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No, I’m not being cheeky calling the knuckleduster revolver my friend. Instead, I’m using its actual name.

James Reid got a wonderful belated Christmas present in 1865. On December 26, he was granted US Patent number 51,752 for his new revolver that could fit in the palm of your hand. He would refer to the gun later as “My Friend,” even stamping that moniker into the frame.

Reid’s background in firearms goes back to his time in Europe. Born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1827, he apprenticed with a gunsmith there. Later, he moved to Glasgow, Scotland, before coming to the United States in 1857. He settled in the Catskills where he opened up a mill and a gun shop.

The design known as the knuckleduster is named as such because it could be rotated on your finger and the butt of the piece could be used as a singular brass knuckle. The gun had no barrel and fired directly from the cylinder, adding to its ability to be concealed, but relegating it to a close-quarters firearm. They were available in .22, .32, and .41 calibers.


The small and concealable design made it popular with women and travelers so that they could have something handy when out on the dangerous roads. It was also a popular design with gamblers who might need some concealed backup when the other players found the fifth ace they were hiding in their sleeve.

Despite their small size, the all-metal guns were well made and even featured scroll engraving on both sides of the frame, the topstrap, and even the front of the cylinder, making the gun both practical and attractive.

Even though Reid received his patent in 1865, he didn’t actually advertise “My Friend” until 1873. That first ad appeared in the J.H. Johnson catalog of the Great Western Gun Works of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At that time, the .32 caliber model could be purchased – with a box of 50 cartridges – for $12. Within three years, the price had dropped to $10 for the gun and cartridges. The .22 caliber model could be had, with 100 cartridges, for only $8.

Reid also offered his gun with a barrel, first a 3-inch model and then a 1¾-inch version in 1875 and 1877 respectively. This gave the guns a bit more accuracy at a little more distance, but the carrier sacrificed some concealment due to the added length.

All told, Reid made approximately 13,940 of his standard knuckledusters. He only made around 1,160 of the barreled models. Despite the low numbers, you can still find them if you look carefully at gun shows around the country. One even walked into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop of History Channel’s Pawn Stars fame and was featured in an episode that aired in March 2014.

Reid’s “My Friend” knuckleduster is an odd little gun, but sometimes the most interesting designs come in the smallest packages. Plus, you’ve got to hand it to him with the clever name. I’ll admit that I’ve referred to my carry gun as my friend on at least one occasion.

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

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  1. Ian did a great video of this on Forgotten Weapons that’s worth mentioning. We have evolved a long way from the carry guns of the day. I wonder what they’d think of having 6+1 of 9mm that was as good as a lot of their .44 stuff in such a tiny package with so little weight.

  2. I have one of these in .22. My father found it when he worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was in the ballast between the rails. Mine is chrome or nickle plated over the brass. It does have all the engraving too. I’ve always wondered the history that may be behind my particular “Little Friend”.

        • Yea, but I bounced it off of 17 ghost servers throughout the Pacific rim, and then thru the iii, that would be the interwebz individual incognito, server to TTAG. Just thought you’d like to know!

  3. Effectively a “belly gun”.

    In other news, 25 injured in an “explosion” in Chelsea Manhattan. Pictures indicate [to me] a bomb was placed in a dumpster.

    Stay safe out there folks!

      • Yeah, I’m aware. I think that was at the Semper Five 5K charity race.

        I’ve had my EDC “pocket dump” posted here. I’m thinking about going further than the pocket dump and showing the various med kits I carry and where I carry them. You can’t shoot back against a bomb (or a car accident). You can only patch up the injured/yourself if you live. I dunno if TTAG would run such things, and I know I’d get flamed for them not being “pocket dumps”. That said, I carry a backpack because I’m a grad student… oh and I give no fucks what other people think, especially if they’re the type that thinks a .380 and unicorn farts has them covered…

        The question is how to cover it in a meaningful way that doesn’t take so much space no one will read it.

        • Submit it to TTAG. They’ll print it or not, it’s that simple.

          As for the flaming bit. It’s the interwebz. Who doesn’t get flamed?

        • John L:

          An actual useful caliber in something other than a mouse gun is even more useful. Carrying anything less than a full size pistol is just laziness. Stick with the big 3 IMHO unless you’re a wheelgun guy.

          I wasn’t aware that submitting directly to TTAG was a thing. Either way, unless asked to I probably wouldn’t bother. This is The Truth about Guns. It’s not The Truth about Medical. Besides, I’m that egotistical asshole with bad jokes. No one would take me seriously.

        • It’s not my skin to convince you Strych9, but it’s what I carry, and I did the research; there are .380 rounds that do just fine in the FBI tests. It’s gotten a modern tune-up just like 9mm. Take another look.

          Or appendix carry a .500 S&W if that’s what you need to feel comfortable, but accept that the modern .380 at the ranges most street encounters happen will get the job done and stop perpetuating the myth that it won’t.

        • strych9 – If you go to the bottom of the page you will find a tag “Write for us”. If you have something to say that can relate in any way to guns, and you can actually write, I’m sure RF will consider posting it. Keep in mind that Leghorn is/was an EMT and Jon Wayne Taylor was a medic. Both have written articles relating to medical kits and medical care of wounds.

          Give it a shot (no pun).

        • Swarf:

          .380 isn’t the problem to me. To me, the problem is the barrel .380 tends to come out of. It’s short and therefore not pulling the juice it might, not as accurate due to said barrel and not giving you the sight radius you really need because it’s usually a pocket gun. That’s just MHO. YMMV.

          Cliff H:

          Will do. Thanks.

        • Nothing wrong with a the .380 cal, Tim Sundles makes some hot rounds for it, butt, you;re a grad student, who am i to wonder how much first hand experience you have as a gun fighter, right?

          Now if all we got is what we read on the internet, i heard a story about a grizz taking a tube of 45-70 and not stopping right away…. Your firearm might not be big enough for what you intend to shoot either, right?

          Sticking to the calibre snob topic, i just got my Berne Echo OneOne™ CC winter work coat, the dern thing can swallow
          my 4.62″ barreled.45 cal Blackhawk in its CC pockets, so now im actually looking forward to winter!

        • On this site, a couple years back, STB410 posted an ammo test on a .380 load using a mouse gun with a 3.1″ barrel, and it met and exceeded all the requirements of the FBI standards. Caused him, and me, to change our EDC loading. And.380 ain’t a pipsqueak any more!

        • Strych9, I’d be interested in your first aid dump. Lots of good reasons for carrying a personal first aid kit. I have one based on minor needs, but it could stand to be added to for worse injury.

    • And that new CCI Copper .22lr has renewed my interest in those NAA revolvers, possibly the Sidewinder or Sheriff. I figure having one in .22mag would be kind of a waste, since they don’t have enough barrel to take make much of a difference.

      As with the My Friend revolver (if I’d had one back then), an NAA is a pistol that I could definitely carry every day. But I don’t think an NAA mini-revolver would work very well as an impact weapon; so the My Friend has that going for it, which is nice.

  4. I thought the name “knuckleduster” derived from what it did to the user. Like a .44mag Blackhawk with the original XR3 gripframe.

  5. OP has some courage and admits that yes, things do happen. Well done, OP. 🙂 Remember, history is full of awful things everyone knew were just not going to happen.

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