FIREARM crime in the North has reached a Launceston museum, with a thief or thieves taking two priceless guns early yesterday.
One of the revolvers belonged to the notorious 19th-century Tasmanian bushranger Martin Cash, who probably stole it in the first place.
The burglar or burglars smashed a glass door at the rear of the QVMAG museum at Inveresk at 4.39am yesterday.
They made a beeline for the Tasmanian Connections display and its John Watt Beattie Collection.
Two glass cabinets were smashed and two revolvers from the 1860s were stolen.
The offender or offenders left the building within three or four minutes.
While one firearm belonged to Cash, the provenance of the other revolved is unknown, and its case was left behind.
The case contains key parts, including the shot mould, for making the firearm work.
A rare glass walking cane belonging to Cash was broken during the raid.
The break-in forced the temporary closure of the permanent exhibit.
The Launceston Corporation - now the city council - paid £4500 to J. W. Beattie for much of his collection in 1927.
QVMAG history curator Jon Addison said the theft of such important artefacts was a devastating loss for the people of Launceston and Tasmania.
''It's the first time we have had objects stolen that I know of," he said.
"It was a pretty violent break-in.
"These are a one-off and we can't replace them.
"We are not willing to put a monetary value on it.
"It's about the importance of these for the Tasmanian people - it's a piece of Tasmanian history."
Mr Addison said the firearms were usable but were too old to be effective.
He said specialist knowledge and equipment would be required.
Detective acting Sergeant Dwayne Kirkby, of Northern Criminal Investigation Branch, said the firearms were specifically targeted.
He said the thief or thieves might have wanted the guns because they looked like modern-day revolvers.
Police believe the guns might be used to threaten people.
"We don't think the person or persons had any knowledge of how significant their historical value is," Detective Sergeant Kirkby said. "It's unusual, certainly.
"Recovering these firearms is our priority." Detectives are analysing CCTV footage of the burglary and hope to make it public.
The museum theft comes after a wave of firearms seizures across the state during the past 10 days.
Police have seized illegal firearms and ammunition from centres including Shearwater, Glenorchy, Murdunna, Hobart's eastern shore and Swan Bay, since September 25.
The biggest haul was at Goodwood on Monday, with police seizing 22 unregistered firearms and five prohibited firearms.