisbon, stands on the site of a 16th-century shipyard.  The collection of ancient and modern artillery pieces and military artefacts in this museum is reported to be one of the world’s largest and most extensive displays of guns, pistols and swords, including 14th century cannon and Vasco da Gama's sword.  

This is the largest Army museum in Portugal.  Construction began in 1842 and there are now 34 exhibit rooms presenting the evolution of weapons and military artifacts, along with military illustrations in tiles, painting, and sculpture from the18th to the 21st centuries.  Medieval armour is on display, along with early land and naval artillery and the military history of the Portuguese forces from the French invasion to the First World War, as well as elements of the African campaigns between the end  of the 19th century and 1974.

Some of the rooms have rich Baroque decoration, large spreads of tiles portraying battle scenes, and paintings on military themes. The first two rooms on the right of the main staircase are devoted to the Napoleonic invasions, the Vasco da Gama Room has murals depicting the discovery of the sea route to India, and the first floor displays First World War exhibits.

On display in the Portuguese artillery section is the wagon used to transport the triumphal arch to Comercio Square, and outside is a large courtyard flanked by cannons telling the story of Portugal in tiled panels, from the Christian Reconquest to the First World War.

Bronze smoothbore breech-loading swivel gun, heavily ornamented, possibly 15th or 16th century, on display on the staircase.  Invented in the 14th century, the  breech-loading swivel gun was equipped with a swivel for easy rotation and was loaded by inserting a mug-shaped device called a chamber, filled with gunpowder and projectiles. It had a high rate of fire, as several chambers could be prepared in advance and quickly fired in succession and was especially effective in anti-personnel roles.  It was used for centuries by many countries of Europe, Asia and Africa.

These guns have been called by many names, sometimes "Murderer" in English, "Perrier à boîte" in French, "Berços" in Portuguese, "Versos" in Spanish, "Stangenbüchse" in German, "Folangji" ("Frankish gun") in Chinese, "Bulang-kipo" in Korean,"Furanki" ("Frankish gun") or ("Child cannon") in Japanese, and "Cetbang" in Javanese.  Some of them were used until the 20th century.

Wrought iron smoothbore breech-loading swivel gun with reinforcing bands around the barrel, cast in Portugal, ca 15th century.  Used on ships, throwing a stone or iron ball.   During the Middle-Ages, breech-loading swivel guns were developed surprisingly early, and were used from 1336 onward by the Europeans also partly as a cheaper alternative to the very expensive bronze cast muzzle-loading guns, as bronze was many times more expensive than iron.  As cast iron was not yet technologically feasible for the Europeans, the only possibility was to use wrought iron bars hammered together and held with hoops like barrels.  With this method, a one piece design was very difficult, and a fragmental structure, with separated chamber and barrel was then selected.

Wrought iron smoothbore breech-loading swivel gun with reinforcing bands around the barrel, cast in Portugal, ca 15th century.  Used on ships, throwing a stone or iron ball.  

Although this type of gun has always been thought to be quite early, some work Kay Smith Brown did a few years ago shows that they were actually made from the late 16th century and through the 17th century.  They were made all over Europe though, from the evidence we have at the moment, they appear to be a northern European speciality.  A very similar gun, with a cast bronze barrel, and called a pertriera a braga or a musquet de braga, were a speciality of southern Europe, especially Italy.  Do note that  museum catalogues, especially old ones, are not always accurate and it is the work from modern work derived from nautical archaeology that has allowed us to be accurate about their dating.

They are not cast but built up from components made from wrought iron and have a very complex design so that, although they look simple (and to some eyes, crude) they are very sophisticated.  Wrought-iron guns were actually used throughout Europe until the first decade of the 18th century.

