Why Ottoman pistols had false ramrods?


When I first became interested in Islamic firearms from the Ottoman period I noticed that most of the pistols had false ramrods. Thousands of pistols were made for the tourist market, today we call them “wall-hangers”. These pistols were primarily for decorative purposes and lacked any merit from a gunmakers point of view and even less from a warriors’ perspective. Really, they were rubbish and contributed enormously to the poor reputation and subsequent collectability of these firearms.

I know now better with regard to the false ramrods. The Ottomans often fought on horseback; a lose ramrod was sure to get dropped in the heat of battle. Rather than adopt the tethered ramrod of some British and European pistols, the Ottomans’ opted for a separate ramrod, known as a “Suma” which they hung from a sash tied around the waist.

This was, in fact, a very practical solution because the ramrod or Suma was designed to perform multiple functions.

The handle could be unscrewed from the body exposing a knife or, in the case of this ramrod from my collection, a pair of tweezers.


In the below painting by Rudolf Otto Ritter Von Ottenfeld you can see an Ottoman warrior using a ramrod identical to ours to hold an ember to light his pipe.


Michael Barnett



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