Double Barrel Folding Knife Pistol

Lot 3264 in the September 2020 RIA Premier auction.

Historically, there are a variety of combination knife/gun/knuckles combination weapons, typically made in the late 19th century. This one is…rather larger than most of those. This is a combination knife/gun with a pair of percussion-fired 12mm smoothbore barrels, a roughly 5.25 inch folding knife blade, and a pair of slim corkscrew-style folding triggers that drop down when each hammer is cocked. The whole assembly is made to evoke an old fashioned antler-paneled pocket knife, except that it is made with a substantial pistol grip at one end instead of a folding grip of some type.


  1. Single and double-barrel knife/pistol combinations like this are actually fairly common. Most date to the 1840s and 1850s, when a lot of people still didn’t trust the newfangled revolvers or even pepperboxes. With the exception of some made in England, most carried no makers’ markings at all. Belgium and Germany were the main source of these types on the Continent.

    This one exhibits the more-or-less standard pattern, including the curved grip and the corkscrew/trigger(s) which were characteristic of the breed. And yes, they did actually use them to open wine bottles with.

    Most of these gun/knife combinations were fairly large and of serious caliber. .36 caliber predominated, although .44 and .50 were popular as well. Rather like the original Deringer, the idea was to put a large lead ball in somebody’s guts at point-blank.

    The exact function of this one would be as a traveler’s “overcoat pocket” gun. When confronted by a footpad, it could be cocked quite inconspicuously in the pocket while seemingly obeying the footpad’s order to “hand over your purses and your pretties”.

    You drew it, fired your two shots (which being 12mm would seriously hurt), and then, if it’s like most of its breed, the folded, double-edged dagger blade would spring out and lock automatically or by means of a push-button catch. So instead of “just” an empty gun, you had four or five inches of razor-sharp cold steel in your hand in event anybody wanted to continue the debate.

    Lewis Winant devotes an entire chapter of Firearms Curiosa to knife pistols and cane guns, and about half the knife pistols he describes and illustrates are along the lines of this one, including the curved “grip” and the springloaded knife blade, not to mention the serious bore size.

    So, I would tend to SWAG that this is an authentic antique from about the middle of the 19th Century. And was designed as an “insurance policy” against ending up robbed or worse on the mean streets of most of Europe.



    • Oh, PS;

      Note the hole in the front of the curved grip. This was likely once the position of a push-button to release the sping-loaded dagger blade.

      The most probable reason the blade doesn’t seem to work correctly now is that sometime in the last seventy-five years or so, the spring-catch and spring that snapped the blade out into position were removed to avoid legal problems with U.S. laws RE “switchblades”.



      • Switch blades were banned because idiotic moral guardians were scared of the idea that someone could just magically make a “deadly weapon” appear out of nowhere. The idea that a spring-loaded pocket knife could count as a weapon of mass destruction is laughable. I mean, seriously, you are more likely to be killed by a speeding train than by some juvenile delinquent with a spring-loaded letter-opener. Banning the knives only made them MORE desirable to crooks so they could intimidate street-dumb sheltered upper-class ladies into handing over their purses. Nice going, moral guardians, you’ve made the world LESS SAFE for the law-abiding people!

        The previous paragraph is a joke rant. Time for the serious section.

        No matter what happens, it appears that law enforcement has never been able to wipe out the issue we call “getting dragged into the back alley scuffle.” The proper gentlemen always goes armed, even if violence is vulgar. He will wisely wish to keep any weaponry out of sight, but he will make each implement easy to deploy. He will not allow himself to die without making sure his assailant regrets the encounter. Oh, and yes, I believe that the blade on that gun is also intended to prevent muggers from grabbing the gun after the bullets are shot out.

        • Switchblades were virtually unknown in the United States prior to about 1935 or so. After 1945, they became more common due to the number brought back from Europe by returning GIs. They were often called “Italian stilettos” back then, even thought they were mostly made in Belgium or, later, West Germany. They only became a “street gang” trademark in the mid-1950s, largely due to Hollywood (who else?).

          Still, it took until 1958 for U.S.C. Title 15, Chapter 29, Sections 1241-1245, aka the “National Switchblade Act”, to be passed by Congress. It covers virtually all “automatic opening” knives as well as “gravity knives”, the latter term being one that nobody can exactly define.

          Interestingly, during WW2, the U.S. military issued “switchblade” knives;

          The later Model 2 version had brown or OD plastic scales. There was also the U.S. Navy issue MK I version, with black plastic scales.

          The idea was always the same. A paratrooper hung up in his shrouds in a tree, or a sailor working lines, could pull this one out with one hand, open it, and commence cutting where needed.

          Other than the spring setup, it was nothing but a plain, old-fashioned Barlow-type single-blade “whittler” with a clip-point blade.

          Oh, so dangerous. ///



          • The United States actually was the leading producer of automatic knives in the early 20th century. Many GIs carried them. It was indeed the “Italian Stilleto” that they brought back which eventually led to the legislation against them.

          • Schrade company made production of switchblades beginning 1906 in the US. However, automaticaly opening knives history begun in Europa almost nearly three centuries ago. Fame of Italian style stiletto knives should be Hollywood based , like movies “Twelve angry men, West side story”…

        • re: I believe that the blade on that gun is also intended to prevent muggers from grabbing the gun after the bullets are shot out.

          The first time I saw a story on one of these few-shot weapons with a conformal spring-loaded blade, my immediate impression was that the blade was intended for surprise poking.

          It would not be pre-deployed for deterrence. It would be held in reserve, perhaps on the expectation that any assailants remaining after firing would charge what they assumed was a now mostly harmless metal club.

          • True, but this depends on whomever gets the jump first. If the muggers charge after seeing one of their own getting two shots in the face, the gentleman defending himself has only a few seconds to deploy the knife. And even then, that knife is good only to take out one more person at best. I could be wrong.

          • re: that knife is good only to take out one more person at best.

            Do you want three bites at the apple, or only two?

            How these things were intended to be used, and then how actually (if ever) used, are questions at least as interesting as how they functioned.

  2. Still work that today even with modern body armour. Aim under it; simplfy. Never be able to armour the “that area” practically, and 30rd 7.62x25mm hits of say 28 they are dead. No recoil. Job done.

  3. Thats the muzzle of the future; you use the bayonet to cut any “lose ends” so you can boot, one half of the armoured tw@ in the other direction to other.

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