They are, in English sources, called murderers, and were used as anti-personnel weapons especially on ships.  Before the 
20th century the aim of ship warfare was to kill the crew and capture the ship, not sink it - it was worth a fortune in bounty. Anti-personnel weapons were an important part of a ship's armament.  For chapter and verse see Kay Smith Brown's article ‘Wrought-iron swivel guns’.  In M Bound (ed) The Archaeology of Ships of War. Oswestry, 1995.
It is still a very important and a very early piece in North America.  Incidentally there is a similar gun in the Met in New York and one in the Stewart Museum in Montreal.

Bronze smoothbore breech-loading swivel gun, ornamented with shields and crests, possibly 15th or 16th century.

Bronze smoothbore breech-loading swivel gun, possibly 15th or 16th century.

Wrought iron 5.5-cm Berço smoothbore breechloading gun, cast in Portugal in the 15th or 16th century.  This gun was used both on land and at sea.  It is 162 cm long with a bore length of 67 cm, and throws a .45kg (1 lb) stone ball or .67 kg (1.5 lb) lead ball.

Bronze 8-cm Berço smoothbore breechloading swivel gun, cast in Portugal in the 17th century.  This gun was used on ships at sea.  It is 160 cm long with a barrel length of 76 cm, and throws a 1.4 kg (3 lb) iron ball or .45 kg (1 lb) stone ball.

The first handguns made in Portugal were simple and easy to manufacture in small workshops.  These early firearms were constructed in the form of hand cannons, swivel guns, trons and bombards.  The first time firearms were used in Portugal took place in 1381 in the defence of Lisbon against a Castilian invasion fleet.  Initially, gunpowder was imported from other countries, but the King of Portugal wanted the country to take care of its own needs and to not be dependent on outside agencies.  The transition to self-sufficiency was not swift, nor swift.  The technique of casting of iron was in its early stages, and the manufacture of gunpowder was complex and dangerous, requiring the import of sulfur and saltpeter.  The earliest guns made were heavy, slow to put into action and dangerous.

Two letters from King Afonso V of 1442 and 1443 are known, granting authority to manufacture gunpowder, to priests serving Afonso Vasques.  They were named the following year as "the chief master(s) of making saltpeter and gunpowder". In 1470, another letter from D. Afonso V, was sent to the procurators of gunpowder, the masters of the city of Lisbon, in which it was forbidden to collect and keep gunpowder in houses and warehouses, directing them to keep the volatile substance in a Powder tower.  Clearly, the making of gunpowder had progressed to the point that, although there was not yet a royal industry of arms and gunpowder, private workshops must have achieved some development, as can be seen from the prohibition which was issued to prevent accidental explosions from causing death and destruction in urban areas.

