Top 5 Classic Carry Guns

In the 80s and 90s, concealed carry enjoyed a renaissance that produced a slew of excellent and affordable handguns for the common man. However beginning in the early 20th century the carry of small, affordable semi-automatic pistols began to really gather steam. In this list, we explore five of the most popular vintage options.

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Transcript …

– [Voiceover] Hey guys, it’s Alex C. with TFBTV.

Today we’re going to be counting down the top five classic carry pistols, based on their total production, effectiveness, and popularity throughout the years.

To qualify as a classic in this case, the pistol has to have been designed in the 1920s or before.

First up is the FN Model 1900.

A pistol that I once put on a list of historys most significant pistols.

The 1900 was the first pistol ever with a slide, and this alone makes it incredibly innovative.

But it also introduced the 32 ACP cartridge that is still popular to this day.

The 1900 was an incredible commercial success.

And while far from being the first automatic pistol, it was small, accurate, reliable and above all affordable.

No longer were self-loading pistols priced out of the hands of the common man.

Guns like the Broomhandle Mauser and the C-93, were hugely expensive and cumbersome.

The 1900 changed all of that, and helped garner widespread acceptance of self-loading pistols.

As per the guns individual merits, it’s a Browning design that can only be described as elegantly simple.

The safety is in a place that is easy operate and is intuitive.

While the gun is not cocked, a small lever impedes the sight plane.

A feature that I wish had stuck around.

Chambering a round is second nature for any modern shooter.

And my only real gripe with the 1900 is that you need a flat-head screwdriver to take it apart.

These guns are not rare in the slightest, and they made over 700,000 of them in just over a decade.

For a time when firearms technology was developing with unparalleled rapidity, that’s simply incredible.

I would have no qualms about carrying one of these today, but as a large, antiquated, and expensive little gun, I would of course opt for a more modern option.

Next up is the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless.

The 1903 is probably the best looking pistol on this list, and one of the most coveted.

The smooth contours of the gun allowed it to be carried comfortably and drawn from a pocket without snagging on anything.

And in fact, this one belonged to a jeweler in the 1950s.

In production from 1903 until the end of World War II, the 1903 enjoyed a very long production run.

In fact you’ll even find models with US Property stamped on them, as some were given to military officers.

The 1903s are simple blowback guns that, like the FN 1900, are chambered in 32 ACP.

However, as an improvement to the 1900, there are fewer snagpoints, contours, and of course it can be taken apart without any tools.

Any 1911 shooter will pretty at home on a 1903.

The general layout is similar from the grip and manual safetys, to the sight picture and crisp single action trigger.

Some have even argued that the 1903 is the most comfortable carry pistol of all time.

And I would argue that this may well be true if it weren’t for the modern pocket pistol revolution that started in the 1990s.

The 1903’s a fantastic gun, and with half a million made in 40 years, it was a popular option that is even being reproduced today.

I can think of no reason, aside from cost, as to why these would not be a viable carry pistol today.

Next up, we have an overlooked classic, the Savage 1907.

These were available in 32 and later 380 ACP, but they brought something to the table that made them quite coveted in their day.

A 10-shot magazine capacity with a double stack magazine.

The marketing slogan for these guns was 10 shots quick, and it worked.

Over 200,000 were produced in 13 years.

The 1907s look a bit strange, but that is in part due to the 10-round magazine.

The aforementioned FN and Colt held seven and eight rounds respectively, but 10 was truly impressive for the time.

The Savage guns employ a strange form of delayed blowback.

The barrel does rotate a bit in a cam track located in the frame.

And the rifling is cut so that the projectile rotates opposite the unlocking direction.

While seemingly unnecessary and complex, it certainly wasn’t a bad thing to have.

The Savage guns were however pricey.

The allure of high-capacity and a high-gloss blued finish, not to mentioned the delayed blowback mechanism, resulted in a higher price than a Colt and Browning offerings.

So far fewer were ultimately sold.

Still were the guns were a commercial success, and one would really serve you well today.

Fourth, we have a true classic, the Mauser 1914.

This little gun is probably one that you are least likely to have heard of, despite the fact that a million in total were produced.

These classic 32 ACP blowback pistols were cheap, affordable, reliable, ergonomic, and just excellently well made guns that sold well for decades.

They’re even highly coveted by collectors today.

You can find examples priced as low as a few hundred dollars, all the way into several thousand depending on numerous factors.

But the one seen here is pretty standard.

This specific gun was made in the early 20s and is marked LG for the Saxon Land Gendarmerie, essentially a rural constabulary.

It’s appropriately kitted out in a police rig, as a policeman in the Weimar Republic would’ve carried it too, which I think is pretty neat.

