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8 Most Impractical Handguns in History

by Dylan Polk   |  May 3rd, 2012 53

Practicality may not be something shooters think about all the time; if that was the case, .50-cal rifles would be a lot less popular on the civilian market . However, while we may look at some guns and think, “Now why would anyone need THAT?” chances are the Herculean handgun that looks like it was hauled in by a flatbed trailer doesn’t hold a candle to some of the most impractical handguns in history. Whether they were too costly to make or just plain ineffective, here are eight of the most impractical handguns in history.

  • Robert

    The Pocket Protector and the Lemat may not have been the best designs but they had their day. When used for the purpose for which they were designed I am sure they worked well. The description of the effectiveness of the Protector sounds like a description for any derringer type pistol. As for reloading, I notice you don't publish a whole lot of articles on speed loading derringers! The Lemat was an effective weapon for a weapons poor South and in cavalry charges , it probably made an impact. As for that abomination of a 1911, the design needs some time in an institution.

    • Robert

      The "designer" needs the time, sorry.

    • Ross

      Abomination was the first word in my mind at the sight of that (cough) 1911. I pray to God not a single one is sold, and the designer is promptly sacked.

      • Holton Brown

        Can you imagine what the recoil would be like…and double brass being ejected..not to mention the muzzle blast..

    • old vet

      Pocket Protectors are what nerds use to hold their gadgets. I think you meant, "Palm". Agree that it did what it was supposed to do as long as it didn't go off in one's pocket or get full of lint!

      • Alan_T


  • james

    Makes me think of the tri-revolver that Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 used one time
    in an episode of Get Smart!

    The head of KAOS, Ziegfried, had our Agent surrounded and he pulled out the
    tri-revolver and dispatched all three enemy agents, leaving Siegfried alive.

  • Pete Scott

    you say practical and the first one on the list is that silly arsenal arms abortion lol

    • Pete Scott

      since I can't delete my comment I will forever be known as the idiot that read the title wrong

      • Alan_T

        I know the feeling Pete . if it helps , I gave you a " thumbs up " HAHAHAHAHA

  • Rod

    A number of years ago I was reading a western and the hero was pined down in a bar when his pistol went click the bad guy steped out from behind cover for a easy shot and the good guy shot him with the shotgun barrel of his LaMat.

  • Alan_T

    The LeMat was actually an effective and popular pistol with the Southern Calvary . It's somewhat limited use was due more to the Union blockade making import from France nearly impossible , than any design flaw . Fired from horse-back , it was very effective but the fact that the South lost and that it arrived on the scene just prior to the wide distribution of metallic cartridge firing pistols ( primarily Smith & Wesson and Colt ) bought by the Federal Government probably had more to due with it's demise than anything else . And as it has ever been , civilians follow the military in matters of armament .
    [ I mention Smith & Wesson and Colt because those were the two primary sources the Federal Government purchased from , not because they were the only two manufacturers . ]

    • old vet

      Agree with you on this one Alan, had a chance to fire a repro, it was accurate, had a generous capacity for a percussion gun and when you let that scattergun barrel go then Boom! seemed the part that tipped to fire the shot barrel was a bit fragile. Overall I don't think it was that much more archaic than some others being used then.

      • Alan_T

        Vet you have all the luck !

  • Fred

    I know the 1911 Puritans are gagging a sputtering over the Arsenal Firearms AF2011-A1 double barrel .45 ACP. But I also remember that same crowd pitching a fit when Para Ordinance (now Para USA) had the gall to produce a 1911 with a double-stack magazine. Yes, it’s a big grip, but it’s pretty cool from a mechanical standpoint that they found a way to make the two barrels work together successfully. I don’t think it’s fair to stick the Arsenal pistol in this of group of obviously useless guns before anyone has even had a chance to test fire it yet. Not when the same crowd spitting at the double for being too big gets all hot and bothered over Desert Eagle .50 AE lead sleds and S&W .500 X-frame revolvers.

    • Alan_T

      The thing is Fred , it's dangerous …… amoung other things , what happens if one of the rounds is a squib and you don't notice it ( which you won't ) ? …. That's right , it's going to blow up in your hand . Or , say that you DO notice it and the slide is locked … how are you going to clear the barrel / chamber without driving a dowel down the barrel , while you have a live round in one or both chambers ?

      • Fred

        Squib loads are dangerous with any gun. That's why you have to pay attention to the target when shooting. With this gun, you look for two holes instead of one. A squib load will likely cause a failure to feed and sound weird as well. I don't know what you mean by having to clear the barrel with live rounds in the chamber. As with any other pistol with a squib slug in the barre, I would field strip the gun before trying to hammer the stuck slug out.

        Squibs and double-charged cartridges are much more common in hand-loaded ammunition. May I be so bold as to suggest that if you slap down thousands of dollars for an Italian exotic pistol that you feed it factory ammunition?

        • old vet

          Face it, regarding the cost of this thing, and the fact it will require a class 3 fee. It will soon be on the trail of the Gyrojet.

