Calibers Used by the Spanish Conquistadors?


March 30, 2013, 11:14 PM
Does anyone know what calibers of rifles or muskets and pistols the Spanish Conquistadors typically used? Am under the impression they were in the .69 -75 caliber size but cannot find anything to back that up.

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March 31, 2013, 12:04 AM
Apparently they were using shortish smoothbore matchlocks. I Googled around some and got a sense they might have been more like .54ish but nothing very definitive. Some people were saying more like 20 gauge (.615). I'm looking forward to reading some more expert replies. :-)

March 31, 2013, 12:32 AM
They also used huge mastiff-like war dogs the likes of which the natives had never seen. They'd turn the dogs loose on the indians and the combat trained dogs would literally rip them to shreds and disembowel them. The intimidation had to be equal to or more than the boom, smoke and death from the muskets. The horses were frightening too.

March 31, 2013, 12:24 PM
from what I have been able to determine. they varied in caliber from as small as .50 to as large as .95 . there was no standardization and had to have individual bullet molds

4v50 Gary
March 31, 2013, 07:40 PM
Agree. Spaniards had different calibers too.

April 1, 2013, 08:38 AM
Lead balls found in 16th century Spanish archeological sites in Florida are typically around .80 caliber. Harquebus were produced by several gun makers in Spain and they were not standardized. Powder of the time was inconsistent, and larger bore, heavier balls were more effective. An original matchlock barrel from a shipwreck on display at the museum where I worked had a bore of 7/8 inches and was 46 inches long, 1 1/2" across at the breech end..

April 1, 2013, 10:52 PM
Sorry, no information on conquistador calibers, but the best book I ever read about this period of history is "Cities of Gold" by Douglas Preston. Preston re-created Cortez's journey through the southwest on horseback in order to study the impact of the Spanish invasion on native tribes. At each landmark, he contrasts what is there today to what Cortez would have seen. It's a great, fun, personal adventure. It's worth looking for.

April 1, 2013, 11:46 PM
Spanish Conquistadors used the Harquebus / Arquebus matchlock musket.

It was never a factor in the mountainous rain forests of southern Mexico as far as winning battles went.

It's primary use was to scare the crap out of the native inhabitants during demonstrations of power.
And they could.
As long as it wasn't raining and put the wick out or get the powder wet.

They thought the Spanish were able to create thunder & lightening at will.
And they had never seen or come up against the likes of steel swords, pikes, body armor, or horses before.

In all?
The match-lock muskets where theatrics to scare the Indians.

The steel swords, pikes, & armor were for killing them, and their wives, and their baby's.


April 2, 2013, 12:34 AM
Muskets and cannons were very important at defending forts, ships and long term pacification of a region, but on the move steel swords, spears and horses ruled the day.

April 2, 2013, 05:12 AM
+1 on the lack of standardized calibers. Each gun would have had its own mould at that time.

For those interested in a primary source of this era, check out Cabeza de Vaca. It's a quick read and broken down into short entries - not a bad use of some reading time.

April 2, 2013, 02:24 PM
The arquebusiers were more than mere noise maker. A nearly inch-wide ball could do a lot of damage and the soldiers knew how to use their weapons. They functioned as part of a flexible and potent strike force including cannon, cavalry and crossbow. Load a .75 caliber smoothbore with a fist full of buckshot and set some targets out at 75 yards. That's not just symbolic damage they're doing. So the natives would be scared by the noise and smoke, but would also see their best warriors magically killed and maimed. The Spanish would also make a point of targeting leaders with their small arms, causing further confusion. And they had no respect at all for the notions of decorum or ceremony. They would pepper the warriors with buckshot, sweep them with grape from the cannons, nail them with crosbow bolts, ride through them with lancers, drive into them with pikes, and finally hack what was left to pieces with swords and axes as the dogs set off after any survivors. Anyone left could be killed with daggers, or just strangled. A highly ritualized society of stone age warriors came up against a killing machine fresh from driving the Moors out of Spain.

Gaucho Gringo
April 3, 2013, 01:44 PM
Another thing is a lot of the Conquistadors were battle hardened soldiers. They had just finished fighting and winning the bloody 800 year war against the Moors who were technologically on par with the Spanish. The natives of America were still technologically in the Stone Age as far as weapons. The Conquistadors struggled at first, but once they got their tactics right they were the victors. It also helped them that the native people would just as soon fight each other than unite against a new common enemy.

April 3, 2013, 05:15 PM
As Goucho alluded to, the Spanish had quite a few indian allies to help them conquer the Aztecs. With any big political power, often many surrounding tribes/nations were fed up with paying tribute to and (literally) sacrificing for the Aztecs. Once the Spaniards came along the locals were quite willing to get the Aztecs off their backs.

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