These Mauser pocket pistols are noteworthy as having one of the most unique safety systems ever.

With a lever to engage the safety, and a button to quickly deactivate it.

Charging the pistol is easy, and the trigger is quite lovely.

The site’s while crude, are very effective and don’t snag easily.

And the contours of the pistol make carrying it in a pocket very easy.

Realistically the compact size and friendly shape would allow the Mauser 1914 to easily fit into any pocket.

The guns are strange looking without a doubt.

But when you’re choosing a pistol, especially a carry or duty pistol, aesthetics should be the absolute last thing you take into consideration.

While I rather like the unusual lines of the Mauser 1914, most people would probably agree that the HSc is better looking.

However, as it was designed after the 1920s, it is unfortunately not eligible for this list.

Lastly, we have a true icon.

And the pistol on this list that I would personally opt to carry above all, the Walther PP.

This little pistol was certainly not Walthers first foray into pocket pistols.

But it was their most famous.

Technically it remains in production today by Smith & Wesson, because it would be unimportable due to US import laws and our silly pistol point system.

These guns are so iconic, that James Bond has been seen using one in nearly every Bond film.

Countless appearances have led to collectors trying to gobble up every variant possible.

And while attractive, aesthetics are not the only area that the Walthers excel in.

These guns are brilliantly simple, blowback operated 32 or 380 ACP pistols.

They feature a safety decocker, so they can be carried safely with the safety disengaged.

And they just shoot fantastically well.

The Walther PP has been the basis for many pistols after it, including the Makarov, and more modern designs like the Sig p230.

Total production of the original Walther design is in the millions and still climbing, unlike the other guns on this list.

The fact that the pistol is still in production, is truly a testament to how amazing it is.

And I would have no reservations about carrying one to this day.

This one, to me, and by the numbers, is the embodiment of a classic carry pistol.

Thank you for watching our video on the top five classic concealed carry handguns.

At this point, we would like to thank our ammunition sponsor Ventura Munitions, for helping us out with our shooting videos.

Also, it would really help us out if you would hit that subscribe button.

We would sincerely appreciate it, and we hope to see you next week.

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.


  • Sebastian

    How affordable were the FN 1900s and the Mausers back when they were produced? Middle-class affordable? Working-class affordable?

  • Harrison Jones

    I feel like this list needs some revolvers!

    • This was a list of pistols.

      • Anonymoose

        The title of the article is misleading, as it is not the same as the title of the video. There aren’t many “classic” revolvers that I would consider as a carry gun in this day and age though. Probably a Detective Special in .38, and that’s about it. The S&W J-frames aren’t really as classic (old) as the guns on this list, and I would never consider carrying a single-action revolver or something with uncommon (or obsolete ammo).

        • ostiariusalpha

          I don’t really care much for revolvers from before internal safeties like hammer blocks and transfer bars were refined. All chambers in the cylinder should be loadable without having to play tricks with the hammer. Old revolvers are still neat in their styling and historical value, but I like to shoot guns that I collect and an empty chamber is kind of a waste.

      • Dave

        I am really sorry to be such a pedantic douche, BUT: Title sez “Top 5 Classic Carry GUNS” not “Top 5 Classic European .32 acp police pistols marketed as carry guns…” Eesh.

        In ‘Merica, where folks were getting gunned down right and left throughout the 19th-century and well into the 20th, well, the list might be a little different: i.e. .45 acp and .38 SPL.
        Recall that zee Gherman polizei pretty much carried .32s until the advent of terrorism and whatnot in the 1970s, when, at least in the West/BRD various 9mm designs were adopted… Makarov’s in the DDR, with the every now and then Polish PM-63 when a beserk, drunken Ivan had to be taken down with extreme prejudice… France? Yeah: .357 magnums or .38 or 9mm revolvers. UK? Once upon a time, Model 10 S&W .38s, and then the Glock.

  • Tom of Toms

    Model 51! Model 51!

    • ostiariusalpha

      Model 51! Model 51!

    • In the end, the 51 got left off due to low total production (a big part of the criteria).

      • Tom of Toms

        I get that, but but but, Model 51!

        Great article regardless. Maybe a future video series similar to the run-n-gun using these??

  • Anonymoose

    I love the 1903 Hammerless.

  • Matt Shermer

    No love for the Colt Pocket Hammerless?

    • There is one on the list and in the video.

  • Wanderlust

    The Walther was made in 1929 right? Long after all the others on this list. Its a bit odd to include it as everything else was made 15 years earlier. Thats a long time in development terms.