King John I issued a law in 1410 that prohibited the importation of weapons and carriages that came from abroad.  This measure was aimed improving the defence of the Kingdom by forcing it to produce its own weapons.  The law applied to both traders and buyers.  Home-built firearms were taken on the expedition of Prince Henry to Tangier in 1437.  His soldiers were armed with a "morass arquebus."  
The earliest form of arquebus had appeared in Europe by 1411 as a hand cannon with a serpentine lever to hold matches.  round 1470 a shoulder stock was added to the arquebus and in 1475 the matchlock mechanism was added, making the arquebus the first firearm to use a trigger.  It is also considered to be the first portable shoulder arms firearm.  Arquebuses were used ain  1472 by the Portuguese at Zamora.
(Rama Photo)
Arquebuses were introduced to Japan in 1543 by Portuguese traders who landed by accident on Tanegashima, an island south of Kyushin By 1550, arquebuses known as tanegashima, were being produced in large numbers in Japan.  The tanegashima seem to have utilized snap matchlocks based on firearms from Goa, India, which was captured by the Portuguese in 1510.  (Rainer Daehnhardt (1994). The bewitched gun: the introduction of the firearm in the Far East by the Portuguese, p. 26).
Gunmaking in Portugal gained significant importance in the 15th and 16th centuries, primarily due to the efforts of Prince Henry the Navigator, a son of King John I of Portugal.  Along with his wife. Felip of Lancaster (the granddaughter of King Edward III of England), he built a college for navation in Sagres, which taught generations of discoverers who opened a complete new world to old Europe.  Prince Henry's desire to learn was so immense at he sent friends all over Europe to bring back as much knowledge as possible about various fields, including astronomy, navigation, shipbuilding and many things of educational or scientific value.  As a result, he managed to acquire a remarkable collection of early mnaps and manuscripts. Among these was the original manuscript written by Marco Polo, concerning his travels to the Far East.  This manuscript was presented to Prince Henry's brother by the town of Venice.  By the middle of the 15th century, the school of Sagres included not only courses in map reading, navigation, shipbuilding and sailing, but also courses in astrology, cosmography and meteorology.  Prince Henry accepted many foreigners as instructors and these teachers, many of whom were specialists in various fields, bringing together the highest level of collected and applied wisdom of seafare in his time.  Many fleets were equipped and sent out by him in different directions just to complete his knowledge about the blank parts of his maps.  His ships discovered all the East Coast of Africa, as well as the Azores, Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands.  The ships of Prince Henry were often engaged in battles against Moorish vessels.  Prince Henry therefore equipped his ships for naval warfare.  His ships were always outnumbered by the enemy, therefore he crewed them with well trained men who were soldiers as well as sailors.  This was relatively unusual for that period.  Prince Henry died in the middle of his work in 1460, but his instructions continued in force for a very long time in both Lisbon and Sagres.  As a result of this, most people today hold the Portuguese navigators responsible for the discovery of much of our world.  It is still generally unknown, however, that the main strength which made this possible was attributed to the advanced technical navigational knowledge with which these Portuguese navigators were equipped.  It may be accurately stated that the equipment of Prince Henry's navy, and that of his followers in the next century, was about 70 years ahead of most of the other nations.  This tremendous advance helped to build up the naval connections, worldwide, which belonged to Portugal until 1580.  (American Society of Arms Collectors bulletin 37:1-8).
Until the beginning of the 15th century, nobody ever thought of firing a heavy cannon from a ship. It was generally believed that the ship would turn over at once - so nobody even tried. As the shooting of burning arrows, crossbow bolts or short range hand guns was the common start of a naval battle before the boarding from one ship to another, it was quite a surprise when Prince Henry's ships were suddenly equipped with heavy artillery. The result was the defeat of most enemy ships before they even got in range to use their crossbows or catapult war machines. At the end of the 15th century, the King of Portugal, Manuel I, gave the order for the manufacture of very large bronze breech loading cannons. Many of his ships were equipped with these early breech loaders, each of which carried twenty already loaded, separate breech chambers. A contemporary letter of the gun founder to King Manuel labeled the king as being the inventor of this system. The letter, which was very flattering to the king, showed the good results obtained. It goes without saying, the king was most interested in these new breech loaders, and gave his full support for their manufacture. By the year 1500, the Portuguese ships were up to 80% equipped with large bronze breech loaders, several of them are still in existence, and many may be found by divers. The main advantage of the breech loaders was not only the speed of sequence of firing, but also as it avoided the long guns to be loaded from the outside of the border of the ship. In 15th century vessels, there was no space to recoil the guns for loading and the men who had to do the job were dangerously exposed to enemy bullets and arrows during the loading procedure. So the large breech loaders saved both time and men. This difference of equipment does not seem very important today, but in its time it meant a tremendous advantage for the Portuguese navigators. This gave them the courage to fight and win against enemy forces ten times their superior. The Lisbon arsenal, one of the largest of the time, was not only a depot of imported weapons, but was, since its early beginnings, a technical school for high quality army equipment. Manuscripts reveal the existence of German, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish masters of the art of gunfounding and barrel forging. Foreign gunmakers wishing work in Lisbon, enjoyed special privileges such as large tax reductions. In the early 16th century, the German artillerymen in Lisbon were so large in number that they formed and organized the Brotherhood of Saint Bartholomeus, for which they erected their own church. This church is still in existence today. In the Battle of Alcacer-Quibir, 1578, some 3000 German artillery men lost their lives fighting for the King of Portugal.
Many of the earliest Portuguese gunmakers know were of foreign origin.  Some them include: 1443 JOHANNES HANS, German; 1451 ALFONS HANS, German; 1472 MARTIN HANS, German; 1542 JOAO DE CAVIANE, Italian; 1543 FRANCOIS DE BELIANTE, French; 1558 HEINRICH LAMBERT, German; 1572 HENRY DE BRUXELLES, Flemish; 1575 JACQUES SIMON, French.   Unfortunately, no lists of these early gunmakers survive. Their names are found in old church court registers where sometimes their professions are mentioned. King Manuel I (1495-1521) not only gave privileges to foreigners, but also offered them very high payments just to settle their workshops in Lisbon.  This, there are many German book printing offices, watch makers and gunmakers in Lisbon in the early 16th century.  Lisbon became rich through the discovery of the route to India. This is attributed to Vasco da Gama in 1498. 

