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Old August 29, 2015, 02:45 AM   #1
ArmedOkie
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A wish for the rebirth of classic pocket revolvers

I just sent the following email to North American Arms. Seemed as good a place as any to try my luck. A guy can dream... I thought I'd repost the email here to get your input and opinions on the idea, and see what interest there might be here (I don't think I've asked about it here before).

I see a gap in the revolver market that isnt being filled, particularly since I have searched high and low for something like this. I have also talked with friends, spoken with others on internet forums, and read posts by other users on internet groups that reinforce my belief that something like this would be very popular.

Im speaking of a modern iteration of the pocket revolvers of the turn of the century. They really arent all that different from what you currently produce. In the gun market today, you can buy a semi auto pistol from 22lr all the way up to the monster calibers like 454 cassul and 500 magnum. In the revolver world, you either get a 22 or you step up to a large, full power revolver round like 38 special/357 or 44 special/magnum. There is no marginal caliber option that I know of (conversions for 9mm etc from the likes of ruger, for example, withstanding since it is still a full sized gun).

What I would like is a gun like the ones in the photo, or even a top break like the old smith and H&R revolvers chambered in 32/38 s&w. Step up the size of your 22 mini revolver platform a bit and chamber it for a marginal caliber like 32 acp or 380acp. I believe 32acp is even rimmed enough to allow use without any sort of moon clip, as there is a conversion floating around for nagant revolvers. This gun would sell like crazy. A bit more useful caliber in a slightly larger (though still small) platform. Very concealable, very shootable, VERY cool.

A classically-inspired revolver alternative to the LCP, p3AT, Seacamp, et al.

Please let me know if anyone has bothered to read this, and let me know what you think. Thanks!


Thanks,
C*** J******
Revolver and History Lover Extraordinaire



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Old August 29, 2015, 02:54 AM   #2
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Model T's are cool. I doubt if new ones would sell like hotcakes, though.
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Old August 29, 2015, 06:28 AM   #3
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I was just wondering yesterday why there are no 32ACP revolvers.

Of course, the thing it's up against is that a Kel Tec P32 is so darn SMALL. If a polymer framed .32 revolver could be made in the $350 area, that could be tempting though.
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Old August 29, 2015, 07:45 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColtPythonElite View Post
Model T's are cool. I doubt if new ones would sell like hotcakes, though.
Exactly. If some manufacturer decided to make reproductions or modernized versions of these old revolvers they'd sell as interesting hobby items, not serious personal defense tools. Colt Peacemakers and Winchester 1873's are cool guns but are not the best tools for defensive (or offensive) use any more. Same with those old revolvers, especially in those old calibers. (Course, IMO, the same applies to all revolvers, even the modern ones, but that's a different discussion).
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Old August 29, 2015, 08:09 AM   #5
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I agree fully with the armed okie. NAA is already in a niche, novelty gun business. They don't have to reingeneer a whole lot, they just need to supersize their current product. I know that is easier said than done. If they were to clone some of the historic guns I believe that they would have a market in either cowboy shooting too, especially if they made a gun with some useable sights
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Old August 29, 2015, 09:58 AM   #6
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I think NAA kicked they idea around but, it would cost to much to produce. They couldn't sell it at a price affordable to make it popular. That's what happend with their break open 22. Not enough people would be interested when you can get a J-Frame sized gun for around $400. ( JMO )
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Old August 29, 2015, 10:09 AM   #7
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ArmedOkie

Nice sentiment but I doubt there would be enough interest in the single action designs to generate sufficient profit from such a project. One gun I would like to see brought back from the past would be the original S&W Ladysmith revolvers in .22LR.
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Old August 29, 2015, 12:19 PM   #8
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Caliber_RWVA writes:

Quote:
If a polymer framed .32 revolver could be made in the $350 area, that could be tempting though.
Maybe Charter Arms could one day be persuaded to do that with its Undercoverette. I handled one not too long ago (I own two of their Undercover revolvers, from 1966, and 1987) and it felt pretty good. I'd carry one. Being in .32 H&R Magnum, it should chamber .32 ACP, shouldn't it? I know the .327 Federal Magnum revolvers out there would.
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Old August 29, 2015, 12:32 PM   #9
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I agree with Armed Okie, at least up to a point.

Going back to the middle 1890 to around 1940 firms such as Harrington Richardson and Iver Johnson sold small (meaning smaller then today's S&W J-frame) top-break and solid frame revolvers chambered in .22 RF and .32 S&W. Add to that Smith & Wesson's .32 Safety Hammerless.

And they sold in multiples of hundreds-of-thousands.

They were however something that wouldn't be particularity popular with many (most?) of the members of this forum; but for that matter our members often have different perspectives then most handgun buyers who don't have any burning interest in the finite details concerning all aspects of revolvers (or pistols) in a personal defense context. What they are interested in is relatively inexpensive/easy to carry and conceal/protection.

