14 November 2016

Gang Lun Fa Huo (鋼輪發火)

Ming Chinese Primitive Wheellock
Components of Gang Lun Fa Huo, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Gang Lun Fa Huo (鋼輪發火, lit. 'Steel wheel igniter'), originally known as Zi Fan Gang Lun Huo (自犯鋼輪火, lit. 'Self-tripped trespassing steel wheel fire'), is a passive firing mechanism used to trigger land mines. The device was invented by famous general Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) during his station at Ji garrison to bolster defence against Mongol incursions (the notion that this device was invented during fourteenth century was unsupported).

Gang Lun Fa Huo is a friction-wheel mechanism similar to wheellock, although it is simpler and more primitive, does not utilise any spring, and is way too large to be installed on handheld firearms.

The workings of Gang Lun Fa Huo

Gang Lun Fa Huo is actually a surprisingly simple device. Save for its friction wheels, entire device can be manufactured relatively easily without specialised skill or equipment. The pictures below, drawn by myself using Adobe Illustrator, show the workings of a Gang Lun Fa Huo in basic configuration. There are actually several different configurations for this device, although all ultilise the same principle.

A Gang Lun Fa Huo in basic configuration.

Triggered Gang Lun Fa Huo.


  1. I always wonder why Ming arsenal has so many primitive weapon? Do they not have enough resource to develop something more sophisticated?

    1. It is cheaper and it get the jobs done, what is not to love?

      On a more serious note, from my own observation (which could be wrong, mind you) while the scholars at the capital enjoyed devising and discussing sophisticated military theories and strategies, many military men on the front line shared what I call the "duct tape" mentality, without the duct tape.

      Rocket is inaccurate? launch a bunch of them at the same time. Cannon has dangerous recoil? Stake the damn thing to the ground! Handgonne is inaccurate and slow to reload? strap two or more barrels onto it!

      Hence a lot of seemingly crude but nevertheless effective weapons.

      You will notice that there's no input from craftsmen at either side of the spectrum, and I think that's where the problem lies. Craftsmen really didn't enjoy a high social standing in Ming China.

    2. It really depends on what your definition of primitive is. Compared to their neighbors the Ming were generally on par with most people in East Asia. The idea of putting an explosive in the ground to kill someone is something that's alive and well today. It's not necessarily something that needs to be "complex" or "advanced". European land mines were similar in execution and simplicity.

    3. Primitive firearms? You mean like this 鋼輪發火 here? What the heck are you talking about?? This thing is from 16th century, it's quite high tech during its time. How about you show me how many East Asia countries can produce such weapon in the same era?

    4. @Balka
      Calm down, it is not something worth to become upset about.

  2. I don't think the land mine is a primitive weapon. This type of land mine and its trigger mechanism were clearly a very ingenious device.


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