Xythos Brand 2mm Pinfire Revolver
Xythos Brand 2mm Pinfire Revolver

This article will take a look at some of the smallest pinfire guns and cartridges. The 2mm pinfire cartridge showed up around 1880. This is when Société Française des Munitions began producing the variations shown in the following factory drawing.

SFM factory drawing for original 2mm pinfire cartridges

These cartridges were made for tiny pinfire revolvers that looked like miniature versions of the normal pinfire revolvers. The following image is an example of one sold by Wayne Driskill Miniature Firearms.

These antique 2mm revolvers used a slightly different cartridge than used by the later, more popular 2mm pinfire guns. The first 2 variations below are examples of these. They have a slightly smaller case diameter of 1.9mm and used a 1.7mm ball. The case is nearly twice as long. They are also much more rare and hard to find.

SFM 2mm Moche
Container like shown in the SFM Drawing posted on a forum by Chassepot
2mm Pinfire Cartridges

The Smallest Firing Revolver

One notable example of this early style 2mm pinfire revolver was made in 1884 by Victor Bovy. He marketed it as the smallest revolver in the world. Scientific American wrote about this gun and stated that even though it appeared to be a toy it was capable of doing a little bit of damage if pointed at the right area! They also noted that the bullet which was propelled by the fulminate alone could penetrate wood about 3/16 of an inch from a distance of 10 inches. It would shoot through an ordinary pane of glass at four and a half feet away. These guns were really expensive though especially since they were mainly a novelty.

2mm Pinfire gun Engraving from the July 18, 1885 issue of Scientific American
Engraving of 2mm Pinfire Gun from the July 18, 1885 issue of Scientific American

Franz Pfannl 2mm Pinfire Pistol

Drawing from Franz Pfannl’s 24 July 1899 Patent

The subject of the invention is a breech-loading pistol which can be worn as an appendage, on a watch chain, on a bracelet or other jewelry item and used to fire small popping cartridges or capsules.

Translated excerpt of part of Franz Pfannl 24 July 1899 Patent

These small pinfire revolvers were expensive and were made by hand 1 at a time. So in 1899 an Austrian watchmaker, Franz Pfannl, patented a new design that was much less expensive and able to be mass produced. He sold these guns all over the world and within a couple years they began showing up in catalogs various places.

Franz Pfannl designs around the world

Toy section of 1903 Sears, Roebuck Catalog

The 1903 Sears, Roebuck Catalog included the gun in their toy section where they commented on how loud it was and how owning it would draw the attention of all your friends. It cost $0.75 plus shipping for a single gun and a pack of 25 pinfire blank cartridges. This is about equivalent to $22 today. So the price was becoming more affordable but still was an expensive toy. As a comparison, a complete toy kitchen set shown on the same page was about half the price!

Alfa Waffenkatalog 1911

The 1911, the German company, Alfa released a catalog, which they claimed was the “greatest catalogue of outdoor living, hunting equipment and small arms that has ever been published.” It was 800 pages filled with thousands of guns and other items from across the world with descriptions in 4 languages. They listed a few variations of this 2mm pinfire such as ones with gold and silver finishes or pearl and ivory grips.

And for the next 70 years manufacturers all over the world made these little 2mm pinfire cap guns. They put them on tie clips and cuff-links and watch charms. The gave them comical names such as Fly Pistol or Mighty Mite or Mouse Gun or Little Atom Pistol (along with the mushroom cloud logo). Most of these were made with the expectation that one would be firing blanks however, as shown on the bottom row of cartridges, above, some could be loaded with a #9 shot in the cartridge and could often fire that.

Maus 2mm Pinfire Pistol
German-made Maus (mouse) pistol and case

The Little Atom

Little Atom. World's Smallest Pistol Cuff Links

There were dozens of companies that made these guns and one of the most popular was a Japanese design imported and trademarked in the United States by G & S Mfg. Co., of Nashville, Tennessee. They registered the Little Atom trademark in 1953 and wholesaled these guns to small stores and gas stations all over the United States.

Little Atom trademark

This gun was less expensive and made a little differently with 3 layers of brass that were die-stamped and then riveted together. And were marketed and sold as pistols, rifles, tie-clips and cuff links.

Little Atom Pinfire Pistol
Little Atom Pinfire Pistol
Little Atom Pinfire Rifle
Little Atom Pinfire Rifle

They also imported the cartridges and wholesaled boxes of 100 or more tubes each containing 10 or 25 cartridges.

Box for 2500 2mm pinfire cartridges

2mm Pinfire Ammo

The 2mm pinfire blanks were made and sold across the world and came in a variety of containers. The most popular were the little plastic capsules but other styles existed as well.

2mm Pinfire Ammo Boxes

There are many variations of the 2mm pinfire cartridges too made in a variety of styles.

2mm Pinfire Cartridges

These tiny guns made for a fun toy or fashion accessory and were sold for over 100 years. Recently they have become popular by collectors and companies have even started making them again.