Monthly Archives: June 2020

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.


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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Ghost Story

I like the AR15 platform. Like many of my generation I was introduced to it by Uncle Sam, so I am intimately familiar with it’s operation and maintenance. I’ve owned a couple over the years. One I passed along because of financial need; self-employment is a fickle mistress. The other was a gun I assembled based on a .410 upper that proved to be just too problematic, and with a profound lack of foresight I sold off the lower I had assembled along with the .410 upper; A decision I have regretted several times since.

Since then I have thought of assembling another, but there was always a higher priority. The other week Linda finally got tired of me mentioning it and said, “just do it already,” so I started looking at lower receivers. You can get a well-made lower for well under $100; in fact the Aero Precision unit I was considering goes for about $60 locally. But then I came across something that intrigued me… A Tennessee Arms Hybrid 80 receiver, a polymer lower with metal inserts at stress points, with finishing jig for around the same price. Hmmm…

For those not in the know an ‘80% Receiver’ is simply not finished; generally the assembly-pin holes and space for the trigger mechanism are solid metal, making it ‘not a firearm.’ These can be transferred, sold, shipped through the mail etc. because it’s not a gun… yet. Basically anyone can get one, and with a certain minimum of tools and skill can turn it into a lower receiver (the essential part that ATF considers a gun.) Citizens of the US are allowed to make a gun for personal use, provided they comply with all federal and state laws regarding ownership of the specific type of weapon.

These have become quite popular with folks that don’t like the idea of the government knowing about their weapons, or to circumvent ill-considered or poorly written laws in some places. This has caused the media to create the term ‘Ghost Gun,’ referring to the fact that they are not tracked or registered, and there is an entirely spurious thought that criminals will be all over this idea. They aren’t; it’s far too easy to obtain weapons that are illegally imported or sold by the small minority of crooked gun dealers.

My interest was simply curiosity. How hard is it to finish one of these? I decided this would make a worthy project and went and bought one. Unfortunately I bought it from an aftermarket supplier; if I had bought it directly from Tennessee Arms it would have come with the appropriate drill bits and end-mill to finish it… and instructions. Mine didn’t. I looked it up online, and as you might guess it’s not rocket science. In the interest of seeing how hard it was with sub-optimum tools I decided to give it ago. Worst case I’d simply buy the Aero Precision lower I was intending to anyway.

Polymer lowers are often sneered at by the AR cognoscenti, but I checked and these have a good rep for reliability and durability. Since this is mainly a ‘fun gun’ that I won’t be running enormous amounts of ammo through I figure it will do, and as I said above, worst case I can buy a proper one. Anyway the polymer is much, much easier to work with than aluminum.

Don’t need to get into a serious tutorial here; there are plenty of those on Youtube. I’ll walk you though the process with photos.

Here’s the lower as it arrives, in the single-use polymer finishing template. Above it are the provided screws and nuts to clamp the jig over the receiver. The template is made from the same material as the part, and it’s quite a snug fit, which is good.
There are five tabs with pin-holes in them, and the first step is to drill these out to accept the screws. I used a 5/32″ bit for this.
After drilling I used needle-nose pliers to hold the nut while I installed the screws. These need to be very snug, but you don’t need to go nuts tightening them down.
here’s the top view, showing the area that will become the well for the trigger mechanism.
This is the part set up in my milling vice. This is a pretty fancy vise, but any simple 2-axis milling vice that is large enough will do. If you don’t have one a pair of strong hands on a stable base can manage it, but using the vice is a lot better. One big advantage of the jig is that it makes it very easy to clamp the irregularly-shaped receiver in place.
Here’s another view. I’m using a 5/16″ Cobalt bit, which is seriously overkill for this polymer, but it’s what I had on-hand.
The next step is to drill a series of holes in the space defined by the jig. These should be as close together as possible. The end result needs to be 1.22″ deep, but i decided to take it in stages, and initially had the drill press set for 1/2″ of penetration. It’s necessary to blow the debris from drilling out regularly to be able to see what you are doing.
Once the holes are drilled I began using the drill-bit to knock out the web between the holes. I used the vice to move the piece back and fourth while I gradually cut the webs down about 1/16″ at a time until I hit my 1.2″ depth.
After that I set the drill press for 1.21″ of depth. Rinse and repeat. The bottom was somewhat uneven, of course, so I took the drill bit to the belt grinder, sharpened it with a totally flat point and went back over everything, smoothing out the bottom and sides.
Now it was time to use the provided piece to locate and drill a hole for the trigger to pass through into the trigger-guard. The provided guide fits into the top of the jig. The instructions I saw said to use tape to hold it, but what the hell. It’s a single-use jig, so I just used a few drops of super-glue. I found a drill bit that fit the hole and drilled a hole in either end of the slot, then used the vise and bit to gnaw the web out between the holes.
The final step was to drill the hole for the safety and the trigger pins. The jig has the drill bit size clearly marked. There are two 5/32″ and one 3/8″ hole on each side. Do not drill all the way through from one side to the other! If the drill bit wanders it will ruin the part. Drill the holes part-way through from one side, them flip the jig and drill from the other.

I deliberately left a little extra material in the bottom of the trigger-mechanism well; it’s easier to remove material than to add it! When the trigger assembly arrives I’ll see if it works or if I need to go a hair deeper.

I did do some finishing work inside the well. Initially I used a sanding drum, but this wasn’t ideal. I wound up using a carbide bur to remove some of the roughness, and it’s looking pretty good.

This kit is bare-bones, and does not come with any of the lower receiver parts. I got a kit from Aero Precision for $27 with all of the pins. etc. needed. I was able to install the front assembly pin, the magazine release and bolt-stop, but the safety and rear assembly pin require the grip and stock to be mounted to secure them, so I’ll have to wait for those parts to arrive.

