Stalin’s Gun-Dagger

Before we get to Stalin’s gun-dagger, you ever play Final Fantasy? Me neither, but anyone else I talk to about this thing brings it up. Apparently a big thing in that is ‘gunblades’, a big fuck-off sword that also happens to have a trigger on the handle, letting you shoot with it. It works with the playground philosophy of ‘rule of cool’, where if it’s cool, it doesn’t matter of it’s impractical and unwieldy. In this case, the problem is that the sword part is taking center stage. People already have rifles with bayonets, who the hell needs a sword with a gun-attachment? The priorities are all backwards!

With that bit of rambling over with, I present to you Stalin’s personal gun-dagger. The same logic as a gunblade except it’s a lot smaller. As you might expect (unfortunately), this was never intended for use in combat. Stalin never dueled Trotsky to the death and unexpectedly shot him through the heart right as ‘ol Lev was about to give the killing blow. It’s a ceremonial piece, more meant for display and admiration.

The gun-dagger disassembled
The gun-dagger disassembled

The piece is found in the ‘Museum of the Modern History of Russia’, formerly known as the Museum of the Revolution. There’s not a great deal of info on its origins, beyond some basic stuff we’ll get into rather soon, though the weapon itself is as fascinating as it is impractical. Pieces need to be physically rotated into place to get it ready to fire. By the looks of things, it could store a grand total of four bullets at a time, limiting it a fair bit further, though understandably so. The rounds are apparently .32 Smith & Wesson, a popular American gun brand.

Most interestingly, it doesn’t actually have a trigger! By twisting it into place, the shot is automatic, making it pretty damn primitive as a weapon and further emphasizing that it’s not intended for actual combat. A trigger would simply have bulked up the weapon and made it visually unappealing.

Since it’s mainly a display piece, it’s probably unfair to judge it on the merits of its deadliness. So let’s focus on the aesthetics. You might have noticed the blade is all wavy, a pattern referred to as being ‘flame-bladed’. The intent was for two-handed swords to be like this, since parrying a sword-blow with this style would potentially throw off your opponents aim and hurt their wrist. The pattern’s rad though, so it became popular with display daggers, particularly often seen with novelty ‘cult daggers’ in movies and the like.

Engraving on the blade of Stalin's gun-dagger
Engraving on the blade

You might notice that on one side at the base of the blade, there’s a picture of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Underneath him is an inscription in Russian stating “Death to Fascist Invaders” and the attribution to ‘I. Stalin’, that being Iosif Stalin, a perhaps more accurate translation of his first name. The choice of using a Stalin quote under a picture of Lenin is perhaps an odd one, but y’know, whatever. It’s fine.

USSR seal engraving on Stalin's Gun-dagger
USSR seal engraving

On the flip-side of Stalin’s gun-dagger is the coat of arms of the USSR. Most fascinating is peering at the ribbons on the wreaths of wheat… That’s not Cyrillic is it? If you don’t know what language it is, I don’t blame you. It’s not from Eastern Europe at all, it’s actually Yiddish! The other language of Judaism, apart from Hebrew. The inscription states ‘For the Happiness of all Peoples’, reflecting the international focus of communism. Indeed, many of the emblems featured the same slogans in multiple languages, with Yiddish sometimes being one of them. With so little room to work with, Yiddish appears to be the only one fit in, but hey, maybe it was presented by Jewish craftsmen. Particularly understandable given the war against fascism.

Well, we sure have a lot of questions as to where this thing came from! Perhaps from Jewish Soviet factory workers? Well, there’s one inconsistency… There’s an inscription on the barrel of the gun part. “To Marshal Josef Stalin: May 1st 1944”. …But wait, that’s in English, isn’t it? What gives? Well by taking the gun apart, we can get a much clearer clue. It states, in no uncertain terms: “With Love and Respect: From J. A. Meyers and Jim Compana, Los Angeles, California.”

Interior engraving of Stalin's gun-dagger
Interior engraving

So Stalin’s gun-dagger was an American gift of all things! Well, WW2 was still ongoing and no-one was in doubt that the USSR was carrying the war effort. Further, the USSR still held a prestigious place among the world’s proletariat and even the US had no shortage of communists! For a group of communist gunsmiths to produce a gift for the fighting Soviet people at the peak of the war, on International Workers Day no less, is hardly a surprise. And while much of what is known about this gun has been lost to history, the piece itself gives us a wealth of fascinating insight. See, it was more than weird novelty piece about a wacky firearm!

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