First, we will look at the origins of such a wacky invention. This class of "weapon" dates back to the 1880s. During this time period, the streets of Paris, France, were a dangerous place to be. Several criminals were roaming the streets and committing muggings and assaults, especially on women. Many women were urged to carry a small firearm with them, as a means of self-defense. However, some of these ladies did not wish to pull the trigger on another person. Seeing an opportunity, some French and Belgian manufacturers began to make "scare pistols" for these ladies.
A Scare Revolver from the 19th century. Public domain image.
The above looks like a commonly available Lefaucheux pinfire revolver model of that time period. This particular model is even made of brass and beautifully enameled and gold-plated. However, a closer look at the revolver reveals some interesting details. For one, the trigger cannot be pulled and is merely screwed on to the frame. The cylinder and hammer are non-functional as well. In fact, the only part of this so-called "revolver" that works or even moves, is the lanyard ring at the back of the handle!!
The idea behind manufacturing such a useless weapon was that even the sight of a firearm would be sufficient to scare off your average mugger (at least, that was the theory at that time). Therefore, for people who would hesitate to pull a trigger on another person, they could walk around with a non-functional, but realistic looking firearm.
The contents of a so-called "scare revolver" model. Public domain image.
In the above image, we have another so-called "scare pistol", Pulling back on the hammer causes this "revolver" to break at the cylinder. Inside is a mirror, a pair of functioning scissors, some needles, a thimble, two spools of thread and a crocheting hook. The front of the cylinder is a functioning pin-cushion and what looks like the shell extractor rod is actually a pencil. The butt of this "revolver" contains a small bottle to store perfume. This device is actually a scare revolver that also doubles as a functional sewing kit for carrying out minor repairs on clothes!