The Palm Pistol Debate

palm pistol

No blogosphere, least of all the gun blogosphere, would be complete without the occasional controversy. The latest of these to hit our corner of the internet is a debate over the utility of the Palm Pistol concept.

Last week Outdoor Life writer John Snow wrote a blog post criticizing the Palm Pistol. He said

Is it a serious gun? By definition, anything that can shoot a .38, even a single shot, is a serious gun, but by the same token I seriously don’t think I would depend on this to save my life in a time of crisis.

The makers of this pistol, Constitution Arms claim that it is ergonomic, accurate and able to be fired by people who lack the grip strength to pull the trigger on a regular handgun—though I find this last point a bit hard to swallow when I think about the sweet single-action triggers on my favorite 1911s or even the smooth DAO trigger pull on my Sig P250.

NRA Shooting Illustrated writer Bob Boyd responded to John’s criticisms saying

Having been disabled since birth, I can tell you that people suffering with quadriplegia, for example, may not possess the strength to lift a firearm of average weight, or the motor skills required to grip a traditional handgun. Even a crisp, 4-pound trigger on a custom 1911 may well be impossible for them. While Snow’s taste in handguns is excellent, if his SIG Sauer’s trigger is anything like the 7-pound, 2-ounce deal on the one I evaluated for Shooting Illustrated, depending upon the degree of paralysis to the limbs, the trigger may be too heavy. Just because it worked for this quadriplegic, doesn’t mean it will for others. While I may not need a Palm Pistol for self-defense, others aren’t as fortunate.

Shame on Snow for indicting a specialty product with a limp-wristed attempt at coming to grips with the market for which is intended.

I think it was unfair of Bob to criticize John personally. If gun writers cease criticizing the industry, and thereby encouraging the industry to improve their products, it will be consumers who suffer.

FN Five-seven -a pistol often criticized for using a weak cartridge (of which it holds 20 in a standard magazine)

If the Palm Pistol is the only weapon that can be operated by a shooter, then it is infinitely better than a gun that cannot be, but it is not a weapon that should be carried to investigate ‘things that go bump in the night’. It is the type of weapon that you pick up after locking the bedroom door and praying that nobody finds you.

Is it not fair to ask why the Palm Pistol does not have two or more barrels? About 120 years ago the Minneapolis Firearm Company brought the Protector to the market1. It was palm-sized and held seven rounds.

The problem with this pistol was that it chambered a tiny 6mm Short cartridge which I doubt reached even 25 ft/lbs of muzzle energy. Still, it proves that a tiny, easily operated and multi-shot pistol is possible.

6 mm ME Flobert Short – reaches almost 30 ft/lbs of energy (from a longer barrel than the Protector had).

A few days ago John Snow responded to Bob’s criticism saying

None of this changes my perspective, however, that the Palm Pistol would be about the last option I’d consider for defending myself with a firearm. By the same token, I wouldn’t recommend it to friend, family member or total stranger for that matter if they could wield anything else. As a single-shot and as an object that doesn’t look enough like a traditional gun to intimidate and potentially dissuade a potential attacker it just isn’t “enough gun” in my view. So call it the pistol of—literal—last resort.

I share John’s view. It is a ‘pistol of—literal—last resort’.

Regardless of my criticisms, I am pleased that the makers of the Palm Pistol, Constitution Arms, are trying new things and serving a currently neglected market. I hope they succeed and will continue to develop the concept, hopefully adding multi-shot capability in the future.


  1. Hat Tip: James @ Hell in a Handbasket for the information on the Protector. 



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • The unit of energy is a ft-lb, not ft/lb.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot-pound_%28energy%29

  • Lance

    I saw heck with both the dippy FN five-seveN and the palm pistol all you need is a good old .45 Auto!

  • Aurelien

    “FN Five-seven -a pistol often criticized for using a weak cartridge”

    I don’t know what Yanks get as 5.7mm ammo, but i shot an original Five-seveN “as god intended” (factory SS190 FMJ ammo) and think it is a very good self-defense handgun. There are a few reasons for that.
    First, the very low recoil : you can get very fast follow-up shorts, pretty much like a .22
    Second, obviously mag capacity
    Third, the original SS190 ammo is designed to get clean through hard mediums and bounce around in soft mediums. I have shot through steel plates with the Five-seveN.
    And of course, it’s a really light handgun, which means you don’t need to be as buff to hold it as a full-steel CZ or 1911.

    As for the rest, i don’t think in a stress-fuelled self-defense scenario a one-shot gun is the way to go. I’ll go for a 6 shots .22LR over a one-shot .38 anyday.

