I love owning and reading about old guns. James Rummel’s blog has a number of entries, some old and some new, regarding derringers and other unique concept handguns. If you love old guns, click here to visit Flayderman’s website; buy a copy of their latest Guide to Antique American Firearms if you are a real addict. Click here and here to read about Borepatch bringing his great-great-grandfather’s muzzle loader home to a place of honor.
There are more old pocket revolvers and derringers chambered for the black powder .41 rimfire cartridge than I could ever hope to cover in one blog entry. Perhaps the most famous of the .41 rimfire handguns is the Remington Double Derringer. I bought one several years ago for no reason other than sentiment; the price was right, the pivot hinge wasn’t cracked, and the barrel pitting wasn’t too severe. It is a low end collectable.
Remington manufactured the William H. Elliot designed double derringer from 1866 until 1935; total production was around 150,000. The gun in the above photo is a post Wild West era Type 3 (aka Model 4) made sometime between 1912 and 1935. On these pistols, the serial numbers don’t mean much since they were reused in different production batches. Sometimes this pistol is known as the “model 95,” the “double derringer,” the “1866 derringer,” or the “over and under derringer.” TV and big screen westerns made the Remington Double the most recognized of all the derringers; John Wayne carried one in “Big Jake,” Richard Boone carried one in “Have Gun, Will Travel.” It was the cowboy’s backup gun, the gambler’s sneaky gun, the lady’s purse or garter gun. The 130-grain lead bullet leaves the muzzle at a modest 425 fps, generating only about 50 ft-lbs of energy, low by today’s pocket gun standards but in the early post Civil War years the .41 rimfire was an impressive innovation.
One of the most common misconceptions held by folks unfamiliar with guns is the belief that both barrels of the double derringer fire simultaneously. Nope, each barrel fires separately, the firing pin toggles between the upper and lower chambers each time you cock the hammer.
National Arms made the .41 rimfire for their derringer in 1863; other makers were quick to follow, chambering the new load in guns of their own designs. Well into the smokeless powder era, the .41 rimfire fell from favor and production ended sometime in the 1940s. Navy Arms sponsored a small run of the ammo back in the 1990s. The .41 rimfire cartridge is not currently made by anyone. This blog entry will likely generate at least a few inquiries from readers looking to find .41 rimfire ammunition for sale. First, let me warn that the following link may not have .41 rimfire available forever, and what they have listed as of the date of this blog entry is very expensive; they also limit how many rounds you can buy. If you are willing to pay no less than $4.95 per cartridge (7/15/2009 price), CLICK HERE. Please understand that I have no desire to sell the ammo that I have; please don’t ask. Unless Navy Arms or other benefactor fronts another run of the ammo, the dwindling amount currently left on the market is all there ever will be. If you are in the market to buy any derringer or revolver chambered for the .41 rimfire, you are buying an obsolete relic, a collector’s item, a novelty that someday likely will have no ammunition available for it. Even if you can find ammo, there is no guarantee that it will fire.
If you inherited a Remington double derringer and need something for self-defense, you may be able to sell the derringer for the money needed to buy a modern handgun. Naturally, the condition of the piece will determine how much money you will be offered. If you do fire your .41 rimfire handgun, clean it promptly and thoroughly; black powder is corrosive and pits the metal.
Click here for a schematic of the Remington Double Derringer