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Southern Derringer

The Southerner Derringer was a turn-barrel pistol with its name, emblazoned on the barrel, intended to appeal to buyers south of the Mason-Dixon Line.


Small, concealable pistols became popular almost as soon as the first practical handguns were developed, but after the emergence of flintlock ignition the concept really took off. Development of the percussion system made the idea even more practical, and tens of thousands of single- and multiple-shot hideouts were made in Great Britain, continental Europe and the United States. In America the wares of Henry Deringer, particularly, caught on-to the degree that a whole genre of pistols (with an added "r") ended up being named after him.

Formative rimfire cartridges had been known since the 1840s, and the introduction of Smith & Wesson's No. 1 revolver chambering the .22 Short really got the ball rolling. Larger calibers, such as those seen in Spencer and Henry Rifles, not to mention some handguns, soon evolved. By the early-to-mid 1860s a practical melding of small pistol to large caliber appeared in the guise of the Moore single-shot Derringer and the .41 Short cartridge.

The Moore/National Arms, a handy all-metal pistol that slipped easily into one's trouser, coat or waistcoat pocket, became so popular it was later made by Colt and spawned a vogue that resulted in a large number of other .41s. The .41 Short Rimfire was no barn-burner in the ballistics department, with its light blackpowder charge pushing a 130-grain lead bullet at 425 fps, producing an anemic muzzle energy of some 53 ft.-lbs.

One of the Moore follow-ons, the "Southerner" Derringer was a neat little turn-barrel pistol. Its name, emblazoned on the top of the barrel, was obviously intended to appeal to buyers south of the Mason-Dixon line, though incongruously it was manufactured in Newburyport, Mass., by Merrimack Arms and Brown Mfg. Co. Perhaps it was the makers' attempt at letting bygones be bygones-though probably it was just a very clever marketing ploy.

Standard Southerners measured 5 inches overall and had 2 1/2-inch iron barrels, spur triggers, walnut or rosewood grips and either iron or brass frames. Some 6,500 were made between 1867 and 1869 marked on their barrels, "MERRIMACK ARMS & MANUFACTURING CO/NEWBURYPORT/MASS/PATENTED APRIL 9, 1867." Another 10,000 were turned out from 1869 to 1873 by Merrimack's successor with their barrels stamped, "BROWN MANUFACTURING CO/NEWBURYPORT, MASS/PAT APR.9, 1869."

Barrels were blued, and iron frames were either blued or case-hardened. Brass frames were silver-plated. Sometimes engraved, ivory-gripped specimens of both will be encountered. While most Southerners had square butts, there were a small number made by Brown with rounded grips and 2 1/2- or 4-inch barrels. These are scarce and do bring a premium. A small number of seconds were sold with their frames marked "IMPERFECT." These, too, have added value.

Interestingly enough, like the one shown here, a large proportion of Southerners encountered exhibit considerable wear, indicating they definitely were carried. Given their small size, ease of use, good engineering and pleasing, ergonomic configuration this is understandable.


The Southerner displayed here was manufactured by Brown Mfg. Co. It is in good mechanical condition, but has some wear and virtually no finish. As such, it is valued between $500 and $600. A similar gun with a good deal of finish can double or triple that range and if the gun is engraved or otherwise embellished a fivefold increase would not be out of the question.

Gun: Southerner Derringer
Brown Mfg. Co.
.41 Rimfire
Serial Number:
NRA Good (Antique Conditions Standards)

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6 Responses to Southern Derringer

Jestin Schrake wrote:
March 29, 2014

My buddy has a pistol marked 'brown' 67 which does not line up with all of the available info on the gun. It should be a Merrimack 67. Does anyone know why this would be

Mike Roberge wrote:
March 17, 2014

I have a Southern Derringer, and on it is engraved 'PAT. APR.1867' and was my fathers. Found it in his personnals after his death. What do I do now? Thanks.

Jim wrote:
January 28, 2014

I have one that has 'southern' on top of the barrel, has walnut grips, brass body and has matching serial numbers (5670. It seems to be in good working condition, any idea of approx. value??

Desiree wrote:
January 09, 2013

I have one close to this. Mine is made by Shattuck, has Southerner on top of the barrel, has a date of 1867 on it which is hard to read due to the pits, and the handle is rounded at the bottom and not flat like this one. I cannot find one anywhere on the Internet. Any ideas on how much it may be worth? I did see a pair made by another company that looked like mine and the price on those was $3,500.

Jon Everett wrote:
January 04, 2013

Just acquired a Southerner derringer with matching S/N 38. Barrel is rather pitted making reading info difficult o/w good condition. Any help would be appreciated.

monta lane wrote:
October 24, 2012