Objects > Irish Constabulary percussion lock pistol


Irish Constabulary Tower of London percussion lock pistol

Date: 1840s

Material: wood and steel

Dimensions: 25 x 5 cm

Organisation: Irish Constabulary

Source: Police Museum

This is a percussion lock single shot pistol produced by the Tower of London for the Irish Constabulary’s “disposable men”. Smaller than standard issue firearms, these pistols were easily concealed in a coat pocket and carried during intelligence gathering duties such as infiltrating crowds at political rallies. Disposable men were experienced constables or head constables “disposed” or assigned part–time to detective duties.

A small number of disposable men were introduced in Dublin in 1842-3 to investigate the theft of stolen goods. In 1847, county inspectors were given the authority to appoint up to six plain clothes detectives to prevent and investigate serious crime in each county. These men were selected for their “respectability and ingenuity” and sent in “disguise to the scene of the crime” to investigate “heinous outrage”. The disposable men were tasked with infiltrating political groups in the countryside and towns, however, they found little success in rural areas. Despite their farming backgrounds, the plain clothes detectives were easily recognised as policemen by their walk, haircut or facial hair.