The History Of The Derringer Pistol

Key Point: The Derringer pistol is a small, pocket-sized, and often concealable handgun. It is characterized by its compact design, short barrels, and low-caliber ammunition.

This article will cover the history and workings of the Derringer pistol. You will see the origins of the Derringer pistol and how it holds up in the modern-day era. So, before we continue let’s see a brief description of the history of the Derringer pistol. What is the Derringer pistol and when was it first made?

The Derringer pistol is a type of small, concealable handgun that has a long and interesting history. The origin of the Derringer can be traced back to early 1828 when American gunsmith Henry Deringer created the first single-shot, muzzle-loading pistol of this type. Over the years, the design of the Derringer evolved to include more barrels and the ability to fire multiple rounds without reloading.

Today, modern derringers are often made from lightweight materials such as aluminum or polymer and have the ability to fire a variety of ammunition.

That was the short introduction to the topic of the history of the Derringer pistol. Now, let’s go into a little more detail. Start with its origin and history.

The History Of The Derringer Pistol

Let’s begin with who invented the Derringer.

The Derringer pistol was invented by Henry Deringer. In 1825, Deringer created a single-shot pistol that was compact and easy to carry, making it ideal for self-defense and personal protection. As a Philadelphia-based firearms designer, he became well known for his invention.

So, does the name Derringer hold any meaning at all? Well …

The term “Derringer” is derived from the last name of its inventor, Henry Deringer. Over time, it has come to refer to any type of small, concealable handgun, regardless of the manufacturer.

Its Development

The Derringer pistol was first developed in the early 19th century as a compact and concealable weapon for personal defense. Over the years, the design of the Derringer has evolved, but the basic concept remains the same: a small, easy-to-carry handgun that can be quickly drawn in the event of an emergency.

3 Key design features of the Derringer that made it so popular are:

  • its compact size,
  • lightweight construction
  • simple mechanics

While these 3 key factors that made Derringer famous remained constant through the decades Derringer has gone through many changes throughout the decades.

How Has The Derringer Pistol Changed Over The Years?

The original Derringers were single-shot, muzzle-loading pistols that were small enough to fit in a pocket or be concealed in a purse. Over the years, the design of the Derringer evolved to include more barrels and the ability to fire multiple rounds without reloading. So, by the mid-19th century, Derringers with two and four barrels were available, and some models even had the ability to fire multiple rounds in rapid succession.

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Derringers evolved to include the ability to chamber and fire cartridges, rather than the traditional muzzle-loading design. These new Derringers were typically smaller and more compact than their predecessors and were widely used for personal protection.


Today, Derringers are still manufactured and widely used for personal protection, although they have largely been replaced by larger and more powerful handguns for self-defense. Modern Derringers are often made from lightweight materials such as aluminum or polymer, and many models have the ability to fire either .22 LR or .38 special ammunition.
Overall, the Derringer pistol has evolved from a single-shot, muzzle-loading pistol to a small, lightweight, and easily concealable handgun that can fire multiple rounds without reloading.

That was the short introduction to the history of this firearm.

Now, let’s see how it works starting with the …

Mechanism and Design of the Derringer Pistol

The mechanism and design of the Derringer pistol are simple and straightforward. It consists of a single barrel, a hammer, a breechblock, and a trigger. The barrel is attached to the breechblock, which is hinged at the bottom of the frame. When the hammer is cocked, it pushes the breechblock up, exposing the chamber for loading. The trigger releases the hammer, striking the percussion cap thus firing the pistol.

But what are the steps to fire a Derringer?

5 Steps To Fire A Derringer

1) Open the breechblock of the Derringer pistol to expose the chamber.
2) Place a single percussion cap on the nipple of the barrel and a single shot in the chamber.
3) Close the breechblock to secure the shot and percussion cap in the chamber.
4) Cock the hammer to ready the pistol for firing.
5) Pull the trigger to release the hammer, striking the percussion cap and firing the pistol.

So, is the Derringer a perfect firearm? Well not exactly, it has had some drawbacks through the years.

as you can see in …

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Derringer Pistol

The simplicity of the Derringer pistol’s mechanism made it easy to produce and maintain, which helped contribute to its popularity. Its compact size and ease of concealment also made it a popular choice for self-defense.

However, the Derringer pistol’s limited firepower and accuracy, as well as the potential for misfires, were significant drawbacks. All in all the Derringer pistol was a significant innovation in the early 19th century, and its simple mechanism and compact size made it a popular choice for self-defense and as a backup weapon.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. If you wish to continue learning I suggest taking a look at my article on the Nagant 1895, a pistol favored by the Soviet Secret Police the NKVD (they used it for assassinations) you can see the article here.


Take care