A couple of years ago, U.S. Armament began producing modern renditions of the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless pistol in .32 ACP. They were configured as General Officer’s Pistols (GOPs) with Parkerized finishes and checkered walnut grips, much like the original guns issued to U.S. military officers from WWII up into the early 1970s. Like the originals, these modern replicas come inside cardboard boxes, and each gun and extra magazine is wrapped in a rust-preventative paper. These Colt-licensed reproductions are selling well, and U.S. Armament has begun offering two new editions: OSS Commemoratives with matching suppressors and General Officer’s Commemoratives with the same serial numbers as issued to 500 generals. The Model 1903 pistols have SA triggers, thumb safeties and grip safeties. The front sight is fixed, and the rear sight is drift adjustable for windage. The slender slide and frame, less than an inch in width, made them easy to carry, and the same holds true today.
Along with mini-revolvers, North American Arms (NAA) also produces a line of miniscule Guardian autoloaders. These stainless steel pistols come in two sizes. One is built for the .32 ACP but is also chambered for a proprietary cartridge called the .25 NAA, which is based on a necked-down .32 ACP case. The other is slightly larger and takes the .380 ACP, but it also comes in a proprietary chambering called the .32 NAA, which is based on a necked-down .380 ACP case. The .25 NAA launches a 50-grain Hornady JHP at 1,100 fps for 134 fpe at the muzzle. The .32 NAA fires a 60-grain Hornady JHP at 1,222 fps for 199 fpe at the muzzle. These cartridges, made by CorBon for NAA, are truly the magnums of the .25 and .32 autoloader world. The pistols themselves are hammer-fired DAOs with similar features, including rubber grips, fixed sights and 6+1 capacities. The dimensions vary slightly; the .25 NAA and .32 NAA are 3.38 and 3.69 inches tall and 0.81 and 0.94 inches wide, respectively. Designed for folks serious about self-defense, these little pistols are definitely on the high end of the “mouse gun” spectrum.
Not only is this small handgun one of the few still made in .25 ACP, but it actually fires two shots with each pull of the trigger! Harkening back to designs from an earlier era, its uniqueness stems from the cylindrical, 4140 steel barrel, with six bores that are fixed and a rotating breech face that contains the firing pins to set off two chambered cartridges simultaneously. Releasing a simple top latch allows the barrel to hinge downward for loading; a push-button in the center of the barrel assembly at the muzzle ejects spent cases. The S-333 Volleyfire has a light alloy frame and is compact for concealment. If you don’t like basic black, it can be had in other colors such as green, gold or pink. It’s both compact and surprisingly lightweight.
The HP25A from Phoenix Arms is the one of the last American-made semi-autos still being produced in .25 ACP. It’s a fairly conventional blowback design with an SA trigger, an external hammer and both a firing pin block and a magazine interlock safety. It has a vented 3-inch barrel, and its size—5.5 inches long and 4.1 inches tall—affords it a capacity of 9+1 cartridges. Unlike most pocket-sized pistols, the HP25A has a windage-adjustable rear sight. The front sight is a fixed blade. It has a serrated trigger face, a push-button magazine catch in the conventional “American” location and checkered plastic grips. It’s available in satin nickel or matte black.
One of the few .32 ACP pistols still hanging on is the P-32, and for two good reasons—size and weight. This slim and trim little pistol is only 5.1 inches long, 3.5 inches tall, 0.75 inches wide, and it weighs a mere 6.6 ounces unloaded. So, you have a pistol that can be carried almost anywhere, like in a pocket or on an ankle, and it’s ready for instant use with a 5-pound DAO trigger. The P-32 also has a polymer grip frame with checkered side panels. The sights are miniscule, but they won’t snag, and the 4140 steel slide has a dull matte black finish. An inner frame made of 7075-T6 aluminum carries the internal moving parts and slide rails. There are several accessories available for the P-32, like a belt clip that attaches to the gun and negates a holster, a one-round magazine extension, a 10-round magazine with a grip extension and a Crimson Trace Laserguard. Kel-Tec also ships the subcompact P-32 in a padded and zippered soft case.
