Little Guns

by
posted on March 7, 2012
201237105535-littlegunsblog8-9pix-006_m.jpg

I love that old saying about “what goes around, comes around.” It means that history runs in cycles and what was once popular might be popular once again. We went through a long cycle of interest in larger, more powerful handguns for just about every use, including personal defense and concealed carry. The present conventional wisdom holds that the concealed-carry handgun must be small and light, but adequately powerful. To accomplish this, gunmakers have evolved both the conventional pistol and the even older revolver designs to new guns that fill the bill. All three of the major wheelgun makers now offer a light powerful snubnosed revolver with a polymer frame—Ruger LCR, S&W Bodyguard, Taurus 85PLYB2. The new designed automatics are so numerous as to be hard to enumerate.

But there is another older design that has yet to be dragged into the modern materials and new styles era. The derringer was originally described as a one-shot caplock named after the first maker, Henry Deringer of Pennsylvania. This was once a popular gun, and when the cartridge era came about during the Civil War era, the simple derringer was one of the first types of guns to be used for this new cartridge. Generally speaking, the derringer was a small, light, short pistol with up to four barrels. They were popular enough to have been made by dozens of makers, including both Colt and Remington.

Arguably the best known derringer was the Remington over-under in .41 Rimfire. This gun was in the Remington catalog from its inception in 1866 until 1935. Hollywood would have us believe that this gun was used by everyone from riverboat gamblers to working girls. Paladin routinely produced one from behind his gunbelt buckle and John Wayne, as J. B. Books, had one alongside his wallet, so there is considerable justification for picturing the gun as what was used on the Frontier. Are we about to see a renaissance of interest in the stackbarrel handgun with modern calibers and materials?

I have no great insight for such a thing on the horizon, but I recall an all-steel derringer coming from a California distributor in the mid-80's. It had a DAO trigger system like the even earlier High-Standard .22 Win. Mag. gun, and was chambered for the.38 Spl. Several ammo manufacturers have developed short-barrel loads in popular pistol and revolver calibers. A modernized and lightweight (alloy? polymer?) twin-barrel gun in 9 mm Luger or the venerable .38 Spl. sure seems workable to me. It would not be competitive with revolvers or semi-autos, but it would be much easier to hide and carry. Most personal attacks involve a single attacker and our hypothetical little gun would get it done when used skillfully. Anyway you look at it, it's better than nothing, and it could be pretty inexpensive.

Latest

Thompson submachine gun on set with militaria gear
Thompson submachine gun on set with militaria gear

I Have This Old Gun: M1/M1A1 Thompson Submachine Gun

As World War II developed, engineers found ways to simplifying the Thompson submachine gun, and later M1 and M1A1 Thompsons were easier and less-expensive to produce.

New For 2024: Legacy Sports SCSA Taipan X

A straight-pull, pump-action design developed by an Australian firearm company, the SCSA Taipan X is now being imported into the U.S. by Legacy Sports International.

2024 Optic Of The Year: Trijicon RCR

American Rifleman is pleased to announce the 2024 Optic Of The Year Award goes to Trijicon.

Review: Walther WMP

Near the end of 2022, Walther took its handgun lineup in a fresh direction with the release of the sporting WMP pistol chambered in .22 WMR, designed for field use as a "kit gun."

Rifleman Report: Individual Liberty & Innovation

When it comes to the design, manufacture and sale of innovative firearms, the intuition and innovation of unique personalities are often the common threads that result in success.

Henry Salutes America’s Most Decorated Living Veteran

Henry Repeating Arms honors U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, our most decorated living veteran, with a limited edition rifle, which underscores the brands commitment to American heroes, past and present.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.