Arquebus Vs Blunderbuss – Which Is Better?

Key Point: The arquebus is a longer-barreled firearm firing a single lead ball, while the blunderbuss is a shorter-barreled firearm with a wider muzzle, designed for short-range combat and loaded with shot for increased spread.

This article will cover the topic of arquebus vs blunderbuss. You will see 5 differences between these two firearms and you get to see which one was a better firearm. So, let’s get started.

What are the 5 differences between the arquebus and the blunderbuss?

Here are the 5 key differences between an arquebus and a blunderbuss:

  1. Purpose (blunderbuss was used for close-quarter combat while the arquebus was meant for long-range)
  2. Barrel (the arquebus had a short barrel with a wide opening while the arquebus was long and narrow)
  3. Projectile (the blunderbuss used a shot vs. a single bullet used by the arquebus)
  4. Range (the blunderbuss was a short-range weapon while the arquebus was a long-range weapon)
  5. Mechanism (the blunderbuss used a flintlock system while the arquebus used a matchlock system)

That is a list of the 5 key differences between the blunderbuss and the arquebus. Now, you will see why the blunderbuss was a favorite of pirate raiders and what exactly led to the decline of the arquebus. So, let’s take a deep dive into each of the 5 differences between the two firearms starting with.

Arquebus Vs Blunderbuss – The Difference In Their Purpose And Range

The main purpose of the arquebus was to be used on the battlefield, firing at enemy soldiers. Now, while the main goal was to hit the enemy from far away. The reality was rather mixed.

As stated in the research paper here the Arquebus could fire up to 100 yards away. But it was ineffective at anything beyond 25-30 meters. From far away it could not hit the intended target but even if it did the piercing power of the bullet was not optimal at greater distances. So, it was unlikely it could pierce any armor from a well-armored soldier.

It was intended for long-distance but it was really ineffective. But what bout the blunderbuss?

In contrast, the blunderbuss was designed as a short-range weapon. To be used in close-quarters combat. Its short, wide barrel made it easier to load and fire quickly in tight spaces.

The blunderbuss typically fired a shot rather than a single bullet, making it effective at close range. Although less accurate at longer distances. It was commonly used by sailors in naval warfare. Remember those pirates, I mentioned earlier? Yeah, they liked the blunderbuss too. They used it to clear the deck of the opposing side when boarding an opposing vessel.

Its short-range nature came in handy when your goal is to inflict as much damage as possible. You just point it in the general direction and fire. The projectile spreads out in every direction so you were bound to hit something with it.

Key Takeaway: The Arquebus had an effective range between 25-30 meters and its purpose was to act as a long-range weapon. While the range of the blunderbuss was much shorter as its main purpose was to act as a weapon at close quarters.

Now, let’s move on to …

The Barrel Difference

Another great difference between the arquebus and the blunderbuss was the length and shape of their barrels. The main purpose of the Arquebus as we said was to propel a bullet as far as possible. It was not good at doing that but that was its purpose nonetheless. And that was the main reason for the design of the barrel for the Arquebus.

The barrel of the arquebus was longer than that of the blunderbuss. It was also narrow, unlike the one with the blunderbuss. The long and narrow design in theory helped fire the bullet farther away.

Meanwhile, the blunderbuss went in a whole different direction. The barrel was short since the range was not a factor. It was meant to be used in close-quarter combat so the barrel was short since that allowed it to be used in tight spaces and it could easily be loaded if the barrel is short.

Key Takeaway: The purpose behind each firearm dictated the length and shape of their barrels. Arquebus had a longer barrel while the one with the blunderbuss was shorter.

Projectile Used – Arquebus Vs. Blunderbuss

As with the barrel shape the projectiles used by both types of firearms were dictated by their purpose. Let’s look at the projectile used by the Arquebus. It used a single bullet that was usually a lead ball that could fit tightly in the barrel. The reason why they used a single ball was again, the purpose. To hit something that was far away.

It was not very effective but had they gone with what the Blunderbuss used it would have been even worse.

Now, with the blunderbuss, it used a shot. So, what is a shot? A shot is a number of smaller round bullets put together. The main purpose of the shot was to spread out in every direction upon exiting the barrel. Causing maximum damage to anyone nearby.

Key Takeaway: The Arquebus used a single lead ball (40g in weight) as a projectile while the blunderbuss used multiple smaller round balls that spread out in every direction to inflict maximum damage to those nearby.

Now for the final difference. And this one is a big one …

The Trigger Mechanism

A huge difference between the two firearms came in the form of the trigger system. The arquebus used a matchlock system while the blunderbuss used a much more effective flintlock system. Now, you can see the complete difference between the two systems including the pros and cons here.

But in short. The matchlock system was ineffective compared to the flintlock system. The matchlock system relied on a burning match that was lowered into the gunpowder leading to the barrel where the bullet was. The slow-burning match would ignite the gunpowder thus causing an explosion inside the barrel that would then lead to the bullet being fired.

In short: It was a bad way to fire since the burning match could be put out by wind and wet conditions. Without a fire how could you ignite the gunpowder? You couldn’t.

What about the blunderbuss?

Well, the blunderbuss used the much more reliable flintlock. Unlike the matchlock, the ignition came from a piece of flint striking steel thus creating a spark. that spark ignited the gunpowder instead of an open flame. It was not a perfect system by any chance but it was an improvement over a burning flame.

Which Is Better, The Blunderbuss Or The Arquebus?

The blunderbuss is a better weapon than the arquebus. The reason for that is that it has a more reliable trigger system and it can be effectively used at close quarters. You are likely going to say ” what about long-range scenarios?”, yes, what about them?

The arquebus was such an ineffective weapon that the long-range effectiveness for an arquebus was 25-30 meters. That is meaningless distance. By the time you reload once, the opponent is already next to you.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. And if you want to continue learning I suggest taking a look at my article comparing the flintlock musket to the blunderbuss right here.

You can also take a look at a unique firearm that was a stepping stone to the more efficient flintlock system. The snaplock gun! You can go here to find out more.

Take care!