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Personal Defense

My Sentimental ‘Baby’

by Dan Johnson   |  June 1st, 2011 70

When I was a kid the only lock on the front door of our old farm house used a skeleton key that likely fit a lot of other front door locks in the neighborhood. I first saw the key when I was big enough to rummage through the junk drawer in the kitchen if I stood on tiptoes. I asked my dad what the key fit and he told me it was for locking the front door. I don’t recall anyone in the family ever using the key. The front door remained unlock throughout my childhood.

We lived in a safe little farm community in a much safer world than exists today. There was some crime, of course. Occasionally some of the young delinquents from the small mill town a few miles away would raid our watermelon patch or steal some gas out of a tractor that was left sitting in the field. But there were no serious concerns about criminals until my parents bought a small country grocery store about a half-mile up the road. One night someone broke into the store and stole the money from the cash register and a few other items. It was then my mother decided she wanted a gun for protection.

This was in the early ’60s and there were a lot of options as to where to buy a handgun. The salesman who stocked the cigarette rack at my parents store also sold a variety of items, including firearms, out of a catalog he left at each place of business on his route. He recommended the Browning .25 Auto for my mother. His logic being it was a small gun suitable for ladies. It was, of course, a very poor choice in regards to stopping power but it is a finely made firearm and has proven to be functionally very reliable.

The Browning .25 Automatic Pistol is the most copied of the .25 Autos and has set the benchmark for the type. Its lineage goes back to 1905 when John Moses Browning designed the first .25 Auto for FN of Belgium and called it the Vest Pocket Pistol. Through an agreement between Browning, Colt, and FN, these pistols were not imported to the US. Instead, Browning designed a modified version that was marketed here by Colt.

Editor's note: Though the .25 ACP is not known for reliable expansion, there are modern loads that will.

In 1927, Dieudonne Saive, who would later design the famed FN FAL rifle, reconfigured the FN .25 Auto by eliminating the grip safety and slide holdback, relocating the safety, and adding a magazine disconnect, a popular feature in Europe. The new model was smaller and lighter than Browning’s original design and was nicknamed the “Baby” Browning. This model was imported to the U.S. beginning in 1953 and ending early in 1969 due to size limits placed on imported handguns by the Gun Control Act of 1968.

The little Browning was the only firearm my mother ever owned but she kept it throughout her life. Occasionally I would clean and lubricate it for her and load it with fresh ammo. She never had to use it but I am sure it gave her a sense of security over the years. I inherited the gun when she passed a couple years ago and it occupies a special place in my gun safe. Some day it will pass to the next generation and I hope they value it as highly as I do.

Please use the Comment form below and share with us the sentimental favorites in your firearm collection.

  • Gunmart

    Love the one you're with!

  • SFC Tucker

    THE sentimental favorite is my father's rifle, a Ruger M77 in 7mm RemMag. Dad deerhunted successfully with it, and I took my first deer with it. It will be passed down to my son, and his in turn.

  • Ray Hill

    I have 2 favorites. My Ruger 10-22, and my (purchased used) Kel-Tec P11 9mm. They both work great.

  • chiro1989

    How about a range report with some more modern loads when the forum is back up and running?

    • Tiger

      I'm not ealsiy impressed. . . but that's impressing me! :)

  • SirGeorgeKillian

    I agree, I would love to see what that little girl could do with some modern loads. Great article as usual!

  • Dan Johnson

    I plan to do a blog on .22 vs .25 with some velocity and bullet tests comparisons once the site is back up.

    • smayer

      Dan, we should compare notes. I'm writing up the new Taurus PT-22 Poly and did some comparison between .22 Long Rifle from it, and .25 ACP from a little Browning knock-off fired into wet paper pulp. Very interesting results. I'm adding a pix of one of the expanded .25 ACP bullets above. Hope you don't mind.

      • Dan Johnson

        I don't mind at all, Scott. The more info for our readers the better.

