Vest Pocket Autos

by
posted on June 9, 2011
wiley-clapp.jpg

I recently picked up a gun that establishes just how small a true functional automatic pistol can be made. In fact, this tiny Bernardelli pistol is a fine example of the gunmaker's craft.

At one point in our history, there were a great many such guns in production, most of them European in origin. These guns were often referred to as vest pocket pistols and it was once the fashion for gentlemen to go about their business in three-piece suits that had vests. These vests had several small pockets, which were ideal for packing a small auto. Of course, the rules about people carrying guns were not so restrictive in the early 20th Century, so there was an active market.

Naturally, most of these little pistols are chambered for cartridges that fall short of dragonslayer status—either .25 ACP or .22 Short. A few made it into production as .22 Long Rifles and there were smaller numbers of .32s.

By any measurable standard, none of these are manstopping calibers, but no one seemed to care. Personally, I see guns like these as milestones. While none are ideal for personal defense in any age, they led to the modern small autos in better calibers such as .380 and 9 mm Luger. If anything, these little guns accustomed people to the idea of a flat pistol of diminutive size. Now we can work on pistols of that size class that delivers power up to the obvious demands of personal defense.

Latest

The Armed Citizen
The Armed Citizen

The Armed Citizen® Oct. 18, 2021

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Bergmann’s Extraordinary Pistols

Although Bergmann’s products never received the notoriety of the Luger, the Broomhandle or the Colt M1911, he nevertheless set many milestones in firearm development—including making the first pistol to achieve genuine commercial success. How’s that for extraordinary?

Preview: Bushnell Outdoorsman Bluetooth Speaker

Having tunes playing while working outdoors can keep the momentum going, and Bushnell’s Outdoorsman Bluetooth speaker has the durability and longevity to keep up with long projects, outdoor parties and more.

Preview: LA Police Gear Freedom Axe

With full-tang construction, a 3Cr13 stainless-steel head and water-resistant Pakkawood scales, the compact Freedom Axe from LA Police Gear is a versatile survival tool designed to shrug off the elements and hard use.

Rifleman Q&A: .32 Long Rimfire Shot?

Where did .32 Long Rimfire shotshell cartridges come from? What guns were chambered for it? Here's what we found out.

The .32-20 Winchester Center Fire: History & Performance

Born from a desire for a faster and flatter shooting cartridge, the .32-20 Winchester Center Fire cartridge came to the world stage at the end of the 19th century as a popular option for revolvers and lever-action rifles alike, but its popularity eventually dwindled as the 20th century progressed.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.