The Baby Browning–a Micro Classic

The .25 ACP Baby Browning.

The .25 ACP Baby Browning.

Welcome to this addition of our Shooting History series. This is where we take old, classic and antique guns and, well, shoot them. Think of these articles as guns on the “Senior Tour.” We are going to shoot them and put them through the review process, but there will be no abuse-testing or excessive round counts–these old guns deserve more respect than that. You can check out the other articles in this series here.

For this installment we will be taking a look at the tiny little Baby Browning. This little fella has it’s roots in an old John Moses Browning design, the Colt Vest Pocket. We reviewed one of the old Colt’s in the Shooting History series awhile back and you can find that review here. But on to the Baby Browning.

Buy One on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=baby%20browning

Updating a Classic

The Browning designed 1908 Colt Vest Pocket and its European counterpart the FN 1905 were two of the first successful and reliable pocket pistols.  They were so popular that a plethora of copies, mostly cheap and poorly made one, were flooding the market by the late 1920’s. FN decided that a redesign of the old 1905 pistol that was simpler to manufacture, and could then be sold at a lower price to be more competitive, was worthwhile. The redesign was done by Dieudonné Saive, the same guy that would later finish the High Power and design the FN FAL.

Saive used the Browning designed Vest Pocket as the basis of his new pistol.  They share a lot of features including caliber, steel frame, striker fired action, and European style magazine release on the heal of the grip.  They are both blow-back operated. The new design was lighter, smaller and eliminated the grip safety of the Browning design. Here are some specs on the Baby Browning:

Side by side with a Colt Vest Pocket. The differences are obvious.

Side by side with a Colt Vest Pocket. The differences are obvious.

  • Length: 4.1″
  • Height: 2.9″
  • Width: .75″
  • Weight: 9.5 Ounces Empty
  • Barrel Length: 2″
  • Caliber: .25 ACP
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Number Produced by FN: About 500,000 from 1931 to 1979

The Baby Browning also has an easier-to-use manual safety but doesn’t have a slide lock. They both have a magazine disconnect and the Baby Browning has a cocked hammer indicator on the back of the slide.

To say that the Baby Browning is just an update to the 1905 would be doing the Baby a disservice. It was inspired by the 1905, it even has the word Browning as part of it’s name, but it was really its own design. Dieudonné Saive worked as a machinist and assistant for John Browning for a short time before Browning passed. It was only a few months after his death that the patents for the Baby Browning were filed. Did Saive and Browning talk about doing an update to the 1905? We will probably never know, but that would have been a very interesting workshop in which to be a fly on the wall. The High Power was another product of these two designers.

Production and Importation

As an import, the gun is covered in stamps.

As an import, the gun is covered in stamps.

Many of you will be familiar with how a lot of John Browning’s designs, especially the pistols, were made and marketed. Simply put, because there are a few exceptions to this, Colt made the guns for the US market and FN made them for Europe.  This was the case for the 1908 Vest Pocket and 1905 FN. The Baby Browning however was FN’s baby from the start. But they were not available here in the US during the whole production run.

No doubt that a FN made Baby Browning or two found it’s way to The States during and after WWII in the footlockers and sea bags of GIs with the gift for collecting. But it was only from 1953-1968 that FN actually imported these pistols for sale here under the Browning name. The only real difference between the FN branded pistols and the Browning ones is the names.  The FN pistols have FN on the top of the grips and “baby” on the bottom while the Browning ones only say Browning. Oh, and the US Browning ones have a lot of extra import stamps on them in addition to all the Belgium proof stamps.

Notice how close my hand is to the bottom of the slide.

Notice how close my hand is to the bottom of the slide.

The Review Gun

The gun we used for this review is a Belgium made FN pistol that was imported to the US and sold under the Browning name.  Based on the serial number it was made in 1966. This example is in very good condition with a lot of the original bluing and very little wear. This example has not been carried or shot very much.

It functions as it should and it is pleasant to shoot unlike a lot of pocket pistols. But it is so tiny! I have medium sized hands and had to make sure hand was out of the way of the slide. The slide on this baby could bite harder than the hammer on an old 1911. Maybe John Browning designed these quirks into his pistols on purpose, to keep the shooters on his toes and give a writer something to complain about.