    • ostiariusalpha

      That’s kind of what makes it so impressive. Despite how well the previous pistols had sold, once the PP came around it displaced most of them in market sales.

  • Garmanarnar

    “I can think of no reason, aside from cost, as to why these would not be a viable carry pistol today.”

    I can think of quite a few, most notably the fact that .32 is totally insufficient for personal defense.

    • Franz Ferdinand be like “its cool, it was only a .32acp”.

      • Garmanarnar

        Don’t be daft. 22lr will still kill you if you don’t get medical attention, as will 32, but 32 is not powerful enough to rapidly and reliably stop a threat when your life is in immediate danger.

        • einszweidrei

          So isn’t 9mm or .40, with andrenaline kicking in only hits on vital organs count. I’ve seen many examples of men being able to run/fight even after being hit multiple times with .40 s&w.

          • Garmanarnar

            Sure, handgun cartridges in general are poor at stopping a human target, and that’s _exactly_ why you should go with the best cartridge you’re able to carry. 9, 40, and 45 with modern jhp designs (not older ones like hydrashoks, for example) all perform equally, and are substantially more powerful than 32.

          • iksnilol

            You don’t listen, if a JHP .45 acp doesn’t “stop” you more than a .32 does, then why is the .45 so much better?

            Pistolas only stop you when they hit the CNS, heart and brain.

          • Bill

            This article seems biased towards “small, affordable” pocket pistols as “carry” guns, which I suppose is why the focus is on low-power cartridges. The 1911 is arguably a classic carry gun but isn’t small and affordable, nor pocketable, unless you are a kangaroo. I’ll admit, under duress, that occasionally I’ll run an errand carrying only a .380, but then only because, as you pointed out, advances in ammo design have made it a marginally acceptable round for self-defense only.

            Fortunately today we have a lot more tiny 9mm pistols and others chambered for fighting cartridges.

        • Jim_Macklin

          Yes a .22 RF will kill, but you can be killed before the effects take place. The reason to carry a gun is to stop an attacker instantly or as quickly as possible.

      • Tom of Toms


      • Anonymoose

        He got plugged with a .380, though. Hitler killed himself with a .32, though.

      • Bill

        IIRC he took a while, a couple of minutes at least, to croak.

    • iksnilol

      .32 is just fine, better than .380 in most regards.

    • freethinker1

      so here it is…. let the “caliber pissing contest” begin….. “my .45 is bigger then your .40 cal” “.32 is for girls” you clowns are laughable.

      • Garmanarnar

        It’s not a caliber pissing contest, you clod, if you go back and read what I said you’ll see that I clearly stated 9mm, 40S&W, and .45ACP to be identical in performance; I’m talking about a bare minimum acceptable performance for USING TO DEFEND YOUR LIFE. 32, and .380 to a lesser extent, is too weak to penetrate deeply enough to deal the kind of physical trauma required to incapacitate a threat.

        • freethinker1

          I know I know the boogerman is waiting for you around ever corner. it is you paranoid types that ruin it for all !!

          • Garmanarnar

            Strawman. For such a “freethinker”, you parrot the lines of democratic politicians to the letter.

          • freethinker1

            typical….. I am a responsible gun owner and sick of you paranoid types seeing a bad guy behind every door or in every hoodie…. get over yourself.

          • Garmanarnar

            “responsible gun owner” Continuing the democratic talking points, I see. You should get a job at a movie theater, you’re projecting so much.

          • freethinker1

            interesting how you bucked up and started playing politics with our second amendment… it is fools like you that are putting that very amendment in jeopardy and sadly you can no se it … open your eyes !! smarten up…..

          • Garmanarnar

            A right granted by the state is no right at all.

          • freethinker1

            clearly you are fool….. it wasn’t god whom allowed us our AR’s back or suppressors, was it? keep thinking an imaginary friend has got our back and you’ll see w fast lose it all… just like Bundies dimwits. your critical thinking skills are horrible, I hope you shoot better then you think … lol

          • Garmanarnar

            Go back to your election booth, you statist chump.

  • LG


  • JoelC

    Unlike most of these top 5 videos, I think people will have a tough time arguing with this list. I agree with all of them. Nice work Alex!

    I will point out, though that some pistols like the C96 bolo were carried concealed, even though they were large. Large total production, and they remained in use for years.

    I’d love to get a deal on one of those Colts, secifically with the Hong Kong police upgrades.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I honestly came to this comment section expecting to hear everyone saying “1911! you insufferable pig squiggler! Wheres the 1911!” seeing how so many people carry them today even though they are definitely a full size service pistol and not a “carry” gun.

    I was pleasantly surprised.

