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I think a lot of us appreciate rimfire variants of our favorite guns. The HK MP5, the Walther PPQ, the SIG P322, and the GLOCK 44, among others, give us a cheaper way to fire a gun and train with something that’s similar to guns that are a bit bigger and more expensive.

This is hardly new. Colt may have done it first back in 1959 with the Colt Fourth Model Derringer. Colt’s first cartridge guns were the Thuer-designed second and third-model derringers chambered in .41 Rimfire, but production stopped in 1912 for these guns.

From the late 1940s into the 1970s, there was a massive surge in the popularity of western films. This surge inspired a new generation of gun enthusiasts, and their weapons of choice were cowboy guns.

To capitalize on the surge of western popularity, Colt brought back the Thuer design as a Fourth Model derringer. At that point, .41 Rimfire wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves, so Colt chose to chamber the Fourth model in .22 Short.

Colt Fourth Model Rimfire Derringer
It’s small, but a ton of fun (Travis Pike for TTAG)

When you picture derringers, you probably picture twin barrel guns popularized by Remington. Those might have been the trendsetters, but most derringers from this period were tiny single-shot firearms. The Colt Fourth Model derringers are single-barrel guns. I recently acquired one of these mini Colts and have been having way too much fun with it.

A Colt by Butler?

Colt actually didn’t make these pistols. Their name may grace the top of the barrels, and they were made in New Haven, Connecticut, but they weren’t true Colts. A company called Butler produced the guns for Colt. Butler would later go on to produce these revolvers under their own name after Colt stopped offering them.

Colt Fourth Model Rimfire Derringer
It’s downright cute (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Colt Fourth Model Derringers weren’t exactly of the same quality as the older Third Models. They were made from nickel or gold-plated Zamak, which is a zinc alloy commonly used in very cheap firearms. Luckily, it shoots .22 Short, so it doesn’t need to be super strong.

The grips were made from either walnut or from a plastic-like fake pearl or ivory design. They still looked like the Colt derringers, but they were made to be cheaper.

Colt Fourth Model Rimfire Derringer
The barrel opens to the side, an odd design choice.  (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I prefer the gold sides with a black Du-Lite finish, a black barrel, and walnut grips. The fake silver and ivory look just isn’t for me. Sometimes they were sold as pairs and even in fours with sequential serial numbers in fancy jewelry boxes. These made great displays that were also functional and capable.

Colt Fourth Model Rimfire Derringer
Its a Colt by way of a company called Butler (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Single guns sold for $22.50 for the basic models, and prices varied for the numerous special editions, pairs, and more. The first series was made from 1959 to 1963, and over 110,000 guns were produced. A second series ran from 1970 to 1973, with 25,000 more produced. This example was made in the second series according to the D suffix at the end of the serial number.

The Colt Fourth Model Derringer

These Colt Fourth Model Derringers are designed to mimic the Thuer-designed models. Loading requires the gun to be half-cocked, then the barrel pivots sideways to open the chamber. Load your single little .22 Short cartridge and pivot the barrel back in place. To fire the weapon, you fully cock the hammer and pull the small spur of a trigger.

It’s simple but fun and easy to shoot. Recoil from a .22 Short isn’t much, and you don’t need much of a grip to control it, which is great because you there isn’t much to grip on the little derringer.

These teeny birds head grips provide enough to keep the gun in your hand and not much more. In fact, the highly optimistic front sight on the Colt Fourth Model Derringer is often blocked by the top of your hand.

Colt Fourth Model Rimfire Derringer
Getting agrip isn’t easy (Travis Pike for TTAG)

As you’d imagine, accuracy isn’t much to brag about. I can hit the chest of an IPSC target at 10 yards pretty easily. In fact, I went as far back as 15 yards, and I still remained fairly consistent at hitting the target. I learned to aim low to hit near where I wanted. The Colt Fourth Model derringer is also very reliable for a rimfire. I went through a fifty-round box of Armscor .22 Short with a single failure to fire.

Colt Fourth Model Rimfire Derringer
It doesn’t group…it patterns (Travis Pike for TTAG)

While it’s not very accurate and kind of silly overall, the Colt Fourth Model Derringer is a ton of fun to shoot. It barely moves between shots and the report is fairly quiet and, honestly, more accurate than I expected it to be. I doubt I’ll ever shoot a .41 Rimfire true Thuer Colt, but this is close enough to provide lots of entertainment.

Blasting Away

I’ve always thought derringers were cool, and admittedly the Remington-type two barrels were my favorites. Still, I’m growing quite fond of the Colt Fourth Model Derringer. It has half the firepower, but twice the style. I’d prefer a .22LR model, but .22 Short doesn’t seem to be too tough to find.

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  1. Fun toy. InRangeTV just did a look at the .41 rimfire model. When these little guns were made in the 1800’s medical science was way behind the curve. Getting shot with anything was a life altering and even ending event.

