This month we have set of American Arms Co. derringers. The bottom pistol has a 3” barrel, is 6 ¼” overall in length, and is chambered for .32 rimfire. The barrel on this derringer unlocks and twists to allow for loading. This style of derringer is known in the collector world as a “swivel breech, double barrel pocket pistol”.
This derringer was made by the American Arms Co. of Boston Mass. from around 1866 to 1878. Total production was estimated at only a few thousand pieces. This pistol has been reblued at one point in its life.
In most all situations restoration greatly decreases the value of the firearm. But in this case I’m not so sure it hurt any. Upon close examination the inside of the gun shows a great amount of pitting. Generally the outside of a gun looks far worse than the inside when it comes to pitting from rust. If the same rule of thumb played true with this pistol, it was in very tough shape at one time. What hurts this gun is the fact that the restoration job wasn’t of very good quality. The corners of the metal have been rounded, and areas where the pitting could have been gotten out weren’t. Also most competent restoration experts would have tightened the gun up a bit before refinishing. The action on this pistol is still very loose. It is possible that the customer at the time just didn’t want to spend the extra money for a quality restoration.
The top pistol is from the same circa 1870 time period, has a 3 ½” barrel, is 7” overall in length, and is chamber for .22 short. The barrel is pivoted to the side for loading. This style of derringer is known in the collector world as a “single-shot side pivot derringer”. This one too has been restored. And also the restoration is of poor quality, so poor that the makers mark has been almost entirely removed.
The American Arms Co. operated from 1861 to 1904. The main office was in Boston MA, but their factories were located in Chicopee Falls MA 1861-93, Milwaukee WI 1893-1904, and in Bluffton AL 1890-1901. All of the guns they made are believed to be only marked as made in Boston. This company at times might have also operated under the name of American Nut and Arms Co., and also American Tool & Machine Co. American Arms was acquired by the Marlin Firearms Co.
Original American Arms Co. derringers in very good condition are generally valued around $500 to $800 for the swivel breech, double barrel, and about $150 to $250 for the single barrel. Due to the condition of these two examples I would estimate their values would be less than ½ of those values.