Linstocks had serpentine jaws to grip the slow match and a sharp point at the base to stick in the ground. In emergencies gunners could use the spear blade as a weapon to defend the cannon.
Like most early modern military equipment the linstock had a second function; 16th century examples had measurements in inches and a protractor engraved on the blade to allow the gun captain to check the angle.
By the 18th century flintlock firing devices had been introduced, rendering the artillery linstock obsolete though the linstock remained in service in many places where the older form of ignition was used, including America during the War of Independence and parts of Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. During the War of 1812 and American Civil War gun crews were issued linstocks which were used when the flintlock and percussion cap-ignited primers failed.