So I suspect a hand-ejector revolver with a short barrel and double-action lockwork, chambered in .22RF or .32 ACP (with moon clips) might sell very well if they weren't too expensive.

And I'll go so far as to say that if a company came out with a compact/ polymer frame/striker fired pistol in .22 LR and .25 ACP that was light weight, pocketable, and relatively inexpensive - they would likely sell a boatload.

But not necessarily on The High Road.
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Old August 29, 2015, 12:37 PM   #10
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327 will shoot 327, 32 mag, 32swl, 32acp, 32sw
32 mag will shoot all but 327
32swl will shoot 32swl and 32sw safely. 32acp is higher pressure so not safe in a lot of guns, not advisable in any.
32sw will not shoot 32acp.

All of the rounds are rimmed...32acp technically is semi-rimmed which is actually rimmed with a thin rim but also beveled like most auto cartridges for the extractor to latch into.
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Old August 29, 2015, 01:57 PM   #11
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You're observation concerning cartridges is correct, but you miss the point of this thread. The 327 Magnum requires a long cylinder, and you end up with a frame the size of Smith & Wesson's J-frame. Also using materials and construction that will stand up to the magnum round will add considerably to the cost.

Designing a revolver to use .22 RF or .32 ACP eliminates these issues.
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Old August 29, 2015, 02:05 PM   #12
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Quote:
ArmedOkie ..... This gun would sell like crazy....
Doubtful.
The only reason the NAA Mini revolvers sell is due to their size.

A J frame will do everything that the guns pictured will do and do it better.
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Old August 29, 2015, 02:32 PM   #13
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I guess I am just different, but I feel the same way about these old revolvers, that I do old automobiles...I will take the modern guns, any day.
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Old August 29, 2015, 03:36 PM   #14
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I wonder what the minimum cylinder diameter would be for a 32 ACP 5-shot rod-ejector revolver, given modern materials and modern safety margins? (I specify rod-ejector because it may allow the cylinder axis to be smaller and thus reduce cylinder size.)

It would need a larger grip than any of the antique rimfire revolvers shown - 32 ACP may be weak by today's standard, but it is a LOT more powerful than any 32 rimfire. And it would need a drop-safe trigger mechanism too.
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Old August 29, 2015, 05:39 PM   #15
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I'm as guilty as anyone of singing the praises of the old top break .32s as small light guns of a sort no longer produced.

But...the only way I see it happening is if a Taurus or the like...someone who can combine innovation and inexpensive production...can make them inexpensive enough to buy as novelties, because I don't see people buying into the merits of them sight unseen.

Maybe it is time for George Kellgren to try his hand at a revolver.
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Old August 29, 2015, 06:19 PM   #16
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Quote:
because I don't see people buying into the merits of th'em sight unseen.
They're "people," (such as members of this forum) and then they're "other people," like some neighbors I know.

Most members of this forum with an interest in handguns probably wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. They want something that says "MAGNUM" on it.

But I can think of some "other people" who are my neighbors, never visit gun forums of any kind, and would beat the doors down to buy what is under discussion here.

If some manufacturer wises up they'll learn that "other people's" money spends too.

Back when.... H&R and Iver Johnson pocket revolvers were used by relatively few police officers. But both of these companies each outsold Colt and S&W combined between 1900-1914.

Between 1908 and 1940, Colt sold some 407,800 of their little .25 Vest Pocket Model, and during that time they had plenty of competition from imports and other domestic makes.

The last available Iver Johnson .32 top-break's with 2" barrels were sold to the U.S. Army's O.S.S. during World War Two for use as a deep concealed backup.
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Old August 29, 2015, 11:47 PM   #17
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Guessing what the ... "Gun laity", for lack of a better term, will think is a genuine challenge. There are just so many strange influences including daddy lore, movies that may or may not have made heavy use of hidden suspension wires attached to the actors, indisputable opinions from authorities including a relative retelling experiences from basic training, a character on "CSI Miami", the 22 year old running the gun counter at Academy last Tuesday night, ads for the TV show, "Top Shot", and so on.
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Old August 29, 2015, 11:50 PM   #18
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It would be awesome if NAA could make a copy of the S&W Model 1 in the original .22 short. They really are similar in many ways, at least on the outside, to NAAs current offerings.

From what I've read, the S&W Model 1 was pretty popular with Civil War troops as a personal defense gun. Yes, that's right, they had .22 shorts in the Civil War. I think there are a lot of Civil War buffs and reenactors out there who would be interested.
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Old August 30, 2015, 12:54 AM   #19
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The S&W Model 1 tip-up was a neat little gun c. 1860, when fixed ammunition was a novelty and there was a war on. But it was a weak gun, and they shot loose pretty rapidly, even with the .22 Shorts of the day.

The later solid frame .22's and .32's were theoretically better, but most were so poorly made of inferior materials that they were often called "suicide specials."*

I am not sure how well a really small revolver in .22 or .32 would sell, but I am pretty sure it would be panned by the gunzines and by the "more powder, more powder" guys as well. Plus, guns in those calibers would have the same problem today they did in 1900; the power just isn't enough to be effective for self defense or hunting and a tiny gun would be useless for target shooting. So such a gun would essentially be a novelty item and that is not a very big market.

