November 10, 2017
By Joel R Kolander
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Today, we might view having a gun on our knife as leaning toward a comedic level of overkill. However, there was a time when not only was this considered serious business and a potentially life-saving advantage, but also an important and legitimate way to defend oneself after expending their shots. After all, repeating arms have really only come into their own in the last 150 years (give or take). Prior to that, people had some pretty creative ideas for how to defend themselves beyond the limited capabilities of firearms available at that time. Readily available examples of this are the enlarged, pointed, or reinforced butt caps; when the shot was fired the gun could be grasped by the barrel and used as a club. In the past, RIAC has even sold an ax(or two) with a built in firearm.
Though perhaps the best known example is the Dolne Apache revolver. Given its name from the violent pre-World War I Parisian street gangs that used it, it is a savage combination of brass knuckles, dagger, and revolver. The Elgin cutlass pistol is another perfect and surprisingly elegant example. However, even these examples are better examples of “guns with a backup plan” than “knives with a surprise.” In this article, we’d like to focus on the latter and show you some of the lesser seen versions of this marriage between blade and gun – all of which will be available in our 2017 December Premiere Firearms Auction.
The first photo in this article shows the incredible craftsmanship and embellishment on this most impressive dagger. While the gold plating is certainly an extravagant touch, the design is more common and has been seen in multiple countries, especially in hunting knives to deliver a coup de grâce to a wounded animal. An example owned by Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico currently resides in the Art Institute of Chicago, and more than a hundred of a nearly identical design (though not Dumonthier made) were purchased by the Norwegian postal service, known as the 1846 Postførerverge, after several rural postmen were attacked and killed.
This example saw no such arduous duty and was almost certainly created as a presentation piece. The top half of the cross guard serves as the hammers for this percussion pistol. Pulling it back reveals a shrouded nipple underneath and drops the trigger that had formerly been flush with the grip, making it ready to fire.
OK. First of all, let’s all get the French/wine/corkscrew jokes out of our system (I know I had to). Now we can talk about what a fascinating little piece this is. The fact that this is a knife pistol is outshone by three other unusual qualities. First, it’s a bolt action. Many of us would not be surprised by a single shot, muzzle loaded firearm, but to have a breech loader, let alone a bolt action is clearly an indication of the evolution of firearms at the time it was made. Second, it’s a needle-fire ignition system. Not only are those extremely uncommon, but it also helps us date this pistol really well since needle-fire was a very short lived system. The bolt action and needle fire essentially make this knife a scaled down Chassepot rifle, even including the tiny gasket behind the bolt head. Last, and certainly not least, is the corkscrew (I, for one, would like to applaud the French for their foresight in both defending themselves and needing a drink thereafter). In addition to its regular libation-opening duties, it also serves as the trigger. What could go wrong?
Safety in mind, the gun does use an interesting safety feature in its cocking piece absent on most knife pistols, allowing it to be carried safely while loaded and deployed more rapidly. It is also extremely well made, feeling solid and using fine materials such as German silver, steel, pearl panels, and grips made of horn. Besides being a deterrent to thieves, it also sought to integrate itself to life’s more common scenarios with its pocket knife and corkscrew. Brilliant, well-made, and useful. While no substitute for the ubiquitous revolvers available at that time in self-defense scenarios, it remains a handy little tool.
The 15.25″ blade makes this short sword quite a bit larger than our previous entries, and appropriately it carries a bit more firepower. Just in front of the cross guard you may notice a cylinder. That’s right collector friends, this sword comes with its very own pinfire revolver. With a very visible hammer, cylinder, trigger, and barrel it functions identically to a pinfire revolver, so we won’t delve to deeply into the mechanics.
The aesthetics are another matter. This is an exceptional sword, not only indicated by the presence of a mounted revolver, but by the mountain of other luxurious features. Nearly half the blade is covered etched floral scrollwork, in addition to the markings boldly proclaimed on its flat. The guard and pommel cap are engraved German silver, and the ebony grip (or ebonized hardwood) is finely checkered. Looking beyond the simple miracle of a surviving leather scabbard finds matching engraved German silver fittings that compliment those on the sword. A closer inspection of the barrel and German silver components shows signs of silver plating.
As if stronger indicators of the sword’s fine craftmanship and desirability were needed, the gun comes with LeFaucheux markings, a notable Parisian gunsmith, and a similar model was gifted to Peruvian President Jose Balta.
Last, but certainly not least is the most modern knife pistol on the list and arguably the most ornate: a gold and diamond accented G.R.A.D. CM-1 fighting knife. G.R.A.D. (Global Research and Development) out of Las Vegas, NV began producing these knife pistols in the 1990s with a 6-shot, .22 LR cylinder inside the grip. The firing mechanism is that seen in other CM-1 models, but that is where the similarities end. In place of the typical single edge, spear point blade we have a beautiful, double-edged Damascus dagger with a slight leaf-shape contour. The grips are extravagant, covered in a dragon motif in a bevy of diamonds (102!), emeralds, silver accents, and engraved gold panels.
Operation is simple. Open the grip using a small button on the butt. After loading the cylinder and closing the grip, you’re almost ready to go. What looks like a small thumb plate or switch is actually spun 180 degrees. This causes a lever to rise out of the grip that will serve as the trigger when squeezed. It is also a safety of sorts. It will fire when the thumbplate is oriented n the same direction as it is to expose the trigger. If you spin the plate back around with the lever up, the lever will not fully depress and the gun will not fire. For those wondering, yes, this is an NFA item, but fortunately it is an AOW and therefore only requires a $5 tax stamp instead of the $200 variety.
Rest assured that these are far from the only knife guns in the December auction. For that matter there is also an excellent selection of other bladed weapons such as usual bayonets, beautiful presentation military swords, daggers, Japanese blades, trench knives, Bowies, and even an Indian pata sword. It’s not only guns that we sell here at Rock Island Auction Company. Sometimes it’s a knife with a gun on it.
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