Vasco da Gama statue, on display in the main gallery is some of the oldest artillery preserved in the Military Museum in Lisbon.  Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese navigator and the Captain of the armada that sailed to India on 8 June 1497, arriving in India in mid-1498.

Vasco da Gama's two-handed broadsword, on display in the Military Museum in Lisbon.

Many foreign craftsmen came to serve the King of Portugal and to share in the splendour of a new rising star.  The terrible effect of fanatical persecution by the inquisition in Spain was another reason for many skilled craftsmen to venture to Lisbon.  Many of them were goldsmiths, silversmiths, watchmakers and gunmakers.  In the year 1500, the population of Portugal numbered 1.5 million.  Eighty years later this number went down 1.2 million. The missing 300,000 represented that part the population which left old Europe and settled through out the Portuguese-discovered islands in the Atlantic, Brazil, Africa and Asia. All these pioneers were equipped with weapons.  From Brazil to Japan, everywhere the Portuguese went, they built missionary and commercial exchange points, usually always defended by a fortress. 
The age of the "Conquistadores" began, but there was a significant difference between the Spanish and the Portulese procedure. The Spanish Conquistadores imposed their faith on the natives and fought tremendous battles to conquer them and seizing their gold, killing most of the population in the process. The Portuguese were well aware of how small and outnumbered they were, so they neither imposed their faith nor conqered any countries. They achieved all they needed by trading with merchandise, so most of them were merchants, but not conquerers. Portuguese navigators were the first to introduce firearms to Japan and in Ceylon. They did this by trading the guns for local products and not by killing the population as Cortez and Pizarro did in Mexico and Peru. The tremendous need for firearms in Lisbon could not be satisfied by local production, so very large quantities of firearms were imported, mostly from Bohemia.  There are bills-of-sale in existence from the early 16th century, showing the acquisition of many thousands of matchlock muskets from Bohemia.  As some of these were traded by the Portuguese in Japan and Ceylon, we find that all Japanesese and Singhalese matchlock guns are copies of those Bohemian snap-matchlock muskets used by the Portugese.  In Turkey, Persia, Arabia, and in India, firearms were in use before the arrival of the Portuguese who had to fight against them.  The Turkish and Indian matchlock guns are copies of an earlier model of the European matchlock.  These were in use in Germany ca 1470 and worked in a different way.  There are many disadvantages using a matchlock in battle, and thus a true firelock was necessary to ignite the charge quickly, whenever needed.
Much has been written about Leonardo da Vinci's invention of the wheel lock.  The wheel lock has an effective ignition system, but it is also a normal evolution to weapon development and not the result of sudden genius.  Different systems of lighters or firestrikers were commonly known and used in the late 15th century.  Depending on easily available stone or flint, most central European countries used a wheel scratching on pyrite.  In the Iberian Peninsula, because of the available very strong Iberian flint, they built the wepaon's firing movement on a steel striker grinding against a piece of flint . There was no pyrite to be found in Portugal. The firing procedure consisted of lighting the fire by holding a  match with a flat piece of flint on top with the left hand, while striking against it with a steel ring with a long flat surface.  This was held by two fingers of the right hand.  One can see the evolution of this commonly used mechanism, with the eventual inversion of the movements, i.e., the flint strikes the steel.  If you have a snap-matchlock, ca 1530, which has a strong spring, and place an Iberian flint in the jaws of the cock instead of a match, you get sparks enough to ignite the charge just by letting the cock hit the flint in the pan. This proved successful during repeated testing.  This mechanism is considered, therefore, to be the earliest form of all flintlocks.  This snap-matchlock, by adding a steel to the pan cover, becomes, in reality, an actual flintlock.  It is difficult to confirm whether the flintlock came first, or if it was the wheel lock.  Both appear to be contemporary.  The snaphance lock was not used in Portugal. 
