Topic: Arms used during the Battle of Gate Pā (1864)

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This page is an attempt to list the arms used by both Māori and British at the Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina) on 29 April 1864. Many thanks to John Osborne, Master Gunsmith, Arms Technologist and Historian who has provided information and corrections to this page.

Looking wrong? Archived version here.

Tewhatewha (Pukehinahina)

Tewhatewha (two handed fighting weapon). A whale bone tewhatewha was dug up from Gate Pā in 1875.


Māori had constructed a fighting pā at Pukehinahina specifically for the battle which would become known as Gate Pā. A pekerangi (outer screen palisade) provided a protective screen around the pā which also included concealed trenches, underground anti-artillery bunkers (rua), passages and several shallow covered firing galleries.

  • Flint tower (Brown Bess) muskets.
  • Hakimana (single barrelled shotgun).
  • Kakauroa (short and long handled tomahawks).
  • Purukumu (Brown Bess muskets).
  • Tewhatewha (two handed fighting weapon). A whale bone tewhatewha was dug up from Gate Pā in 1875.
  • Toki Patiti (war  hatchet).
  • Tūpara (William Sparks Riley double-barrelled shotgun). 'Specifications: Maker: William Sparks Riley, Lench Street, Birmingham. Pattern: 11 bore Percussion double gun for ball and shot. Introduced: c1861. Withdrawn: c1890s. Barrels: 3 wire fine twist (damascus), 30" smooth bore, Birmingham proofed with hooked breech and keyed to forewood. Caliber: 11 bore (.75") tapering to 12 bore (.73") at muzzle. Action: Side locks, non rebounding hammers. Stock: Walnut, all steel furniture, brass tipped wooden ramrod. Sights: brass pin foresight. Muzzle velocity: about 1100ft/s. Range: effective to about 80 yards. Rate of fire: about 6-10 rounds per minute. From the mid 1830s the percussion Tūpara that would fire the standard military 1 ounce .69" diameter musket ball became the Māori warriors favourite arm' (John Osborne).
  • Tūpara (Lovell's double-barrelled shotgun). 'Pattern: Lovell’s musket bore double gun Pattern 1839. Introduced: c1847. Withdrawn: c1880s. Specifications: Maker: Tower, London. Barrels: Iron 26” smooth bore, Tower proofed with hooked breech and keyed to forewood. Caliber: 11 bore (.733”) cylinder. Action: Back action locks. Stock: walnut, brass furniture with Bakers pattern trigger guard, steel ramrod. Sights: pin foresight no backsight. Muzzle velocity: about 1100ft/s. Range: effective to about 80 yards. Rate of fire: about 6‐10 rounds per minute. Māori warriors including some women soon realized that two barrelled guns they called Tupara (double barrel guns) were better than the single barrel muskets in the close‐quarter bush fighting encountered in New Zealand. The Tūpara soon became the Māoris’ favourite firearm' (John Osborne).



There were a total of 15 Artillery guns at the Battle of Gate Pā. Most were taken to within firing distance of Gate Pā at Pukereia (Green Hill) where they would be used in an artillery bombardment that lasted eight hours.

  • 1853 Enfield percussion-lock rifle: Standard infantry weapon of the 1860s. Ammunition carried in a cartridge box on a wide crossbelt worn over the left shoulder, with a small pouch on the front for percussion caps, and in another 'expense' pouch worn on the right-hand side of a waist belt for a bayonet.
  • Carbine (light automatic rifle). 'Pattern: Terry P1861 BL carbine. Introduced: NZ 1861. Withdrawn: c1881. Specifications; Maker: Calisher & Terry until 1870. Bolt action, capping breech loading carbine. All steel furniture, plain one piece walnut  stock fitted with sling swivels some fitted with a saddle bar. 21” barrel Birmingham proofed secured to stock with front band, central wedge & rear vertical breech screw, also fitted with 2 part clearing rod, extension in butt, brass nipple protector & chain. Caliber: 30 bore  (.54”) 5 groove Enfield rifling, RH twist 1 in 36”. Length O/A 38½”. Weight: 6lbs 15oz. Serial Number: 6575 (c1863). Butt tang  marked NZ  329. Vee fore sight, vee rear sight ramp to 400 yards & flip up ladder to 1000 yards. Cartridge: Nitrate treated combustible paper cartridge containing 55 grains of rifle grade black powder propellant, a solid lead 530 grain conical projectile & a wad of greased felt  attached to the base, muzzle velocity about 950fps. The Colonial New South Wales Police & Victoria Colonial Government & Australian Arms Dealers from 1861 supplied Terry carbines  to New Zealand. It is estimated well over 3000 Terry Carbines were imported into NZ 1861-68. In 1863 cost 180 shillings including sling & bullet mould. 10 cartridges cost 1 shilling. The Terry carbine was used extensively during the Land wars to May 1872 by the New Zealand Colonial Defence Force including the Forest Rangers' (John Osborne).
  • Swords.
  • 5 shot Adams revolver: Commonly carried by officers.
  • 2 x 8 inch mortars firing explosive shell projectiles. It is presumed that these were sea service  on block beds with removable trucks (wheels). Naval brigade.
  • 2 x 6 pounder Armstrong Field Guns firing solid and explosive projectiles. Royal Artillery/Colonial Artillery from Australia. Rifled breech-loading Armstong guns were first brought to New Zealand in 1861 and had superior range and accuracy.
  • 6 x 12 pounder Coehorn mortars. 'These 4½ inch bomb shell throwing mortars were cast in bronze (gunmetal) and when charged with ½ pound of black powder propellant and set to shoot at 45 degrees would throw a bomb shell 750 yards' (John Osborne). There is a possibility but as yet no hard evidence that there were a mix of mortars including a 24pdr 5.5” Royal Mortar and 24pdr 5.5” Mann Mortar.  
  • 2 x 24 pounder land service smooth bored brass Howitzer Field Guns firing explosive shell projectiles. Royal Artillery/Colonial Artillery from Australia.
  • 2 x 40 pounder land service field gun from Australia (previously used at Meremere) OR possibly 2 x 40 pounder sea service Armstrong Guns on pivot mounts firing solid and explosive projectiles from HMS Esk.
  • 1 x 110 pounder breech loading sea service Royal Navy Armstrong Gun on pivot mount firing solid and explosive projectiles (from HMS Esk - carriage drawn by bullocks).

Awaiting the Order to Advance (1864)

Taken at sunrise on 29 April 1864, the morning of the attack on Gate Pā. General Sir Duncan Cameron (centre right, hands in pockets, leaning against the wheel of a 24 pounder smooth bored howitzer) surrounded by British regulars, local militia and Volunteers.


British pattern 12 pounder (4.52” bore) Coehorn Mortar c1800 by John Osborne.

General Cameron's Despatch (5 May 1864).

Identity and the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), 29 April 1864 (5 August 2011) by Debbie McCauley (Tauranga Memories: Battle of Gate Pa, 1864 kete).

Maori Treasures of New Zealand: Ko Tawa (2006) by Paul Tapsell.

NZAR ID 128, ARM TYPE: Tupara (2011) by John Osborne DTT PhD FSG.

NZAR ID 129, ARM TYPE: Tupara (2011) by John Osborne DTT PhD FSG.

NZ ARID 38 ARM TYPE: Carbine. (2013) by John Osborne MG DTT PhD FSG.

Plan of the attack of Gate Pa.

The New Zealand Wars 1820-72 (2013) by Ian Knight.

The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (2000) edited by Ian McGibbon.




This page archvied at Perma CC in February of 2017

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Arms used during the Battle of Gate Pā (1864)