Here’s the finished lower… as finished as it can be before more parts arrive.

Once all the bits get we’ll talk what I’ve decided to build and why, and about assembling the gun… then we’ll see if it works!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 14 June 2020

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I Do Like A Challenge…

The first pistol I made in my shop- just to see if I could. Chambered in .45 ACP, I now shoot the milder .450 Adams through it. Saves wear and tear on both of us...

So Linda has procured a fine pair of mouse-guns for my birthday (don’t worry, full report on each inbound!) and we were discussing this the other week. At one point she got a thoughtful look on her face and said, “I want to see you make the smallest gun you can.”

Regular readers are probably aware that I’ve made single-shot pistols before, so this was definitely in my wheelehouse. We negotiated the terms. I insisted it be in a real caliber- no 2.7mm pinfire or any of that nonsense- and it must be at least arguably useful. ‘Arguably Useful’ in this case meaning large enough to be easily operated, and to be at least potentially lethal.

Challenge accepted.

The sensible thing to do would have been to draw up a plan, make some templates to cut out the parts, organize the materials I needed and make sure everything was five by five. Naturally I didn’t do that.

For reasons I have never been able to grasp people seem to be in the habit of buying a new Ruger 10/22 rifle and immediately replacing the perfectly good factory barrel. I don’t know why; maybe they think they can shoot better than the factory barrel, and maybe a tiny percentage of them can. I think it’s the Lego factor myself. It’s easy to change, and by changing it it’s personalized (better!) Whatever the reason it means there are a lot of stock 10/22 barrels on the aftermarket, and it’s pretty easy to pick them up cheap if you look around a little. This is a Good Thing.

This is a good thing because not only are these perfectly good barrels, they are seriously stout. I am about 99% sure you could re-chamber these for 5.56mm and it would be just fine. This means there is a lot of material to work with. I cut a short section of barrel (about 1-3/8″) and squared it off on the belt grinder, with the bore off-center towards the top. I had a vague plan to make this a swing-barrel (opening to the side) and wanted to leave room for the screw that would secure it to the frame. I used a .22 chamber reamer on one end, mounting it in a T-handle and carefully reaming by hand until the chamber would accept a .22 Short cartridge.

I need to apologize, and now is as good a time as any. Usually doing a build like this I take copious photographs and walk you through the process step by step. I didn’t this time. I was caught up in the challenge and it simply didn’t occur to me until it was too late. I started writing this as a tutorial anyway, but it’s just to complicated, long, and hard to understand without reference photos. Basically I followed the same steps as in the .22 magnum build, only without drawing up plans. You can read about that here if you like:

Without proper plans to work from I just built this by TLAR (That Looks About Right.) There was significant trial-and-error involved too; it was a trail, and mostly in error. But in the end, four hammers, two triggers and six springs later, it was done.

So, without further ado… the pictures!

Yep. It’s small. I wear a size 6 glove, so my hands are big, but not huge. Despite it’s tininess it’s easy to handle and manipulate this gun.
Here’s a somewhat more universal size comparison- a .45 Colt cartridge. Did I mention this gun is tiny?
To load the gun, place it on half-cock, rotate the lock 180 degrees forward and swing the cylinder out to the left.
The right side shows the assembly screws, and the ends of the tubular pins for the trigger and hammer. There’s one more assembly screw under the bottom of the grip panel.
Here’s the innards- what little there is of them. Hammer, trigger, mainspring, trigger-return spring. That’s all there is. The mainspring is made in two parts- the spring and a helper spring. Ignition isn’t 100% reliable, but seems to be getting better as things wear in. If it doesn’t get to 100% fairly quickly I’ll be making a more powerful single spring.
Here’s all the bits. The assembly screws are cylindrical, and threaded through both the frame and side-plate. Rather than removing them to disassemble the gun you simply back them out from the right side until they release the sideplate. You can’t lose them that way. Of course you have to remove the right grip-panel to access the one on the grip frame, and there’s nothing to keep you from losing the grip screw…
Here’s the micro next to Linda’s Colt Junior .25, itself normally considered a very small gun.
OK, I never expected this to be a target gun, but I’d hoped to do a little better at a mere three yards… Whether you try to aim or just quickly point-shoot the results are about the same. I think with practice I’ll improve, but guns like this have always been a contact-distance proposition, so it’s all just in fun.

While the gun is quite stout enough to handle .22 LR, I chose to make it a .22 Short. Tradition, I guess, since the original guns of this type fired this cartridge. Of course then it was just called .22 Rim Fire, because it was the only .22 there was.

I’m using CCI .22 CB Short Low Noise ammunition. This propels a 29gr. bullet at 710fps. from a rifle, so it pretty much duplicates the performance of the original black powder load. I’ll tell you this, though- it is very much not ‘low noise’ from a 1-3/8″ barrel!

I was actually quite surprised by this ammo’s performance. My first test-shot in my shop (where I discovered the whole ‘not quiet’ thing) was fired into a pressure treated 4×4 at a distance of about 5 feet. I didn’t expect much, but the base of the bullet was just over 1-1/2″ deep in the wood! If I’d had any thoughts that this was a toy they would have vanished right then.

Not that this is a good, or even adequate gun for self-defense. It might, under just the right (seriously unlikely) circumstances, prove useful in the role. Fortunately that’s not the point of this gun; the point was the challenge which, even Linda was quick to admit, was met.

So, I’ll iron out the wrinkles, and once I am happy that it’s all right and proper I’ll rust blue it, and maybe replace the ‘randomwood’ grips with something nice and make it a clever little wooden box to live in. But one thing is certain… I will be shooting it and trying to improve.

After all… I do like a challenge.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 13 June 2020

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