|Drawing of a San Yan Chong, from 'Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)'.|
Perhaps the most iconic handheld firearm in the Ming armies, the San Yan Chong (三眼銃, lit. 'Three-eyed gun') is an iron handgonne that has three short barrels arranged in a triangular layout. It allows the gunner to discharge three shots in quick succession before needing to reload, compensating for its lack of accuracy somewhat. San Yan Chong was the preferred firearm of border cavalry, particularly those from Liaodong (遼東, modern day Liaoning) Garrison.
The adoption of matchlock firearms rendered handgonne obsolete. However, Ming armies never phase out handgonnne from its arsenal entirely. On the contrary, use of handgonne, particularly San Yan Chong, actually increased towards the end of Ming Dynasty.
|Drawing of a San Yan Qiang, from Qing Dynasty military treatise 'Fang Shou Ji Cheng (《防守集成》)'.|
San Yan Qiang is not a iron handgonne, but a three shot rocket launcher attached to a spear. Its three tubes are made of bamboo.
Zhao Shi Zhen's Improvements
Ming Dynasty firearm specialist and inventor Zhao Shi Zhen (趙士幀) recorded or developed several variants of the San Yan Chong in an attempt to keep up with the performance of matchlock arquebus. While this was ultimately an exercise in futility, his designs substantianlly improve the performance and versatility of this aging weapon.
Zhao Shi Zhen advocated the use of longer and thinner wrought iron barrels, made in the same way as that of the matchlock gun, to replace the short and thick (and thus heavy and unwieldy, not to mention inaccurate) cast iron barrels of the old San Yan Chong. He also designed a wooden bedding to separate the barrels, so that shooting from one barrel will not heat up the other two.
Guo Chu San Yan Qiang (國初三眼鎗, lit. 'Three-eyed spear from the early years of the Ming Dynasty')
|Drawing of a Guo Chu San Yan Qiang (highlighted), from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.|
It is not known if this is the same weapon as San Yan Qiang or not.
Ma Shang San Yan Chong (馬上三眼銃, lit. 'Horseman's three-eyed gun')
|Drawing of a Ma Shang San Yan Chong (highlighted), from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.|
Xin Gai Ma Bu Xiang Yi San Yan Qiang (新改馬步相宜三眼鎗, lit. 'Newly modified three-eyed spear that is suitable on foot and on horseback')
|Drawing of a Xin Gai Ma Bu Xiang Yi San Yan Qiang, from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.|
This is simply a Ma Shang San Yan Chong with all upgrades advocated by Zhao Shi Zhen implemented. Zhao Shi Zhen designed two version of this weapon — a longer version used by infantry, and a shorter version used on horseback.
Xian Chong (鍁銃, hoe gun) and Jue Chong (镢銃, spade gun)
|Highlighted Xian Chong (above) and Jue Chong (below), from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.|
|Drawing of a San Shen Tang, from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.|
While Zhao Shi Zhen clearly wasn't fooled by this poor excuse, he still designed the San Shen Tang, probably as short-term replacement for the San Yan Chong before the eventual adoption of arquebus (which never happened).
San Shen Tang was designed to be usable in both North and South China. It incorporates a detachable matchlock mechanism as well as a Tang Pa (钂鈀), mounted at the butt of the pole. With the matchlock mechanism attached, San Shen Tang can be braced and aimed like a matchlock gun (although it is still less accurate than a true matchlock gun), or it can be used like an ordinary handgonne by removing the mechanism.
|A soldier shooting San Shen Tang, and a horseman shooting Ma Shang San Yan Chong. From 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.|