combination katar with dual pistols
Overall length

45 cm / 16.5 inch

Blade length

19.8 cm / 9.3 inch

Blade thickness

forte 7 mm

middle 5 mm

thickened tip 7.5 mm

Blade width

forte 77 mm

middle 58 mm

at thickened tip 42 mm

Barrel length

48 mm

Barrel caliber

10 mm

Origin

Rajasthan, India.
Katar: Probably Bikanēr.
Pistols: Probably Bundi.

Materials

Steel, wootz steel.

Dating

Katar: 17th or 18th century.
Pistols: 19th century.

Price €3900, -

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Introduction

The various cultures of the Indian subcontinent produced some of the most strange and creative weapons the world has seen. "Combination" katar fitted with dual pistols in a European style are a case-in-point. They look to come right out of a steampunk novel.

Some of these were based on older, existing katar that were fitted with two pistols, while others were made as combination weapons from scratch. (See "Comparable examples" below.) The first examples were produced in the late 18th century using flintlock systems. By the early 19th century the more practical percussion cap system became in widespread use on European firearms, and the technology soon found its way to India through the British.

Whether they were truly practical can be subject to discussion. Like small European self-defense pistols, you do get two short-range shots out of them. On the other hand, the protruding barrels reduce the effective use of the blade somewhat, and they add weight. So even though they are fully functional, they never saw widespread adaptation and were mostly seen as novelties. They found a ready market among Indian arms enthusiasts, including the Maharajah of Bundi, Ram Singh, who apparently was quite fond of them as he has several lavish examples made.

Description

An all-steel Indian combination katar that is fitted with two percussion cap pistols mounted on an older katar. The katar is of classic, somewhat earlier form with a wide blade with sunken panels, with a thickened tip. The handle bars are of nice geometry, with a concave cross-section for extra rigidity. The handle bars are typically Rajasthani. It's entirely made of the prized wootz steel, also known as "true Damascus" with a microcrystalline structure that makes especially hard and tough steel. Following local aesthetics, only the center panel is etched to show off the pattern of the wootz while the rest of the piece is left plain. Originally, the edged would have been burnished bright to further enhance the contrast between edge and wootz steel panel.

During cleaning, I took off the pistols which revealed old Bikaner armory marks on either side of the handle. For more information, see my article the Bikaner armory.

Markings on an all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.
One side-bar is marked "Bi 21"

Markings on an all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.
The other side-bar is marked "Bi 536".
(With the letters for "Bi" partially gone due to the opening that was created for the trigger.)

Markings on an all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.
The base of the blade is marked "509"

Pistols

Each pistol is attached to the sides of the katar by means of two clamps held by screws, and a single screw at the back. Each screw is hand-made and only fits well into the hole it was made for. Two square openings were made in the side bars to allow the triggers to come through. The locks are typical English style percussion cap locks. The sides of each action are engraved with elephants, which hints to manufacture in the city of Bundi. The barrels have grooves near the muzzle so they appear rifled, but the rifling is straight and short. On one side of each pistol are three marks that look to be "proof marks", or simulations thereof. Proof marks were stamped into guns after testing them with an excessive charge to ensure they do not blow up during use.

One pistol has a mysterious inscription that I haven't been able to figure out. I don't even know what language it is:

Strange marking on one of the actions on a combination katar with percussion pistols. mandarinmansion.com.
The mysterious inscription on one of the pistols. Any help is appreciated.
Cock on a combination katar with percussion pistols. mandarinmansion.com.
The well-used cock on this example, with the cross-hatching for extra grip faded due to wear.
Was this piece actually used, and lots of it? It could also have been be a second hand pistol part to begin with.

Comparable examples

A patron of combination katar was Maharajah Ram Sing of Bundi who had several katar made for himself, and to present as gifts. One piece with flintlock pistols he presented to future king Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76:

Royal collection accession number RCIN 11344
This example was based on an older katar, like ours, which was later fitted with these pistols. The locks use the flintlock mechanism.

Another, also presented during this occasion, but with no donor listed:
Royal collection accession number RCIN 11344
This peculiar piece is clearly made as a combination weapon from scratch, with a rather non-standard construction where the blade was screwed to the base. Again, a flintlock action is used.

The blades of both exhibit strong traits of Bundi work, which is likely where they were made.

Another combination weapon was supposedly made in 1850 and exhibited at the The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London in 1851.
Royal Armories accession number XXVIS.85
It consists of a khanda with integrated percussion pistol, plus a katar of the Bundi style that can be attached to its basket hilt by means of two lugs.
This object's provenance brings the use of percussion cap systems on Indian combination weapons back to at least 1850.

Various more combination katar are known to exist in collections. See Robert Elgood; Rajput Arms and Armour: The Rathores and Their Armoury at Jodhpur Fort Vol. 2, page 705 and Lord Egerton of Tatton; Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour, Dover 2003 (Reprint of London: W.H. Allen, 1880.), page 131, item number 638. Another, very unusual example is found in Robert Hales; Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour, Robert Hales C.I. Ltd, 2013, page 61.

Condition

The piece is in decent condition throughout. Surfaces have suffered age, now spotted with darkened areas, some scratches and dents. Some minor edge damage to the blade. The mechanisms are both in good, working order. Recent restorations by me include cleaning, careful removal of some active rust, and a very light etch on the center panel to bring out the pattern in the steel.

Conclusion

A nice, working example of one of the most peculiar weapons made in India. It exhibits an Indian curiosity for new technology from Europe, combining it with their very traditional and uniquely Indian weapon, the katar. Most examples are lavishly decorated and clearly were toys commissioned by the upper class for personal enjoyment or to be presented as gifts. Our example is more plain and practical in comparison, with good quality manufacture and excellent blade steel but nothing overly ornate.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

An all-steel katar from the Bikanēr armory. mandarinmansion.com.

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