Like much of the internet, we're fascinated by the now widely circulated image of the Libyan rebel triumphantly holding up the golden gun he took off Muammar Qaddafi's dead body. This isn't the first time a Libyan rebel has gotten his hands on a gold-plated firearm. Like many despots before him, Muammar Qaddafi was a big fan of bling, and his weapon collection reflected that taste. When rebels raided the dictator's compound in August, they found several golden guns that had been left behind. (We'll get to those in a minute.) But this one--intricately embossed, bearing Qaddafi's profile and possibly the last gun Qaddafi ever fired--must be special.
We scoured the internet for details about Qaddafi's golden gun. After sifting through way too many James Bond jokes, this is what we learned. "The pistol appears to be a Browning Hi Power, a 9mm handgun used by military forces around the world," Andy Bloxham at The Telegraph reports, noting that this model is the newer version of the Browning M1911A1, also known as the Colt .45. Zooming in on an image of the gun's left side, you can just make out "Browning Arms Company Morgan, Utah & Montreal P.Q." There's some Arabic script in front of the trigger and Qaddafi's profile embedded in the wooden handle, both details that also appear on the right side of the gun, where it looks like Qaddafi's name is inscribed. It definitely looks like gold, but as Bloxham notes, pure gold would be too soft, so it's probably gold-plated.
Qaddafi owned at least four other golden guns--all of which are similarly over-the-top and were recovered from the dictator's compound. The most blogged about gun is a golden machine gun, perhaps an AK-47. "Qaddafi people killed us with it," the rebel fighter who carried it out of the compound told AFP.
Images of two other gold-plated guns from Qaddafi's collection appeared online around the same time. The first one is even more ornate than the Browning that Qaddafi clung to when he died. It's decorated with countless precious gems, maybe some diamonds and features Qaddafi's name above a rearing horse on the handle.
Another rebel showed off a smaller, more modest pistol that he says he found on Qaddafi's compound, as well. Both the baroquely decorated one above and the gun below appear to be Makarov PMs, the standard sidearm of the Russian army.
One more rebel was photographed holding up what appears to be another Browning Hi Power with a black handle. We still haven't seen any photographs of Qaddafi himself holding or carrying any of these guns, and until today, journalists reserved a tiny amount of skepticism over whether or not they even belonged to the dictator. It's not a stretch, though. No stranger to opulence, Qaddafi also owned a golden fly swatter and a golden chaise lounge shaped like mermaid with his daughter Aisha's face. And when he was found in a drainpipe on Thursday, freelance journalist Holly Pickett reported on Twitter, "He was wearing gold-colored pants."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.