These highly unusual firearms were captured by Australian forces after the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. In 1999 and later, Australian forces were part of the UN forces used to keep order after Indonesia withdrew their military forces following 24 years of occupation.
Some of the unusual design features of the gun include the three welded, stacked barrels with the non-functional trigger guard and trigger. The ignition system is said to be designed for cigarettes, but any source of flame or a heated wire could work.
Using flash holes for open match ignition is usually a bad idea in multi-barreled guns, inviting multiple ignition or chain fire.
From the Australilan Infantry Museum:
7. 3 BARREL PIPE GUNS
Captured by 3RAR Battle Group soldiers, these crudely made pipe guns were made and used by the Pro-Indonesia Militia in East Timor. The gun could be loaded with anything from gravel, nuts and bolts, to nails and cut wire. The load was then tamped with coconut fibre and, using match heads as the propellant, it was then ignited by a cigarette at the breech end of the barrel.
Upon closer examination (or as much as the museum display case would allow), it appeared the barrels were cut with a tubing cutter. That can work with soft steel, but leaves a uniform burr on the inside of the tube.
The barrels looked to be made of water pipe of about .60 inch inside bore. On the pistol, the burr wasn’t removed. The three-barrel pistol may be in mint condition; it looked unused, never fired.
Speculation about the stepped barrel lengths failed to produce an obvious reason. Ease of loading? An attempt to prevent chain fire? That seemed unlikely when the closely spaced touch-holes were considered.
I had read of cigarette ignition guns being used in the Philippines.
Paltik is a Filipino term for a homemade revolver. It originated late in the Philippine-American War when guns and ammunition had become scarce. The most common form of the weapon was a gas pipe attached to a rifle stock. Wire was usually wrapped around the barrel to keep the pipe from expanding when the gun is fired. It was muzzle-loaded and fired a medium sized bullet or musket ball. A small hole at the breech end of the barrel accommodated a cigarette or match that was used to ignite the primer, making aiming difficult. This also gave rise to the nickname, “Cigarette Gun”.
With East Timor in the general vicinity of the Philippines, this method could have been culturally transmitted or developed independently.
You would think a person who had access to a modern welder that could attach those barrels could devise a more sophisticated method of ignition. Perhaps these unusual firearms were made as “trade” guns, with little expectation of reputation for efficacy reflecting on the maker. They would have been strictly black market items in East Timor.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.