A fairly large collection of early manuscripts, show the existence of a flint ignition system in 16th century Portugal.  Several of these documents, which quite distinctively speak about flintlocks (Espingardas De Pederneira), in comparison to matchlocks (De Mecha), or wheel locks (De Roda, De Corda Oiz De Rodete), are dated: 1548, 1555, 1556, 1562, and 1578.  The earliest flintlock found in Portugal is a long holster pistol made in the Lisbon arsenal between 1530 and 1550.  The word "pistol" was not in use at this time.  A rare manuscript from that era describes the weapon as, "A tiny arquebus to be carried in a sleeve or small saddle holster."  A pistol of over 20 inches cannot be called "tiny" but in comparison to the heavy arquebus of those days, it may well be called a "tiny arquebus."  The shape of the gun butt is an exact miniature version of the shape of the large gun butt, illustrating the fact that the stockmakers were still in the inventive stage.   The large and cumbersome butts of the long guns were held against the cheek.  The pistol was a small version of the long gun and, therefore, made in the same shape, only smaller in size.  
The shape of the barrel, first octagonal, then round, then octagonal again, is typical for exactly the 16th century.  One huge difference between the early Portuguese flintlocks and other European firearms of this era, is that they are very well made and well finished. High quality workmanship is apparent, demonstrating that early flintlock makers in Portugal were already well advanced in the art of gunmaking. 
The earliest versions of the Portuguese "molinhas" (spring) locks were made until the late 18th century. They all have a "mecha da caxet" which is a special type of sear, very similar to the wheellock sear.  They are equipped with a typical Portuguese "half cock" rest which holds the cock very safely, such that if the gun was dropped on the floor, the cock would not go off. This rest, also called a "travao a Portuguesa" (Portuguese brake), was used in Portugal until the early 20th century.  It is one of the simplest and best safety systems ever invented.  Many of the best guns of the 17th and 18th cenlries were equipped with such locks.  An important book on gunmaking, "Espingarda Perfeyta," (The Perfect Gun), printed in Lisbon in the year 1718 dedicates one chapter and a full page engraving to this type of lock.  This was not the only type of Portuguese flintlock invented in the 16th century.  Another type of Portuguese flintlock, possibly still earlier, appeared in the 16th cenury.  This was called the Anselmo lock, a name ommonly in use regarding this lock in 17th century Portugal.  The invention of it dates back into the very early 16th century.
There  is a certain similarity between several details on Portuguese pistols of the late 16th century and some of the very early English and Scottish pistols.  The large pin which holds the ball-like trigger, the shape of the muzzle, the three screws to hold the lockplate and other features - are all evidence of such similarity.  This influence did not come from England to Portugal. English gunmaking had not yet reached their strength.  This influence came from Portugal to England.  The Spanish Armada which was defeated in battle and storm on the English, Scottish and Irish coasts, was equipped with weapons out of the Lisbon arsenal and most of the ships belonged to the Portuguese-India fleet.  Therefore, thousands of Portuguese weapons fell into English hands in 1588.  This indicates that the gunmaking influence from the European continent to England did not come  just through the Hugenots from France, or through the Netherlands, as is generally believed.  At a certain point, some of the early stages of gunmaking came from Portugal.  When Portugal fell into Spanish hands in 1580, a large part of the Lisbon arsenal was taken away by the Duke of Alba.  He sent the arsenal to Spain where Spanish forces, including those in the Netherlands, were equipped with Portuguese weapons.
Portuguese gunmaking in the 16th century included not just the guns made by Portuguese or foreigners in Portugal.  The Portuguese world of the 16th century had many outposts where guns were needed.  The manufacturing of them started in Lisbon, Sagres and Barcarena and spread all over Portugal.  A law of the early 16th century ordered every free man to have his own musket ready for use, to be able to defend the Portuguese countries against the foreign invasions.  There must have been many hundreds of thousands of muskets and it is likely that each little village had its own gunmaker, or at least a blacksmith able to repair guns.  
