I’m pleased to say that George has no idea what guns are when he first encounters one in Hattan. Strangely enough, by the time they meet the 25th Rifle Company in Pirates, there is no hint of any unfamiliarity with weapons. I’m not entirely sure how that comes about. They use swords themselves, but don’t appear particularly skilled with their use (especially Victor!). All of this suggests they are peaceful, law-abiding folks.
There is a more aggressive side to their land though. The Rifle Company is part of the Army. We see Robert travelling to take up a position as a Lieutenant in Hugo’s story (#4, which is a prequel) but he is a Major and in a different unit in Pirates, and then in “Combined Forces” in Lost City. Hugo comments on his swift rise through the ranks, which could be explained by the need to be at a higher rank in order to avoid the murderous line of succession at Powell. As Lupin puts it, “Robert [joined] the army in a senior position, which according to the statute on the founding of the army, automatically and irrevocably disqualifies officers from holding court at their castle. Prevents armed coups.”
The army appears to be funded by all the castles in some sort of proportionate levy. Buckmore and Vexstein are able to direct the Generals or at least call their attention to action. Maybe others can as well, or call for help. Lupin also has influence on the way units are deployed – hence Neeps asking him if he could find the 25th a permanent station at Buckmore. However the army is already changing by the end of Lost City – the 25th is attached to Marsh, discussions are held over whether they are the responsibility of Fred but to be returned to the army when required. We have no information on their training or equipment, except that they have rifles, and it is not clear what other units have, or indeed where units 1 – 24 Rifles are!
The existence of firearms seems to be an undercover operation. When Hugo first arrives at Sowerby, he is taken to a dubious store and encouraged to acquire a ‘piece’. This jargon for a small handgun is deliberately used in keeping with Hugo’s narrative style, to create an atmosphere of petty crime and gangsters. It comes in pretty useful in his adventures. Hugo has an understanding and facility with guns, at any rate, and it is always implied that his rise to become Lord Mariusz of Hattan was more Cosa Nostra than cosy fireside chats with grandpa!
The most logical explanation is that our realms have a restriction on the private use of weapons, for all the best reasons, and that weaponry is in the hands of the army and various other more secretive people, including assassins and secret agents. Maybe it’s better that way. We shall see.