    • savage110

      My favorite is a Winchester 1903 22 Automatic rifle. it was made in 1908 and has been passed down from generation to generation.

      • Sproutz

        I have one of these that was also passed down to me. Great shooting and looking carbine although I haven't found any reasonably priced ammo for it in years.

        • Savage110

          ya the ammo is really hard to come by

  • Rich Sheldon

    I am the only member in my family to own any firearms. I have collected for about 15 years now. I will let my two sons pick there "Babys" when the time comes. Got to start somewere.

  • Eli

    Great article Dan.

    The only two guns that I would really consider sentimental both came from my now deceased step-father. One is a .25 caliber Beretta and the other is a three screw .357 Blackhawk.

    Neither are guns that I would've bought on my own and I don't shoot either one of them exceedingly well, but they would be the last two that I'd ever get rid of!

  • Bisley

    I have two sentimental favorites.

    The best is a Bisley Colt in .38-40, manufactured around the turn of the century, that my grandfather carried during the early wild and woolly years of Oklahoma statehood. He died way before I was born and passed it along to my dad, who shot it very well, with either hand. It was the first handgun I ever fired, and insured that I would always be thrilled by shooting powerful handguns.

    My other sentimental favorite was an old single shot, bolt-action Stevens .22 that provided squirrels and rabbits for the supper table for my dad's family, during those lean years of the Great Depression. I learned to shoot with it, and it is still quite accurate.

    • Dave Metcalfe

      I have my dad's single shot bolt action Stevens. He and his brothers used it to fill the pot on numerous occasions for their widowed mother during the years before the second war. It is still a tack driver.

  • Jim W

    My Dad's Ithaca Model 37 12 ga pump is my favorite. It just feels like home, and is always my sentimental choice for the first squirrel hunt of the season. Miss you, Pop.

  • nn

    I remember not ever locking the door as well and it was still unlocked when I went in the USMC at age 23. They do lock the doors in that town now, for sure.

    Dad had a 1911 he brought home from WW II for home defence, but, it was unloaded with a nearby mag with 5 rnds.

  • chiro1989


    Do you still have your dads 1911?

  • chiro1989


    Do you still have your dads 1911?

    • Adele

      That's way the betsset answer so far!

  • breamfisher

    Sentimental favorites, both of which belonged to my grandfather, then to my Dad…

    A Second Model Colt Woodsman Match Target. It's what my brother and I learned to shoot with, and will be used to teach the next generation.

    A Remington Model 11. I never knew my grandfather, but I know my Dad used it for dove, quail, deer, rabbits, and anything else a man would use a 12 gauge shotgun for.

    Neither will leave the family.

  • Six-Gun

    Boy, a lot of you guys are really lucky to even have a sentimental collection piece. I grew up in an anti-gun household where the PAINTBALL gun I bought oh so licitly from a friend at school was confiscated and dispatched by my parents. The good news is that my kids won't suffer the same frustration.

  • robert38-55

    I can relate to the story Dan J. Growing up in the countys of NC, way out there no need to lock anything… Way back in 1963 or 1964, My Grandpa left me a single barrel 16 gauge, stevens shotgun… It wasn't taken care of very well during its life, the inside of the barrel is all pitted and looks bad. Anyway I don't know when or where it was made but on top of the barrel there is a stamp that says patented Aug.,12,1913 what ever that means… Years ago I shot it a few times,but never consiedered it a hunting or sport gun.. Its just for sentimental value.. I still have it.

    • robert38-55

      PS, Now that I think about it, that 16 might be a Savage? I will have to look at it today?

      • LB435

        In the 50s and 60s the company was known as Savage-Stevens-Fox.

  • Levan Shooteridze

    My favorite would be Cz83. Actually my first serious PD weapon. Satin nickel finish, caliber 9X18Mak. Very solid, reliable, excellent ergonomics and easy to shoot. This was the first handgun I shot satisfactory groups from.

