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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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.
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