  • Arifonzie

    As they say in the computer biz- this is “vaporware” . I’ve been reading about this prototype pistol for years, and I’m sort of sick of it. Either come out with it or shut up with it.
    Sorry if I sound cranky but I really resent these company’s who spend so much time “testing ” the waters to Gage interest and build up hype for something that is not reality( for the public anyway) either “put up or shut up” as they say….

  • Mike

    “and as an object that doesn’t look enough like a traditional gun to intimidate and potentially dissuade a potential attacker”
    Whoa whoa whoa, hold up a second. I think pretty much everyone agrees you do NOT count on firearms for the intimidation factor in a self-defense scenario. If you pull a gun, you are pretty much committed to using it (legally and ethically)

  • snmp
  • Not my type of thing, but an interesting desgin none the less.

  • Griffin

    Johns opinion of the gun is egomaniacal at best.

    Of course it’s an option of last resort that wouldn’t be good to recommend to friends who are able to use a standard pistol. That’s the equivalent of saying a wheelchair is a conveyance of last resort you wouldn’t recommend to your able bodied friends.

    Damning the pistol’s usefulness for it’s core audience without so much as consulting any member of it’s core consumer groups is deplorable “journalism”.

  • AnointedSword

    Plenty of power to stop a elephant!:)Just kidding…

  • Jeff

    At the root is that a palm pistol and a 1911 aren’t even in the same class. You might as well be comparing cannon to the palm pistol. A palm pistol is an alternative to a small revolver. I think the issue here is that way too often we take our personal prefrences, which within our minds is the “best” combination of features and refuse to accept that what is good for us isn’t good for everyone. We miss the subjective nature of that comparison. If the venerable .45 were the “best” in every way and to everyone, it’d be the only caliber. It is fact that it isn’t always suitable to everyone and thus specialized weapons that fill a spectrum of variaty is a good thing. You can say you’d rather see it in another caliber, as John did… its really only when he allows his personal prefrences to overshadow the special utility of the palm pistol that he loses or diminishes any standard of impartial crticism.

  • gary

    20 rounds from any gun and i bet any bad guy will be regretting his decision to hurt me or my family, i think the palm pistol would be perfect for a little old lady who lives by her self with arthritis

  • Sian

    Didn’t we criticize that Five SeveN ad and the dude’s pressed and creased PJs enough already? Ahem.

    The single shot thing is a huge handicap for the palm pistol, doubly since it uses .38 instead of something that could be more effective at the contact distance that is is forced to be used at due to lack of any sort of sighting. If it was .45, 2-3 shots single action and had a laser sight, they might have something.

  • Steven

    I’m not a fan of the idea of holding the part of the gun in my hand that contains the rapidly expanding forces.

    That being said if this is a last resort, but he’s building it for people who have problems using regular guns, what were those people using before they switch this pistol?

    Also, how quickly can you pull a weapon like this as compare to other designs? The obtuse design of this weapon would lead me to believe you’d need a few more seconds to get a proper grip so you can activate the trigger.

    Truly, this gun strikes me as something you would use for easy concealment to get in close to a target, i.e. a weapon for assassination.

  • snmp

    By the way the Protector pistol invented by Jacques-Edmond Turbiaux (USA patent number 273644) with US Licence sold to Mr Finnegan.

    in English => http://www.littlegun.info/arme%20francaise/artisans%20s%20z/a%20turbiaux%20jacques%20gb.htm

    In French => http://www.academie-des-armes-anciennes.com/mag14.html

    Caliber : 6mm, 8mm et 32 Short (USA)

  • People continue to compare my design to the old Minneapolis (AKA Chicago) Palm Protector. This is nonsensical. It held 7 rounds of a 13gr projectile which could probably be stopped by a leather jacket. The “trigger” was a tang at the rear which if dropped upon, could cause the gun to fire.

    The Palm Pistol(r) is entirely dissimilar to the obsolete and dangerous Palm Protector. The USPTO issued my utility patent in March of this year on a “first action allowance” without any prosecution following examination. All 23 claims were accepted without question – a very rare circumstance indeed. If my design were similar in any way to the Palm Protector, the claims would have been disallowed. In addition, the superior safety of the Palm Pistol(r)is so obvious, it does not even warrant a discussion. Read the specification document posted at http://www.palmpistol.com for the details.

    Regarding the opinion it does not “look like a gun,” I would be interested in learning exactly what a gun is supposed to look like. It seems to me that if I brandished a can of sardines and told my attacker that I had a gun, it would give him pause. If this were not so, then why would there be provisions in the law making it a crime if I do something that any reasonable person might interpret as my having a firearm (such as poking my finger through my jacket pocket and declaring “stick ‘em up”)?

    If we carry the “it doesn’t look like a gun” argument to its logical extreme, we would condemn the firearms industry to a stasis. We might as well rotate the same picture of a 1911 pattern and a revolver on every handgun magazine cover and save the cost of photography.

