Originally Posted by Matchlock
FRom post # 26:
There are a few North Italian all-steel crossbows known retaining their original all-steel quarrels (crossbow bolts), some of these crossbows fitted with a rounded pistol-grip butt like yours, and a few others with a two- or three-link chain instead of the usual string. While the one attached, dated 1562 and signed by the maker Opera de Renaldo de Visin da Asolo (preserved in the collection of the Ducal Palace in Venice, is 66.3 cm long, various similar are much smaller and are nowadays believed to have been built especially for carrying secretly and in order to use for assassinations.
A period of origin of the first half to the mid 16th c. seems to be common to all members of this very special group of North Italian crossbows. The shape of the rear sight on the attached crossbow is identical to rear sights found on contemporary matchlock and wheellock muskets.