(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.
Four stars for a POS .22 short revolver? Are you serious?
4 stars for a a revolver that has no trigger guard, has 1 in 50 light strikes causing FTF, has a heavy and gritty trigger, and would not fit in the hand of most adults. You give it 4 stars because its cool? Huh? Not being a hater here, just confused.
To your point, the novelty might have gotten to me a bit. If I could go back in time and not write a review right after I for home from the range, I might give it a three. In my defense, I look at overall stars in the vein of “Do I want to shoot this?”. Five being “Yes every time I go to the range” and one being “never again.” I fully realize this isn’t going to be a personal defense gun, but it’s fun and I like it.
Brian – For your comparison photo, it would have been nice if you could have included an LCR or J-Frame (or LCP etc.) for size consideration. Having it next to that large revolver doesn’t really help me see how small this gun is. The photo of the gun in your hand was much more helpful. It is pretty dang small.
Overall, the gun sounds like a 1 star gun to me. The fact that it doesn’t even fire 22lr means that it can’t benefit from the (usually) cheap .22 ammo, to make it a fun plinking gun. The NAA mini revolvers (which I don’t care for either) can at least fire .22lr.
The “cool” or “interesting” factor is why it gets 1 star rather than 0 stars.
Agree whole-heartedly on the comparison point. Had I owned a j-frame at the time (I do now oddly enough) I would have done just that. I won’t argue the rating point, it’s my opinion and I don’t think it’s fair to boil down every gun in existence to a 1-5 rating. That’s what the words are for!
Brian: Thanks for putting in the time and effort needed writing up this article. I wasn’t even aware that this gun existed. I enjoy reading about a wide variety of firearms. Thanks for bringing something unique to the table.
Yeah, why not? He’s right about the fun part; and that’s something we need to be reminded of sometimes.
Guns aren’t (and shouldn’t) be all about accuracy, power, concealability, long range performance on elephants or how many thug-stoppers it’s magazine will hold.
I like seeing reviews of novelty guns, pretty guns, airsoft guns, Nerf guns or any other gun that exists just for the pleasure of being fired.
As I’ve said to many a reluctant gun student, “If shooting guns wasn’t fun, millions of people around the world wouldn’t do it for entertainment” .
As a neat little gun to have, I can appreciate where the overall score comes from. The deficiencies are covered well in the previous ratings and reviews. If the Remingtons shot and the CCIs didn’t I’m thinking I’d be hard pressed to knock it as that sounds like an ammo issue.
It is also a great piece of perspective on how far SD hand guns have come.
Guys – this a collectible. A lot of whining about 4 stars. I’d have gave it 5 stars, been proud that I even had it, then i’d put it up and probably never fire it again. Everyone knows you wouldn’t carry it around as your CCW.
Is it really that great to advertise something as “hammerless” if you just cover it up with a big slab of metal?
Fair point. I’m guessing the marketing department thought it would fly in 1915.
In my youth there were a lot of revolvers that made you pull the cylinder from the frame to load and unload. H&R was what I was most familiar with. .22 and .32. They were cheap, reliable and gave a poor person a viable self defense arm.
At the time these cheap pocket revolvers were made .32 and .380 acp fmj were considered perfectly fine for police and military rounds in large parts of the world.
As far as self defense handguns go we’re living in the good old days.
Shooting gloves could prevent burns and the lack of a trigger guard would make shooting with almost any glove easier
This is kinda weird, but the one picture where he is holding the revolver in front of the target looks like an optical illusion. Looks like buttcheeks with a revolver poking out! Lol
This is the sort of review that demands an end to the mandatory star rating. It’s just about a collectible piece of history, it doesn’t need a rating.
I felt weird even putting a rating on a Firestar from 1993. 😐
Well I admit I never heard of this. Cute review but being “cool” doesn’t justify 4 stars. Maybe TTAG could have an “obsolete” rating…
Or we can agree that something can get zero stars and still be interesting and lovable.
Either way, four stars seems wildly inappropriate. 🙂
It’s also great that you actually shoot it.
Kudos. Good review and interesting firearm from a different time.
Well, in that era, super-concealable guns were all the rage. The large end of the really concealable spectrum would have been the Colt Hammerless.
The bottom end of the range was actually smaller than this revolver. Do some homework on the 2.7x9mm Kolibri (German for “hummingbird”), which is (to my knowledge, which might well be incomplete) the smallest centerfire round in existence.
The 2.7mm Kolibri pistol held five rounds and was 3″ OAL.
I know that TTAG readers think that anything that doesn’t rip the guts out of a meth-crazed attacker is useless, but… these small concealable guns from 100 years ago are often quite collectable. As always, do your homework, and buy the best example of the type in original condition as you can. The Kolibri’s prices tend to run in the $2K to $4K range, even though they are quite useless for self defense.
In addition to these “vest pocket guns,” there is a obscure branch of firearms collecting that is miniature, yet functional, models of larger handguns. I’m talking scaled-down versions that are 1/2 to 1/8th scale. These little wonders can fetch some steep prices. When I get too old to stand in front of full-sized machine tools, I reckon I can get some jewelers’ machines and make wee scale models of pistols.
i own one of these. it still shoots.
i obviously have other guns..but……………
if this is all you had, its still better than nothing.
this bad boy can fit on my belt buckle or can be strapped to my ankle or fit right in side my pocket. it can even fit under my hat. it might not be efficient stopping power from afar ,…but this gun if i carry it, is usually considered a back up to my regular carry. this gun in my honest opinion..is a last resort tool designed to be put to the chest of the bad guy that’s on top of you, if you happen to be in the gritty while disarmed, and things to that point just haven’t gone your way. think of this tool as a short sword for your personal use. and to me, it is worth more to have it and that chance , than to not have it at all. it is very light..and the folding trigger with the heavy pull makes this little tool safer from a negligent discharge if carrying in the pocket. i have had light strike issues with gun as well….but it’s from the 20’s. if it fails as a second backup, i still have the option to throw it effectively atleast. but i think the main point is, if i am down to that situation,…i’m wondering at that point how bad the situation must already be for me. in an act of desperation…this little hole puncher might very well be the one anomaly, that saves your life.
couldn’t agree with you more….this was my Grandfather’s throw away and my fathers will be 100 on dec 8th 2017.
mine does have a holster which is in great shape. enjoyed reading about the Little baby
“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.”
I don’t think it is, actually. Maybe in a more robust caliber, but with a .22 short you don’t have a lot of margin of error. You can shoot someone several times in the chest and unless you hit a major blood vessel- which will be harder due the smaller round- there’s not going to be much effect until a pneumothorax develops. I think only a headshot or heartshot would be likely to result in quick incapacitation- and I’m not so sure about the heart given some people who have managed to survive and keep moving after being hit by a small round in the heart.
Just get an NAA instead.
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