It's an intriguing question and the answer lies in some less-familiar ignition systems preceding the appearance of the French flintlock--namely the snaphaunce and the miquelet.
There's a tendency to assume firearms evolved in a linear way--the matchlock, followed by the wheellock, then the snaphaunce, miquelet and finally the flintlock.
The earliest design to replicate the best qualities of the wheel lock without its cost and complexity was the snaphaunce. Developed sometime in the mid-1500s, it was believed to have originated in Holland and the name was derived from the Dutch word Snaphaan or "pecking rooster." Looking at the image the snaphaunce lock, it's easy to see how it could be described this way.
The snaphaunce offered all of the advantages of a wheel lock.
When the flint-and-steel snaphaunce
emerged, another liberating step was taken and then finally, when the true flintlock appeared around the first quarter of the 17th century, the rifle's accuracy was abetted by lower cost and greater simplicity and reliability.
Thus it was that the early hand-held gonne was superseded by the matchlock harquebus, which was replaced with the snaphaunce
and dog lock muskets.
One such example is the pair of snaphaunce
pistols made by Matteo Acquafresca in about 1690 and recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Around 1622, they began to be replaced by the snaphaunce
, an early form of flintlock, also made in Europe.
came next, named for the snaaphans, who were poultry thieves.
at 11 (describing John Dafte's snaphaunce
revolver, circa 1680).
Early "self-igniting" systems using flint and steel, such as wheellocks and snaphaunces
, went bang somewhat faster than matchlocks but not by much.
Innovations that followed produced snaplocks and snaphaunces
, the latter being overly complicated versions of the future flintlock.