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Image courtesy Edge Arms
Edge Arms has hit the Interwebs hard in the last few days, trying to build some blogosphere buzz around their forthcoming four-banger ‘Reliant’ derringer. I try not to badmouth new gun ideas until I can actually try them–or at least watch some YouTube videos of their catastrophic failures–but there’s really not much ‘new’ about this gun at all.

Nonetheless, I shall reserve judgment while we retrace the phylogeny of the four-barreled rimfire derringer.

Riverboat Gamblers Loved Them

Image courtesy NRA Museum
First, of course, was the rimfire Sharps Derringer. It was a single-action pocket pistol with a then-unique rotating firing pin that all subsequent 4-barrel derringers have copied. These card-sharp Sharps were notoriously inaccurate, Mark Twain having once described Derringers as so dangerous that the only safe place in the room was directly in front of the muzzle.

And So Did Mafia Hit Men
Image courtesy IMFDB
The two-barreled High Standard Derringer was chambered in .22 LR and .22 WMR, with a more useful double-action trigger mechanism. The High Standard has been in nearly continuous production for more than fifty years, even though nobody but Mafia hit men ever found them useful. They were small and cheap, with just enough accuracy and power to whack a snitch or uncooperative union boss.

Most 50+ year old patterns would earn the designation as ‘classic’ gun designs, but I’m not sure anybody would describe the High Standard that way. Why not? You can find out for yourself pretty cheaply: they sell used for less than $200.

Cops Didn’t Like The COP
Image courtesy WikipediaThe next big leap backward in Derringer technology came in the form of the brutally uncomfortable, extremely heavy and very expensive COP (Compact Off-Duty Police) .357 backup pistol. It weighed nearly two pounds loaded, delivered poor accuracy, and had a slow rate of aimed fire due to its poor ergonomics and extremely heavy trigger. Muzzle flash with anything but tame .38 Specials was reportedly awe-inspiring.

The COP’s commercial failure was a surprise to nobody, because it weighed (and cost) nearly twice as much as a five-shot aluminum frame .38 snubnose.
On the positive side, it delivered solid ballistics from .357 Magnum 125-grain JHPs, and it was utterly impervious to corrosion because it was milled from solid stainless steel. It would have excelled as a pistol-whipping weapon once it ran empty.

Double Tap: Two Blasts From The Past
DoubleTap Assembly Picture courtesy
Most recently there’s the Double Tap. This new 9mm and .45 ACP pistol provides two very reliable and potent shots in a very small package…at the cost of heavy recoil.

Where does this leave the Edge Arms Reliant? At the tail end of a rather uninspiring 150-year legacy of multiple-barrel American pocket pistols. It’s not likely to be an accurate firearm, because it has always been extremely difficult to regulate the point of impact of multiple firearm barrels. This is even more difficult when the barrels are all bored out of a single block.

The fact that the Reliant is CNC milled and available in .17 HMR probably won’t make much of a difference to the millions of shooters who won’t be remotely interested in it. I wish it well, but I’m very skeptical.

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  1. The four barreled sharps deringer actually filled a niche. In that time most handguns were simply to big and bulky to be easy to conceal or deploy at card table ranges, which is what these guns were built for.

    Bringing out new deringers in the 21st century is kind of retarded.

  2. I know i’m a beginner in some ways, but Derringers just don’t appeal to me… Current appeal, I mean. I get that previously this was a way to get multiple shots in a compact package. And I guess now there’s more simplicity to them than a semi-auto and a size advantage vs a revolver.

    1:1 barrels to bullets just kinda makes me scratch my head. But i’m absolutely willing to be educated on this.

    • As far as I can see, the only reason you’d buy a Derringer is for fun. There are several expensive brands out there (we’re talking close to $500 for a Bond Arms .45/.410!) that are easily outclassed by much better choices (just get a Judge for a little more money [or Thunder Five for a little less]).
      My wife is into old-school/cowboy guns and we found a cheap .38 Derringer at a gun show; it’s a blast to shoot, but impractical for serious carry. I highly recommend, if you have a spare hundred bucks, find a Leinad Cobray or other low-cost Derringer on teh interwebs and take it to the range for a good time. They’re certainly fun, and that’s not a bad thing!