        • guest

          @ Fred you mean that your only going to shoot paper targets with that monstrousity and then your going to replace the target after 1 or 2 shots and your going to walk down to the target so you can see 2 holes after each shot??? Yea right.

      • Alan_T

        Fred , I understand that doctors can do marvolus things with prosthetic hands these days . The best of luck to you and God bless .
        Two holes , huh ? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Gunluster

    Huh…..No mention of the Taurus Judge family. You can polish a turd and it is still a turd.

  • Antonio

    Why isn't the Taurus Judge on this list?

    • dustin746

      I think the Judge is pretty cool

      • old vet

        Judging by the sales of the Judge you are not alone.

        • Alan_T

          You're right Vet and dustin , while the Judge may not be a target gun , it more than makes up for any lack of accuracy with utility . Not to mention being just the ticket for Cotton Mouths and other snakes !

      • Tanstaafl2

        The only complaint I have about the Judge is that I don't have one!

    • Al Brady

      I think the Judge could be a really fine revolver. If the cylinder and frame could be shortened a touch it would be an extremely useful .45 Colt. But as is, the best of both worlds is really the worst of each. Somewhere back in the 60s in an article in "Gun World" magazine a pair of Colt New Service revolvers (bear in mind, those fine surplus weapons were truly dirt cheap back then) were cut and put together as Taurus' NEW idea. While it was an interesting idea, it was still 'tits on a boar' even then. What a waste of a pair of fine New Services!

      • Dave

        Disagree. I've fired the Taurus and I think it's one of the best home defense guns around, especially for apartment dwellers. With the 4-00 buckshot Federal load, you get about an 8 inch pattern at 3 yards, with each of the pellets approximating .380 energy. Point it at the bad guy's neck and fire twice – I guarantee he'll repent of his sins. Even the toughest thugs find simultaneous hits in the neck, face and upper torso very discouraging.

  • apacheeeefan

    I think the Apache gun is extremely cool and I would like one. I think I could manufacture one at home. There is one obvious flaw however, the brass knuckles should be reversed. And maybe a token barrel installed. The caliber of the weapon is never mentioned… Ammunition wasn't really standardized well until the 20th Century… What would a 21st Century Apache type of weapon look like?

    • Al Brady

      What would a 21st century Apache look like? Well, to visualize a 20th century Apache isn't too awfully tough. The 1911 has been subjected to more after market stupidity than probably any other pistol. Consider it with the 'brass knuckel stocks' that dwere available in the 60s. The mounting of a blade onto the barrel bushing should take little imagination or effort. You'd have a damn fine pistol rather clumsified by the weight and length of the bayonet and knucks!

  • History Nut 60

    The Gyrojet was an idea that failed to develope due to political pressure. As soon as they were announced, the CA legislature banned them as "ideal guns for criminals"! Of course, the CA legislature tries to ban just about anything new in firearms. The Gyrojet concept was sound but needed development. However, it is hard to get development funding when the government is busy killing your potential sales! As for the military 'rejecting' the Gyrojet, that is no shame as the military has rejected a lot of better ideas like the AR-18 and Stoner 63 system. Yes ammo did reach $100 a shot after they were banned and the company went out of business. Gee, big surprise there!

    • Steve

      Another reason they wern't popular is what they did inside the body, especially at closer ranges. they basically burned the body to the point of major unreparable dammage, NO recovery from that gunshot.

      • Tanstaafl2

        If I'm shooting someone I'm not doing it to make them feel good!

        Don't we design bullets to be more destructive and (hence) have more stopping power?

        • Dave

          Destruction isn't the same as stopping power. A very nasty, mortal wound can allow the perp to continue fighting, while a less lethal wound (hitting bone, for instance) might stop him instantly. Burning someone's gut might just motivate him for a few exciting minutes.

          • Brandon

            Wouldn't it hurt to have your insides crudely cauterized? I saw "Rambo III", during the scene in the Afghan mines where John had to light up some gunpowder through a bullet wound, and he cringed and shouted when it happened (this role is of a frigging Green Beret who's only a pansy when he's alone with his emotions, no less).

            I've never been shot before, but I can only imagine that a rocket-propelled bullet would feel like the "Rambo III" scenario, but 10x worse. If there's anyone who could make the fictional character John Rambo look like a sissy, when it comes to these types of wounds, I would truly be terrified!!

    • LarryArnold

      From what I saw at the time, the GyroJet had two main problems. First, the ammo was more expensive than the gun. IOW the part you expended was where your money was.
      Second, and more important, the bullet started out slow, then accelerated. IOW it didn't reach self-defense velocity until it was past the range where a handgun is most needed.

      • Lynne Black

        Larry, you are exactly correct about the defense velocity issue … and, thank gawd for that. We were issued the Gyroject in Vietnam. I was assigned to MACV/SOG. I was shot with it at close range by accident. The round squarely hit my web belt and knocked me down. I had a large black and blue mark on my midsection for a week.