    • Anonymoose

      I mean, if we were going to have a list of the best classic full-size guns for CCW, the 1911, Hi-Power, and S&W K-frame would be the top 3.

  • Twilight sparkle

    Interesting how many countries are still using guns based on the PP in their military and ours is spending more many than the total value of all of their handguns combined just to pick something.

    • Cmex

      LOL. But that’s the nature of our beast — spend all the money you have this year or it all goes to waste and you’ll prove you don’t really need so much next year, so you’ll get your funding cut for failing to blow all your money. I hope Equestria doesn’t operate by that logic.

  • Cmex

    And no “muh M1911” posts yet. Wow. And for once, even I don’t really have anything to gripe about with your list.

  • schizuki

    I’d drop the Savage from the list and replace it with the FN1910. More popular, classier, and far more deadly than anything else on the list (it wound up killing 17 million people.)

    • Dave

      Mauser C96, Walther PP, Nagant M1895, Tula Tokarev 1933 and others on that list, ‘fraid to say…

      And the majority on that list would have welcomed a bullet… Most starved.

      • Dave

        Ah. Please disregard. I had some coffee and it occurred to me you meant Gavrilo Princip’s 9x17mm kurz FN Browning 1910… Yeah, how’d you like to be that guy? You finally manage to kill Franz-Ferdinand and his wife Sophia up close and personal where so many other nationalists failed on that very day, and the whole entire world goes to s**t!!! Apparently he was “spared” execution ’cause he was a young, frail youth…. So welcome to TB and a life term… Finished when he died in the hoosegow in 1918.

    • gunsandrockets

      Oh, I agree that the Browning 1910 should have been on this list, as a classic, popular, well designed pistol with immense historical significance.

      However I think the Savage deserves a place on this list. I would have replaced the 1900 Browning instead.

      Remember this list is about classic pistols, not just raw numbers made. Otherwise the Ruby would have a claim to the list, since over a million were made.

  • Devil_Doc

    This is the direction i’d like to go next with my collection. There’s just something about these turn of the century pocket pistols that screams class. Love the 1900 and the Savage.. I, however, have a baby on the way, so no guns for me. lol… Excellent article Alex!

  • Arandor Thinnorion

    Love classic .32 ACPs! Thanks for the excellent review on some forgotten weapons.

  • smitty26

    Dont forget : here in Europe we have a different history about fire arms.I grew up with 32acp/7,65 pistols.When I was a boy(born in 1960) the police was armed with Browning model 10 and 1022 pistols.When I worked as prison guard in 1985,my personel weapon was the Walther PP in 32 acp.Only military used 9mm like the Browning HP. Revolvers were common at the civillian shooting clubs.For self defence there were a lot of .25 acp pistols.

    • Sebastian

      Which country was this in? Belgium?

      • smitty26

        Holland,we used a lot of Belgian made arms :FN Fal,Browning HP and FN 10 and 1022 pistols.But we have very stikt gun laws

    • gunsandrockets

      For some reason, many U.S. companies loaded the .32 ACP rather weakly. This has contributed to its reputation here in the U.S. as an inadequate cartridge.

      I remember how impressed I was the first time I fired some S&B ammo in my .32 handgun. Even before the chronograph confirmed it, I could feel how much hotter that load was than the Winchester ammo I had been firing.

      • De Facto

        This. It’s a shame the US market is so prejudiced against the .32 ACP. I would love a modern doublestack carry piece in .32ACP.

        • gunsandrockets

          I think some foreign companies make/made them but I don’t know if they are available in the U.S.

        • maodeedee

          CZ makes one.

        • smitty26

          I have owned the CZ 83/85 pistols.Both in .32 and .380 these are very well made,double action and with high cap magazines.Far mutch better than the FN and others with only 7 or 8 schot mag.But don’t forget most european .32 auto pistols are designed pre WW 2.

          • De Facto

            Unfortunately the CZ83 in .32ACP is rare, and a collectors item now since CZ discontinued it in 2013. They go for $800-$1100 on gunbroker, when one pops up every 6 months or so.

            My email correspondence with the CZ Rep follows.

            “I recently entered the market for a .32 ACP handgun, and after looking around found that the best option is offered by CZ. Or was, since the CZ 83 in .32ACP was apparently discontinued. Is it gone for good, or will CZ consider bringing it back? I have yet to even see a CZ 83 .32ACP for sale. I’d really love to add one to my collection, or as my daily carry gun.”

