Have you ever seen a gun made out of length of metal tube, or an eight-barrel shooting belt? If not, you can now. These and other extraordinary home-made weapons constructed both by criminals as well as law-abiding enthusiasts are currently on display at the Prague's Police Museum.
The Museum of the Police of the Czech Republic is staging an exhibition of home-made and amateurishly-adapted guns, most of which come from between the 1950s and 1980s. The rules for selling weapons were really tight back then and people who felt they really needed a gun often had to make them themselves. Václav Rutar is the curator of the exhibition.
"The exhibition comes from the collections of the Police Museum. Most of these weapons got here from the Criminological Institute in 1973. That is the core of the collection but some items were incorporated into the collections later, after they were confiscated from criminals."
Among the curious weapon artefacts on display, you will find a number of poachers' sawn-off shotguns, hand guns adapted from signal or alarm guns, and functioning replicas of serially produced pistols. It is, however, a little difficult to picture a masked robber holding up a bank with a piece of rough metal only remotely resembling a gun. What purpose had all the amateur gunsmiths in mind during the long hours they must have spent in their workshops?
"They were not always made to commit crimes with, or to hurt someone. Some experts actually say that the motivation behind the production of home-made weapons is just a boyish desire to make a bang. They would typically drill barrels of alarm guns adapting them for small-calibre ammunition. But it is true that many of these guns were in fact used to commit crimes, some of which we have documented."
While most of the weapons on display do in fact look like toys, like a model of the German tank Leopard II with a functioning 5.5 mm gun confiscated from a neat handed DIY man in Svitavy, others, like a massive-looking revolver, were made to kill.
Since the fall of communism, guns have become much easier to get hold of, either in licensed shops or on the black market, and it seems that the golden age of home-made weapons requiring hours of lonely and diligent work is over. But if you want to get a taste of what a gun someone puts together at home looks like, the exhibition at the Police Museum in Prague is open until January 2008.