The Pocket Pistol

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.


Image from Pollard captioned: Pocket Automatics: A. Browning Old Model .32 B. Bayard .32, .380, .25 C. Savage .32, .380 D. Colt .25 E. Mauser .25 F. Colt .32 G. Webley .25 H. Webley .320, .380
Image from Pollard captioned: Pocket Automatics: A. Browning Old Model .32 B. Bayard .32, .380, .25 C. Savage .32, .380 D. Colt .25 E. Mauser .25 F. Colt .32 G. Webley .25 H. Webley .320, .380

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.




  1. I don’t carry a ‘pocket pistol’ in the sense I do not carry in my pocket. Except occasionally when circumstance and weather dictate. But I carry practically all the time.

    Additionally, I collect .32 Automatics of the Art Deco period. (I have five, more or less of the pistols in the photograph from Brother Pollard’s book, above. The ‘more or less’ clause is the Harrington & Richardson Self Loader I have is in .32 ACP.)

    I have little to add. Since the time of Mr. Pollard, the semi-automatic pistol has grown rather more reliable. Small pistols are made in larger calibers. All technical developments which I am sure Mr. Pollard expected in general if not in specific.

    The comments he made – except for the ‘ordinary man’ statement – are all still quite valid. I much appreciate holding “… equal or superior cards…” and fully am in accord with “[keeping] … the enemy at a distance and … [disqualifying] mere personal strength…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, collecting. The more I read about this history of firearms the more fascinating it becomes to me. I was checking out our local gun show the other weekend and couldn’t help but stop at the tables with older small handguns. Fortunately, I have too many other expenses right now to add this to my list of hobbies, but I can certainly see the attraction.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] I already have a paperback reprint of this book by Dover Publications of Minnesota, but it’s much nicer to have a genuine pigskin Saderra leather, Himalaya grain edition with gilded edges and brass-die stamped, 22-karat gold lettering on the spine. It makes a nice companion to my FCL edition of Pollard’s The Book of the Pistol & Revolver, which I also got used and wrote about recently. […]


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