2.7mm Kolibri Semiauto at RIA

Today’s item at the September Rock Island auction is an example of the smallest centerfire pistol ever made – a 2.7mm Kolibri semiauto. About a thousand of these were made between 1910 and 1914, firing a 3-grain projectile at about 650 fps (for a total of 3 ftlb of muzzle energy). It may be insanely impractical, but it’s a great piece of mechanical art – and it comes with 7 rounds of ammo!

21 Comments

  1. 3 Ft/Lb of energy? You get more when you’re poked with a finger, surely? A masterpiece of precision engineering, sure, but WHY? These days it’s the kind of thing a company would do just for the manufacturing challenge: was that the reasoning behind this? Any more history about these?

  2. The doing so small working firearm as possible has long tradition (see for example Remington Rider Derringer – literally cap&ball – without powder, various 2mm pinfire weapons and modern Swiss Mini Gun firing 2.34mm rimfire cartridge), but the center-fire is rather unusual choice, apparently the pinfire or rimfire must be more friendly in so tiny cartridges.
    IIRC the Kolibri pistols have smooth barrel bore, due to lack of machines ables to rifle so small bore, anyone can approve or deny that?
    Is the bullet of 2.7mm Kolibri (.11 diameter) FMJ or monolith?

    • 2.7mm was smoothbore, but 4.25mm was rifled. Remember, 4.25mm is .17 caliber, and in Germany, air rifles were popular for target shooting even then, so rifling bores in that range was considered a standard job for gunmakers.

      Bullets in 2.7mm were solid IIRC. 4.25mm could be either jacketed or straight lead.

      I could see the 4.25 being a serious wounder if you hit the other guy just right. The 2.7 would likely only be noticed if you hit him in the eye with it.

      As long as we’re talking micro-automatics, I’ve often wondered why no one has ever made a 5mm Remington version of one of the .22s, like the Walther TPH. At that caliber range, velocity is your main component of KE and thus hitting power.

      A 5mm RM load would have to be tailored for the short barrel, as it wouldn’t have the rifle-length barrel to get its velocity up. But given the right powder and charge, a 5mm slug traveling at over 1,200 FPS could be an unpleasant surprise for an assailant. Especially a hollow cavity bullet or a monolithic bronze one, the latter for defeating protective vests, as per the Russian 5.45 x 18mm PSM pistol. Which counts as a “micro-pistol” itself, actually.

      cheers

      eon

      • “I’ve often wondered why no one has ever made a 5mm Remington version of one of the .22s, like the Walther TPH.”
        I suspect that 5mm Remington is too long to be used in existing .22LR firearms:
        according to municion.org
        cartridge – overall length (mm)
        .22LR – 22.79
        .25ACP – 22.83
        5mm Remington – 31.64
        .22WMR – 34.01
        I suspect that 5mm Remington could be more easily used in pocket revolver than pocket automatic pistol. I think that 5mm Remington revolver could be obtained by converting the .22WMR revolver – changing cylinder and barrel. Cylinder should has less capacity and therefore thicker walls to handle bigger pressure xor be made from material with higher ultimate tensile strength.

        • The problem with a bottlenecked cartridge in a revolver is that case expansion in firing tends to make the case “set back” against the recoil shield, binding and often preventing cylinder rotation. This was one of the main complaints with the S&W Model 53 in .22 Remington Jet.

          It might work in a single-action like the NAA Mini Revolver, as the single-action thumb-cock allows the shooter to exert more leverage on the hand to “break” the case head free of the recoil shield. Assuming the hand doesn’t break its nose, that is.

          cheers

          eon

          • The .22 Remington Jet don’t work properly in revolvers, but it don’t mean that all bottleneck work with flaw in revolvers. The .22 Jet has unusual case shape, similar to French 8x50R Lebel. For example .38-40 W.C.F was chambered in Colt Peacemaker and Colt New Service revolvers. I am not aware about lower reliability of .38-40 than others. Also note the .224 Kay-Chuk wildcat cartridge used in revolvers conversions.

    • The 2.7 and 3.x mm caliber guns were smoothbores but only because they shot round bird shot as projectiles. There have been .10″ caliber rifles made for small game that used .22 short and long rifle cases to hold the propellant. There is no trouble at all to rifle even smaller bores than that, but why bother? The round shot is perfectly accurate enough to match the miniature gun and shooter’s abilities.

  3. I could have so much fun with one of those, like a back yard bug-hunting mini-safari! I have a Winchester Model 36 in 9mm rimfire. With #12 shot, it’s hell on hornets and really tightens up the wingshooting skills.

    • You can get a similar muzzle energy out of a .177 cal pellet CO2 pistol, and with better ergonomics one might actually hit something… But I agree the Kolibri would be very fun as a curiosity, and shooting one on a public range would really make some heads turn.

  4. These small caliber pistols were designed as parlour guns to be shot for entertainment purposes after your Sunday feast in your “Wohnzimmer” – lounge room. Then along came home movies, television, tape decks, DVD recorders….etc.,

      • I’m with category 2; a 1911 designed for .45 ACP that can fire and cycle .25 ACP or smaller.

        Why try to shoot something that gets lost in your hand?

        • The old .22 Conversion Unit for the 1911 is still hard to beat for either serious practice or as a small-game gun. Small game defined as “a .45 slug would destroy most of the edible meat”.

          I’ve always though a 1911 with a spare .22 unit was a decent choice as a survival gun, for aircrew etc. Self-defense and foraging in one package.

          cheers

          eon

          • I thought the same thing but the traditional conversions all replace the whole slide assembly and are BIG to carry as a survival gun accessory. So I built one that uses the original slide and only replaces the barrel and magazine The conversion will fit in a standard magazine pouch. I thought that would be winning combination but then .22RF ammo became expensive/near extinction and I didn’t have the resources to do any more than prototype it so maybe not….

            Heh, maybe someday Ian can show it in Forgotten Weapons LOL

  5. Hi,

    Could someone help me in figuring out the fine details of how the 2.7mm Kolibri works?
    Specifically how the slide fits into the frame and how the trigger bar disconnects from the sear. Some close up photographs would be great, but is there anyone out there that has one of these and also possesses the balls and patience to have disassembled it?
    Bob Urso’s ‘The tiniest guns’ has been helpful but there are still a few details that are unclear, and contrary to popular belief, Google does not have all the answers.

    Regards and thank you in advance

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