      • I had a 4 barreled patterned after the Mossberg browning, Advantage rms put it out I had a blast shooting it. I also own one of the Cobray, or Lenoirds 410/45 LC 18 inch folding shotgun, Everybody want that shotgun when they shoot it.

        • I still own a COP. The recoil with full house .357s is hard on the hand and the muzzle blast will singe even the shooter’s eyebrows. I’m about 6,3 and pushing 220 pounds with big hands and long fingers so the pistol fits me pretty well. People rave about the Glock crap trigger then make critical comments on the long heavy pull of a COP. Accuracy? we’re talking about a gun used as a backup or defence at close range (10 feet or less) at that diatance you need instant results. The COP will deliver, nothing to snag, no safety to worry about and a fully enclosed hammer mean it’s pretty idiot proof. I admit it be a bit heavy but I’ll take that over smaller caliber firearm. Old-school LEO’s (and I’m one) often carried the High Standard as a backup the originals were well made and in .22 mag pack a substancial wallop at close range. Given the distance involved accuracy was not an issue and 30 years ago you had few choices in backup pistols.

    • The Brownie, for all the shared flaws of it’s family, was a graceful, very attractive pistol with surprisingly comfortable balance and ergonomics. They are also the epitome of “melted edges”.They have appreciated in value more than any similar guns, so far as I can judge based on info on the Interwebs. They really are kinda’ cute.

      An older friend’s wife (they were moderately well off, and had artistic tastes) back in the seventies carried a High Standard Deringer – elaborately engraved, nickel plated, with carved elephant ivory grips. Even back then I knew they were pretty worthless as weapons, but as jewelry, this one was a class act.

    • Yes, I join the Mossberg Brownie fans in being shocked! shocked! that Chris failed to mention them. Made from 1920 to 1932, price $5, 4-shot .22LR, and marketed to trappers as “just the thing to finish trapped animals”. (Thx to Wikipedia.)

  3. My Grandfather bought a High Standard for my Grandmother to carry in her purse. I don’t think she ever even practice fired it. My Dad now has it and keeps it around for sentimental value. With .22 WMR, it is without a doubt the most painful gun I have ever fired in my life.

  4. My very first real pistol was a High Standard derringer in .22LR. I had a need for DEEP conceal and it fit that bill, if nothing else. Aside from firing it a few times for reference, the only time I used it was to provide a coup de grace for a semi-road kill raccoon. I must add, however, that after I bought my first REAL pistol, an S&W Mod 19, I sold this one to a friend who used it sucesfully to apprehend a couple of teen thugs who had snatched a neighboring merchant’s night deposit.

    Maybe not the best pistol in the world, but under the right conditions it can get the job done.

    • Well, the best gun is the gun you have. Bullets from a bad gun kill just as well as bullets from a quality gun…

      It’s just all that reliability and accuracy stuff that you have to worry about.

  5. So… I can have this, or I can have any number of reliable, lightweight, and inexpensive pocket 380s with great triggers, more bullets, and faster reloads…

    I’m sorry, what were we debating?

  6. WOW, I checked out how much used COPs and High Standards were going for online, and there are some very proud sellers. Cheapest I could find a COP was for 975 and for the HS 400. WTF!? Why are these evolutionary dead ends commanding more than a used Glock, especially if they are terrible, is there some sort of masochistic collectors market?

    • I have a feeling that part of it is that the COP is somewhat famous outside of gun collectors. I have seen at least one show that featured it and one video game. That coupled with the novelty of it and its limited availability makes it somewhat valuable.

  7. I won’t apologize for it but I love the weird and impractical. I dont have a use for a ZIP gun but I love mine same for my Mac11/9 and my cobray 410/45 lc 11 inch derringer. Ridiculous and impractical yes, but fun as well. Also cheap. If its weird and dumb it needs to be cheap. For example I love the rhino revolver but not enough to spend a Sigs worth of money on it.
    I also love .22s so I’ll probably buy one just for the weird factor

  8. Derringers hold no interest for me. Their weight never justifies the low round-count. And many guns today (Kel-Tec P3AT, are as thin and hold 4 times the ammo. Plus their trigger pulls are horrendous.
    In my book, “A Time To KIll: The Myth of Christian Pacifism”, I tell the true story of a store owner armed with a High Standard .22 derringer who tried to defend himself from a robber with a Rossi .32 revolver. The storekeeper missed with the first shot, hit the robber in the stomach with one round, but did not stop him. The robber then killed him.
    For the money he spent on the 2-shot with the 22-pound trigger, he could’ve bought a used .38 snubby or a
    a Beretta 21A with 8 shots of .22. Derringers are collectors’ items, not serious self-defense weapons.