  • savage110

    My favorite is my Winchester 1903. It is calibrated for the 22 automatic round. the rifle it self was made in 1908. my great grand father bought it for his wife who passed it down to my grandmother who passed it down to me. this is a gun that hold a lot of memories for me and my family, and hopefully when my children are ready I will be able to pass it down to them.

  • Wambli Ska

    I don't have any family heirlooms because the laws in PR used to be REALLY restrictive when I was growing up but I intend to leave a few for my kids. I do have some guns that have been gifts from a very dear frined who is like a brother to me (my Python and my S&W 610 amongst others) and they will never leave my possesion and will be passed along to my kids.

  • robert38-55

    Forgive my ignorance Wambli Ska, but what is PR?

    • Woody

      Probably Puerto Rico, commonly abbreviated as "PR" like we abbreviate "MD" for Maryland.

  • second amendment man

    I have a Ruger Single Six, I got as a youngster from my father that I still cherish today over twenty years later. It's the first firearm I had for my own and it's still my favorite to this day. Great memories shooting that old revolver with Dad.

  • coolgunguy

    Robert- PR is Puerto Rico.

    I don't have any sentimental values in my possesion, but I see how my boy looks at my meager collection and i know that some day these that I have will become his sentimental favorites, and that's pretty good if you ask me.

  • Big Chief

    I have three S&Ws that fall into that category, I inherited. The old man's .357 a nickel plated model 13 with recessed cylinders, granddads pre-model 10 .38 spl and FILs pre-model 27 with 8 3/8 bbl.

    All good shooters that I'm proud to own and likewise will pass down to family members when I bite the dust.

    Nice .25 auto. I also inherited one, but it was a Phoenix Arms one, I loaned it to one of my brothers and refused to take it back!

  • Big Chief

    Also, I passed a revolver a little early on to one of my Nephews, a S&W model 27 with 4" bbl that he really liked when he fired it.

    My other nephew (who is fixing to retire from the Marines) is getting my AMT Auto-Mag III .30 Carbine pistol next time I see him, he grinned from ear to ear when I let him shoot it.

    Maybe they can get together someday and fire a volley in uncle "Big Chief's" memory.

  • BPSniper

    My father had a little .25 auto when I was a kid. I don't recall the make but it was of similar size as yours. I remember he bought it at an auction and we shot the snot out of it growing up. What now would seem a 'mouse gun' was a fine firearm to a very young boy. I don't ever recall having a malfunction with it. Sadly, it was stolen in a robbery that claimed all my fathers guns and all of MY first guns given to me. A sign of changing times.

  • Knitepoet

    Dan, while the little 25 isn't my first choice for a defensive round, it still fulfills rule #1 of how to survive a gunfight "Have a gun"

    Nice read sir

  • CaptRLD

    I have one now as well. I bought for myself in the 60's as a backup gun and paid about $45 for it. It was a French model Baby Browning. It had an outstanding finish and workmanship. I still have it even knowing that I'll reach for 45 if needed. But still, it's better than trowing a stone. Having tested at the police range I can tell you that the bullet would bounce off a refrigerator door at 15 feet without cracking the paint.

  • Mike

    i have a colt 1908 vest pocket in .25

    not very fun to shoot since it barely fits in my hand and accuracy at about 10 yards isn't very good.

  • Pete

    I have three sentimental firearms. The first is an 1890 Winchester made in 1911 that belonged to my paternal grandfather, who I never knew. The second is a nickle plated Colt Police Positive that belonged to my maternal grandfather who was one of my favorite relatives. There are several other guns that I acquired from friends who are no longer alive, but those two are the true sentimental keepers.

    • james

      u said u have 3 but only said 2?