    • Dave

      Bless you for your loyalty, HN60! But the main obstacle to Gyrojet acceptance wasn't California – it was common sense. As I say elsewhere, at three yards you could slap the projectile down. And the Gyrojet couldn't hit ground from a ladder. If you could guarantee that your enemy was far enough away for the projectile to gain the needed velocity, (a) you couldn't hit him and (b) why would you want to use a handgun at that distance? It was a fascinating design, but hard to justify in simple, practical terms.

  • Ethan Perks

    It should be remembered that after the first World War, handguns became highly restricted in most of Europe. In Austria, where most of these minis were made, below a certain caliber were unregulated. This led to a # of these small, impracticle guns.

  • Al Brady

    Reading of the Gyrojet reminded me of (same time period as the Gyrojets) the Dardick Trounds. They both hit the gun magazines in the early to mid 60s. Apparantly, most folks found them to be as silly as what I did. After a large introductory article, little was heard of them again. I'd call them equally useless. About like most of those mentioned.

  • Jeepers Creepers

    I know that any statement that I make can be used against me in a court of law. But where can I buy used or new in box Gyrojet. I want to buy one to go with all my other odd ball guns.
    Thank You!!

  • Dave

    I remember the Gyrojet! They claimed it had more energy than a .45 at 50 yards; problem was, you could slap it down at 3 yards! And it couldn't hit water from a leaky rowboat lost at sea. It was a creative and expensive solution to a non-existent problem. But it still makes me smile…

  • Brandon

    I've researched the world of older firearms, but a 20-shooter revolver just blows my mind. Hypothetically, that would be awesome in a fight, until you realize that there isn't a 20-round speedloader.

    No profanity, right? If someone sees this, I apologize for the previous comment.

  • Brandon

    I also never knew that shotgun shells could be fired from a pistol, but I've seen .410 shells and the tiny exit holes on the .410's muzzle, so I can believe this somewhat.

    • old vet

      If you look at some of the chamberings that modern "Derringer" style pistols come in. I think you could wrap some sort of handgun around almost any cartridge. Whether someone would want to actually fire it is another matter.

      • Brandon

        Well, I may have little REAL experience: I've shot a 9mm semi-automatic pistol twice, an H&R 12 gauge twice, and a Thompson/Center .45 cal Hawken twice (my very first gun purchase, and my brother took two shots, too).

        My two major problems: proper rifle butt to shoulder placement, and utilizing sights. The former I've seen and can practice, but I need a fine screwdriver set to handle the little screws on the sights. At least this guy at a gun shop told me how to adjust the musket's rear sight when making uphill shots.

        Besides these issues, I've read much about the subject-even looking at gun reviews on credible websites-and I've established a few good gun/pawn shops where they have some older pieces (I live in Maine, so it's a given). But I'm sick and tired of being a complacent nerd who lives between his walking feet and sitting ass. I want to shoot, and I want to shoot old school guns as well as new school!

        • Brandon

          I went off track again…Anyway, about the Derringers, I see some real ones occasionally. I laugh at their cute size, in spite of their lethality and portability. On the other hand, I remember a scene from "Red Heat" and "Wild Wild West" where a zip gun and a derringer where sprung from the men's shirt cuffs. Very cool, and useful.

          As for the matter of rounds, it's amazing how far smokeless powder has brought the derringer's size down from a dill pickle to a baby mole. This means that the former lead ball has become a lead pea, and still as deadly as ever to humans.

          Although, if you want strange rounds, have you heard of an obsolete rimfire round called the .41 Swiss? I'd have to call a gunsmith who's willing to make them if I want to shoot a rifle of interest: a Vetterli Model 1881, or Waffenfabrik M-81. There's still the matter of buying the gun, but damn, the ammo is no longer manufactured. Especially with companies who still make rounds for Webley pistols and Henry rifles.

          • old vet

            Brandon, I actually saw a .41 Swiss Vetterli at a show (collector's) today. Like all things Swiss they were extremely well made. One of my friends at our club has one somehow converted to center fire. It's a labor of love to load for and gets lots of attention from other members.

  • Willis

    Believe it or not I have seen and handled one of these palm pistols. I had an army buddy who had a good collection of old guns. It looked like it could do as creditable job as any derringer type but nobody was willing to load and fire it due to its age and condition. He also had an old four barrel derringer that felt like it weighed as much as a loaded rifle. That wasn't too practical either. There was also a two barrel flint lock. I always wondered how the primer for barrel two stayed in place when you fired the first one. I bet there are a lot more candidates out there for most impractical firearms.

  • Alex

    Savage 101 single shot (revolver)

    • old vet

      I remember that thing! Looked for all the world like a full sized 6 shooter and held one round. What were they thinking? About the same time there was an automatic single shot. go figure.

  • wild west

    seems like I saw a picture on Calamity Jane wearing a LeMat in one of her last photos taken in 1895, probably because in her later years is was much into showmanship.

  • NIGga

    It only shows the text for the fucking double barrel gun…but not the other pictures…this pisses me off.

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