Guess what it is and win a free Neatorama T-shirt! Game rules are simple: place your guess on the comment section but post no URL links (let others play, please). First one to guess right gets the prize!
Update 2/2/07: Robb of What is It? Blog gave us this answer:
According to the person who sold this to its current owners, it's a railroad communication device. If men were working on the tracks and needed to know when a train was coming, someone would walk a mile or two up toward where the train would come from. A .22 caliber blank was put in the small hole in this item, then when the train was spotted, he would suspend it over one of the rails and drop it, firing the blank and alerting the workers of the coming train.
I haven't been able to confirm this explanation, and I'm thinking that it's only partly true. I believe that it's a noise making device that uses a .22 caliber blank, but I have doubts about whether it was really used by rail workers.
Doesn't seem like anyone won this round!