Key Guns

    I have seen many types of weird and wacky guns, but these key guns take the cake. From at least the 17th century untill the mid 1800s, some lock makers integrated guns into lock keys for use by jailers. The idea was that if the prisoner tried any funny stuff, the jailer could fire a round through the lock at the prisoner.

    Flintlock Key Gun

    Some of the key guns were very basic, requiring the jailer to use a a cigar, cigarette or match to ignite a touchhole, while others used sophisticated percussion cap and flintlock mechanisms.

    1850s .32 Cal blackpowder gun with touchhole. (Photo from Webteek Auctions)
    British made and Birmingham proofed percussion key pistol. Approx. .45 cal. Made 1850 – 1860. (Photo from Horst Held Antique Handguns)

    My hunch is that these were marketing gimmicks from lock makers, not useful tools for prison guards and jailers. I suspect they were carried around unloaded, but cocked, so prisoners would think twice before attacking a guard.

    [Hat Tip: Sven via. Boing Boing]

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!