Firearms are often as unique as their inventors. From the iconic and historic M2 machine gun to the popular and modern family of GLOCK pistols, every type of firearm enthusiast can find the perfect option for their needs. From military innovations to the tinkering of target shooters, history shows how inventors and gunsmiths have created some world-famous weapons.
When discussing historical firearms, it is only natural to “bring out the big guns,” but let’s not overlook what smaller firearms have to offer. To that point, what about the really small guns? Let’s have a look at a few of the smallest handguns in history!
The 2mm Kolibri was the smallest production firearm. Patented by Franz Pfannl, a German watchmaker, in 1910, only around 1,000 of these pistols were made before being discontinued before the start of World War I.
The Kolibri’s small size had several drawbacks. Although it was extremely easy to conceal in a purse or vest pocket, the Kolibri was also difficult to handle and had very (very) little stopping power. Inaccuracy also plagued the design, as a barrel so small could not be rifled to produce any spin for bullets.
Now the Kolibri enjoys a following with collectors who seek out the smallest handguns in history. At auction, these pistols have sold for thousands, with so few remaining in existence.
When listing the smallest handguns in history, there is bound to be a derringer included in the list. The Remington Model 95 Derringer provided vast improvements from early Derringer pistol designs, including an “over/under” barrel that doubled round capacity.
The Remington design became the most popular at the time, and also led to its role in many Western movies and TV shows as a hidden sidearm. Given the Remington Model 95 Derringer’s total length of just under five inches, it could be carried in a vest pocket or as a sleeve-gun. The design and similar Derringers have been produced by Bond Arms and American Derringer as well.
Beretta 21A Bobcat
While this may not be the smallest handgun in history, the Beretta 21A Bobcat is certainly a modern version of what a compact sidearm can offer. Still actively produced, Beretta’s little pocket pistol has roughly the same barrel length and overall weight as the classic Remington derringer, while having a much more modern look and feel.
Besides its small size and ability to be concealed discreetly, the 21A Bobcat is also known for a unique design feature. This little pistol uses a “tip-up” barrel design that lets the user load a round into the chamber directly. Without a traditional slide design, issues such as jamming are bypassed and reliability is improved.
Dreyse Model 1907
The largest pistol in this list of small handguns has the barrel length of all 3.6 inches (nearly the Kolibri & Model 95 combined!).
The Dreyse Model 1907 went into production in 1907 and first saw action in World War I with officers of the Austro-Hungarian and German empires. Production continued and the Model 1907 remained in service through World War II. While the Dreyse was not imported into the United States, many American GIs seeking a souvenir found that the small sized Model 1907 was easy to stow away.
While there are plenty of pros and cons related to the size of a firearm to consider, there is no debate that even though these are some of the smallest handguns in history, they are not lacking in personality. With interesting designs and features, small pocket pistols and derringers have found a place in the hearts of gunsmiths, casual firearms users, and collectors.