Try not to laugh and have your mind in the gutter. When I say muff pistol, I’m referring to a device often carried by women to warm their hands. Even in the 16th century, women didn’t get the benefits of pockets and the warmth they offered. Muff pistols were designed to be ultra-small and easily concealable firearms aimed at women. Not literally, but as a marketing tool. The Muff pistol became the concealed carry choice for women as the pistols were easy to carry in their hand-warming muffs.
The Orignal Muff Pistol
Tracking who made the first muff pistol is likely impossible. They came to be in the 1700s. At this point, the Queen Anne pistol was quite popular, and these guns were simple breechloading, flintlock pistols. The barrel had to be removed to load, and as you’d expect, they were single-shot firearms. They were somewhat small for the era, akin to the Glock 19. Like the Glock 19, they were used for various tasks and carried for duty and self-defense.
However, they were still somewhat large for most people, especially women and the fashion of their era. This led to the muff pistol, a smaller variant of the Queen Anne pistol. Think of this as the Glock 43 of the era. Its small size made it easy to carry, and it was easily hidden in the muffs that were popular with women of the era.
The most common manufacturer of Muff pistols was Bunny of London, or well, they are the easiest to find these days. Muff pistols were quite ahead of their time. They were carried ready and concealed, and a flintlock pistol wasn’t exactly the safest of firearms.
Knowing these would be carried ready to fire in a muff or pocket, they incorporated a safety device that would block the frizzen from opening, so if the hammer did fall, it didn’t really matter. Other designs often had drop-down triggers to prevent snagging and similar devices.
The ball rounds were often large and were anywhere from .390 patched balls to .490 balls. The barrels were rifled but short, and sights weren’t a consideration. Just point at close range and pull the trigger.
The Evolution of the Muff Pistol
Muff pistols, and pocket pistols in general, stuck around as gun technology evolved. This includes the realm of percussion and cartridge firearms. I got my own Muff pistol that came from the late 1800s. It’s apparently a .22 Short, but without any markings, and due to the age, I’m hesitant to fire it.
The design is interesting, and by the time they got to cartridge firearms, the barrels were no longer removable. Instead, they opened at the rear, and you could individually load a round into the barrel. These were single-action, hammer-fired guns. The designs were quite interesting and invoked a manual ejector and rotating breech block.
The pistol stuck around and largely evolved into what we know as derringers in the United States. That’s really where the muff pistol died out in the United States. Across the pond, Muffs were popular means to carry a weapon. In the Finnish Civil War, the use of a muff was banned because it concealed firearms so well. I’m sure the women nearly rebelled or demanded pockets when Finnish winter came around.
Muff Pistols Today
You can easily find an antique muff pistol if you look at historical auctions. They don’t fetch much money, especially the cartridge variants, which were made fairly cheaply. They aren’t flying off the shelves with collectors unless they are sold in pairs or with a fancy display and loading case.
If you want one, it won’t be tough to find. It’s an interesting example of a concealed carry weapon in the early days.
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