What is an arquebus?

soldier with arquebus
    The harquebus, or arquebus, was an early handgun. The weapon consisted of a short metal tube attached to a wooden stock (handle). A soldier loaded the weapon through the muzzle with black powder and a round bullet. A touchhole—a vent for carrying fire to the bullet and powder—led through the barrel to an open pan. The pan contained a small amount of powder. The gunner lit a slow-burning wick, called a match, held by an S-shaped serpentine. To fire the weapon, he pulled a trigger attached to the lower end of the serpentine. This applied the lighted match to the powder in the pan. This firing mechanism was called the matchlock.
    During the 1500's, gunsmiths developed another device, called the wheel lock. A cock held a pebble against a toothed wheel. The trigger spun the wheel, and set off sparks which ignited the powder in the pan. Wheel locks were safer to use than matchlocks, but much more expensive.
    The arquebus developed from the small hand cannon first used during the 1300's. The hand cannon was a heavy weapon and required supports. Foot soldiers in the 1500's preferred to use muskets. But the arque­bus survived for use by mounted troops in the early 1600's.