Fires .45 Colt or 2 ½’’ .410 shotgun
The best reason I can give for me owning this gun is that it is way cool. “Made in the USA,” means something special to me, especially when it is “Made in Texas.” When the stuffed suits at Smith & Wesson were licking the boots of anti-gun politicians, it took a woman to stand up and “fight like a man.” I respectfully tip my hat to Elizabeth Saunders, AKA Lady Derringer; she put principles above profit. I wish her well.
As far as I know, there never was a double derringer chambered for the .45 Colt during the Wild West era. This American Derringer Model 1 is a modern gun made of muscle. This is a durable, well made, stainless steel gun, unlike the less expensive copies made with steel-lined alloy barrels.
As with its archaic .41 rimfire predecessor, the Model 1 is not a long-range gun. In order to accommodate the option of the .410 load there is only about ½’’ of rifling in the 3’’ barrel so key holing is common with the .45 slugs. However, when you need to make a big hole in something at bad breath distance, whether the bullet flies out of the barrel nose first, sideways, or tumbles nose over butt, a 225-grain .45 slug from a derringer has bodacious potential. Just how much juice does a .45 Colt have from a 3’’ barrel? Click here for Ballistics by the inch. At a target distance of 3 – 6 feet from the muzzle, most shooters can get it to shoot to near point of aim. From 9 - 12 feet a shooter can usually maintain at least one-minute-of-watermelon accuracy. I cannot hit the vital zone of a man-size target at 20 feet, but I’ll hazard a guess that some people can. The farther away you are from your target, the more likely you are to miss. A miss with any gun can have unfathomably dire downrange consequences. Derringers are not for use in running gun battles across parking lot expanses, the primary mission for pistols of this size has always been for sneaky, up close, last ditch defense. Have no doubt about it, the .45 Colt kicks hard when fired from this little gun and it hurts the shooting hand. When a shooter asks to try it out, I first have him shoot a .45 Colt from my Ruger Vaquero and then ask if he still wants to give the derringer a go. Usually the answer is “no,” or they only manage to suffer through a couple of rounds from the derringer. This pistol is not a plinker for the faint of heart or the weak of hand.
As far as using the Model 1 with .410 birdshot loads for snakes, or using rifled slugs or buckshot loads for self-defense, I’ll refer you to some tests done using a Taurus Judge over at the Box O’ Truth. In the Model 1, the .410 loads recoil less than the .45 Colt but they still have a substantial kick to them. While the Box O’ Truth rates the buckshot loads less than adequate for personal defense, they are somewhat easier to shoot from this derringer than the .45 Colt and my guess is they would be substantially more effective than a .41 rimfire or a .25 ACP.
The Model 1 makes an interesting option for use as a kit gun or a woodland survival tool. When trying to travel light on a backpacking trip, ounces and inches can add up; a Model 1 provides big bang versatility without taking up much space. It is larger than a Seecamp but smaller than a J-frame. The .45 Colt load can offer protection during close encounters with two legged predators and maybe provide you one last great earthly act of defiance just before the pissed off momma black bear kills and eats your ugly ass for scaring her cubs (in case you missed the sarcasm, I am doubting that it would be an effective bear gun). The .410 birdshot loads can snuff snakes or pot small game provided you are close enough. I don’t get to practice with the .410 buckshot loads anymore; the ranges in my area do not permit it. With the .45 Colt loads, practice is just too painful for my arthritic right hand to tolerate and the recoil is too much for my left hand to learn how to manage during these later years of my life. As of today, my Model 1 officially is retired from home-defense duty; it will only come out of the safe if I choose it as a hiking companion or am playing with some light .45 Colt loads.