    Instead, wouldn’t you agree we should encourage the entrepreneurial spirit to forge ahead with new ideas? And address an underserved market of seniors and disabled who might otherwise be incapable of wielding or wouldn’t even think of owning a self defense firearm (all potential voters and new gun rights advocates)?

    The Palm Pistol(r) looks like a gun because I have told everyone it is a gun. If you see someone pointing a .357 inch inside diameter hollow tube at you which protrudes about two inches from between their fingers, henceforth be on notice IT IS A GUN!

  • Arifonzie:

    Send me a check for $350,000 and I will have the gun to you in approximately 26 weeks. Send me an additional check for $500,000 and I will have a multi-shot version toi you in approximately three years.

  • Bill

    So here’s a guy that came up with a new concept, spent a lot of time and money in the development, has a working model and is an American located in New Jersey of all places!

    I think the fact that someone came up with something new is most important to me. How many 1911 redesigns can the industry handle. Personally, although I own a 1911, I’m sick of seeing the same old guns “now in chrome” or with a larger picatinny rail so you can hang a thermos off it.

    I’m not disabled and I am going to purchase one just to support innovation. If this guy is creative enough to come up with this and, most importantly “git-r-done,” I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

    Oh, and for all you folks that doubt the guns effectiveness, volunteer to put yourself 15 ft in front of it and have someone shoot you. Based on the specs, I think even a bad shooter will find it plenty lethal!

    For the rest, I’ve heard of a new 1911 with an etched picture of a stage coach for sale; limited edition!

  • skipsul

    The “lemon Squeezer” protector pistol I think was used to assassinate William McKinley or James Garfield – correct me if I’m wrong as the Wiki’s don’t say and my ref books are at home.

    Anyway, my mother cannot easily handle a conventional firearm due to surgery and carpal tunnel issues. Trigger on most revolvers is too heavy, flip and snap of autos or revolvers would torque the weapon out of her hands. She’d get one shot off no matter what, then be unable to bring the weapon to bear for a 2nd shot. Palm Pistol is perfect for her, as the recoil impulse goes straight back into her arm, not her wrist. Same principle as the Rhino and Mateba really.

    I employ an elderly woman whose eyesight and hand strength are not so good. The intuitive aiming of the PP would work. Like my mother, if she missed with a conventional revolver or auto, she could not bring the weapon to bear for a 2nd shot anyway.

    For the detractors, remember that 1 shot well placed is better than 20 misses. If even elderly women can shoot the PP well, then 1 shot will do. I’ll be the first in line to pick up a couple of these when they come out.

  • John C

    My biggest problem with it is that its a single shot. 2-3 shots and it would be a viable concept, but 1 is not enough. One shot from a .38 is unlikely to kill an attacker, and because of this design you are probably going to hit them in the gut or the thigh rather than center mass. So, someone who is already disabled or handicapped is now dealing with a wounded and enraged attacker and they will probably not be able to reload the weapon. On top of that, if there are multiple attackers, you would be better off with nothing. If the company seriously wants to make a gun that is easier for people with arthritis or whatever to use, then they need to try to incorporate 2 or three shots into the design. I think this would be more of a danger in a self defense situation than anything. That being said, I would still buy one because its cool.

  • Chris

    Aurelien on 21 Apr 2011 at 7:30 pm link comment

    “I don’t know what Yanks get as 5.7mm ammo, but i shot an original Five-seveN “as god intended””

    I won’t bother further addressing the obvious logical fallacy, but I’m willing to bet that most of the guns in your toy chest were designed and built by “yank” companies.

  • Lance

    @Aurelien

    Sorry 5.7mm over penetrates even with HP ammo makes it even worse than 9mm. Most Americans agencies are backing away from AP pistol calibers. most are hugging 9mm .40 and .45 which in HP bullets have better killing power.

  • Mike

    The advantage to this “gun” over others for people with limited trigger pulling ability is that you can use more than one finger to pull the trigger. Considering the number of aging baby boomers it would be a great idea for a pistol manufacturer to develop a .38 pistol with a four pound, two finger trigger. If it had a palm safety like a 1911 it would still be reasonably safe and the old folks could still work the trigger.

  • SRD

    Everyone always says how crappy the Five seven is. While i would rather have a 45 i seem to remember someone killing 14 or so soldiers and over 30 wounded with a five seven. That seems to be pretty effective in stopping threats. Its a crazy accurate pistol and i would not feel out gunned with it.

  • Sean

    Assuming it ever really comes on to the market, I don’t think this is that bad of an idea.

    I do question the idea of older people willing and able to learn to use it, and keep it handy. Many older people just do not have the mental ability to use, and keep track of it. Also, many older people live in assisted living facilities. Or senior living apartments. They do not allow firearms. My grandmother was pissed when she moved to an assisted living place, and she couldn’t take her .38. Of course, at that point, she was showing signs of dementia. Ever time I talk to her she talks about how people there make her mad and she “wished I had that damn .38” to deal with the problem. SO maybe old people and guns don’t always mix.