5 rounds nice and slow from 15 feet.

5 rounds nice and slow from 15 feet.

Shooting

So how does the little fella shoot? Once you get use to how tiny it is and how to get a good grip, it shoots great.  The steel frame soaks up the recoil and helps make for a very soft shooting mouse gun. Yes, it is in the diminutive .25 ACP and that round isn’t exactly know to be a powerhouse. But it works, goes bang and feeds FMJ reliably. Groups are not too bad either, considering how little this gun it. The sights on the baby browning are tiny–it would look funny with big sights. But they are usable and are pretty quick to the target.  Of course this is more of a point and shoot type self defense gun and not a paper puncher.

 

Relevance

So is the Baby Browning still relevant today? That really depends. If you think the .25 ACP is good as a carry round, the Baby Browning could be a top pick for EDC.  It is for sure small enough to use for deep concealment.  I will occasionally carry a Colt Vest Pocket in the vest pocket of a suit and the Baby Browning would also work great for that. But trusting the little .25? It is a lot more reliable than a .22 but I would feel a lot more confidant with at least a .32.

Perhaps these have more relevance for collectors. I once met a woman in a gun store who had fallen for the lines of the Browning, and was buying them up–simply for their aesthetics. She had a couple of FNs, a Browning or two, and was about to pull the trigger on a nickel-plated one.

Condition matters for the collectors. That’s an understatement. These can sell for below $400 if you aren’t terribly concerned about condition or scarcity. Prices go up from there, but will typically stay under $1,000. If there’s a story to the gun, or any engraving, it can go up even more.

All told, it is a great way to get into historical guns.

Buy One on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=baby%20browning

The sights on the Browning are perfectly functional.

The sights on the Browning are perfectly functional.

Clean ejection.

Clean ejection.

Noticeable muzzle rise.

Noticeable muzzle rise.

The tiny gun has very clean lines, and some prefer the aesthetic to that of the older Colt.

The tiny gun has very clean lines, and some prefer the aesthetic to that of the older Colt.

The angularity is reflected in the grip design, too.

The angularity is reflected in the grip design, too.

The mag well is small, and has no bevels.

The mag well is small, and has no bevels.

The right side of the gun.

The right side of the gun.

This is not a mag-release button. It is the safety in the "fire" position.

This is not a mag-release button. It is the safety in the “fire” position.

Check out the detail work. The closer you look, the more true artistry you will find.

Check out the detail work. The closer you look, the more true artistry you will find.

The rear sight.

The rear sight.

The muzzle end shows how the barrel locks up with the slide.

The muzzle end shows how the barrel locks up with the slide.

Note the pin in the cocked position.

Note the pin in the cocked position.

Broken down.

Broken down.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • lorenzo enriq July 23, 2016, 1:59 pm

    I’ve inherited a FN Baby S/N 29805 and the legend “Browning’s Patent Depose. I’d appreciate knowing the mfg date and ballpark value. Thanks.

  • Will June 5, 2016, 12:36 am

    I own one of these very cool little weapons. I was told many years ago that American Special Forces troops in Vietnam at one point early on were issued a Browning Hi Power and a Baby Browning. I learned why one evening in the 1980s when I failed to hear a man shoot himself with a .25 in a closed car I was standing close to. You don’t need a suppressor if you have a .25 in a closed room.

    • cdcarpeti August 4, 2016, 6:32 pm

      If you failed to hear it, it sure was not a Baby Browning. Those little guns are very loud. I made the mistake of test firing one without ear protection thinking it would be similar to a 22 revolver. My ears rang for a long time. I love the little 25acp pocket pistols. I just wish their selling price reflected what the uninformed think about the .25 auto round. The guys behind gun store counters mostly say they are worthless guns – until you try to buy one cheap!

  • ejharb April 3, 2016, 5:37 pm

    Love to get 1 someday but for deep ccw id prefer a g42 over it.

  • Mike Davis March 18, 2016, 12:50 am

    I have a peasant’s Baby, a Raven Arms .25 auto. Very dependable, damn accurate, also cute as a button.

