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Turbiaux Le Protector Palm Pistol

Photo Courtesy Cody Firearms Museum

Over the past few years, smaller and more concealable guns have hit the market — even a gun that simulates the size, shape, and appearance of a smartphone. Whether that’s a good idea or not isn’t for this historian to judge … yet. The idea of concealment in all shapes and sizes isn’t new. Back in the 1800s, many curios items came onto the market, including firearms like the Palm Protector Pistol.

This pistol is a revolver with a small barrel that fits between your fingers, kind of like parents tell their kids to do with their car keys. Instead of the cartridges being arranged in parallel around the cylinder’s axis, they were placed like spokes in a wagon wheel, much like earlier vertical turret revolvers. To fire, a shooter simply squeezes the gun. The design was first patented and sold in France in the early 1880s as the Turbiaux le Protector, but it soon saw production in the United States. Marketed by the Minneapolis Firearms Company as the Protector, it was manufactured in Springfield, Massachusetts. We don’t know of any FBI ballistic gelatin tests, but 32 Extra Short was a centerfire cartridge that made Volcanic Repeating Arms Company’s Rocket Ball ammunition look, well, still not great. Although, before we get too judgmental about the cartridge’s energy, Smith & Wesson got going thanks to sales of its number-one revolver that was chambered in the black powder 22 Short cartridge.

Peter Finnegan, who licensed the design, closed the Minneapolis Firearms Company and created the Chicago Fire Arms Company to sell a slightly different version of the guns. The manufacturing this time was done by the Ames Sword Company. Finnegan intended to have 15,000 ready by the Chicago World’s Fair, but Ames didn’t meet the deadline and a lawsuit ensued. The guns sold into the early 1900s.


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Original French guns were 10-shot .22-caliber pieces, while most of the later American ones were .32 caliber, although some .41-caliber examples are reported. Originally, the guns were considered curio and relics but have since moved into the antique category under U.S. law.

Turbiaux Le Protector (The Protector)

  • Date: ca 1882
  • Caliber: 32 Extra Short
  • Dimensions: The size of a pocket watch
  • Action Type: Revolving
  • Options: Option for pearl side plate, usually nickel finished


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