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Miniature Firearms

Miniature handguns, one of the most fascinating corners of the firearms auction market, go against long-held convictions that bigger is better. Mini-gun collectors say the contrary: smaller is better.

In the minds of many, so-called pocket pistols like derringers are about as small as they come. But very undersized handguns have a history nearly as long and their full-size counterparts, and some gunmakers have taken nanotechnology to an extreme level.

The mid-19th century saw Belgian and French makers produce pint-sized versions of muff pistols, single-shot percussion weapons with screw-off barrels and folding triggers that usually measured less than 2 inches long. Later, tiny six-shot Le Petit Protector pinfire ring guns became deadly fashion statements that fired 2-, 3-, and 4-mm rounds.

In the 20th century, so-called zip guns, often crude one-shot weapons that sometimes resembled pocket flashlights, began turning up in unlikely places like airport luggage and prison cells. And today, the ultra-compact handgun tradition lives on through the North American Arms Mini .22 and creations of modern craftsmen like Russian jeweler and historian Alexander Perfiliev, who meticulously crafts fully-functional miniature firearms that are true works of art.

Quick Facts

  • "The Tiniest Guns: A Catalog for Collectors of 2 mm Pinfire and Rimfire Miniatures" by Bob Urso is a valuable resource for miniature handgun connoisseurs
  • In October 2015, a pair of antique Berloque-style mini handguns sold at a Burstow & Hewett auction in England for just £200
  • In 2013, a 19th-century Le Femme Fatale ring gun sold at a Christie's auction in New York for $21,000

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