  • JS March 15, 2016, 12:16 pm

    Worked a case one time where a guy was shot in the neck with one, he didn’t make it to the ER. Seems it clipped his carotid artery. Any caliber can be lethal with shot placement so never be a “hero” and poo-poo some guys “little gun”, the last laugh, if you even hear it, might be on you.

  • DixieTriggerMan March 15, 2016, 7:30 am

    The Baby Browning is still manufactured under license by Precision Small Arms, Inc., located in Aspen Colorado. They are sold in the United States as the PSA-25 and distributed by FN in foreign markets under the Browning logo. They come in a variety of materials and finishes and are exquisitely made. They aren’t cheap, with a MSRP starting at about $799.

    The one I own was manufactured 20-25 years ago when the company was in Charlottesville, VA, and went by the name Precision Small Parts (PSP). Workmanship is first rate (at least the equal of those made by FN) and it is 100% reliable with any ammo I have fed it. I don’t carry the gun, but if I needed a backup in the smallest possible envelope, I wouldn’t have any reservations about doing so.

    Wikipedia has a fairly good article about the history of gun; just use Wiki’s search function and look for “FN Baby Browning”.

    • Joe August 29, 2017, 9:46 am

      How do you lock slide on gun with no slide lock on a baby browning and the barrel wont turn left or right

  • TPSnodgrass March 14, 2016, 7:24 pm

    For the purpose of being a “collector’s pistol”, I think this Browning in .25ACP would be a great deal of fun with its classic lines.
    For Self defense, I’d really rather have a .22LR than any .25 pistol, if I were stuck with a caliber that was in the twenties.
    Beautiful little classic pistol indeed.

  • Rich C. March 14, 2016, 4:33 pm

    I have collected 2 of these little classics in pristine condition, one of them being the lightweight model. They are made like Swiss watches and a lot of fun to shoot….a must have for any mouse gun collection!

    • John August 16, 2017, 4:55 pm

      What does your lightweight model weigh? I’ve never seen an official weight other than the 9.7 Oz for the steel frame. What does it weigh with the aluminum frame?

  • Nick March 14, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Great hideout gun and a modern classic. Still worth carrying if the smaller the better idea matters. Original new factory parts are available from a company called Commemorative Arms.

  • Dave March 14, 2016, 11:04 am

    Another EXCELLENT (still manufactured) option in .25acp is the Beretta 950. It has the advantage of a tip-up barrel, so you don’t have to rack the slide on the first round. The Beretta 950 also has an external hammer. OR …add one inch in length and height and move up to a compact .380 for better penetration and “stopping power.” .25acp can have insufficient penetration in regions where heavier clothing is the “norm.” And it’s usually better to have a little MORE power, …than not enough.

  • Bob Anderson March 14, 2016, 10:01 am

    I have the original FN made in 1922 with squeeze cocker in Nickel nice little 25 semi-auto pistol. You could hide it in swimming trunks.

    • Larry March 14, 2016, 1:08 pm

      And then all the girls will grin at you & call you “Big Fella” too!

  • Ed March 14, 2016, 9:47 am

    I also have a Bauer and knew it was a Browning copy but did not know the parts were interchangeable.

  • Mike March 14, 2016, 8:50 am

    I have a Bauer and was left a pristine Baby Browning by a favorite uncle. The parts are actually interchangeable. Both are reliable with whatever I feed them and certainly easy to carry but mostly, I just admire them. Being a dyed in the wool 1911 guy a .25 ACP just kinda scares me a self defense piece. That little Browning sure is elegant though.

    • Larry March 14, 2016, 1:12 pm

      You’re going to be up close anyway & head shots do wonders for a person’s poor attitude!

      I’ve got a Beretta 22 with the flip up barrel. It’s the first gun I bought back in about 1968. It only shoots 22 high velocity hollow point shorts & it’s very accurate back to about 30 feet.

  • Phil March 14, 2016, 8:06 am

    Bought my wife a Bauer which was the successor to Browning in 1978. Had it engraved. It belongs to a member of my family now.

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