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.
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.
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