The Portuguese built their own arsenals abroad, where they took many of their best gunmakers. Ceuta, Rio, Luanda, Goa and Colombo were among the biggest arsenals in existence.  In addition to the arsenals in Lisbon and Sagres, the Goa arsenal played a special part in Portuguese gunmaking.  Goa, a small kingdom in India, was considered as being something special.  Goa had the best schools and craftsmen in its hemisphere.  Therefore, Goa was continuously at war.  The East was divided into hundreds of little kingdoms and the Portuguese could not become friends with one without immediately becoming an enemy of his enemies.  Knowing this, Portuguese diplomats first tried to find out who the strongest nations were and against whom they fought. The Portuguese navigators went straight into the harbour without showing any fear.  This usually gave quite an impression.  The navigators would then call on the Maharaja or Sultan, offering an abundance of gifts, mainly weapons.  The Oriental way of thinking followed a custom that if someone receives a gift, they must answer with a still greater gift.  As a result, the ships were filled with silks and spices, which afterwards in European ports were converted into fortunes.  In addition, the Portuguese rented their highly trained soldiers to Oriental sovereigns who in turn paid them large amounts of gold for every little victory.  Portuguese soldiers took over India.
The Portuguese had already fought against many Turkish and Indian armies, but no fight was greater than the battle for Goa.  They lost it some weeks afterwards, but later were victorious again.  Goa was equipped with much better weapons than ever found before.  Affonso de Albuquerque, the conquerer of Goa, wrote in his letter to King Manuel I on the 22nd of December, 1510, that "the quality of cannons and muskets which are being made in Goa is so good, far better than ours from Germany", that he sent several examples of this Goese work to the Lisbon arsenal together with some of their leading masters so that they could work in the Lisbon arsenal for the Portuguese king.  In another letter to the king, dated 1513, he mentioned that the Goese gunmakers equip their barrels with screwed-in breeches like those from Bohemia. T hese are different from all other Indian guns, in that all other Indian guns usually have a plugged in and welded breech, which is impossible to take out and therefore difficult to clean.  Goa was not only known for its gunmakers, but still more for its goldsmiths and ivory cutters.  Very soon, there were hundreds of Indian craftsmen working in Portugal and Portuguese were working in Goa.  (Rainer Daehnhardt (1994). The bewitched gun: the introduction of the firearm in the Far East by the Portuguese)
A Portuguese gun foundry located next to the Bom Parto Fortress on Macao in the 1600s, was home to an artillery foundry run by a renowned Portuguese named Manuel Tavares Bocarro, who cast bronze and iron cannon considered to be among the best of their era.  The 17th century weapons produced at the site by Bocarro’s foundry formed the backbone of Macao’s economy,becoming the most famous foundry in the Far East for casting cannon and bells supplied to forts, churches and ships, not only in Macao but also mainland China, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and Malacca.  
“[Macao] has one of the world’s best cannon foundries,” wrote the chronicler Antonio Bocarro in 1635. “It’s where artillery for the whole state [of India] is continually cast, at a very reasonable price.” Similarly, Richard J. Garrett, a Hong Kong-based expert in antique weapons and author of the book The Defences of Macao: Fort, Ships and Weapons Over 450 Years, notes: “The Bocarro cannons were certainly top grade cannons of its time, very good quality ones.”  Along with the guns, Portuguese specialists in military technology were also much in demand. The Ming dynasty Chinese, for example, made at least three trips to Macao to buy cannon and hire Portuguese soldiers to help with the weapons’ operation. The output of the foundry was considerable. In 1641, 200 cannon were sent to Lisbon as a gift to King Joao IV. 
After the failed attack on the city by the Dutch in 1622, the Portuguese Crown appointed its first permanent representative in Macao, Captain-General Dom Francisco de Mascarenhas. He established the city’s gun founding industry in 1623 to produce the guns needed to arm the new hilltop fortress, Fortaleza do Monte, which is the Macao Museum today.  Macao was an ideal place to cast bronze cannon, particularly because it had a good supply of copper from Japan. The other advantage was the island came under the authority of Goa, a Portuguese enclave on the west coast of India that already had cannon foundries.

