Muskets are smoothbore weapons. Rifles differ in that the barrel features spiral grooves which cause the bullet to spin in flight imparting greater accuracy and velocity to the shot. The knowledge that a rifled bore produced a more accurate shot than a smooth bore was established at Nuremberg, Germany as early as the 15th century. Both Henry VIII (reigned 1509–1547) and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (reigned 1486–1519) were interested in weapons technology and counted several hunting rifles among their personal arsenals. However, rifling would only be adopted en masse for military purposes in the mid-19th century because prior to advancements in bullet design, loading methods, propellent technologies and pattern industrial machining techniques, muzzle-loading rifles had been slow to load, prone to fouling, and rarely uniform in their parts or calibre.
This early rifle is known as a tschinke and was made in Italy around 1630–50. It features a wheel-lock, the most state-of-the-art mechanism available until the spread of the flintlock in Europe in the mid-17th century. The tschinke was a lighter gun designed for shooting wildfowl, and named after the Silesian (Polish) town in which it was developed in the early 1600s. It is distinguishable by a ‘hind-foot’ shaped stock, large external mainspring, and hair trigger. In this example, possibly a presentation piece, the fruitwood stock is richly decorated with stag-horn inlay. Inside the patchbox, under the sliding cover, can be seen two bullets of about .3-inch caliber, suitable for bird hunting.