Chicago Palm Protector Pistols at RIA

“The Protector” was a very discreet palm pistol developed in the late 1800s by a French inventor, produced in bulk by the Ames Sword Company, and sold by the Chicago Firearms Company. They are mechanically double-action turret revolvers with a unique grip design meant to be to be fired by squeezing. The first few were made in France by the original inventor, and later licensed to an Irish-American who sold them through first the Minneapolis Firearms Company and later the Chicago Firearms Company. Most are in an extra-short .32 caliber rimfire cartridge, but a few were also made in both .41 and .22 calibers. Today I’m taking a look at examples of all three types at Rock Island:

You can see the Rock Island catalog pages here, if you’re interested in bidding on one or all of them:

French made (Systeme Turbiaux)

Minneapolis model

Chicago model


    • That was Jacques Turbiaux’s original U.S. patent, 6 March 1883. It followed previous patents in France, Belgium, England and Italy.

      Peter H. Finnegan, of Austin, Illinois, was granted a further U.S. patent on 29 August 1893, #504,154. This was probably a protective maneuver during the litigation with Ames.

      (Winant, Firearms Curiosa, p. 78.)



  1. Any reports on actual use? Would only seem suited to very close range, but might be good for that – somebody breaks into your train car and charges you with a knife, so aiming isn’t an issue because the muzzle is near or in contact with the attacker when the weapon fires. Seems that if in good order, would be very unlikely to jam or be driven out of battery.

    • Just an opinion on the internet here; but I think the years these came out had a lot to do with it.
      1894-1910 there were a lot of new an exciting auto designs becoming available, something like this may have
      seemed a bit dated. I have to imagine if they had been marketed earlier, perhaps as Mr. Finnigan had intended, they
      might have been more successful. Then again they may have been just a bit too out of the ordinary for the turn of the century.

    • Two obvious advantages over the various Derringers; seven shots vs. one or two, and essentially a “double-action”, not requiring a manual recocking of an external hammer for each shot.

      Also, a dud round wouldn’t jam the gun, any more than it would a conventional DA revolver. This was, and still is, a big advantage over most compact autos.

      I would consider a “Protector” made of modern materials in a sensible caliber (.25 ACP? .32 ACP?) to be a pretty serious self-defense concealed-carry weapon, even today. Most obviously because it could be fired from within the pocket while ostensibly obeying the assailant’s command to hand over your wallet.



      • Yes, it could work that way, but on the other hand it is a little short as a psychological deterrent. It does not look like a gun (unlike even a Derringer), so an attacker would be much less likely to be deterred by one.

        For cartridge I think only .22 Short would enable to preserve the diminutive size and high capacity of the original French design. Modern high velocity .22 Short loadings have a muzzle energy similar or even slightly higher than .25 ACP. This kind of miniature pistols were designed to be better than a pocket knife, but they did not strive to be “reliable” man-stoppers. If you need much more stopping power, get .380 ACP semi-auto or a 5 shot snubnose revolver in .38 Special. Or even a .45 Colt Derringer. They are more likely to be effective with the first shot, but the cost is considerably larger size.

  2. I wonder how many negligent discharges occurred with these since you have pull the trigger to remove the loaded cylinder? Or does the safety allow just enough movement of the hammer?

  3. One of these, apparently an original French Turbiaux, showed up in the movie Sabata (1967) starring Lee Van Cleef. Since it was set in the mid-1880s the pistol wasn’t too far off its “proper time”.

    The 5.5mm Short centerfire round is one I haven’t heard of before. I’m guessing it was a relative of the 5.5mm Velo-Dog centerfire, which was about the size of a .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire in overall length, and certainly wouldn’t have fit in the Turbiuax’s “turret”.

    The .32 Extra Short, according to Barnes, was originally developed for the Remington Magazine Pistol made from 1871 to 1888. Since it had a tubular magazine under its (abbreviated) barrel, it needed a very short OAL cartridge to have a worthwhile capacity- 5 shots in it case. Adapting the .32 Extra Short to the “Protector” would have been obvious, as a standard-length .32 Short would have required a casing about half-an-inch bigger in diameter, and the American-made versions were pretty husky already compared to the French original.

    In Firearms Curiosa, Lewis Winant points out that the Chicago version, while pretty big, wasn’t much larger than the 18-size Waltham Vanguard pocket watch, which was standard issue for railroad conductors and engineers on most of the major American lines in the 1890s. It would fit in a watch pocket- barely.

    Some late Chicago models could be fitted with a double “guard bow” made by John T. Norris of Springfield, Ohio. Besides acting as a “trigger guard” for the safety lever, the guard also made a very effective set of “brass knuckles” if it became necessary to slug the assailant in addition to filling him with .32 caliber lead slugs.

    Oh, BTW, according to the instructions that came with the gun (reproduced on p. 81 of the NRA reprint edition), the finger safety lever is to be pressed by the forefinger. The pivot end of the firing lever rests against the mound of the palm of the hand, and the top of the lever rests in the “V” between the thumb and forefinger. Simply clenching and unclenching the fist would fire the gun, one reason it was also known as a “squeezer”.

    The Ames Sword Co. was well-known as far back as the 1850s for making sabers and ceremonial swords for the U.S. military. In fact, due to their factory being in Chicopee, Mass., “Chicopee saber” was a common nickname for their wares during the American Civil War, according to Jack Coggins (Arms and Equipment of the Civil War, 1964).



  4. Someone is trying to sell something like it: , only as a single shot.

    Suspect that women may have been part of the target market: muffs were common in the Victorian age and these would have hidden in one well. Back in those days, men’s pants had hip pockets (instead of front pockets being a diagonal slash, they were horizontal, just under the belt line, practically built in holsters. Inspector Lestrade (from Sherlock Holmes) “If I’m wearing trousers I have a hip pocket and if I have a hip pocket I have something in it,” or something like that. The point being that a more conventional gun would be more natural for men’s pockets back then, easier to grab a protruding grip than to fish something like a Palm Protector out of a pocket.

  5. I owned a .22 centerfire and a .32 rimfire years ago. I picked both up at a pawn shop in New Orleans in about 1959 or 1960. The .22 used a very weak charge of about 1 1/2 gr of Bullseye with a small pistol primer and was less powerful that a modern .22 short. The .32 rimfire was about as powerful as the S&W .32 short (same cartridge I believe but am not certain)but would definately do damage at close range. The .22 was better made of the two. Both were said to have been owned by a “Sporting House Lady.” I fired both many times … probably over 200 times each. I was told by another owner of a .32 in Natchez, Mississippi, that the porper use was to hang the muzzle on the offender’s belt buckle and squeeze. Personally, I would like to have a new slimmer one in .380 ACP made of Titanium as a carry pocket pistol.

  6. These could be a lot more accurate than most would expect.
    The bore is in line with your forearm and considering the accuracy I have seen demonstrated by some “Point Shooters” using single actions a 15 yard headshot shouldn’t be difficult to achieve given a little practice and decent quality ammunition.
    I’d also like one in .380, heck .32 ACP silvertips would do.

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