In 1625, Bocarro took over the Macao foundry. Portuguese experts were sent from Goa to teach Chinese craftsmen the art of gun founding. Bocarro’s foundry produced 73 pieces of artillery to strengthen the hilltop fortress – a formidable orchestra of arms which, coupled with strong fortifications, kept Macao and the Portuguese secure. After the Dutch, no one dared attack Macao again.  Bocarro was a great success, though it came as no surprise – the art of casting cannon was in Bocarro’s blood. His father Pedro Dias and grandfather Francisco Dias were both master founders in Goa. Subsequently, Bocarro’s skill so greatly surpassed his ancestors’ that his guns were treasured not only in Goa and Manila, but in Lisbon and Madrid as well.  Bocarro supervised the foundry till 1645 and was promoted to Governor of Macao from 1657 to 1664. The foundry stopped operating towards the end of the 17th century, perhaps due to a shortage of materials as the copper supply from Japan ended in 1639.  (BBC Travel Site)

The Portuguese also had good quality foreign and local gunmakers working for them in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).  The Ceylon guns, however, are different from the Indo-Portuguese ones; usually they are recognizable through their very tiny flamed and curved leaf shape decoration.
Portuguese firearms spread around the world very quickly, and were certainly in use in North America.  Portuguese navigators, like Corte Real for example, explored all of the east coastlines of North and South America, while searcing for a passage to India.  It was Magellan who discovered that passage and whose ships were the very first to sail around the world.  Most of these early navigators were equipped with well made Portuguese firearms.
The earliest firearm fragment known to have been excavated in America is a cock of a Portuguese Anselmo-lock flintlock pistol which dates into the third quarter of the XVIth century.  It was excavated in Florida and belongs now to the St. Augustine Historical Society.  Another early Portuguese flintlock mechanism had been excavated at Jarnestown and belongs now to the National Park Service.  This lock is of the Molinhas lock family and dates into the very early 17th century. Unluckily both locks had been misdescribed as being Miquelet locks and of Spanish origin.  A third lock has been excavated in Massachusetts; they all show the existence of early Portuguese firearms in North America.
In South America the quantities of early Portuguese firearms in use must have been much larger. Brazil, which by itself represents almost half of the South American continent, belonged to Portugal until the 19th century.  The Royal Portuguese Arsenals in Rio, Bahia and Pernambuco, were filled with Portuguese guns and employed quite a large number of Portuguese gunmakers. Unfortunately only late 18th and early 19th century examples of their work have survived.  Wherever the Portuguese went in the 16th and 17th century, they took their flintlocks with them.  (Rainer Daehnhardt (1994). The bewitched gun: the introduction of the firearm in the Far East by the Portuguese)
(Author Photos)
Flintlock pistols in the Portuguese Army Museum in Lisbon.

