Irish numbers and markings

Vol. 9 No. 1 - 2007

Irish numbers and markings

by Colin Baxter

"What do these auld markings mean?"

This article will look at some of the Numbers and Markings found on old guns, swords and bayonets. British service ownership, production, proof, inspection, issue and unit markings were stamped and inscribed on virtually every weapon and piece of kit/equipment used by a soldier.

There was a time when the majority of houses/cottages in the countryside would have had a fowling piece, sword or bayonet hanging on a wall or placed in a corner of a room. Today, in this part of County Armagh, some people may be fortunate enough to still have a piece hanging on the wall of their own home. An old gun, sword or bayonet, which has been passed down from one generation of the family to the next. Have a close look at it for any markings, they may be able to give you a clue to its history.

Old Flintlocks

Early Ordnance flintlock firearms are initially identified by lock markings, engraved ‘TOWER’ or ‘DUBLIN CASTLE’ or with a lock contractor’s name and year of manufacture across the tail of the lock plate. After 1764, the lock tail engraving was changed, in that the year was omitted and only ‘TOWER’ or ‘DUBLIN CASTLE’ was marked. The presence of the Royal Cipher with ‘GR’ or a reigning monarch’s cipher on the lock plate also indicates the Ordnance contracts.

Tower and royal cypher
Tower and royal cypher

The Irish Registration Act of 1843 pertaining to private gun ownership was introduced in an effort to monitor and, in turn, reduce the private ownership of guns throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. With the growth of Irish gun makers and the importation of guns from the Birmingham Trade, the government of the day became increasingly concerned at the increase of gun ownership.

County prefix

The working of the Act involved the issue of a licence to the gun owner, detailing the place where their guns were to be kept. Both the Licence and the arms were allocated a County prefix in the form of two letters, example AR. = Armagh and a registration number. This number usually consists of three or four digits.

Locating the markings on the gun is quite easy. Pistols are marked on top of the barrel. Long arms like the Brown Bess or fowling pieces are marked on the barrel and butt plate or butt plate tang. On high quality weapons the registration marks may be found on the inside of the trigger guard or even under the barrel, saving the weapon from disfigurement.

Local units like the Crowhill Volunteers (1796) marked their muskets with the initials JA (Joseph Acheson) and a number.

Seagoe Volunteers (1796) inscribed the word “Seago” on the butt and William Vernor (Vernors Inn) of the Churchill Volunteers (1796) inscribed his guns with WV.

Tyrone registration mark
Tyrone registration mark

Crowhill volunteer markings
Crowhill volunteer marking - JA 15

Irish Gun Makers

The majority of Irish gun makers working in Ireland during the 18th and 19th centuries were located in the Dublin area. A few in Limerick and the remainder scattered throughout the country.

Names like Calderwood, Fowler, Eames, Morton, McDermott, Knight, Powell, Silk, Turner and Wallace were well known as gun makers. Two outstanding Irish gun makers were Rigby and Trulock.

Belfast makers included Joseph Braddell whose business was at 21Castle Place and the firm of Hunter & Sons, 62 Royal Ave.

Registration Marks 1843 Act County or Borough
AN  Antrim
CBCork Borough
DCDublin City
ECCork East Riding
KBKilkenny Borough
KSKings County (Offaly)
LBLimerick Borough
NTTipperary North Riding
QQueens County (Laois)
STTipperary South Riding
WBWaterford Borough
WCCork West Riding

Officers’ swords were invariably purchased privately prior to 1914, from private makers or trade retailers. Officers’ blades usually carry the royal cipher, which can assist in dating the swords. Prime suppliers were Wilkinson and prior to this, the names of Gill and Woolley are familiar. The Wilkinson Sword Company has records going back to 1854 for numbered blades where records are available.

Regular issue swords conform with service patterns and so may be easier to research. Prior to 1788 swords were purchased by the Colonel of the Regiment but after this date, patterns were stipulated by the Board of Ordnance.

Irish Troopers’ Swords - Regimental Markings
8LD  8th King’s Royal Irish Light Dragoons
4DG4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards
6-D6th Inniskillen Dragoons
8H8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars
5L5th Royal Irish Lancers

Common sword markings
RIC  Royal Irish Constabulary
RUCRoyal Ulster Constabulary
USCUlster Special constabulary

Scabbard showing 5th lancers stamp
Scabbard showing 5th lancers stamp


Bayonets tend to be quite common compared to old guns and swords. Early socket bayonets are usually found covered in rust with their scabbards missing.

The Ulster Volunteer Force imported thousands of bayonets into the Province :- British 1876 sockets, 1879 Artillery bayonets, 1888 Metfords, French 1866 chassepots & 1874 Gras bayonets, Austrian 1904 Steyr bayonets and Italian 1870 bayonets to name a few. This was, of course, part of the gun running of 1914, each gun would have a bayonet. The Irish Volunteers also imported a variety of weaponry into the country during this period.

Regimental markings found on Irish bayonets
Irish GuardsI.G
Royal Irish RegimentR.I
Royal Inniskilling FusiliersIN. F
Royal Irish RiflesR.I.R
Royal Irish Fusiliers  R.I.F. or I.F
Connaught RangersC.T
Royal Munster FusiliersM.F
Royal Dublin FusiliersD.F
London Irish Rifles18 LD
Royal Ulster RiflesR.U.R
South Irish HorseS.I.H
North Irish HorseN.I.H
O.T.C Queens BelfastO.T.C BFT
O.T.C. Trinity DublinO.T.C DN
Baird Engineering Belfast N96 BEC No 4 Spike (W W II)
 Royal Irish fusiliers 1932 regulations
Royal Irish fusiliers 1932 regulations
Royal Irish Fusiliers 1914
Royal Irish Fusiliers 1914


I would like to thanks Mr John Symington for his assistance. Thanks also to Mark Baxter for his computer skills and photography.

Answers to question at top of article.
  1. "Oep Omagh" is Royal lnniskilling Depot, Omagh
  2. "3 RIR'' is 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles