Colt’s Model 1908 “Vest Pocket”

Colt’s Model 1908 “Vest Pocket”

Launched in 1908 and in production for forty years, over 400,000 of these tiny Colt semi-automatic pistols came out of the Hartford factory. I decided to put a few hundred rounds through one at the range to see how it stacks up to the myriad of pocket pistols that are being sold over a century after this gun’s introduction. This particular gun shipped from the Colt factory in June of 1930 to a dealer in Chicago, and it’s not bad looking for pushing 90 years old.

The first thing you notice about the Vest Pocket is that it’s tiny. This is what full-framed Colts and Rugers produce when they’re left unsupervised. John Browning’s brilliant design eschews parts like the slide release, opting instead to use a rotating barrel to lock and unlock the slide. The magazine, about the size of a pack of chewing gum, only holds six rounds of the tiny .25 ACP rounds (with a seventh in the chamber). And for those who have ever complained that a Glock 26 doesn’t provide enough to hold onto … the Vest Pocket’s diminutive size makes shooting beyond 10 yards a real effort.

What surprised me the most about this gun, though, was not how difficult it was to shoot (to its credit, it’s more manageable than it would seem at first). It wasn’t even the ergonomics of trying to release the magazine (held in place with a little catch on the bottom of the grip). No, it was the fact that the gun shot low. Really low.

At 10 yards, shooting with a standard 6 o’clock hold was putting rounds consistently 5″ below the bullseye. Moving up to center hold only brought the rounds up an inch or so. I’m not sure if this is a problem with this specific gun, but anyone silly enough to actually consider using this for anything other than a range lark should be aware that the sighting aids are a loose approximation at best.

But this gripe aside, the Vest Pocket is a surprisingly manageable gun. The backstop safety works unobtrusively, the trigger breaks at about 6 pounds, and the little Colt medallions in the grips remind you that this is a gun whose brethren include the great Colt single action revolvers, the legendary percussion revolvers, and Colt’s venerable 1911.

From left to right: .25 ACP, .32 ACP and .44 Magnum.

The .25 ACP round that this gun chambers was designed for the Fabrique Nationale M1905 pistol that the Colt was patterned after. It’s an odd little thing; somewhat shorter and more rotund than the ubiquitous .22 LR round, and most commonly associated with the Bryco Jennings “Saturday night special” pistols that became the bane of police evidence rooms. One has to look to the dusty back shelves of gun stores that have been around for a while to find this ammo, and the price makes a range trip with the Vest Pocket a somewhat pricier affair (in line with the .44 Magnum rounds I was also shooting that day).

It’s tough to call the Vest Pocket a range toy since its dubious sights and ergonomic complexities make shooting it a trying affair. All the same, it’s a worthy addition to any gun collection, and its quality of manufacture remains a testament to Colt’s manufacturing prowess of yore.