(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Brian Sears
With the ever expanding lineup of concealed carry polymer wonders hitting the market, the average wheelgunner might be feeling a bit left out. Sure, you could grab a Ruger LCR or even the popular Smith & Wesson 642, but they’re hardly mouse guns. In fact, the 642 is longer, wider, and taller than a Kahr PM9. No, if you’re going for concealability in a revolver, why not go micro?
Enter the 1920 Kolb Baby Hammerless. Sure, you might not be able to walk into your neighborhood gun store and pick one up, but if you’re looking for ultimate concealability you’d be hard pressed to find a better choice than a revolver that can cram six rounds into a package that measures just 4.125″ from tip to tail (that’s a full ⅛” shorter than a Bond Arms derringer).
The first Kolb revolvers rolled off the line around 1910 in Philadelphia. The history is a bit murky and the initial guns may have even rolled off the machinery under a number of different names: Colombian, Foehl & Weeks, Kolb, and Sedgley. In the early 1900s, the “manufacturer” of some firearms had less to do with who was making them and more to do with who was running the books at the time. This particular model is emblazoned with an “S” on the grip and was made some time in the 1920s after Kolb sold the company off to his machinist Reginald Sedgley.
If you’re the type of gun owner who doesn’t trust their life to anything less than the stopping power of the venerable .45, this probably will not be your next pistol. While sometimes found in .32 S&W short or .22LR, this particular Baby Hammerless is chambered in the not-quite-so-powerful .22 short.
It does however, give you six shots to make the most of (that’s six shots to slow down your camping buddy enough that you can escape that angry bear you came across while hiking). While it might not be the perfect self defense round, it still could dissuade a bad guy looking for an easy target.
Appearance-wise it’s pretty standard fare, with the notable exception of the trigger guard (or lack thereof). The folding trigger allows for a more compact gun, while adding in a layer of safety as the pistol can’t be fired while the trigger is stowed away. That being said, I’ve seen what the headphone gremlins have done to cables and cords in my pockets and I don’t trust their trigger discipline enough to throw this pistol in my pocket and go, even with a 10.5 lb pull.
A one-inch barrel rounds things out, suggesting you should get close to whatever you’re aiming at before you take your shot. Another interesting note: there is no swinging cylinder on this pistol. The cylinder slides completely out of the frame after the release pin (under the barrel) is pulled forward. While you can load this revolver through the gate on the right side, the entire assembly has to be removed to unload the spent cartridges.
My trip to the range immediately showed two issues. It’s almost impossible to get a good grip on this pistol. Some people complain all the time about hanging a pinky off the end of a compact handgun, and I can tell you hanging two off isn’t any better.
Luckily recoil is almost entirely non-existent so the lack of a firm grip isn’t too much of a problem. Problem number two should be apparent to anyone who’s familiar with revolvers. There’s a gap between the cylinder and the barrel that you’re generally advised to keep your fingers away from due to the rapid expansion of hot gas that leaks between the two parts when firing. Seeing as the trigger pull on this revolver starts entirely in front of the cylinder and ends behind it, getting singed is almost an inevitability.
After taking 50 rounds or so to get used to the sight picture (you get a front blade, but no groove at the rear of the frame to line it up in), I proceeded to try and make some groups. My best six-shot target shows a 4.5” spread at 10 feet. This certainly isn’t going to win any competitions, but if you’re looking for “minute of bad guy,” it’s acceptable.
The double action trigger pull is long, heavy, and gritty with roughly ¼-inch of slack before anything of note starts to happen. The folding trigger sets the pivot point in an odd location, making the trigger feel like you’re pulling down more than back.
I put just over 200 rounds of 29 grain CCI down the barrel and had four FTFs due to light strikes. They wouldn’t fire on the second strike either, so I’m going to chalk this up to an ammunition issue. I also fired 20 rounds of Remington “Golden Bullet” that was older than I was and didn’t have a single issue.
Post range cleaning was a snap: pull the cylinder release pin out of the front of the revolver and slide the cylinder completely out of the gun.
Let’s be honest, this pistol is more of a novelty item than a serious personal defense item. We should be glad we live in a time where reliability, power, and concealability can all be found in pistols all across our country (even you, California). In the 1920s, this may have been an acceptable firearm to carry for self defense, but I think we can all agree there are probably better options now.
I might not want to trust my life to six rounds of .22 short, but it’s better than nothing and we should thank the likes of Kolb and Sedgley for putting together a firearm that we can still all enjoy almost 100 years after its release.
Specifications: 1920 Kolb Baby Hammerless Revolver
Caliber: .32 S&W short, .22 LR, .22 Short (tested)
Price: Looks to be around $300 on gunbroker
Ratings: (out of five stars):
Appearance * * * * 1/2
There’s no doubt this is a neat looking revolver. It definitely draws a lot of attention at the range (mostly due to its size), but the polished finish has held up pretty well for being around 100 years old.
Reliability * * *
Five FTFs in 200 rounds that did not ignite on the second strike. I won’t give anything rimfire more than three stars on reliability just due to the inconsistency in ammunition.
What do you want? No, you can’t get a holster for it. No, it doesn’t have a rail. You’ll be lucky if you can find replacement parts for it, much less aftermarket triggers.
Accuracy * * *
It performed better than I thought it would. This isn’t going to be a target pistol, but it generally shoots where you point it once you get used to where that front blade needs to be.
Awful. I’d give it a zero, but you can physically hold it. A long, heavy trigger pull that puts your finger directly next to the cylinder gap while firing. You can maybe get two fingers on the grip if you have small hands.
Overall * * * *
So how do I justify giving four stars to a pistol that you can’t grip, shoots poorly, burns you, and shoots arguably the most underpowered commercially available cartridge? It’s simple. It’s a cool revolver. It’s a great conversation piece. It’s a non-threatening way to get your friends and family to the range for a day. We’ve become so obsessed with muzzle energy and performance that going to the range and shooting a pistol with zero recoil that you know isn’t accurate is just fun sometimes. The world could use a few more Kolb Baby Hammerless revolvers.