A different (and old) approach to the backup revolver.

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A gentleman wrote in asking about small backup revolvers – that is, a revolver to carry as a backup to a primary revolver.

I know that many people carry their primary gun on their hip, with a lightweight (aluminum, titanium, scandium) wheelgun in an ankle holster, and I know a couple of folks who carry a S&W “J” frame in a front pants pocket as a second gun.

This is not what the writer had in mind, though. He was thinking of a very small (smaller than a “J” frame) “subcompact” revolver for a second gun, in the same way that there are subcompact autoloaders (Seecamp, Kel-Tec, etc.) to serve as backups to a larger autoloader. Sadly, the market in this case is pretty limited.

The only one that comes quickly to mind is the North American Arms “Mini” revolver in .22LR and .22WMR. (The Magnum, of course, would be a better choice than the Long Rifle, ballistically speaking.) The trouble with these guns is that 1) I’ve never seen one that could be even charitably referred to as reliable, and 2) they are harder than heck to even keep on an IDPA target at 7 feet, let alone be assured of a solid hit in the vitals.

Beyond that there are only the much larger S&W “J” frame guns (and the Taurus equivalents, though I’m not wild about them.) However, there may be a “blast from the past” that is worth considering: the Colt Pocket Positive. Never heard of it? Well, you’re in for a treat!

The Pocket Positive was nothing more than a scaled-down “D” frame (Detective Special, etc.) After all, the “D” frame was just a scaled down “E” frame (Official Police, etc.) so why not go even smaller? The Pocket Positive was a tiny little gun – considerably smaller than even a “J” frame. (A cylinder on the Colt measures 1.240″, while the “J” frame comes in at 1.310″. What really makes the difference, though, is the frame – the Pocket Positive is a tiny, almost jewel-like gun, noticeably smaller than the popular “J”.) The action is, as noted, of normal Colt design, and should smooth up as nicely as its bigger brothers.

The Pocket Positive was most commonly chambered in the .32 Colt Police round, aka the .32 S&W Long. Now the .32 S&W round isn’t terribly powerful, of course, but neither is the .32ACP – a cartridge used and praised in the backup role for many years. The .32 revolver round has a significantly heavier bullet, so it should have better penetration than the .32ACP – always a good thing when shooting a “mousegun.” Ammunition is still being made, though the factory offerings are limited to lead round nose.

Pocket Positives have not yet captured the collecting world’s imagination, and are still available at reasonable prices. I picked one up a while back for $150, and it’s been sitting in my “to do” pile awaiting some spare time. I think I’ll dig that out and put it back into working order; I think it may be the answer to the need for a good backup revolver!

(Now if only someone would reintroduce it in titanium…)

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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