With Colt, Winchester and Remington the name Derringer is associated with the opening of the American West. It is associated with the gambling saloon, the gambler with his derringer in a waistcoat pocket or hidden in a trick holster, the dance hall girl’s tucked away in her garter in a handbag. Today the term is used for a wide range of percussion and cartridge loading pistols. The first derringer was made by Henry Deringer (one ‘r’) in Philadelphia in 1825. These lethal weapons met the need of the times. Their effectiveness resulted in many imitators who tried to capitalise on the original using the name derringer, with two ‘r’s. One of his original pistols was used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Lincoln in 1865 so his name is now part of the English language. These derringers are all cartridge loading. 1 COLT DERINGER The first of the single barrel Colt Deringers (Colt used the single ‘r’) was made four years after Deringer’s death in 1872 when they purchased the National Arms Co in Brooklyn N.Y. The First Colt deringer was a single barrel, single shot, pistol firing a ·41 calibre rim fire cartridge. The Second Model was similar with wooden grips. An employee of Colt’s, F. Alexander Thuer, designed the Third Model Colt Deringer illustrated here. It differed from the others in that the barrel was hinged about the centre, swinging to the right at the breech for automatic ejection and reloading. It proved very popular, finished with a silver-plated frame, blued barrel and a choice of rose¬ wood, walnut, ivory or pearl grips. Both barrel and frame could be silver plated. 2 REMINGTON DOUBLE DERRINGER
The Double Derringer was invented in 1864 by William Elliot, a Remington designer. Like the original, the Remington owed its effectiveness partly to its large calibre, ·41 rim fire and two successive shots could be fired from its superimposed short rifled barrels. First made in 1866, over 150,000 were produced before manufacture was discontinued in 1935. This gun, with its three-inch barrels and intriguing firing mechanism weighed only 11 ozs. and was offered in many different finishes from plain blue to engraved gold or silver presentation pieces with ivory or pearl grips. Early Double Derringers are marked ‘E. Remington & Sons, Ilion, N.Y., Elliots Patent Dec. I2, I865’. Later models bear the legend ‘Remington Arms Co., Ilion, N.Y.’ or ‘Remington Arms-UMC Co., Ilion, N.Y. 3 SHARPS FOUR BARRELLED DERRINGER
This pistol can fire four successive shots and is smaller than the Colt or Remington. Described today as a ‘derringer’ it was known as the Sharps Patent Repeating Pistol and as a ‘revolver’ by the U.S. Patent Office although the only revolving part was the firing pin, not the cylinder. It was made in a wide variety of models. The version shown here is known today as the First Model Second variation. All the First Models used the ·22 short rim fire cartridge, the barrel length is 2 ½ inches. The Second Model had a 3-inch barrel and some had extractors unlike this one which had to be extracted by hand. Third and Fourth Model pistols are all ·32 rim fire calibre and are marked ‘Sharps and Hankins’, the earlier smaller calibre models being marked ‘C. Sharps’ in a circle on the side of the frame. The ·22 calibre First and Second Models are characterised by neatness in design and excellent finish. Production of all Sharps pistols ceased on the death of Christian Sharps in 1874.