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The armoured heavy cavalryman now had a couple of pistols instead of the lance, and the sword was added a complex hand protection. Gradually the pistol superseded the lance in the cavalry completely. In the tactics developed by the end of the century, the firing was followed by a cold steel attack, as the use of pistols only had similarly proven ineffective.

Cavalry in the 16th century

The infantry was now clearly divided into pikemen and riflemen, in the first half of the 16th century the latter generally included infantrymen armed with arquebuses, later with muskets, hence the name musketeers. The primary function of the armoured pikemen was to provide passive defence of the musketeers against the rapid cavalry attack. Crossbows and bows gradually disappeared from the battlefield in the second half of the century, the halberd was reduced to an ornamental feature of honour guards or officers.

Local peculiarities

During the Livonian War, the territorial defence forces consisting of wealthier citizens primarily fought as pistol-armed cavalrymen, i.e. reiters. This is confirmed also by the epitaph of the Blackheads from 1561. Most probably also tournaments were used for training, thus for instance in 1536 there was a tournament in Tallinn ending with a scandal as a merchant’s apprentice came to throw a nobleman off his saddle. By the beginning of the Livonian War, there were altogether 240 cannons in defence of Tallinn. Numerous cannons were also cast here, at least 86 cannons were cast in Tallinn in the 16th century.

Fort cannon

The heavy frontloaded cannon used in fortresses was placed on a wheeled gun carriage.

Cartow (Kartaune)

A heavy field and besiege cannon with the calibre up to 150 mm.

Culverin or Serpent (Schlange)

Medium calibre (90 mm–120 mm) long-barrelled cannon.


A light cannon with calibre 50 mm–70 mm.


The typically high calibre and short-barrelled cannon firing high-arcing shells was placed on wheelless gun carriage.

Chambered cannon

Differently from the 15th century, the breech-loading bronze cannons were now primarily cast in one piece. By 1600, the breech-loading cannons had been mostly replaced by frontloading ones.


When fired, the heavy weapon with a matchlock used by the infantry was rested on a stand. Length up to 175 cm. Weight up to 9 kg. Calibre: 22 mm–25 mm.


A light musket. Length up to 120 cm Weight up to 4 kg Calibre up to 19 mm


When fired, the cavalry firearm equipped with matchlock or wheellock mechanisms was rested against the chest.


The blade of the thrusting sword could be over a metre long in the 16th century. However, the rapier was not actually a warrior weapon, but part of the noblemen’s daily clothing.


A mechanism invented in early 16th century in which the gunpowder was ignited by a previously cocked mainspring striking sparks from a small piece of pyrite with a grooved wheel. Although the wheellocks suited small firearms well, their manufacturing was highly expensive.

Two-handed sword

A popular cutting sword among mercenaries in the 16th century. Very long and heavy, it was meant for a strong experienced warrior who could ‘hew his way’ through the enemy pikemen lines.


First pistols equipped with wheellocks came to be used in about 1530. The calibre of such pistols could be up to 15 mm and weight over one kilogram.

Cavalry in the 16th century