    I so much wanted a Hi Standard double derringer in .22 when I was a kid. They were still in production then. I finally got one. Almost worst trigger on a gun that I have ever shot. Had to be in contact with the target to get a hit.

    • “Had to be in contact with the target to get a hit”

      that is in fact how they are supposed to be used.

        • On a calm day with a high enough hold, you *might* drop one into an Olympic swimming pool at 1000y. 😀

      • You can easily take 1000 yard shots with a High Standard Deringer,
        simplest thing in the world.
        1000 yard hits, though, are a completely different matter.

    • “I so much wanted a Hi Standard double derringer in .22 when I was a kid. They were still in production then. I finally got one. Almost worst trigger on a gun that I have ever shot.”

      Ever since I first saw one in the used gun case at the first pawn and gun I worked at in the mid-80s, I’ve wanted one, but haven’t gotten around yet to pick one up.

      That long, rude-heavy trigger pull was the safety, to fire the weapon it was a very deliberate act. So, for me personally, I didn’t consider that to be a fault of the gun’s design, but a feature…

      • I bought the Pug back in 2018. Back when prices were low and it was like $330. I paid in cash. That really felt good!!

    • Chris, I have both a Beretta 21A ‘Covert’ model with the threaded barrel, and an NAA mini-revolver.

      I can’t bring myself to rely on the Beretta for personal defense, since if there ever was a misfire on The Beretta, cycling the action will not extract and eject the dud round. So that makes it a hard no to rely on. At least with the NAA, re-cocking and firing again gets you back in business.

      Looking at the thing, it seems to my non-expert eye that it would be possible to affix a spring steel ejector to the bolt to cure that particular annoyance…

      • Last week I took Chuck Haggard’s “Pocket Rocket” class. In Nashville TN. I learned a lot and had a great time. I actually was the only one who had a true Pocket Gun. My 21A. And I got a lot of questions about the gun from the other students. Most had never seen one before. I have the honor being asked by Mr Chuck Haggard if he could demonstrate shooting my gun for the class into a jell block!!!

        Wow, what a great time I had. And one of my classmates gave me an entire box a federal punch 22 long rifle to use. I shot my Kel tec 32acp there as well. Working with other gun people face-to-face has always been a great experience.

        The class confirmed something I have been thinking about for several years now. I’m moving toward using smaller guns. There is a hugh amount of information in this video from veteran cops. I took my time going through this video. Over several days of viewing.

        Shooting a 45 for over 20 years can really hurt your hands.

        P&S ModCast 292 – The Applicability of Small Caliber Pistols 3 hr long


  3. “These teeny birds head grips provide enough to keep the gun in your hand and not much more”

    that’s because you’re holding it wrong. hold the grip in your left hand, cycle the hammer and pull the trigger with your right.

    • Could you do it the other way around, hold the grip with your right hand and thumb and trigger with left hand?
      And how would you do it if you wanted to hold it sideways like a gangsta?

      • “And how would you do it if you wanted to hold it sideways like a gangsta?”

        The same way Marsupials cross the highway without getting splitched by an F-150, lots of practice… 🙂

  4. “When you picture derringers, you probably picture twin barrel guns popularized by Remington.”

    Or, as JWM mentioned, the really neat over-under .22 wmr versions High Standard produced…

  5. Thank you for the interesting read!

    If you don’t mind the inquiry, here did you procure your Colt Fourth Model Derringer and for how much?

    Second, I didn’t know Armscor made .22 Short rounds. CCI and Aguila are the only manufacturers I’ve seen in recent years with .22 Short ammo on shelves.

  6. I must be a lucky guy. I have a pair of . 41 rimfire Remington’s. Lore is they belonged to a distant relative who wore them in his vest when gambling. I also have a Hi Standard .22WMR over under derringer. Long ago, someone owed me a small amount of money. I will have to re-check the trigger.

    Too bad we can’t post pictures here.

  7. North American Arms makes high quality, .22 LR and .22 WMR, 5-shot, single action revolvers that look very much like derringers.

  8. Back in 1961 or ’62, I bought a cased pair of Colt .22 derringers, brand-new, for $39.95. I had a 3-piece suit at the time, and the tiny pistols fit perfectly in the vest pockets.

  9. A few years ago, it became impossible for my wife to carry her S&W Model 60 without printing. I’d looked at the NAA’s, and always thought them more a novelty than anything else, but on a whim, I bought her one, that came with both .22 LR and .22WMR cylinders. She absolutely loves it, and carries it even around the house. She’s not a half bad shot with it either. at 25′, she can keep all 5 shots in 4″ group. With the .22 Mags in the other cylinder, its got a bit of a kick to it.
    She lets me shoot it a little when we go to the range, and I have to confess it is a fun wee Gun to shoot. I just may have to buy another.

    So Travis, I can fully understand why this Colt/Not Colt was an object of desire.

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