The introduction of the European matchlock began in 1545, during the appropriately named Sengoku Jidai (“Period of the Country at War”). At this time Japan had found a trading partner in the Europeans. Spaniard and Portuguese sailors who had sailed through Indian and Asian oceans had crash-landed on the small island of Tanegashima, in 1543. “While on this island the Portuguese had offered one of their matchlock rifles as a gift to the local lord” (Bryant 2002). After that the Portuguese had begun to openly trade with other cities in Japan; Nagasaki had become a major trade port between the Japanese and Portuguese the traders had brought along with them various novelties, such as wool, velvet, tobacco, clocks and even eyeglasses. But the most popular and less novel item brought to Japan by Europe, was the matchlock rifle. Many of the Daimyo were impressed after seeing the European matchlock; that by 1549 many Daimyo had ordered their weapon smiths to copy and mass-produce this advanced weapon. (Baker 2004) One Daimyo in particular who saw potential in this weapon was Oda Nobunaga, he had placed an order for 500 rifles, the largest order to date (Turnbull p.g.135). Soon the Japanese demonstrated not only their ability to quickly assimilate objects from other cultures, but also their ability to improve upon it. Many metal smiths went to work and even improved the teppo. This weapon had found to be more powerful then the bow, and easier to use. Eventually the teppo had replaced many archer units. (Bryant p.g. 49).
A look at the teppo: Manufacturing of this new firearm was simple; the barrel of the rifle was simple to create, simply by wrapping hot iron around a rod and force welding it shut made it, then fitting it into the stock of the gun. The gun’s firing mechanism was made from solid brass. (Bryant page 49) The Japanese teppo was not only easy to construct but also simple to operate. The gunner would simply hold the teppo straight using his shoulder as a brace. After opening the priming pan and pulling the trigger a spring would release the serpentine, which holds a lit fuse. As the burning fuse hit the priming pan full of powder, the matchlock would fire. Excess lengths of fuse could be wrapped around the stock of the gun or the gunner’s forearm. (Turnbull p.g. 137) Compared to the Japanese bow, the teppo had a more superior range. The matchlock had an effective killing range of 50 meters and a maximum range of 500 meters, compared to the bow, having a killing range of 30 meters and a maximum range of only 380 meters. (Bryant p.g. 49) Ammunition for the teppo came in a variety of sizes, which was measured in weight instead of diameter (Bryant p.g. 35). Sizes ranged from as small as 1 monme (8.5mm) to as large as 100 monme (48mm, or nearly 2 inches in diameter). Many large caliber teppo (also known as “wall guns”) had large recoil, that bails of rice were used to support the gunners back. Although the teppo came in a variety of calibers, many daimyo standardized their teppo’s bores; this allowed for quick loading and allowed soldiers to use each other’s ammunition, when ammo became short (Turnbull p.g. 135). Ammunition for the matchlock was made from casting solid lead. The lead that was being used for the ammunition was a major import from Europe. It was a suitable metal because of its malleability and high density (Samurai-Archives 2005; Nihon no Bijutsu #390).
Samurai 1150-1600 Anthony J. Bryant 1994, New York
Sekigahara 1600 Anthony J. Bryant 1995, New York
Arms and Armor of the Samurai: History of Weaponry in Ancient Japan Ian Bottomley and A.P. Hopson 1996, New York
Samurai and Illustrated History Mitsuo Kuri 2002, Tokyo
The Battle of Nagashino Nathan Ledbetter http://www.samurai-archives.com/ban.html
Japanese Castles 1540-1640 (Fortresses) Dr. Stephen Turnbull 2003, New York
Samurai Warfare Dr. Stephen Turnbull 1996, London
The Samurai Sourcebook Dr. Stephen Turnbull 2000, London
Nihon no Bijutsu #360 1996, Tokyo