The Gunblade Really Existed: The Pistol Sword

The Gunblade is surely one of the most iconic weapons in videogames because of his incredible design and power: a gun is cool; a sword is cool; a sword with a gun handle that can combine the two degrees of possible devastation is even better. 

Although is not as powerful as reading people’s mind, though.

Designed by Tetsuya Nomura, it makes it first appearance in the first Final Fantasy I have ever had the pleasure to play, FFVIII, and it is wielded by everybody’s favourite emo protagonist Squall Leonhart. 

It will be later adopted by other games in the Final Fantasy series, both main entries and spin-offs, as well as many more other media outside Square Enix’s titles.

As a kid, I still remembered how cheesy and cool the idea of a Gunblade was, and I thought: “this stuff can only exist in these fantasy worlds”. Little did I know that Gunblades were a thing in the real world, and they date as far back as the 16th century. 

The Matchlock Pistol Sword – Early 16th Century. 

The earliest example of a Gunblade would be the Matchlock Pistol Sword.  
In an article for Sword Encyclopedia, Abigal Cambal gives us an in-depth description of its mechanism, which will shoot a projectile from the sword’s hilt after igniting a slow-burning match or cord.

I tried my best, but I could not find any documented Matchlock Pistol Sword on the internet. Unfortunately the weapon given as the source image in the article dates back to the 19th century, which can’t be categorized as the oldest Gunblade in history. Nonetheless, Cambal’s explanation makes sense, and a Matchlock Pistol Sword would logically be older considering that it is an older firearm technology. 

The Wheellock Pistol Sword – Mid to Late 16th Century. 

After some research, the oldest example of Pistol Sword that I could find is a French combination Sword and Wheellock Pistol, which dates back to 1550-1555 ca. For copyright reason I can’t show the pictures, but here’s the link to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MAT)’s dedicated page.

Another good example, for which I can finally show a picture of, is another combination Sword and Wheellock Pistol. Dating around 1580, this Pistol Sword is of German manufacture. 

A wheellock pistol Sword
German Combination Sword and Wheellock Pistol, 1550-1555 ca., via MAT.

A wheellock pistol mechanism works by creating a spark by steel friction. Its name comes from the rotating steel mechanism that provides said friction. 

The Wheellock Pistol Axe – Late 16th Century. 

A combination of Sword and Pistol is slick, but a pistol combined with an Axe sounds like an overkill. It also looks like an overkill, and I love it. 

Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici’s Pistol Axe, via MAT

This one in particular was again of German manufacture and made for Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici around 1580, as stated by the MAT, again. The Axe’s hollow shafts was used as a barrel in one end, and as storage for bullets at the hilt. As a personal note, I believe this combination as a more comfortable and stable one considering that there is no blade in the way. At the same time, it resembles less to the traditional Gunblade design in videogames. 

The Flintlock Pistol Sword/Katar – late 17th Century and throughout 18th Century. 

Jumping around 100 more years, here’s another example of Pistol Sword: the combination Hunting Sword and Flintlock Pistol. The example shown below is again of German provenience, and this time we have the manufacturer’s name as well: Johann Andreas Niefind. 
Unfortunately, aside of some other weapon attributed to him, no information can be found on the internet aside of MyFamilyTree.com, which dates would not really correspond. 

A Flintlock Pistol Sword
Niefind’s Flintolock Pistol Sword, via Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The flintlock mechanism had a striker hit a flint, which caused multitude of sparks igniting the gunpowder after pulling the trigger. Encyclopedia Britannica estimates its creation in France during the 17th century. 

Aside of Europe, India joined the Gunblade family in the 18th century with the combination Katar and Flintlock Pistols. Yes, plural. One for each side of the Katar, and it looks amazing. 

Flintolock Pistols Katar
Flintolock Pistols Katar, via Runjeet Singh

Just imagine Voldo from Soul Calibur with two of those things. Yeah, Illegal.

The Percussion Pistol Sword & August Rauh’s Revolver Sword 

We have reached the 1800s and, sadly, also the end of the pistol sword combinations. There are, though, some examples that still stood out. One of them being the famous U.S. Elgin Cutlass Pistol. 

Cutlass Pistol
The Elgin Cutlass Pistol, via Reddit

The Elgin Cutlass Pistol had a percussion mechanism, which had different cartridges with integrated gunpowder. Pulling the trigger would let the mechanism strike and consequentially fire them. 

This pistol’s design lightly leans towards what will then become that century’s warfare, being rifles with detachable bayonets. Its look seems more functional in a battle scenario, given the emphasis to the gun rather than the blade. I guess they were confident to end a fight with a bullet, but they didn’t get the memo: in RPGs, even a bullet in the head would just make a critical hit.  

The last on this list is, in my opinion, what inspired Tetsuya Nomura: The Revolver Sword. 

Made in the early 19th century, August Rauh made the closest combination weapon to a gunblade, considering gun position and mechanism. 

Rauh’s Revolver Sword, via Smithsonian

A revolver has a percussion mechanism combined with a revolving (hence the name) chamber housing from 5 to 7 rounds. It is the same mechanism used by Squall’s Iconic Gunblade (while Seifer’s Hyperion was based on a modern pistol), and barrel placement.  

We can see the patent for this weapon in this Smithsonian Page, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find any other information on the maker.  

Conclusions

I know, I know, I can see you guys trying to find a replica of some of these weapons to expose on a wall… or, in more honesty, to play pretend in the living room with “Don’t Be Afraid” by Nobuo Uematsu in the background. I feel you.  

After all, the Gunblade, Final Fantasy, and much more of the ‘90s are something that creates that incredible feeling of nostalgia that lives in many of us.  
Let’s keep that feeling alive in the next article! 

p.s.: There are many other example of combination weapons (mace+pistol / spear+pistol) that I decided to not include because not directly related to the Gunblade. The Axe is a deliberate exception because it just looks great!

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