Antique arms turned in to police

6 July 2010
Carolyn Webb

Police are asking for public help to identify a curious cache of antique weapons handed in to them.

They include a bayonet with a French inscription, an operable miner's pistol, iron handcuffs and a curved, chrome dagger.

Sergeant Doug Bowles said an elderly woman surrendered them at South Melbourne police station on Thursday, saying they had belonged to her husband. She didn't have more information, and asked that the weapons be destroyed.

But Sergeant Bowles is concerned they could be museum-quality pieces. "We're putting the call out to historians that may be able to identify if the weapons actually are of historical significance," he said.

The metre-long dagger has a wood and brass handle and its blade is inscribed: "Mme d'Oumer de Galle, Octobre, 1878".

The 20-centimetre curved dagger has a silver-coloured, chrome steel blade with a darkened ivory handle and sterling silver trim. It has a leather sheath and two five-centimetre long mini-knives for sharpening.

Sergeant Bowles said the 19th-century palm-sized pistol with its curved wooden handle appears to be in working order.

The other items are a set of small iron handcuffs (or manacles) that Sergeant Bowles says are about 100 years old, and a more modern hunting knife in a leather sheath. Sergeant Bowles said although more modern weapons and unusual items are often surrendered to police - last Christmas Day the South Melbourne police hosted a venomous snake - the cache was "quite exciting".

"I think it's quite amazing that people have this sort of antiquity at home," he said.

From emailed photos of the weapons, Malcolm McKay, secretary of the Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria, said the gun looked to be a single shot percussion pistol popular with Victorian gold rush miners of the 1850s and used for self-defence.

As for the bayonet, he said the inscription on the blade probably referred to the manufacturer. The bayonet, with its hooked handguard, was of a type commonly attached to the late 19th-century French-made Lebel rifles.

This article can be found in The Age online - 6 July 2010.

© Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.