Many are quick to dismiss .25 ACP as a defensive cartridge, but sometimes concealability and reliability are more important than stopping power.
.25 ACP Quick Facts:
- Typically a 50-grain projectile traveling at ~800 FPS.
- Designed by John Browning to be a more reliable pocket pistol cartridge than .22LR.
- Fell out of common use by the 1980s.
- Modern defense loads are still produced.
The prevailing attitude within the contemporary CCW community is that one should never carry a cartridge weaker than 9mm. When even .380 ACP is disparaged for having inadequate stopping power, you may be wondering why anyone would even consider .25 ACP to be anything besides obsolete. For those who carry a .45 because they don’t make a .46, the premise of trusting ones’ life to a cartridge this small is probably laughable, but in the 116 years since its invention, .25 ACP has put more people in the ground than one might expect. Carried by both criminals and their prospective victims for decades, .25 ACP may just be the hidden wonder that our renaissance of micro-compact pistols has been needing.
It is true that modern firearms technology has enabled us to make guns nearly as small as the pocket pistols of yore but chambered for much more potent cartridges, however, there are more factors at play than size and power when it comes to self-defense. I posit that despite the recent abundance of 9mm micro compacts, most people would still find utility in having an old Saturday night special in .25 ACP.
It Needs To Go Bang
Which would you rather have on you while strolling through a dangerous neighborhood, a .44 magnum with timing issues or a .22 target pistol that’s never failed you once? Personally, I’d feel much more confident with a reliable piece than I would with a more powerful one. Ideally, of course, we want to have both, but that’s not always possible. The potential ballistic energy stored in a big cartridge is worth exactly zero if it fails to go off, while good shot placement can more than compensate for poor ballistics.
While .25 ACP isn’t exactly a showstopper in any of its other properties, nobody can deny that it's about as reliable as any other centerfire cartridge. Even the nicest, most expensive defensive .22 loadings will be inherently less reliable due to their rimfire design, which is exactly why John Browning set out to create the .25. He chose a cartridge case that was as small as possible but could still contain a primer and designed a round-nosed jacketed projectile for more reliable feeding in autoloaders. Its semi-rimmed nature allows it to be used in both revolvers and semi-autos, and the rim aids with extraction in the latter.
Both studies and common sense tell us that during most defensive encounters involving a firearm, no shots are actually fired. While we should always plan for the worst when preparing for a potential defensive scenario, we must also accept the reality that if you ever are forced to draw your gun, the odds are that its mere presence will be enough to deescalate the situation. Even most of the dumbest criminals understand that gun=danger and will be equally dissuaded by Dirty Harry’s hand cannon as they would be by grandma’s old Tanfoglio.
Room For Improvement
Despite all of these potential benefits and justifications, most .25 ACP pistols still suck. They were limited by the technology of their day and their cheap, disposable nature created a positive feedback loop resulting in increasingly poor-quality designs to be released over the years. Unlike most other pistol designs, many of the oldest .25 pocket pistols were of higher quality than those which would come later. With all due respect, it's no surprise that Colt, FN and Beretta can make a nicer gun than Lorcin.
Enough of these pocket pistols are still in use that several ammunition manufacturers continue to produce .25 ACP, despite there not being a new .25 pistol released on the market since perhaps the Taurus 25 PLY.
The key advantage to pistols chambered in .25 ACP is obviously their size. Only rimfire cartridges could be used to shrink down pocket pistols any smaller, but the better reliability of centerfires makes .25 the clear winner in this category of firearms.
While no new .25 ACP pocket pistols have been developed in a very long time, and it remains unlikely that that will change anytime soon, if a company were to venture a new design I believe it could have good potential. The greatest shortcomings of most .25 pocket guns are their nearly useless sights, low capacities and the incorporation of outdated design features. If a new .25 ACP pocket pistol were to come to market that featured a lightweight polymer frame, better iron sights, a double-action trigger and maybe even a double-stack magazine, this otherwise obsolescent cartridge would just maybe make a comeback. If not a comeback, it would at least give guns like the new Ruger LCP MAX a run for their money.
More On Pocket Guns:
- Pocket Pistols: Still Viable For Defense?
- The Fascinating History Of Bicycle Guns
- Classic Pocket Pistol: Colt 1903
- The Ruger LCP MAX New Pocket Pistol
- The Bond Arms PT2A Derringer