Weapons of the frontier wars

Firearms and ammunition of the Native Mounted Police in Queensland





Firearms were critical to the activities of the Queensland Native Mounted Police, a frontier force tasked with suppressing Aboriginal resistance in the colony of Queensland, Australia, between 1848 and 1929. Wider colonial processes meant that arming the Native Mounted Police was never straightforward, despite a dedicated program to standardise and update police weaponry from 1864 onwards. In this paper we use historical, archaeological and museum collections data to produce, for the first time, a definitive list of nine weapons and the ammunition known to have been issued to, and used by, the Native Mounted Police. In general, these weapons transitioned to ever more sophisticated and lethal breech-loading technology, and arms were quickly superseded, although older models were retained in use, resulting in detachments often being armed with an assortment of weaponry. This heterogeneity may have contributed to the use of different tactics by detachments in varying environmental zones. Although the identification of the weapons and ammunition outlined here has value for other contexts, the chief contribution of this research lies in its potential to provide an archaeological dataset to identify putative events of frontier conflict involving the Queensland Native Mounted Police.