The Pistol Sword
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 early flintlock pistols 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. Examples of these weapons can be found in the armoury of Wawel Castle (Kraków, Poland). Similar weapons were made in India, including the Katara, a thrusting dagger with two built-in pistols that could be fired by squeezing the bars together.
Pinfire cartridge gun-swords were produced in Belgium during the mid-19th century, although in limited quantity. These custom-made weapons were sometimes used by European officers and featured a loading gate behind the basket hilt. In 1866 T. Rauh of Solingen filed a United States patent on the design of a 9mm caliber pistol sword with a 30in blade.
Another notable example of a pistol sword was the Swedish 1865 Cutlass Pistol; 500 were ordered by the government and issued to prison guards. 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.
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-defence. However this idea was far from new; combination swordsticks and wheel lock pistols have been in use since the 16th century.
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. A rare variant of the Japanese Nambu automatic pistol was a pistol sword.
Combination of a wheel-lock mechanism with a sword has been in use since at least the 16th century. Since swords were traditionally much more expensive to manufacture than axes, knives, spears etc. and wheel-lock mechanism was also more expensive than other firing mechanisms, such weapons were usually used by aristocrats. Since they could afford it, these weapons were usually heavily engraved and decorated as well.
The combination of a firearm with a dagger was more common than combining a firearm with a sword. For one thing, they were cheaper. Also, unlike a sword, a dagger wouldn’t be unbalanced as much and the firearm is also easier to manipulate and aim than if it was attached to a sword. As with swords, many of the early combined dagger pistols were made in Germany.
Pistol swords were not as widely used mainly because of the expense. One more major issue was that the pistol mechanism would cause the sword to unbalance towards the hilt, making it harder to wield the sword. Furthermore, since the pistol was permanently attached to the sword, it became much heavier and therefore harder to point and aim as a pistol. So instead of gaining a 2 for 1 weapon, the user ended up with an off-balanced sword and a heavy pistol. This is why pistol-swords never really gained much popularity throughout the ages.
Photo source: iCollector