  9. Two questions here? What does the COP have to do with a low powered rimfire derringer? A lot of us former LEO’s have a fond place for the High Standard in .22 mag. Maybe you should check, the High Standard was actually built to pretty high standards it was a high quality firearm and IT WORKED everytime. Don’t know about the Mafia but a lot of law folks depended on it as the last ditch option. As for the COP I still have one… At 10 feet it was perfect I am 6’3″ and 220 so the recoil and trigger effort is still not a problem. It was the answer to the last ditch need at close range with instant results. Fully enclosed, rotating hammer and no exposed moving pieces or sharp edges to interfere with operation. I’ll take that over the .45 GAP or a 9mm semi which “might” stop someone. As far as a 4-barrel derringer goes I’d like one of quality something lacking on most of the efforts of late. This is a point defence weapon or last resort which needs to work everytime. I do not see that out of most point defence pistols. Bond arms, COP and North Americian all made a quality weapon any of which I would consider as a last ditch versus some of the newer crap. Current CCW is a Kimber CDPII but I still like the COP and the final solution. Anybody in NM have a High Standard in .22 mag they would like to sell me?

    • Another LEO for the HS. You can keep it in a jacket pocket and fire through the lining without jamming the pistol. Try that with any auto or most wheelguns (hammerless and enclosed excepted).

  10. How about a new scandium alloy pepper box pistol or a ducks foot with an ACOG? Heck, let’s bring back a blunderbuss and add a threaded barrel while we’re at it. Honestly the only modern derringer type gun I would care to own is a bond arms 45/410, and that would only be for the novelty of shooting shotgun shells out of a pocket handgun.

    • I can’t verify, but I’ve heard for years that during the Viet Nam war they did experiment with a 12 ga. gatling gun. The story I’ve always heard is that the power driven gun had such a high rate of fire that the plastic shotgun shells began to melt and leave enough residue in the chambers to cause reliability issues.

      I’ve never been able to confirm this, but honestly I haven’t looked into since we got google.

  11. Not to be ignored is the first gun produced by Mossberg, the “Brownie”. It was a larger scale Sharps, 4 barrel with rotating firing pin.
    It was not popular in America, but IIRC about 30,000 were sold in Europe. It may be the gun in Samuel Beckett’s play “Happy Days”, which is referred to as a “revolver” named “Brownie”.

  12. How about welding two together to make an 8 shot and taking it to New York. That is good enough reason for making one, annoy the liberals.
    Under $200 for this pistol and it would be a fun plinker toy.

  13. You might recall something called the Downsizer WSP (“World’s Smallest Pistol”).
    It was a tiny, all stainless steel, single-shot, double action .45 ACP that could fit inside a pack of Luckies. I had one, briefly. The recoil, even with 115-gr. alloy hollowpoints, was horrendous. After test-firing it with seven different rounds for a gun magazine review, I was shaking so badly, I couldn’t shoot anything else for about an hour. I finally sold it to to large individual who was seriously into pain. I probably should have kept it; I understand they’re quite rare and costly now.

  14. I’d take one of the old High Standards if it presented itself. I wouldn’t carry it for a primary CCW gun unless I just had to, but as something extra to stick in a pocket or just to have around for a quick trip to the mailbox, you could do a whole lot worse.

    For the four barreled guns, I do start to wonder why. They don’t have the thin profile or sex appeal of a traditional styled derringer and they don’t pack the wallop of something like a .410 from ADC or Bond Arms. And they are the same size as a small .32 or .380 but with an inferior round and much slower to reload (not that you would be so likely to reload such a small BUG anyhow, but still).
    Still, if that’s what makes you happy, then I guess I’m happy to have one more responsible person carrying legally.

  15. Miroku and Uberti both made faithful copies of the Sharps 4 barrel derringer back in the 60s. I’d buy a new replica of that if it were available (but only for fun, not for self protection).

  16. You are not fair. These ultra small pistols are not service weapons. No auto or revolver will ever be as reliable as a good Derringer inspired gun. Of course, they have some limitations. I would love to have some kind of C.O.P. chambered for, maybe, 327 Magnum.


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