Pocket Rifles – The Origin of .22 LR

    Have you ever wondered about the origin of the .22 LR? Have you ever wanted a small, utility rifle for bicycle or pocket carry? It turns out those two subjects are related:

    The New Model Pocket Rifle (First Issue) was the same basic design as the Old Model Pocket Rifle, but was larger and had a heavier barrel to handle the bigger .32 caliber rimfire cartridge. It became far more popular than the old model and outsold it by a wide margin. It was only manufactured for three years though, between 1872-1875, after which it was replaced by the New Model Pocket Rifle (Second Issue) model, which was sold from 1875-1896
    The second issue model mounted the firing pin in the frame rather than the hammer, as a safety feature. In 1887, a version that fired the .22 Long Rifle (also known as .22 LR) rimfire cartridge was manufactured for the first time. The .22 LR cartridge was also invented by the Stevens Arms and Tools Company and is still the most popular cartridge in the world today (almost every major firearm manufacturer in the world has made at least one product that fires .22 LR).
    When separated into two pieces (the pocket rifle and the stock), each piece measured between 18 to 24 inches (46-61cm.), which meant they could be stowed in a long coat pocket. Weight of the larger caliber models was around 5 to 5.75 lbs. (2.2 – 2.6 kg.) and the lighter models up to .32 caliber only weighed about 2 – 2.75 lbs. (0.9-1.25 kg.) The barrels were offered in a variety of lengths: 10 inches, 12 inches, 15 inches or 18 inches (25 cm., 30 cm., 38 cm. or 46 cm.)

    The rifles that Firearms History, Technology & Development describe are similar to the Chiappa Little Badger of today: They represent a small, foldable package of that most useful of firearms: “A Gun”. Despite its shortcomings as a weapon, I’ve heavily considered for my own use the Little Badger and other guns like it; they offer me a way to carry a rifle without appearing to carry a rifle, and in my mind that is worth a lot.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]