  • James

    My father has a Colt Cobra (38 special, non-plus P) that belonged to my grandfather back in the 60's. He was a Florida State patrolman and he was the first of the patrolmen to fly planes for the State Patrol. His .357 was too large for the cockpit, so he started flying with this little snubbie. After he passed away, it went to my father and he and I have a great time shooting it and we will keep it in the family for generations to come.

  • Don

    My dad – who'll probably outlive me – just turned 86 a week ago. He grew up on a farm in northern Missouri, and he still lives in the same town. He has a Winchester pump-action .22 that he uses on varmints on his properties. I've tried to convey to him that he should use something else, since that's a valuable antique, but I haven't gotten anywhere (yet!). Now, that's a gun I'd like to have someday!

    I have several guns that I regard as sentimental although they weren't left to me by anyone. I call them that because they're favorites of mine that I put in the category of guns I simply have to own because of either what they represent in the history of firearms or just cuz! They're mostly Colts: a Python, 1911 .45ACP and a 10mm Delta Elite; there's also a S&W Model 29-2.

  • Steve

    My dad never wanted anything to do with firearms. I have a Marlin Golden 39A .22 that I bought new 35 years ago. Still looks great. My other baby is a Colt Python with 4" barrel in mint condition. Bought it from my boss 20 years ago. Paid $125. Was still in the box wrapped in the oil paper. Best firearm purchase I ever made.

  • bontai Joe

    The only really sentimental firearm I have is my Ruger Super Six. My mom bought it for me when I was 19. I couldn't buy it myself as I was not 21 yet. That was back in 1976, and the gun was ingraved for the bicentenial. I've shot a LOT of ammo thru that gun and it's still fun to shoot. My dad has had a few in his collection that I was hoping would come to me one day, but he trades 'em out often and is always got something new in the old one's place. The old Remington over and under 12 ga he had is gone, as is the pre-'64 Winchester 30-06 bolt action he used to have. My mom has still got her .22 H & R revolver, and my great-great grandfather's 12 ga. still hangs on her wall.

  • http://beaglesmith Robert Smith

    I have a Remington Model 34, .22 cal. rifle. My dad bought it in 1938 and it was used then. The only thing he did was put on a set of Lyman peep sights and shoot 2 boxes of shells every 2 weeks on a farm in Vermont growing up.

    It is well used but will still outshoot any rifle I've had with a smooth bolt action that cannot be beat.

  • Scott Rhymer

    The first gun I ever bought was an old Webley MK III in .38S&W. I bought it more for a collector's item, but it shot so well I carried it for a few years. It and a WWI issue Webley MK VI .455 are my "sentimental" guns.

    I have a fondness for my "oh, $#!t" gun — a little .32 Kel-Tec that has always functioned flawlessly called "Wee Jock."

  • Moosejaw

    Sentimental Baby?

    Dad was a Marine…no WW2 bring homes 'cept his Raider knife(now if that was a gun it would be # 1 on my Sentimental baby list)….then he was NYPD…..he sold his model 10 S&W upon retirement.

    No, my firearm sentimental babies are all mine…..bought as collectables and chock full of history….

    #1 being my circa 1882 Winchester model 1873 in 44WCF…my cowboy action shooting buddies were shocked at me using this 'antique' in matches…but I shoot ALL my firearms….it still shoots fine

    #2 would be a toss up between my Springfield Garand (DCM not CMP) and my bone stock 1943 Remington rand.

    #3 another Springfield…this time a circa 1891 trapdoor…that was previously butchered for 'sporting' purposes, but the stock still has all the nice cartooches etc.

    #4 a brace of nickle Breaktop S&W .38SW are next on the list…..

    #5 and last of the BABIES in my safe(plenty of more utilitarian guns)….a circa 1961 7.5" Colt SAA, 45Colt in 95% condition….

    these are the ones I take out to fondle most often….

  • Renz M

    My sentimental favorite is my first rifle given to me by my father, a Remington Nylon 66. I still have it and it has seen it's share of ammo over the years. It's not pretty, but it will always be in my collection.