Bronze 225-pounder Espalhafato SBML Gun, also know as "Tigre" (Tiger), cast at Goa, India in 1533.  This stone-throwing gun was used in siege operations.  This gun has a 244.5-cm calibre, is 331-cm long and has a bore length of 284-cm.  It throws a 103.5 kg (225 lb) stone ball.  The gunwas in the fortress of Ormuz and of Diu and came to Lisbon in 1897.

Wrought iron 200-pounder Espalhafato "Touro" (Bull), SBML Gun, cast at Goa, Portugal in the 16th century.  This stone-throwing gun was used in siege operations.  This gun has a 43-cm calibre, and is 304 cm long with a bore length of 277 cm and throws a 92 kg (200 lb) stone ball.  It is built with iron staves reinforced with metal bands, similar to the bombards of the 15th century, but constructed at the beginning of the 16th century in 1515, supposedly in India by Francisco Anes.  This gun armed the fortress of Diu.

Wrought Iron 38-pounder SBML "Aguia" Bombard. known as “Peça de Malaca”, built with wrought iron iron staves reinforced by thick iron rings cast in India in the 16th century.  This gun was used in siege operations.  It has a calibre of 17.5-cm, is 336 cm long with a bore length of 308 cm, and throws a 17.5 kg (38 lb) stone or iron ball.

Bronze 11.4-cm Áspide or short half-culverin SBML Gun cast in Portugal in the mid-16th century.  This gun was used in siege operations and on ships.  It is 300 cm long with a bore length of 277 cm, and throws a 4.5 kg (10 lb) iron ball. 

Bronze 18-cm Camelete SBML gun cast in Portugal in the 16th century.  This gun was used in land and sea operations.  It is 222 cm long with a bore length of 216 cm, and throws a 6.5 kg (14 lb) stone ball.

Bronze 12.5-cm Áspide SBML Gun, cast in Portuguese India in the 16th century.  This gun was used in siege operations.  It is 362-cm long with a bore length of 341-cm, and throws a 6 kg (13 lb) iron ball. 

Bronze 17.3-cm Camelete SBML Gun, cast in Portugal in the 16th century.  This gun was used in land and sea operations.  It is 224 cm long with a bore length of 216 cm, and throws a 5.5 kg (12 lb) stone ball.

Bronze 12.4-cm Espera SBML Gun, cast in Portugal in the 15th century.  This gun was mainly used in siege operations.  It is 301 cm long with a bore length of 282 cm, and throws a 6 kg (13 lb) stone ball.


Bronze 43-pounder Águia (Eagle) SBML Gun, cast in 1550 in Portuguese India.  This gun was mainly used in siege operations.  This gun weighs 3,865 kg and has a calibre of 17.9-cm.  It is 380 cm long with a bore length of 359 cm, and throws a 19.7 kg (43 lb) iron ball.

Bronze 43-pounder Águia (Eagle) SBML Gun, cast in Portugal in 1549 by Joao Dias.  This gun was used mainly in siege operations.  This gun weighs 3,865 kg and has a calibre of 17.9-cm.    It is 380 cm long with a bore length of 357 cm, and throws a 19.7 kg (43 lb) iron ball.

Entrance to the second floor stairway and the main interior exhibit section of the Military Museum with a pair of Bronze Smoothbore Muzzleloading Guns flanking a bronze statue of a Vimara Peres.  This mounted knight statue is a miniature of an original on display next to the cathedral of Oporto.  The two Bronze Guns date from the reign of King Joao V.

A pair of Bronze Smoothbore Muzzleloading Guns dating from the reign of King Joao V, mounted vertically near the second floor stairs.