Pistol sword

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A pistol sword is a sword with a pistol or revolver attached, usually alongside the blade. It differs from a rifle with a bayonet in that the weapon is designed primarily for use as a sword, and the firearm component is typically considered a secondary weapon designed to be an addition to the blade, rather than the sword being a secondary addition to the pistol. In addition, the two components of these weapons typically cannot be separated, unlike most bayonet-fixed rifles.



Historically, some flintlock pistols of the 17th and 18th centuries were constructed as gun-swords, with the barrel of the pistol attached to the side of the blade of a shortsword or dagger. A shell guard protected the firing mechanism when it was used as a sword. These were used by French and German hunters to kill wounded wild boar. [1] Examples of these weapons can be found in the armoury of Wawel Castle (Kraków, Poland). Similar weapons were made in India, [2] including the katar (कटार), a thrusting dagger, modern variants of which may feature a single-shot pistol built into one side.

Military use

Elgin Cutlass Pistol at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia Elgin cutlass pistol.jpg
Elgin Cutlass Pistol at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia

In 1838, the United States Navy developed the .54 caliber, single-shot smoothbore Elgin pistol, which was equipped with an 11.5-inch Bowie knife blade [4] and was intended for use by boarding parties; it was the first percussion cap gun in naval service, [5] but only 150 were made. The Navy specifically intended them for the Wilkes-South Seas expedition. Reportedly, in 1840 a naval landing party used the pistol to good effect when Fijian warriors attacked the sailors on the island of Malolo. [6] A few Elgin pistols were still in use during the US Civil War, [7] but proved unpopular. The Navy quickly replaced them with the M1860 Cutlass, which remained in service until the 1940s. Some found their way into civilian hands and some ended up in the Old West.[ citation needed ]

Pinfire cartridge gun-swords were produced in Belgium during the mid-19th century, although in limited quantity. [8] [9] These custom-made weapons were sometimes used by European officers and featured a loading gate behind the basket hilt. [8] In 1866 T Rauh of Solingen filed a United States patent on the design of a 9mm caliber pistol sword with a 32in blade. [8]

During World War I, the British manufactured a limited number of Webley revolvers with folding blades, similar in design to the Pritchard pistol bayonet. [10] These were used by officers in the trenches for close quarters fighting as the confined space made it difficult to use a sword. However, few were produced due to the expense and scarcity of raw materials. [11]

A rare variant of the World War II Japanese Nambu automatic pistol was a pistol sword. It is possible that this non-regulation weapon was privately purchased by an officer as only one example is known to exist. [12]

Civilian use

Another notable example of a pistol sword was the Swedish 1865 Cutlass Pistol; 500 were ordered by the government and issued to prison guards. [13] It was a breech-loading 2 shot weapon with a 14in by 2in blade weighing 2.5 lb. A few ended up on the other side of the Atlantic and one became part of Buffalo Bill's gun collection. [14]

In the late Victorian era, some French swordsticks had built-in pinfire pepperbox revolvers to increase their lethality; these were carried by civilians for self-defense. However this idea was far from new; combination swordsticks and wheel lock pistols have been in use since the 16th century. [14]


Pistol swords were not widely used and became uncommon relatively quickly, due to their expense and because instead of getting two weapons in one, one got a heavy pistol and a heavy, off-balance sword, as shown by the poor performance of the Elgin pistol. [15]

Modern versions occasionally appear on the market, however, as novelties or collectors' items, including the Sierra Madre knife pistol. [16]

Similar weapons

Apache pepperbox knuckleduster was popular among turn-of-the-century French street gangs. Deleaxhe Apache pistol 7mm.jpg
Apache pepperbox knuckleduster was popular among turn-of-the-century French street gangs.

Related Research Articles

Machine gun Sustained fully-automatic firearm

A machine gun is an auto-firing, rifled long-barrel autoloading firearm designed for sustained direct fire with fully powered cartridges. Other automatic firearms such as assault rifles and automatic rifles are typically designed more for firing short bursts rather than continuous firepower, and not considered machine guns. Squad automatic weapons, which fire the same cartridge used by the other riflemen from the same combat unit, are functionally light machine guns though not called so. Submachine guns, which are capable of continuous rapid fire but using handgun cartridges, are also not technically regarded as true machine guns.

Revolver Type of handgun that has a cylinder

A revolver is a repeating handgun that has at least one barrel and uses a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers for firing. Before firing a round, cocking the hammer partially rotates the cylinder, indexing one of the cylinder chambers into alignment with the barrel, allowing the bullet to be fired through the bore. The hammer cocking can be achieved by either the user manually pulling the hammer back, via internal linkage relaying a rearward movement of the trigger, or both. By sequentially rotating through each chamber, the revolver allows the user to fire multiple times until having to reload the gun, unlike older single-shot firearms that had to be reloaded after each shot.

Bayonet Mêlée weapon attached to end of a firearm

A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit on the end of the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar firearm, allowing it to be used as a spear-like weapon. From the 17th century to World War I, it was considered a primary weapon for infantry attacks. Today, it is considered an ancillary weapon or a weapon of last resort.

Flintlock Firearm with flint-striking ignition

Flintlock is a general term for any firearm that uses a flint striking ignition mechanism. The term may also apply to a particular form of the mechanism itself, also known as the true flintlock, that was introduced in the early 17th century, and gradually replaced earlier firearm-ignition technologies, such as the matchlock, the wheellock, and the earlier flintlock mechanisms.

