Frankenau Purse Gun

Patented in 1876 in both the US and UK as well as Germany, the Frankenau purse gun was a very small 5-shot, 5mm pinfire revolver hidden inside what appeared to be a normal small coin purse. One side of the purse would even open, with several accordion pockets, allowing to to be used for its nominal purpose. The other side contained the revolver, with a hinged plate covering the muzzle and a trigger which would fold up into the body of the case when not in use. Few were sold and most saw a lot of use, making them pretty unusual to find today.


  1. I’m guessing that the “Swiss cheese” holes in the metal stamped side opposite the muzzle were to allow expansion space for muzzle sideblast gas, to avoid it popping the purse open.

    Still, fire a full cylinder and I suspect it got a little “warm” inside that purse.

    Saying that these rare weapons were “used a lot” rather implies that street crime was fairly common, as well as that a lethal response was considered “fair play” by the authorities.

    Or else people were shooting some fairly strange things at tin cans on Sunday afternoon picnic outings.




    • My gues is that they were too far along in the manufacturing process when they realized that the thing had some serious operating flaws, foremost being the revolver-gap blast, and those punched holes in the case were an afterthought attempt to try to ameliorate that problem. (even then, I suspect the holes were barely enough) A pepperbox design might have been better in that respect, especially one with a long cylinder. But to stick with a revolver design (as pinfire revolver cylinders were probably quite cheaply obtained during the early rimfire/centerfire era) there was plenty of additional room left inside the purse case that a much longer barrel could have been employed.

      But then that’s the usual situation with most of these various gimmick weapons — they’re more of a conversation piece than anything else. Or perhaps something to separate fools from their money.

  2. This seems less of a purposefully engineered design than of a Frankengun stitched together out of various off-the-shelf parts. If such a contraption were used for self-defence, it would seem that a puny 5mm (black powder) pinfire cartridge with a 1 cm long barrel would do little but make an attacker angry.

    That few of these guns were ever sold makes some sense, since it looks like a very inefficient and probably ineffective design for its supposedly intended function, having little but novelty value even by 1877 standards. But then, this thing was likely being marketed at complete novices who knew little to nothing about commercially available firearms, ballistic properties, or engineering basics.

    That said, I think a medium-bore “harmonica” derringer would have made the perfect purse gun for the time.

  3. I suppose this makes sense if the idea was to have a gun without showing a gun. ^__^;;;

    “Back off! I’ve got you covered with my coin purse!”

    This particular example appears to have been “tried out” one too many times and shot the little muzzle cover off somewhere.

    • The concept might be somewhat less effective in modern times, when it seems police regularly shoot people at the first sight of a wallet or purse — even when requested.

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