Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Strange firearms on the battlefields of the “Hungaries”

This is the only handgun found in Hungary (1607) that had eight barrels, it was called “death-organ”:

The “topor”: born in Germany, it has become a typical Central-European weapon

The “topor” is a combination of a short-barrelled gun and an ax/dagger – it came to Hungary from Poland in the 17th century. It was particularly favored by the cavalrymen of the Transylvanian Prince.

We can trace back the development of this combined weapon to the 15th century: according to A. Demmin (Die Kriegswaffen. (Leipzig 1893) you can see the drawing of a similar weapon among the pictures. It was used by a cavalryman against armored opponents. It is basically just a barrel with an ax, it was fired just like a typical hook-gun of the age. In the Museum of Dresden, there is another similar weapon from the first part of the 15th century.

the drawing of one of the first “topors”

We know that Zwingli Ulrich used to wield a combined ax-gun as well, it is on display in the Schweizer Landesmuseum. The famous reformer carried a small sack of gunpowder and bullets on his saddle but he rather used the ax. He lost it in the Battle of Kappel in 1531.

Zwingli’s combined weapon

The full length of the weapon is  86 cm and the barrel is 19 mm, at the end, it is 42.5 mm, though. This Gothic cavalry weapon is thought that it had been made at the end of the 15th century. These firearms were quite clumsy to use. The next stage of these weapons began in the 1530s when the rider could already aim with a stretched hand. A side note: it is interesting, that battle-axes in India were called “tabar” in 1556.

Western riders were usually supplied with two „firing barrels” that later were improved with a wheel-lock trigger. It enabled the soldiers to use just one hand to fire it: the pistols were born around 1546-47. As they were not satisfactory firearms, they were used as smashing weapons because reloading took a long time. There is a nice combined weapon like this in Madrid from 1551, it later belonged to King Phillip II. This one is the Axe-pistol of Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici, 1580 (German, Steel, 70 cm):

There are similar weapons in the Zschille Collection (16th century), and in the Scheremetew Collection (17th century), as well as in the Tower of London (17th. century). There is a topor in the Kuppelmayr Collection in Munich, too. In the western military history, there are no special names for these weapons, unlike in Eastern Europe where they are called “topor”. We, Hungarians most likely borrowed this name from the Polish language in the first part of the 18th century. In old-Slavic language, the word “toporu” stands for ax. In Turk, the long-shafted ax is called “teber”. 

In the inventory made in 1654 in the castle of Fraknó, a weapon like this was mentioned like this: »egy puska, aki mind csákány, mind pizdulya« meaning: “a rifle  that is both battle-ax and pistol”. 

When the belongings of the Nádasdy family were listed in Pottendorf in 1669, we can read about two battle axes that “had a rifle in them”. See, they were not called “topor” at that time. When the properties of the Rákóczi-orphans were listed in 1688, we can read about an ax “that had a rifle in its shaft”.

There was an inventory made in the castrle of Schwarzburg in 1726, it lists a weapon like this, adding that “it was a battle-ax for walking, ( length 1050 mm, barrel 560 mm), that can be used to fire.” and “it looks like those walking-battle (csákány sétabot) axes that were in fashion in Hungary in the 17th century”. (Source: Kalmár János)

Here are a few more interesting topor-like combined weapons:

Here is a 14mm bore wheel-lock pistol and battle-ax combination from Nuremberg, 1580:

I think they are displayed in Italy:

It is a Hungarian weapon:

At last but not at least, look at this firearm from the Museum of Istanbul:

…and look at the strangest pistol I have ever seen (though it is from the early 18th century as I think):

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