            CZ: De Facto, Sadly, they’re out for good. Production costs to build them were very high compared to our other models, and we just couldn’t compete with the surplus CZ 82s that flooded the market. It’s unfortunate that in this category we were competing against guns our own factory made 20 years ago. Thanks! Zach Hein”

          • StickShift

            Beretta is importing the 81 (Cheetah) again. They’re $700+ new, but they’re a good option since the CZs are unobtanium if you have to have a double stack .32ACP.

          • De Facto

            Thanks for the heads up, I’ll be looking for those then assuming reasonable price point. If they’re asking $800 I’ll just man up and find the CZ 83.

    • lbeacham

      America must seem very odd to Europeans. I know for sure the reverse is true.

      • smitty26

        As a former collector and shooter I love the American way of gun owner ship.But most people in Europe think you are cowboy’s walking around with loaded guns !! In Europe there is very strikt gun control .This is probably given by fear from the gouvernement that we will take over our country.And now with all the problems and attacks ,laws become more strikt.To prefent attacks by terrorist we un-armed our civillians ,yes make Europe a saver place !! So last month the EU gave us new laws for owning de-activated guns and soon we will have new laws for airguns.If guns are outlawed,only outlaws will have guns !

        • lbeacham

          That puts the Government on the side of the outlaw. They have more in common. They both want your money and property.

  • Dave

    Carry guns?

    1. OK: Savage M1907 “Ten shots sure.”
    2. Meh. Sure. Walther PPK 7.65mm James Bond and by extension, .380 acp Massachusetts Staties workin’ undercover “back in the day…”
    3. Colt Detective Special
    4. Ruger SP101or S&W “lemon squeezer”
    5. Smith and Wesson Centennial

    Honorable mention: Remington Model 13 20-gauge “whipit” gun or M37 Ithaca stakeout…

  • Strongarm

    Mauser 1914 pistols are not constucted to free a locked back slide with retract and release application. This would ruin its slide stop mechanism and appliable only to the guns with tired springs.

  • Wanting to get a secomd .380 pistol. Have been ccw’ing Bersa thunder .380 since ’13. Before that, PF9 (Which i hated, but got it for $60 and a brick of .22LR.

    Tempted to get a Beretta 83, despite it being pricey. Anyone ever run one?

  • hikerguy

    The Mauser 1914 may be an ugly duckling to some of you, but to me it has always been a neat looking handgun. The Colt is a classic looker, too. It wouldn’t bother me to carry either of them, but I’d opt for a modern design also. They would make neat conversation pieces.

  • SirOliverHumperdink

    What? No Astra 400?

  • Tassiebush

    Some beautiful guns there.

  • gunsandrockets

    Good list, and it’s nice to see the Savage get some love.

    But I would have listed the Browning 1910 instead of the 1900.

    From what I understand, the FN Browning pistols were so popular and so numerous in Europe that “Browning” became a synonym for ‘automatic pistol’ in Europe.

  • FormerFlyer

    “I can think of no reason, aside from cost, as to why these would not be a viable carry pistol today.”

    I carried a Colt 1908, and they are awesome.

    Except that they have killed several of their owners when dropped. Some people might consider that a reason. I did.

    I believe the Walther PP and derivatives is also not drop safe, unless carried safety-on. Which is not common, in my experience.



  • demophilus

    In terms of numbers made, a few .25s might have been on the list. A lot of FN 1905/1906 and Colt 1908 Vest Pockets were made, as were FN or Browning Babies.

  • freethinker1

    let the “caliber pissing contest” begin….. “my .45 is bigger then your .40 cal” “.32 is for girls” you clowns are laughable.

    • maodeedee

      Errr… we’re talking about pocket pistols here bud. Right rant, wrong day.

  • Rbt Evans

    What makes 1920 the be-all,end-all date for what’s a “classic”?
    It’s a totally arbitrary number.

  • Bill

    1908 Clement. This sweet little gun is a total parts orphan now, but its design was bought by S&W before WW1 and was adapted for their 1980s line of .22 autos as well as their Escort. My 1908 runs 100% and will put a magazine into 2 inches at 7 yards despite the fact that the bore looks like a rusty pipe, I had to make an ejector for it out of a S&W hammer block and the mag spring is short by one pass because it broke and had to be spliced together with a section of brass tubing. Clement had a line of little pistols like it, but neither the man nor his Liege factory survived the Great War.

    • maodeedee

      The main problem with most of these guns is you couldn’t carry a round safely chambered except MAYBE the PP or PPK.

  • ciscokid3750

    The Walther PP and PPK/S was never banned by any import laws only the PPK was.
    You should have mentioned the FN 1910 it was far more successful than the FN1900 and far more infamous. It was the gun that started WWI and contrary to popular belief the caliber used was not the .32 but the .380.