A Tale of Two Mouse-Guns, Pt.1

I’m not sure when I first heard the term ‘Mouse-Gun’ but it was a long time ago. This is the term often used to describe very small pistols. There’s some disagreement on the exact meaning; some say it’s because they are tiny. Others less charitably say it’s because they aren’t much good for shooting anything larger than a mouse…

The mouse-gun has been touted as ‘the gun you carry when you aren’t carrying a gun.’ It’s a deep concealment, last-ditch point-blank weapon. I’m going to be featuring two mouse-guns from opposite ends of the 20th Century, starting in the latter part.

The tiny but elegant Baby Browning, chambered in .25 ACP- the epitome of the mouse gun breed.

For the first two thirds of the 20th C. these guns were quite popular, and after WW1 they were pretty much all semi-automatics. Huge numbers of these guns were imported to the United States, mostly from Germany, Spain and Belgium. Most were in 6.35mm/.25 ACP, but they were also commonly chambered in .22 LR or even .22 Short. They were pretty marginal as fight-stoppers, but they had the advantage of being very, very concealable. Sometimes considered ‘Ladies Guns,’ they were often enough to be found discreetly tucked in a policeman’s pocket, or the vest pocket of a businessman.

The quality of these guns ranged from the rather awful ‘Baby Ruby’ to the exquisite Walther TPH and Baby Browning. After the gun Control Act of 1968 (under the misapprehension that these gun were favored by criminals) importing these tiny weapons was prohibited. Limited production continued in the United States, and does so even to this day, but by and large these guns have fallen out of favor, with the curious exception of the miniature single-action revolvers made by North American Arms. But that’s a subject for it’s own post.

Seecamp

In 1981 German-born gunsmith Ludvig Wilhelm Seecamp, maker of a double-action conversion of the 1911, went into manufacturing with the small Seecamp LWS25.

This gun resurrected and adapted the double-action only mechanism of the CZ36 and CZ45. These guns acted like a hammerless revolver; the trigger cocked the hammer for each shot, while conventional DA autos only require a double-action pull for the first shot, after which the slide cocks the hammer. Double-action-only semi-auto pistols are rather common today, but in 1981 it was considered revolutionary. The LWS25 was also fairly unique in that, being designed for close-range defensive work, it had not even the pretense of sights.

The Seecamp LWS25, a revolutionary and remarkably compact DAO pistol

The all-stainless LWS25 was quite petite, and was very finely fitted and finished. They were expensive compared to other guns in this niche, but were reliable and of such high quality that they developed a boutique following. Somewhere around five thousand of them were produced over four years, but in 1985 came the gun that really put Seecamp on the map- the LWS32.

The new gun was basically the old gun, but instead of seven rounds of 25ACP it carried six rounds of .32 ACP. While the .32 was nobody’s idea of a powerhouse, it was viewed as a big step up from the .25. What set the Seecamp apart from others of it’s ilk was that it was exactly the same size as the LWS25!

The main difference, other than caliber, was that unlike the straight-blowback .25, the .32 uses a retarded-blowback system. This consists of a recessed ring in the chamber. When the gun is fired the brass of the cartridge deforms into the ring around the interior of the chamber, and the extractor must ‘straighten out’ the brass as it pulls it out, which dramatically slows down the slide’s velocity and does a remarkable job of softening the felt recoil. Without this not only would the gun be markedly unpleasant to fire, it would quickly beat itself to death.

In the early 2000s the LWS380 was introduced, and again it was the same dimensions as the original .25, albeit slightly thicker. While production of the .25 had ceased in 1985, the .32 and .380 remained in production until relatively recently. Seecamp still exists, and still provides magazines and spare parts for these tiny pistols.

The LWS32

The gun we’ll be looking at is the .32 caliber version of this pistol. I had a choice of the .32 ACP or .380 versions of this pistol, and opted for the .32; I have trouble imagining that the .380 would be pleasant to fire…

This particular gun was made in 1996, and came with it’s original box and literature. Overall it’s in very good condition except for some slight scuffing along the sides of the slide, probably from pocket-carry. While waiting for the state to approve the purchase I ordered a spare magazine from Seecamp, which arrived promptly. At $35 dollars a pop, these are not inexpensive, but not out of line for such an unusual firearm.

My LWS32, with an Alessi pocket holster, spare magazine and original packaging. The Alessi holster is a bonus, especially as it’s pretty much exactly what I would have made for this gun.

I have rather large hands, so it is surprising to me just how comfortable it is to hold and use this tiny gun. The trigger is long like a double action revolver and around 10 lbs, but it smooth enough that you don’t really notice. There is some slight stacking just before release, but I never notice it when firing this pistol.

The fit and finish of this gun, inside and out, is excellent, and it feels like a solid, quality firearm… which it is. The gun weighs 11.2 ounces empty, and 12.7 oz. loaded with six rounds. It’s no featherweight, but honestly, as small as it is you really wouldn’t want it to weigh less when firing .32 ACP.

