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This knife was found buried on the side of a hill at the site of an elementary school in Big Sur, CA; it was given to me by the principal because he knew that I collected knives. It obviously was buried for a long time. There are only dirt roads on that campus, and this was found by accident in one of the berms as they were grading one of those roads, (a dirt road that predates the school). The area has been occupied by first native Salinan people, then Europeans for centuries, so it could be very old, (or not...the lock mechanism makes me think not). Dunno, so I'm asking all of you to take a look.

Obviously has carbon blade(s), carbon springs and the handles seem to be bone, (I think.....maybe wood?), but other than that I don't recognize anything identifiable on it. It has the numbers "C16" on one side of what looks like a swing guard, & "C12" on the other side, and I suspect those numbers refer to the individual blades, (the swing guard & bolsters must be brass or some alloy, they have patina but not much actual rust; the blade/springs obviously went back to nature). Closed it would measure right at 4". It also has what appears to have been a lock mechanism of some type, (notice the notch in the back of the handle). Looks like there is a stamp of some kind on one side of the swing guard, but even with a magnifying glass I can't make it out.

I think the best thing to do here is to just post a bunch of photos & see if anyone has any idea of what it is, (or was). I'm also not sure if I should try and clean it up or just leave it "as found". Any ideas anyone; John, Tobias, Charles, Jan, Donnie, anybody?

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It is a shell puller.  The C12 & C16 tell me it is likely a Springer, made in Germany.  The c-12 and c-16 on the bolsters are for extracting 12 and 16 gauge shells from the chamber of a shotgun if they were stuck.  I understand they were made somewhere around the 1920's but I cannot remember where I read that

Cool, thanks Jan!! The school principal wanted me to find out what it was if I could, he'll be tickled to know, (as am I). I'll go online and see if I can get some photos of an intact one. The school is located directly across the street from Sand Dollar Beach, within a few yards of Hwy 1, so who knows how old it may be. The location is one of the few flat pieces of ground along that coast, so people have been all over that area for decades.

I'll post photos of an intact one if I find any. You are as always a wealth of cutlery information Jan; thanks again.

Jan Carter said:

It is a shell puller.  The C12 & C16 tell me it is likely a Springer, made in Germany.  The c-12 and c-16 on the bolsters are for extracting 12 and 16 gauge shells from the chamber of a shotgun if they were stuck.  I understand they were made somewhere around the 1920's but I cannot remember where I read that

Syd- A wonderful old find !! As Jan said it is an old shell puller knife. In the early 1900's many shotguns, especially European made shotguns did not have shell extractors.Shells had paper sleeves as opposed to the modern plastic, and expanded and got stuck in the barrel. Removing hot brass with your fingertips resulted in burnt and painful fingers, leading to the shell puller knives .Most of these were European made knives, from Germany, England, and Italy,etc. These were usually autos and leverlocks, although a few were made in lockback design, like yours. These shell puller knives were made well into the 1950-1960's if not later, and may be made yet today.I would hazard a guess that yours is early 1900's, as that would tie in with the early European settlements where it was found, although the shell puller knife hasn't changed much over the decades.Might be interesting to clean up the area of the knife where the stamp is, to see if a legible logo might be determined. Might possibly help determine it's age and provenance.

I have seen those shot shell puller knives before and always wondered what the point was , thanks for clearing it up John .



John McCain said:

Syd- A wonderful old find !! As Jan said it is an old shell puller knife. In the early 1900's many shotguns, especially European made shotguns did not have shell extractors.Shells had paper sleeves as opposed to the modern plastic, and expanded and got stuck in the barrel. Removing hot brass with your fingertips resulted in burnt and painful fingers, leading to the shell puller knives .Most of these were European made knives, from Germany, England, and Italy,etc. These were usually autos and leverlocks, although a few were made in lockback design, like yours. These shell puller knives were made well into the 1950-1960's if not later, and may be made yet today.I would hazard a guess that yours is early 1900's, as that would tie in with the early European settlements where it was found, although the shell puller knife hasn't changed much over the decades.Might be interesting to clean up the area of the knife where the stamp is, to see if a legible logo might be determined. Might possibly help determine it's age and provenance.


Thanks John. I'll try and see if I can get a better look at what might be a brand stamp, and I am going to ask the school principal to show me exactly where it was dug up, that might help determine what used to be on that spot. The site is on National Forest land which has been leased to the school district since the 60's, but there were settlers around there generations before that. It's likely the knife predates the school, and that area used to be crawling with quail, (there are still a lot of quail on the fringes), so finding something related to shotguns there isn't a stretch.
I'll see if I can clean it up a bit more, maybe that will reveal it's origins.

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