Australian Gun Culture Part 16: “Non-Firearm” Antiques

By Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten

Arizona -( At an antique show in New South Wales, these 1850 era pocket pistols were for sale. The concept of small concealable pistols started as early as the 1700’s.


From the Eighteenth Century on there were huge numbers of small, concealable pistols manufactured in England and on the Continent. The smaller ones were described as “Muff Pistols” because they were often concealed in a lady’s muff, although they could also be slipped inside a Gentleman’s pocket (and Gentlemen used muffs too).

The pocket pistol came into vogue about the same time as Australia was being colonized by England. The earliest muff pistols were flintlocks. Later ones used percussion caps. It is not surprising that numbers of small, concealable muzzleloading pocket pistols would show up in Australian antique shows. Australian law defines guns made before 1900 as antique “non-guns” *if* they do not use fixed ammunition or *if* ammunition for them is not available commercially.

These percussion muff and “miner” pocket pistols fit that definition. Note the prices are fairly high by American standards. The muff pistol, by a known maker is listed at $1950 Australian, while the “miner” pistol is listed at $1350. Take off 20% to convert to U.S. dollars.

Reproductions made after 1900 are considered to be real guns, and are regulated just like modern cartridge pistols. I have been told that a firearms license is required to purchase black powder or percussion caps.

Long guns have the same treatment.

The long guns shown are a percussion double barreled fowling piece, top, a Percussion musket, middle, and a Snyder conversion, to a .50 caliber rook rifle below it. Swords require a license in Victoria. In most Australian states they can be purchased without a special permit.

I am sure no commercial ammunition is made for the Snyder/Rook rifle conversion. It appeared to be a well made rifle, but I was not willing to pay…

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