  • Don

    1. Any gun is better than no gun.
    2. This would maybe be the best gun choice for a person had a disability which made this the only gun they could operate.

    As an experiment one time I took a bunch of phone books and clamped them together. I put on a glove and drove an ice pick, using an “ice pick grip”, into the phone books as hard as I could. I repeated this a few times. The best penetration I got was just under an inch.

    I then shot it with a few .22 shorts from my 3″ barrel NAA Earl. The .22 short penetrated about 2 inches. Next, I tried some cheapo .22LR, and got through 5 inches of clamped phone book. I switched cylinders and shot it with some nice CCI .22 magnums with polymer tips. They went through all three phone books, which was about 6 inches.

    Am I trying to prove that .22 caliber rounds are GOOD for self defense? Not really, but they are better than something like an ice pick HAHA!, and it is surprising to see that even a .22 short penetrates farther than an ice pick with all of my strength. 🙂

  • Don

    er… the stack was 8 inches, not 6… typo!

  • charles222

    Just to point out-I’d be willing to bet that somebody wheelchair-bound and having severe arm issues as well probably doesn’t live by themselves to begin with. They’re more than likely in a nursing home, on assisted living, or living with relatives. Any of which can probably provide for the security of our notional Helpless Crippled Old Lady quite well with an actually lethal sidearm.

  • subase

    How about just making it LOOK like a gun, just add some hollow lightweight polymer in the shape of a gun. (could be a snap on adddon) Thereby making the person not need to give a ‘warning shot’ of a one shot weapon just to say “Hey I have a gun!”. Seriously no joke. If it does that then it graduates above being a last resort weapon, only useful for being used indoors if someone is trying to break in. That’s the niche this weapon covers in it’s current configuration. Which as Charles222 points out is unlikely seeing as anyone that weak will be living with others, not alone.

    How the gun is currently configured, a Glock air pistol could arguably be more handy. At least in that case the baddy knows you have a gun, thus not requiring you to take him and his buddy down with one bullet.

  • Aurelien

    @ Chris : I’m not criticizing, it’s just a question that has been in my head for quite some time : i had a run with the P90 and Five-seveN when i worked along with the Belgian Federal Police, not in a civilian range, so we used original SS190 ammo. I just wonder what kind of ammo is available for the average civilian in America. Different ammo to the one the gun was designed for can adversely affect performance.

    And i’m a sucker for a good “made in USA” 1911.

  • John C

    After reading some more info on their website, I actually can see some uses for this gun. If you trully can’t operate a conventional handgun for whatever reason, then it would be better than nothing. I would like to see this make it into production.

  • Chris

    @ Aurelien

    Sorry, I should have been sure of your position before I posted. I totally agree now that I know what you mean. *Shakes hands*

    Chris

  • MibZ

    Why not have the same design but with the trigger on the side (lefty & righty models available) (Side note, spellcheck likes lefty but not righty….hmm….) with a switch cover over the trigger as a safety that has a magazine extending down from the palm, and chamber it in a low-recoil cartridge like .22 short? That way someone with disabilities would have a weapon they could use, follow-up shots, AND less stress on the recoil?

    I wish I could stick with my gut and say that someone in that position would never HAVE to shoot someone, but I know there are people out there.

  • Aurelien

    @ Chris : Don’t worry about it.

  • RollTide

    Innovation by an American company?! About time. What it looks like is no matter. If “we” as able people don’t like it… Don’t buy it. It fills a niche. I do however think it needs some capacity for follow up shots. Oh by the way I do not want to be shot by ANY gun of any caliber. This is a protection device not a hunting/ warfare device. Simply stated I would use it if I could use nothing else – sumthin better than nuthin!

  • I think it would be unfair to say that the gun is not useful until there have been actual reviews on the gun by both disabled and non-disabled people. I love to shoot and have worked in the industry for close to 10 years now, but I do find it hard to shoot well sometimes when I am having a severe flare in my hands, wrists, and elbows. I have undifferentiated spondylo arthritis. I can’t say that this gun will work great for me or not, but based on what I know of my own disability and the looking at the design of the gun, I could imagine that it would be useful at the times I am not capable of shooting my other firearms. Let’s give it a chance to get it to market, or at least get some credible range time before casting judgement.

    As far as the comments of wanting multiple rounds, lasers, and a howitzer attached to it: I’d love a pocket size 100 megawatt electron laser because it wouldn’t have recoil to hurt my wrists or fingers. Maybe they should release one of those next week and we all can be happy.

    More power to them for considering an entirely new market. Keep it up, and I hope to test and review one in the future.