Jim

*I am not sure whether that was because those guns could not be depended on to fire more than one shot or whether a person armed with one would be committing suicide if his opponent had a better weapon.

JK
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Old August 30, 2015, 02:39 PM   #20
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I think Haywood was close. I believe NAA was working on a small .32 several years ago and may have even produced a prototype or two but ran into enough problems and costs versus sales potential that they dropped the whole thing. Memory says it may have been a break open model but was certainly single action. Seems I remember it was .32 s&w and I was thinking it should have been .32 acp. I'm thinking Dick Casull played with the same or similar concept. Maybe someone has more info or can correct my memory.

Edited to add: Here is part of a quote from a Q&A with the president of NAA back in 2006:

"Small" has always been the end of the market that we've occupied and will continue to focus on. Our soon-to-be produced .32 H&R Mini-revolver is designed to fill another niche with a uniquely designed piece, but that story is not yet ready to be told."

My memory about .32 S&W was wrong. It was .32 H&R Magnum.

The quote was from northamericanarms.com found by a Google search for ".32 mini revolver".

Last edited by Gary A; August 30, 2015 at 02:49 PM.
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Old August 30, 2015, 02:55 PM   #21
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Here is a link to a thread on the NAA Mini forum discussing this in 2012 with a photo and discussion of a prototype.

http://naaminis.com/smf/index.php?topic=2715.0
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Old August 30, 2015, 05:13 PM   #22
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I have a 1906 H&R that I shoot quite a bit.
I think it ws origonally .22 Long chambering but I only shoot shorts Std Vel) and lots of CB Caps thru the tiny 7 shot cylinder! Fun but not real accurate!
I too am intrested in finding a good H&R .32 Long, Just Cause I want a snubby .32.
Sure LOVE my .38 Steel Chief best tho!
I'd also love to have a .32 top break too!
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Old August 30, 2015, 05:27 PM   #23
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My understanding is that 32 H&R Magnum is a pretty good cartridge. It seems like the Undercoverette could be smaller than it is, based on the 38 frame and all.
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Old August 30, 2015, 10:25 PM   #24
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Howdy

Number 53 in your photo is a S&W No. 1, 3rd issue, chambered for 22 short, the bottom gun in my photo. Number 52 is a No. 1 1/2, chambered for 32 Rimfire, the middle gun in my photo. My No. 1 3rd issue was made in 1875 IIRC. Don't remember when my No. 1 1/2 was made. The biggest gun in my photo is a S&W No. 2, Old Army, the largest Tip Up that S&W made. Also 32 Rimfire, but six shots rather than the five shots of the smaller No. 1 1/2. This one was made in 1863. It was called the Old Army because it was very popular with soldiers in the Civil War. Nowhere near as powerful as a 44 Cap & Ball revolver, but it fired cartridges and could be reloaded very quickly.




As stated, these were very weak designs. The 22 short of the 1860s and 1870s was loaded with Black Powder and was not even as powerful as a modern 22 short. With these antiques it is advised to never shoot them with modern 22 shorts.



They were called Tip Ups, because unlike a Top Break, the barrel rotated up to load and unload them. The cylinder was simply pulled out of the frame and the rod under the barrel was used to poke out the empties.



But the Tip Ups were not very robust, the pivot screw at the top of the frame could wear just like the screw in a derringer. And they could be shot loose at the latch too. S&W considered making a 44 caliber Tip Up, but decided the design was too weak. That is why they started making Top Breaks instead, which were stronger than the Tip Ups.


Quote:
If they were to clone some of the historic guns I believe that they would have a market in either cowboy shooting too, especially if they made a gun with some useable sights

Unfortunately, pocket pistols are not SASS legal for Main Match pistols. They could only be used for Pocket Pistol side matches, which do not occur at most matches. There would not be much demand from the Cowboy Shooting world. Yes, most of us who use pocket pistols in side matches are limited to shooting antiques, as there are no modern reproductions available. But there would be a very limited market.

These Top Break Lemonsqueezers are pretty typical of what guns are used in Pocket Pistol side matches.



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Old August 30, 2015, 11:57 PM   #25
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Interesting thread. Around 2003, I actually wrote, and received a response from, NAA regarding a .32-something (.32 ACP, .32 S&W Long, etc.) in their revolver format. They said they experimented with the idea, and, in so many words, the resulting revolver was too large and too costly to produce to even consider. Oh well.

With modern manufacturing technology, I'd imagine someone would turn out a slick little .32 ACP single-action or a top-break double-action in said. The question, of course, is there enough market for such an offering. If I had to hazard a guess, the answer is "no", because there are all sorts of pocket guns produced each year and this isn't one of them. Oh well again.

Last edited by Swing; August 31, 2015 at 04:17 PM.
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