These days, a lot of “Keyboard Kommandos” refer to smaller handguns, sometimes anything less than .45 caliber, as “mouse guns,” and those cartridges especially targeted for this derision are some real antiques. More specifically, I’m referring to the .25 ACP and .32 ACP, which both came from the inventive mind of John Moses Browning.
Even at the dawn of the 20th century, Browning had his fingers on the pulse of the gun market and saw what was popular with the public: small handguns for self-defense. Browning invented the .32 ACP (aka the 7.65mm Browning Short) in 1899 and followed up with the Browning Model 1900 pistol made by FN in Belgium. It had a straight-walled case and was semi-rimmed, firing a 73-grain FMJ bullet at around 905 fps. Colt adopted another Browning design and produced the Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless pistol, which jostled other gun manufacturers and led to the Savage Model 1907, the Browning Model 1910, Walther’s PPK and dozens of others.
In 1905, Browning came up with the .25 ACP (6.35x16mm), and FN made the Model 1905 pistol, or “Baby Browning,” to shoot it. This tiny cartridge, with its 50-grain FMJ bullet traveling at 760 fps, was also chambered in other pistols, such as the Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket, the Beretta 950 Jetfire, the Walther TPH and a score of others.
For the most part, people were happy with these small handguns and diminutive cartridges. The .32 ACP was extremely prevalent in Europe and was adopted by many police and military forces. While not as popular, the .25 ACP was a top seller in the civilian market. Statistics from Colt indicate that the Model 1903 and Model 1908 pistols were the second and third best sellers in the early 20th century behind the Model 1911. Around 570,000 and 420,000 of the Model 1903 and Model 1908 pistols were made, respectively, so they are commonly found on the used gun market.
Today’s plethora of small handguns in the more effective .380 ACP and 9mm has pretty much doomed the .25 and .32 ACP to obscurity. However, dozens of European makes and models from such companies as Ruby, HK and Sig Sauer, mixed with American products like the Bauer, Raven, Sterling, Taurus and Kel-Tec, make finding used guns in these calibers both easy and oftentimes a bargain. Add to this the uncounted thousands of these older guns still in bedside tables and desk drawers.
While there are few new handguns in .25 and .32 ACP being made, ammunition sales in these calibers are still fairly brisk, and subsequently, cartridge manufacturers have upped the performance of these two 100-plus-year-old rounds to more modern standards.
Take the .25 ACP. My ammo locker had expanding bullet loads from three different companies, including Hornady’s 36-grain XTP HP, which chronographed at 839 fps from my 2-inch-barreled Colt Model 1908. Speer’s 35-grain Gold Dot HP clocked in at 775 fps, and Winchester’s 45-grain Super-X Expanding Point, which has a Lubaloy-coated lead bullet with a steel ball in the nose, came in at 773 fps. These bullets expand reliably and allow all of the 63 to 65 foot-pounds of energy (fpe) to be expended into the target.
The same goes for the .32 ACP. My ammunition included Hornady’s 60-grain XTP HPs, Magtech’s 71-grain JHPs and some vintage Winchester 60-grain Silvertip HPs, which clocked in at 919, 860 and 968 fps, respectively, from my 3.75-inch-barreled Colt Model 1903. The expanding bullets offered about 125 to 133 fpe from the muzzle, which is more than enough to take care of the biggest “mouse” with good shot placement.
There aren’t many pistols still being made in .25 and .32 ACP. Your classic “pocket pistols” in these calibers were generally all steel, and their weight was reduced through their slender designs, short barrels and overall lengths, and compact grip frames. Today, smaller, lighter and stronger guns can be made with space-age alloys, polymers and stainless steel. Upgraded designs offer larger-caliber guns that are much the same size as these old-timers, and they’re usually lighter, too. Modern double-action-only (DAO) and striker-fired guns are safer and easier to shoot than many of the elder pistols with single-action (SA) triggers and exposed or concealed hammers. While they might not be more accurate, these new guns for the most part have better sights; the sights on guns from “back in the day” were sometimes not much more than reference points.
Despite all that, I’ve rounded up some of the best .25 and .32 ACP mouse guns, from the past and present, to give you some options. Let’s take a look.
For more information about the mouse guns featured in the gallery above, visit the following sites.
U.S. Armament Corps
North American Arms
This article was originally published in ‘Concealed Carry Handguns’ Spring 2017. To subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
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