  • Roy J

    I have a couple of sentimental favorites.

    There's my grandfather's Model 94 in 30-30, circa 1925 or so. Dad inherited it from Grandpa and I inherited it from him. When I got it, it had lost a tang screw. I took it to a gunsmith and asked him to please replace the tang screw that holds the buttstock to the action, and to check it over just on general principles as it hadn't been fired since Dad inherited it in the mid-1960s. The smith took it, worked the action a couple of times and after looking at me for permission, dry-fired it. His verdict, in a reverent voice, was, "Man, that's a sweet little gun!"

    Then there is the 7.65 Ortgies that was the only one of many guns Dad picked up as he fought his way from North Africa to Sicily to Normandy, France and Germany that he managed to hold on to. He took it off a German officer and stashed it in his low quarters in his duffel bag. He had two duffels, the other being full of guns he'd captured; but that one was empty by the time it caught up with him after he was wounded at the Hurtgen Forest. When I began to introduce my wife to firearms after her being resistant to them a few years back, she didn't like my Llama Model IX-A or my Ruger Mark I, but she LOVED the Ortgies. By the end of the range session, she was referring to it as "MY pistol." I think Dad would find that funny!


    One of my favorite guns was given to me by a neighbor before he died. It is a Remington 1100 in 28 gauge. It is a sweet gun and I think of Jim every time I see it

  • Rich

    I have an 110 year old 30-40 Krag that belonged to my grandfather and my father. It is in great shape and still functions and shoots great.

  • KSL

    Super article! Back in '07, my father became terminally ill and handed off to me his three long guns – Stevens bolt .22, Win Model 12 16ga, and the old Iver Johnson 20ga single. He taught me to shoot with the Iver. I had a buddy of mine do some minor repairs to get it in good working order, and I was able to bring it to Dad for "show and tell" prior to his passing. I took my first SD ringneck with it back in '71, hunting with Dad.

  • Jim

    I have my father's lightweight Baby Browning. It still shoots well and loaded with the defensive rounds available a few years ago (with steel balls inside the hollow point) it may actually do some damage. My favorite of his guns is the Ithaca 37 Featherweight that he hunted with. I occasionally load up some 16 gauge rounds and take it to the skeet range.

  • Dale

    My favorite was an early version 1960's of S&W mdl 66 which my Father carried as a service weapon for the police dept. that he worked for. Someone has decided that he needed more than I did, as it was stolen from my home in 1986

  • B. Graham

    I received my great-grandfather's Remington 12c (1936) last year, and did a lot of work to clean it up. They only ever used it when it was time to slaughter a hog on their farm, and once my Dad shot a hole in his ceiling when he was a kid (got a nice whoppin' for it). Beautiful gun, and means a great deal to me.

  • P. J. Nebergall

    My grandfather was a German police investigator. Disliking the 32 Sauer "Behorden" they issued him, he took a 380 Beretta 1934 off an Italian officer in a poker game. I inherited it, still have it, and have had to use it to stop several potentially lethal encounters. Great gun.

  • B.W. Loder

    My grandpa was "closer" to me than my own dad, who worked a lot and was gone a lot. My grandpa took me fishing all the time, and now I try to instill the same love of fishing in my grand kids he did to me. I want my grand kids to remember me fondly like I remember him. Anyway, he had a 22 rifle, with the "hex" barrel, a "model 12". I have a picture of him holding the rifle when he was about 18 years old, with his hunting dog. The stock was cracked, and was taped, even in the old picture, and the same tape is still on the stock. I got it not working, but after two gun smiths, it works now. I don't shoot it, although I have. My niece used the gun in a play she was in, when she played the part of Annie Oakley.

  • J. T. Nau

    In 1977 I was an armorer and small arms instructor in the military and this piqued my interest in firearms. I got my FFL and started buying and trading firearms. During this time frame I bought an Essex receiver for a 1911A1 and built a pistol around it for my father. Here it is some 34 years later and due to age dad's eyes are failing and his hands have developed tremors. He can no longer shoot a pistol and he has passed the 1911A1 back to its builder. It is an honor to receive it.

