.22 Derringer Build Photos

Building guns from scratch isn’t much different than making knives from scratch. The thing is I’ve been making knives for decades, making guns is new and done strictly as a hobby. There’s no pressure to pay the bills and I can take my time and stretch my imagination and skills. Linda supports this fully because it gets the creative juices flowing, and that spills over into my work. This makes me more productive, so it’s all to the good.

Last week Linda bought me a couple of .22 caliber barrel-liners and that got me thinking of projects. Barrel liners are important- it’s legal to make your own guns, but those guns have to conform to legal standards. For a pistol this means a rifled barrel. Since I’m not much inclined to build my own rifling rig this means barrel liners. I drew probably a half-dozen designs for single-shot derringers last week, and Saturday morning I made a trip to the hardware store and then launched into it. Of course I didn’t use any of the designs I’d already sketched out- I did a quick sketch and dragged it into the shop and started making parts based on it. This basically means drawing things on steel with a Sharpy marker and cutting them out on the bandsaw, then refining the shapes on the belt grinder.


I actually started with he barrel-block, a piece of 1/2 x 1-1/2 mild steel. I drilled a 3/8 inch hole in it lengths and then cut it away so the barrel would be exposed.

Side plates were next, cut out of 1/8″ mild steel. The first one was the full-profile of the gun including the grip. I used that to pattern the grip-frame and breech/hinge assembly in 1/4-inch half-hard 5160 spring steel. I also slotted the barrel-block at the front to accept the hinge-lug. Once I had these pieces cut away the grip shape from the 1/8-inch profile and made a second side-plate.

This shows the barrel fitted to the barrel-block.

The barrel-block has been bored through the lug for the hinge pin, and with the pieces fitted together the finished shape has emerged. I’ve also bored a hole under the barrel for a plunger that protrudes into the breech-face to lock the barrel closed. At this point I was about five hours into the build and called it a day.

Sunday morning first thing was to drill and pin the interior frame parts to the right side-plate. These were then silver-soldered in place to form the gun’s frame. Now I could get started on the internal parts… We will draw the curtains of charity of the next several hours. Suffice it to say I made three hammers, two triggers and three mainsprings before I had to admit that a leaf-type mainspring simply wasn’t going to work without a significant design change. Well, if you can’t go forward…

…try going sideways. I’d purchased some music-wire on my Saturday-morning hardware-store trip, and after a half-dozen attempts I’d wound the spring pictured above. I relieved the side of the hammer to accommodate the new spring, cut an anchor-hole in the grip-frame and I was back in business. This picture shows the hammer at rest.

At half-cock the trigger springs forward from the shroud.

…and remains exposed when the hammer is brought to full-cock.

Here the second side-plate and the barrel-block are fitted. The Allen-head hammer pivot screw has been flattened and slotted for a screw-driver. This will eventually be done for the barrel-block hinge screw as well.

At full cock the trigger is exposed just enough to pull it comfortably- about 3/32″

Here’s the gun with the barrel-block open. There will be a pin protruding from the slot on the barrel block to depress the plunger to open it for loading.

With the barrel in the closed position. At this point it’s effectively done except for fitting the firing-pin, final fitting and finishing, and of course making the grips.

People keep asking if I plan to get a manufacturer’s license so I can sell these guns. Nope. For one thing it would spoil the hobby aspect. For another it’s a hassle, but there is a more compelling reason. At this point I am fifteen hours into this build. Likely there will be another 10-12 hours before it is actually finished. 25-27 hours of work at my hourly rate would make even a simple pistol like this absurdly expensive, and the finished quality and function of the gun would in no way justify that price.

These projects are and will remain firmly in the realm of the hobbyist; they are interesting and fun to build. I learn a lot and it gets the creative juices flowing, which is a good thing. But honestly I can buy a much better gun than I can build, and at a fraction of the cost once my time is counted into the price.

From here out this build will be progressing piece-meal, and hour here and there. I’ll eventually do up another post once it’s finished, but that could be awhile.

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