Packing a comparatively large cartridge in such a tiny package does require some compromises. One is the heel-magazine release; reloading requires two hands to extract the magazine. The magazine does not drop free; you have to push the lever back while hooking a nail in the cut-out in the front of the grip-frame and drag the magazine out. It works, and while it’s not ideal there simply isn’t anywhere to put a button-style release. Honestly on a last-ditch, point-blank defensive firearm I don’t think this is a huge issue.

Another compromise is the ammunition. The gun requires hollow-point ammunition. Ball is a bit longer and can jam in the magazine, a consequence of trying to fit a .32 ACP magazine in a space designed around a .25 ACP. When the gun was introduced the only commercial hollow-point that was widely available was the Winchester Silvertip, and originally they specified that as the only ammo to use in the gun. Since it was intended from the outset as a defensive arm it makes a certain amount of sense. Their website now has a list of cartridges that have tested as being acceptable.

The LWS32 with a quarter for size comparison.

The slide does not lock back on an empty magazine; there just isn’t room for a slide stop. This isn’t a deal killer, but it is a mark on the ‘Con’ side of the equation.

The one feature I find genuinely irritating is the magazine safety. It not only blocks the trigger, but it does not allow the slide to be withdrawn more than a 1/2″ or so, and trying to force it can damage the gun. This makes unloading a bit of a job; you need to release the magazine, pull it down approximately 1/4″, then you can rack the slide to eject the cartridge without loading another from the magazine. It feels unsafe, though it really isn’t; keep your finger well away from the trigger and all will be well. Alternately if this process concerns you you can remove the magazine and insert an unloaded magazine before racking the slide to empty the chamber.

Here’s another compromise: you’ll need to look up how to field strip this pistol… you’re not going to guess, so save yourself some time and don’t try. I’m not going to get into it here, but once you know the trick it’s not difficult, and reassembly is even easier. It is recommended to keep the gun, especially the chamber, clean, and keep the slide lubricated where it rubs against the frame to avoid the stainless surfaces galling. The Seecamp is a high-maintenance mistress, but treat her right and she will take care of you in turn.

The field-stripped gun. There are two nested recoil springs, with the inside one being the shorter of the two. This is as far as you need to go for routine maintenance, and you very much need to do routine maintenance. if the chamber is allowed to get too dirty residue can fill the chamber ring, and without that slowing things down the gun can damage itself when firing.

Go On Then, Tinker- How is it to Shoot?

I gotta tell you, it’s kinda’ brilliant. Anyone used to firing a revolver double-action will have no issues with the trigger; it’s really quite nice. Recoil is surprisingly mild, and overall it’s a quite pleasant gun to fire.Out of over fifty rounds fired there was not a hint of an issue.

The gun is made to point-shoot at close range, so initially I ran the target out to three yards and, gripping the gun one-handed, dumped two magazines rapid-fire. Well… they were all on the paper.

Even at three yards this is not a precision instrument, but lets face it- three yards is about two yards past the intended range for this gun. Still, a baddy would be pretty unhappy after this…

Ever the optimist I repeated this at seven yards… with predictable results. Hey, some of the bullets hit the paper! I mean, like four, but that’s some. OK, not ready for that yet. I taped the holes, reversed the target to show the bullseye, loaded five rounds, gripped the gun with both hands, and slowed down to see what I could really do.

Four well centered and a flyer touching the black. Not bad for a two-inch barreled, double action pistol with no sights.

There’s some potential here, despite the lack of sights. It’s going to take practice though. I know, I know… this gun is made for arms-length confrontations. but it’s fun to shoot, and I believe I have mentioned that I love a challenge?

This is a gun that demands practice, and with its dietary restrictions that’s going to get expensive fast if you don’t load your own ammo.

Speaking of Ammo…

Ammo can be hard to come by these days, even in lesser used calibers like .32 ACP. Pinto’s had some ball ammo- not good for this gun- and a box of hollow-points… at $21.95 for 20 rounds. Fortunately they also had a box of 100 60gr. XTP bullets for $18.95, and I had brass and reloading dies at home…

I loaded the sixty-grain bullets over 2.6gr. of Universal with a Federal #100 primer. This is supposed to give 1000fps. from a 3.8″ barrel, and maybe it does. From the Seecamp’s 2″ barrel this yielded an average of 727 fps. and 70 ft.lbs of energy. Not impressive, but it beats harsh words.

Feeding this gun is going to be expensive if i keep using hollow-points, but let’s face it, at these kinds of velocities HPs aren’t going to expand anyway. The specification of hollowpoints is to recuse the overall length of the cartridge, so there are alternatives. I have a box of 73gr hard-cast TCL bullets, and I’m going to work up a load for them. The gun will hand-cycle empty cases from the magazine, so I’m really not worried about feeding issues.

Despite the annoying magazine safety, overall I kinda’ love this little gun. After I’m satisfied with it’s reliability it’s likely to spend a lot of pocket-time around the house and shop this summer.

Stay tuned, there’s another, very different mouse gun coming to this page very, very soon.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 18 June 2020

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