Mark Keefe, Editor in Chief of The American Rifleman, has an excellent article in the December 2016 issue on “The Pocket Pistol’s Progression,” in conjunction with a review by Joseph Kurtenbach of the second version of the landmark Ruger LCP pocket pistol.
Keefe provides some interesting quotes from the English gun writer Hugh B.C. Pollard about the pocket pistol, including:
The advantages of the pocket automatic are — rapidity of fire, and the flatness and compactness in the pocket.
The average Englishman has little idea how widespread is the habit of carrying a pocket pistol; it is certainly unusual in England, but almost customary in the U.S.A. and Continental countries.
After all, it is better to be efficiently armed than not; and ever since the first prehistoric man invented the sling or the bow, weapons that kept the enemy at a distance and disqualified mere personal strength have been popular.
…a pistol is a wise precaution, as it insures that, if you are molested, you hold equal or superior cards to your adversaries.
There is certainly nothing revolutionary about these ideas today, but I find it striking that these words were originally published a century ago, in Pollard’s 1917(!!!) treatise, The Book of the Pistol & Revolver.
Of course, some things have changed over the past 100 years. Keefe conveniently leaves out part of Pollard’s comment about a pistol being “a wise precaution”:
For the ordinary man a pocket pistol is not an essential; but for anyone whose work or inclinations leads him to strange places in our own cities, or even as far afield as Paris, a pistol is a wise precaution, as it insures that, if you are molested, you hold equal or superior cards to your adversaries.
Today, of course, the idea promoted in Gun Culture 2.0 is that it is precisely the “ordinary” person for whom, if not the pocket pistol or revolver, some carry gun is essential.
Alongside the advantage of the automatic pocket pistol, Keefe also skips what Pollard saw as “the disadvantages”
—unnatural alignment, tendency to jam, and the danger common to all magazine pistols of taking out the charged magazine and forgetting the live cartridge in the chamber.
Some things never change.
Pollard also weighed in on the question of the revolver vs. the semi-automatic pistol:
In making up one’s mind over the choice of a pocket pistol or revolver, it is well to remember that if the arm is merely to be carried with only remote chances of needing it, an automatic is excellent; but if it is for probable use, and as a permanent article of wear, regarded as more important than a collar or tie in the country or circles in which you propose to travel, the revolver is much better for your purpose.
Pollard also established, in the opening paragraph of the book, the special character of handguns in general:
From the earliest period of the invention of firearms, mankind has desired a short, easily portable, and easily concealed means of defence, and to this common desire we owe the pistol, the revolver, the “automatic,” and all their kindred. The pistol—by which term I include all pistols, revolvers, automatics, and repeating or single-shot weapons meant for use in one hand—was essentially designed as a weapon for quick use at close quarters. It was a weapon of offence or defence with a limited range, particularly suitable for horsemen, and endowing their possessor with an advantage over enemies more skilled in the use of the arme blanche or physically superior to him.
These are just some of the many gems in Pollard’s book. The Sportsmans Vintage Press, which publishes a paperback reprint of the original text, also makes available the entire text free on their website. I enjoyed perusing the book on my computer this snowy Sunday in North Carolina, and am looking forward to the printed copy I ordered arriving soon.