  • http://EGGMAN E. GARCIA


  • O.R.La Rosa

    I haven't counted them lately, but I have over 14 pistols and over 40 rifles. Besides, if you know how many guns you have, you don't have enough. But I guess my sentimental favorite is my Browning Hi-Power that I bought either late 1966, or early 1967. The main reason I bought it was because of the 13 Round magazine capacity. I expected to go back to Vietnam and wanted something with a little firepower. The pistol cost $107.00 new, and came with two magazines. My favorite rifle is my Springfield M1A. I carried an M14 for 4 years in the Marines and learned to love that weapon.

  • Bill A. Retired LEO

    Back in the late 60's I had a Baby Browning I bought for $25, carried it in my handcuff case as a backup during the summer. Winter I carried a S&W Model 60 .38 in a shoulder holster under my leather jacket, plus a .357 derringer in my jacket pocket. Duty weapon S&W #66 .357 Mag. Still have the 60 & 66, lent the Browning to my partner and he lost it :( Ended my career with Colt 45 Combat Commander with Nickel Satin finish for plainclothes work. And a Walther PPK/S .380 for off duty and back up.

  • chris

    for a .25 auto, it sure is a nice pistol

  • ericb

    There is a Baby Browning at my mother's house. I don't whether me or my brother will get it some day. It was the first centerfire pistol I ever shot, when I was about 7 or 8. The firearms manufacturers of today can take a lesson from those old guns. The fit and finish are amazing.

  • Capt RVanO

    Three: H&R Sportsman Dad got in 1949, Ruger Service Six Dad got in 1977 (Dad passed in 2007), Remington Rand M1911A1 inherited from my mentor

  • Don McGovern

    1 and 2. P-08 Luger that I bought from a friend's dad over sixty years ago when I was fourteen. It's a Mauser factory model made in 1934 with all matching numbers, even on both clips. I carried it whenever I went rabbit hunting with my Remington Fieldmaster which I got when I was twelve and it still is a great shooter

    3. Ruger Single Six that my wife gave me as a Valentine's Day gift before we were married fifty years ago.

  • AZ Stewie

    My most cherished piece is a 6.5 Japanese Rifle that my Grandfather brought home from WWII. The "mum" has been defaced prior to surrendering the rifle (to save the Emperors honor) and the rifle is receiving parts that are missing. This thing most likely hasn't been cleaned since it was surrendered to Allied Forces in WWII. I also inherited a bayo for the rifle, an officers sward, a suicide knife, a small officers wall flag and a small book (cant read it as its in Japanese).

    Receiving that inheritance started me collecting World War II bolt action rifles.

  • Phillip Denton

    I have 3.
    1) 10 years ago, after i passed hunter ed, my grandfather gave me a 1980 glenfield [marlin] model 60 .22lr, i have had to do research and tinkering but ive kept it running.

    2) when my grandfather was 6, his dad gave him a sears [savage made] .410 bolt-action, [back in late 40's]

    3) in the 60's my grandmother bought a sporterized .303 british enfield #4 mk1, [funny as she doesnt like guns, lol]

    sadly, my grandfather passed away this last may, and so i now have number 2 and 3 in my safe, [i fired them recently, in his honor, around his birthday]

    • Phillip Denton

      almost forgot, number 2 was used to put dinner on the table back then.

  • JWright

    I inherited a S&W Model 42 .38 Special from my grandfather. He was a US Marshal and carried it in his boot. When off duty. Towards the end of his career he was shot and wounded in a close quarters battle, laying on the ground as the suspect charged him, he drew his .38 and sent one fatal shot. He carried that revolver til the day he died. I now carry it in my boot, I hope I never use it, but one day it might save my life.

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