A functional analysis of two 3D-scanned antique pistols from New Zealand

John LaRocco, Dong-Guk Paeng


Preservation of historical weapons requires continual and careful maintenance. Digital three-dimensional (3D) scanning can assist in preservation and analysis by generating a 3D computer model. New Zealand presents a special case for historical preservation, owing to the rapid import of European goods in a culture previously unexposed to metalworking. This, and the subsequent British colonization, led to upheaval and war. The most intense conflict between British and Maori forces was in the New Zealand Land Wars of the mid-19th century. The primary handheld firearms used in this period were black-powder muzzle-loaders, and the variety of armed factions involved in the war resulted in an eclectic range of weapons used. Two antique muzzle-loading pistols from this period were scanned and analyzed. Insights were gained into the history of double-barreled muzzle-loading pistols and transitional revolvers. The double-barreled pistol was determined to have been a flintlock pistol from a century prior to the Land Wars, later converted to percussion cap ignition. The transitional revolver was an intermediate step between the multi-barrel pepperbox pistol and the “true” revolver, but it remained in use throughout the Victorian era. Both types of firearms were effectively obsolete elsewhere in the world by the time of the Land Wars, but the conflict created a demand for a variety of weapons. While the pistols analyzed in this study are decommissioned and no longer in working order, the 3D models made from the samples afforded a unique glimpse into New Zealand’s history. The methodology detailed over the course of the study can be applied to other historical firearms in order to facilitate preservation, investigation, and experimentation.


  • Preservation of historical machines requires continual maintenance, including replacement of worn or missing parts.

  • A combination of 3D scanning and digital models was used to analyze two antique pistols from New Zealand: a converted flintlock pistol and a transitional revolver.

  • The method of making and analyzing digital models detailed in this study offers a way to facilitate historical preservation, experimental archaeology, and functional analysis.


historical weapon; 3D modeling; antique pistol; 3D digitization; digital preservation; 3D reconstruction

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