Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 16:17 UK

Cave-find rifle from 19th Century

Old rifle
The weapon is going on display at the nature reserve visitor centre

An old gun found on an Aberdeenshire nature reserve has been identified as a French rifle from the 1800s.

The remains of the ancient weapon were discovered last year in a sea cave on the St Cyrus National Nature Reserve.

Although experts have identified the rifle, it has remained a mystery how it got to the cave in the first place.

The gun will now go on display at the St Cyrus Nature Reserve visitor centre, which is run by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Experts at the National War Museum, in Edinburgh, concluded the rifle was made in Saint Etienne, in south eastern France.

'Greek service'

Jonathan Ferguson, assistant curator of military history at the museum, said: "The rifle was made some time after 1880 and is a Fusil Modele 1874 Gras.

"It's a single shot, bolt-action weapon with a bayonet fitting - typical of military rifles from the late 19th century up until the 1960s."

He added: "Although this particular design was only used by the French army for around a decade, it also saw service with the Greek army, and many years later with resistance fighters in the Second World War."

St Cyrus National Nature Reserve manager Andy Turner, who found the rifle, said: "Discovering an old rifle is a new one for me, but I realised that the rifle barrel and bolt were potentially part of an important artefact, even though the wooden stock had long since rotted away."

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