Revenge of the Nerds: Pocket Protectors

Small guns have always been out there. And they have always been a part of many large firearms manufacturer’s product line.

Just consider the Colt model 1908 “vest pocket” gun or the classic snubnose revolver that probably date back to the 19th century. Since the introduction of the Chief’s Special in 1950, Smith & Wesson has sold a buttload of J-frame revolvers. Back in the 60s and early 70s, the “Saturday Night Special” – usually poor quality, easily concealed guns – was a favorite boogeyman of gun control advocates, who managed to run a number of firms that put these guns out of business so to speak.

But with the rise in legal, “shall-issue” concealed-carry in the United States over the last 20 years there has been an increasing demand for very small, quality, dependable, potent handguns – ideally, something which could be dropped into a pocket and more or less forgotten until needed. Because simply, a lot of people want to have the option to carry a gun for personal protection, but they aren’t willing or able to make the necessary changes/commitment to carry a medium or full sized gun.

In part fueled by this demand, new companies were started and some existing companies thrived, specializing in high-quality small guns. Here’s the list I came up with: Boberg Arms, Bond Arms, Cobra Firearms, Diamondback Firearms, North American Arms, Rohrbaugh Firearms, and L. W. Seecamp.

I am sure there are others – feel free to post others in comments.

I tend to think of these manufacturers as the makers of “nerd guns.” One, their products are a new twist on the nerd classic: “pocket protectors.” Two, like nerds, they have gone their own way in their world and been something of an outsider. This is a very good thing.

To be an entrepreneur takes a certain mindset, one willing to tackle long odds, to create something where nothing exists. To be an entrepreneur who has to deal with a rigorous federal bureaucracy, manufacturing a product with high potential liability, in a market already dominated by a number of multinational corporations – well, that strikes me as more than a little mad. But boy, am I glad that the people behind these firms have done just that.

I haven’t (yet) had the pleasure of trying products from all of these small manufacturers. And of the ones I have tried, not all were to my liking, for one reason or another. You’ll see the specifics in reviews with my name attached. Yet I am very happy that each of these companies exist, that they are making guns, which are clearly a labor of love. Because I think they push the entire field of firearms design and manufacture in some good directions, refusing to take things for granted or just sticking with old, standard designs.

I think without them, we wouldn’t have seen the explosion of “micro .380s” of the last few years, let alone pocket 9 mms, .40s, even .45s. Nor of innovative designs like the pull-back feed mechanism of the Boberg (essentially a bullpup design for a pistol). Nor a new take on mini-revolvers. Nor of explorations of new materials and manufacturing techniques that they can experiment with on a small scale, perfect, and prove as reliable.

If you want a firearm of extremely high quality, like you get from Seecamp or Rohrbaugh, you expect to pay a bit more for it. If you select a gun with a highly innovative design, you figure there may be minor glitches or it’ll take a while for the design to catch on. In either case, you’re stepping away from the mass-produced options, at least to some extent. Going against the trend.

You know, like a nerd. With your very own pocket protector.

Welcome to the club.

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