American Derringer in 10mm Auto, a hideout with a bite

First, a little history. The term derringer is a misspelling of the last name of Henry Deringer due to Remington holding the trademark on Henry Derringer’s name. Henry Derringer was a 19th-century gunsmith that specialized in pocket guns. Originally Henry Deringer’s handgun was a single barreled muzzle loader. Though the derringer started out as single shot muzzle loader  when self contained cartridges came about the transition to rimfire .40 caliber bullets were chambered in the little handgun. Remington was the first to introduce the double barreled Derringers in a .41 Short. As modern designs became more reliable and easy to use the derringer gained popularity due to its compact size and easy of concealment. It was favored by women as it could be easily hid in a small purse, hand muff, or clothing.

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It can be argued if the derringer is a viable defensive weapon, but in my opinion anything capable of reliability firing a cartridge has some merit for defense.

When it comes to derringers, the biggest compromise is usually caliber. In this case, caliber is absolutely not the compromise. Most true pocket guns run from .22 to .38 caliber and from 2-6 rounds.

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With the American Derringer you are limited to carrying two rounds but they are for sure attention getters. Of course there is the option to reload but that takes a little time and some skill to do quickly.

So, the compromise on this pocket pistol is capacity. Due to the compact nature of the derringer they afford minimal purchase during shooting. With lesser calibers and a solid technique this is not really an issue. When you take the same derringer and chamber it in high pressure cartridges, such as the 10mm Auto, firing it becomes a bit of an adventure. I am and have been an avid shooter most of my natural born life and have shot some very powerful handguns and rifles. Recoil generally does not bother me. Now the .358 Norma Magnum did not take too long to get tired of but that is a whole different story.

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Here you see the hammer in half cock, with the safety bar engaged. This is how the derringer is considered  to be safely carried while loaded. When the hammer is cocked, the safety automatically disengages.

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The take down lever is serrated to aid in a keeping your finger in contact as you swivel it 180 degrees to unlock the barrels.

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Here is the lever rotated and the barrels opened showing the chambers. You can see the two firing pins.

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The rear sight is shown here between the hinge the barrels pivot on.

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The front sight blade is part of the barrel. The front sight was designed to aid in very close range shooting, being able to hook the sight under the ribcage and keep the gun in place when you fire it into some unlucky dude’s belly.

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The rear of the grip, though it is small, it is wide enough to help fill your hand. Some serrations inside the front strap would help with keeping the little derringer handled. I expect the serrations would have to be light and not very aggressive to keep from chewing your hand up

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The trigger without any sort of trigger guard. I can understand no trigger guard as it is a single action but I would of liked to see some serrations on the trigger.

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I offered just a few suggestions that may, or may not, make much of a difference but over all the American Derringer is a solid and handsome defensive handgun.

Initial Range Trip

I took a few dozen rounds to the range to get in a little time with this derringer as I was wrapping up another test.  There really is no reliability issue with this handgun, as it either works or does not. There were no issues with shooting or reloading. The little 10mm worked and worked as it should. It is a single action, so cocking the hammer makes it live and pulling the trigger drops the hammer and sets it off. Pulling the hammer back again moves a lever and pulling the trigger again fires the other barrel. With that said, shooting this derringer, with full house 10mm Auto rounds is not, well, fun. It is as if someone smacks you in the palm of the hand with a wooden spoon. Some lesser loads were not that bad but then you are missing the whole point of this defensive handgun. I ran about six rounds through this derringer as quick as I could reload it and that smack began to become noticeable. After a few more rounds I had decided that was enough for today and wrapped it up.

I had shot from twenty to thirty yards and it was not a real problem to keep all the rounds in a six inch circle. Normally, that would be sub par accuracy for a handgun but considering what this one was designed for and the rudimentary sights I felt if that was plenty enough accuracy to be satisfied.

