Video: The Cane Gun And Clandestine Self-Defense Firearms

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Popular in the mid to late 19th Century, the cane gun was the choice of the well-dressed armed citizen.

Compact, polymer-framed pistols dominate concealed carry nowadays, but it wasn’t always that way. Long before the plastic fantastics and even snubby revolvers, a completely different, arguably odd class of firearms gained favor for everyday carry. Though, in many cases, the guns tended to look like anything but a gun. That was the whole idea.

Popular in the mid to late 19th Century, cane guns and other clandestine firearms were all the rage. Wholly impractical in use, the guns nonetheless gained a toehold among a particular class of armed citizen. In particular, the more gentlemanly types. At the time, the well-dressed man simply did not leave home without a cane. What better accessory to build a gun around? They’d been sticking swords into them for some time, after all.


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Cane gun manufacturers abounded, among the most regarded was Remington. From 1858 until 1888, the company produced nearly 5,000 of the firearms, originally designed by J.F. Thomas. The gunmaker first built .31 and .44 caliber black powder percussion-cap models, later .22 and .32 caliber rimfire versions. In any case, the gun delivered a thief or villain a nasty surprise, biding the owner of the secreted firearm could cock, deploy the hidden trigger and aim before having their head stove-in with a barrel stave or cobblestone. Long odds, but better than nothing.

Canes guns are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to clandestine firearms. Pocketknives, iron keys, writing utensils, pocket watches, belt buckles, you name it, at some point an inventive soul has outfitted the common object with an ignition system and trigger. Sadly, these dual-purpose gadgets typically performed subpar in their original and self-defense roles.

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