Firearms Food for Thought: Derringers and Self-Defense

    It’s been nearly two hundred years since Henry Deringer first sold his palm pistols, and almost as long since the proper spelling of the gun’s name has been lost. Of course, it may not have been lost, per se. When he created the Philadelphia Deringer he failed to get his methods properly patented, and no one hesitated to make their own versions of his gun. Those knock-offs were called derringers, with that extra “r” thrown in.

    Not many manufacturers make these little pistols anymore and even fewer manufacture them using high-quality materials (good manufacturers do exist, though). While the original Philadelphia Deringer was a small single-shot pistol they eventually evolved into the over/under barrel design more common today. Those barrels are chambered in everything from .357 Magnum/.38 Special to .45 ACP to .410. Of course, the barrels in question tend to be short, measuring between just a couple inches to around four. Shorter barrels mean a faster loss of velocity which translates to abbreviated range for effective use. Then there’s the recoil – if you’ve never fired a derringer but have fired guns chambered in the aforementioned calibers, let’s just say the felt recoil is far greater with a derringer.

    There are a lot of people who see derringers as a part of a lost era of card sharks and gunslingers in need of last-minute backup, but there are also those who see greater use from the guns. Derringers may be small, but they have proven their ability to be mighty. John Wilkes Booth, anyone? So here’s the question: do you guys think derringers can be reliable self-defense weapons? To build on that, do you think they should be a main carry weapon or backup only?

    Derringers are interesting pistols and are also an important part of firearms history. They can be fun to shoot and absolutely make a good addition to any collection. What would you use yours for?

    If you want a closer look at some well-made derringers, try

    TFB Staffer

    TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.