Second Range Trip

Headed out to wrap up the Derringer review with Clinton Jamieson and J Terry. We shot the little derringer across the chronograph and surprisingly enough the Hornady 200gr XTP measured 905 feet per second which was only 178 fps velocity loss as chronographed through a Glock 20 Gen 3. The 180gr XTP measured 965  fps which was 197 fps velocity loss. We also tried a few more factory rounds and reloads and we were loosing less than 200 fps on average.  Standing at twenty- five feet we were all able to get two rounds inside of a six inch circle without much of an issue other than recoil.

After we all had a few turns with the Derringer there were about fifty rounds through the little handgun. It held up just fine even with my hot reloads but was still not a great deal of fun to shoot.

J Terry’s opinion

Having never shot a 10mm nor a Derringer, this experience was new to me on many levels.  I like to think I’m comfortable with mechanical things, but this hand cannon had me nervous.  The expected controls like safety or breach release were either non-existent or in an unfamiliar location.  I expected this thing would operate like an over & under shotgun.

With a 180 degree counter clockwise rotation of the breach release, the two 10mm barrels swung open.  They looked like two hungry baby birds waiting for daddy to feed them some Hornady 180 grain worms.  So I did.

I closed the breach and cocked the hammer back on this stainless steel single action only pistol, then took a deep breath.  With a light squeeze of the trigger, I sent the projectile towards the target followed by a fireball big enough to roast a marshmallow.  The muzzle flipped about 30 degrees upward, but the sights were right back on target for my follow up shot.

I was on paper at 7 yards, but who’s really looking for anything more with this platform.
While the recoil was substantial, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  The heft of this piece and muzzle flip seemed to take some of the sting away.  I didn’t realize how strong the recoil was until the next day, when I went to push myself out of my office chair.  The palm of my dominant hand feels like it was hit by a hammer.  Four rounds out of this thing had me wishing for a rubberized over mold on the grip.

For someone familiar with the Derringer platform, this could be a great carry piece due to its simplicity and profile.  The safety, when engaged, automatically disengages when the hammer is cocked.  For a quick draw, the shooter could hold the trigger down during the draw and slap the hammer with a strong stroke of the thumb.  As long as the shooter could hold onto the gun, a follow up shot could be just as quick.

In conclusion, the 10mm American Derringer felt solid and fired hard, but the lack of trigger guard and grip material makes this a range toy for me.


This handgun is a strictly defensive firearm for deep concealment. It is designed to bring the most powerful cartridge you can fit in the smallest package that will still function reliable and hold together.  While it is easily concealed and works exactly as it is designed, it is not particularly comfortable to shoot more than a few times. I seriously doubt you will see any in the local pistol matches as it only holds two rounds and is not what I would consider target gun accurate. Carry guns are always a compromise on something and the compromises on this particular firearm are to facilitate easy of concealment. As my father would say “this is a get the hell off of me gun” and I agree.  It would also be a good option for a back up gun, especially if your primary gun was also chambered in 10mm Auto. Carrying a spare magazine would allow the ability to reload this piece if need be. So, truthfully I think where this firearm would really shine is a back up deep concealment handgun to your 10mm Auto primary carry.

Update, ballistic test

I got several email requests to do a ballistic test using a few of the 10mm rounds I have tested in the past. You can see the results of the 10mm Auto ballistic test and compare that data to what I have found here.  Follow this link

10mm derringer ballistic


From left to right: 200gr Hornady, 180gr Hornady, 155gr Speer Gold Dot, 180gr Speer Gold Dot, Federal 180gr FMJ.

Note, the Speer Gold Dots are those loaded by Georgia Arms. The 180gr began to expand and the 155 expanded a bit and a few petals were torn off.

The reason several of these bullets penetrated deeper than when fired from the Glock 20 was no expansion so less drag as it passed through the gel. The exception was the Federal 180gr FMJ which penetrated both blocks of gel and exited the rear of the gel when shot through the Glock 20.

Rounds with the * by the inches denotes the bullet tumbled and the bullet was found in the gel backwards


Weight: 1 pound 3 ounces

Height: 3.6 inches

Length: 5 inches

Width: 1.3 inches

Caliber: 10mm Auto

Capacity: 2

Action: single

Trigger pull: 5 pounds

Materials: stainless steel

Stocks: wooden

MSRP: $660


JC’s Firearms





By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

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