Pepper-box multi barrel revolver resembling a household pepper shaker

The pepper-box revolver or simply pepperbox is a multiple-barrel firearm, mostly in the form of a handgun, that has three or more gun barrels in a coaxially revolving mechanism. Each barrel holds a single shot, and the shooter can manually rotate the whole barrel assembly to sequentially index each barrel into alignment with the lock/hammer, similar to operating a revolver cylinder.

Ethan Allen (armsmaker) American Arms maker

Ethan Allen was a major American arms maker from Massachusetts. He is unrelated to the revolutionary Ethan Allen. His first firearm, the "Pocket rifle" was developed in 1836, and his first patent was granted in 1837.

.410 bore

The .410 bore is one of the smallest caliber of shotgun shell commonly available. A .410 bore shotgun loaded with shot shells is well suited for small game hunting and pest control. The .410 started off in the UK as a garden gun along with the .360 and the Nos. 3, 2 and 1 bore rimfires. .410 shells have similar base dimensions to the .45 Colt cartridge, allowing many single-shot firearms, as well as some derringers chambered in that caliber, to fire .410 shot shells without any modifications.

Volley gun Gun with multiple single-shot barrels capable of firing simultaneously or in quick succession

A volley gun is a gun with multiple single-shot barrels that shoot projectiles in volley fire, either simultaneously or in succession. Although capable of unleashing intense firepower, volley guns differ from modern machine guns in that they lack autoloading and automatic fire mechanisms, and therefore their volume of fire is limited by the number of barrels bundled together.

LeMat Revolver Grapeshot revolver/service pistol

The LeMat revolver was a .42 or .36 caliber cap & ball black powder revolver invented by Jean Alexandre LeMat of New Orleans, which featured an unusual secondary 20 gauge smooth-bore barrel capable of firing buckshot. It saw service with the armed forces of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War of 1861–65 and the Army of the Government of National Defense during the Franco-Prussian War.

Apache revolver Multi-Purpose Pinfire Revolver

An Apache revolver is a handgun which incorporates multiple other weapons, made notorious by the French underworld figures of the early 1900s known as Les Apaches.

A combination weapon is a close-quarters gun hybrid combining the features of both a firearm and an edged melee weapon. Examples of gun hybrids include knife/pistols and pistol/sword combinations.

Handgun Short-barreled firearm designed to be fired with only one hand

A handgun is a short-barrelled firearm that can be held and used with one hand. The two most common handgun sub-types in use today are revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, although other handguns like machine pistols and derringers also see infrequent usage.

Pistol Type of handgun where the firing chamber is integral to the barrel

A pistol is a handgun, more specifically one with the chamber integral to its gun barrel, though in common usage the two terms are often used interchangeably. The English word was introduced in ca. 1570 — when early handguns were produced in Europe and is derived from the Middle French pistolet, meaning a small gun or knife. In colloquial usage, the word "pistol" is often used to describe any types of handgun, inclusive of revolvers and the pocket-sized derringers.

The Colt New Model Revolving rifles were early repeating rifles produced by the Colt's Manufacturing Company from 1855 until 1864. The design was essentially similar to revolver type pistols, with a rotating cylinder that held five or six rounds in a variety of calibers from .36 to .64 inches. They were mainly based upon the Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer Pocket Revolver developed by Elisha K. Root. Colt revolving pistols and rifles were attractive mainly because of their high rate of fire. They were used to a limited extent on the Pony Express, and made a brief appearance in the American Civil War. However, the rifles were generally disliked by soldiers, and were ultimately discontinued due to serious design flaws.

Cylinder (firearms) The cylindrical, rotating part of a revolver containing multiple chambers, each of which is capable of holding a single cartridge.

In firearms, the cylinder is the cylindrical, rotating part of a revolver containing multiple chambers, each of which is capable of holding a single cartridge. The cylinder rotates (revolves) around a central axis in the revolver's action to sequentially align each individual chamber with the barrel bore for repeated firing. Each time the gun is cocked, the cylinder indexes by one chamber. Serving the same function as a rotary magazine, the cylinder stores ammunitions within the revolver and allows it to fire multiple times before needing to reload.

Lancaster pistol Type of Multi-barrel pistol

The Lancaster Pistol was a multi-barrelled handgun produced in England in the mid-late 19th century, chambered in a variety of centrefire pistol calibres—chiefly .38 S&W, .450 Adams, .455 Webley, and .577 inch. The designer, London gunsmith Charles Lancaster, began his career in 1847 as an apprentice to his father, Charles Sr. During the 1850s he invented oval bore rifling and the gas check bullet.

Multiple-barrel firearm Class of firearm with more than one barrel

A multiple barrel firearm is any type of firearm with more than one gun barrel, usually to increase the rate of fire or hit probability and to reduce barrel erosion/overheating.

Repeating firearm

A repeating firearm is any firearm, either a handgun or a long gun, that is capable of repeated firing before needing to manually reload new ammunition into the gun. These firearms are breechloading by nature. Different to the preceding single-shot firearms, a repeating firearm can store multiple cartridges inside a magazine, a cylinder or a belt, and uses a moving action to manipulate each of these cartridges into and out of battery position, allowing the gun to discharge numerous times in relatively quick succession before a manual ammunition reload is needed.


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    Dated to the end of the 16th century, this sword cane (already a combination weapon) also incorporates a wheel-lock firearm.
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  25. Defender pistol