Shooting History. This is the 2nd installment of our new series where we take an old classic, shoot it and review it like we do modern guns. We kicked off the series with the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless and are continuing with another old Colt Pocket, the 1908 Colt Vest Pocket. If there are any guns you would like to see us cover be sure to comment below and we will do our best to get our hands on one in shooting condition.
Here are the numbers on the Colt 1908 Vest Pocket:
- John Moses Browning designed
- Produced from 1908-1948
- Over 420,000 total production
- .25 ACP
- 6 round magazine
- Fixed sights
- Semiauto-Single action
- Striker fired
- 13 oz empty
- 4.5″ overall length with a 2″barrel
Legend has it that John Moses made the first prototype of the Vest Pocket to carry in his, you guested it, vest pocket while walking around on his land in Utah. He supposedly wanted a tiny pistol for defense against coyotes. True or not, Browning did design a great little pistol that will fit in a vest pocket.
The design was originally submitted to Colt in 1904 but they turned it down. He then went to FN in Europe and they jumped on it and introduced their version in 1906. The FN 1906 and the Colt 1908 (when they finally decided to make it) are almost exactly they same. Browning had an agreement with FN and Browning for the production on his designs. Simply put: FN made the ones for the European market and Colt them for North and South America.
Take a look at the photo of the Vest Pocket next to the Pocket Hammerless. The Vest Pocket is basically a scaled down version of the bigger pistol. There is one big difference, the Vest Pocket is striker fired. It is not the first striker fired pistol, but it is an early one. Typical of the Browning designs from this era, the Vest Pocket has a grip safety. The first models that FN produced did not have a manual safety that is on the Colt made ones. Colt also added at magazine disconnect around 1917. The Colts were mainly offered in blue or nickel finishes. There were silver or gold plated and engraved models that were available for custom order. Most were shipped with hard rubber grips with checkered wood grips being available in the late 1920s. Ivory and pearl grips were also available for order.
This is actually my wife’s pistol. I bought it for her a few years back as a “dress up” pistol. A night on the town pistol if you will. It originally had rubber grips but I found a set of original pearls to fancy it up a bit.
As you can see there is very little of the original finish left on this example. I thought about rebluing this one like I did to the 1903 in the previous article, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not that the Vest Pockets are super rare or valuable but this one looks, for lack of a better word, cool with some natural wear. We will address the to refinish or not to refinish in a future article.
This example was made in 1920 and has the magazine disconnect. Before I shot it for the first time, I detail stripped it and replaced the recoil and striker spring.
This is not as fun to shoot as the Pocket Hammerless. The recoil is not an issue, a steel framed pistol in .25 ACP is not exactly a beast. It is more of a size thing. This pistol is tiny and getting a good grip while pressing the grip safety can be a challenge. I have never had a problem with grip safety, hell I carry a 1911 more often than not. But this one is, and other examples of the Vest Pocket I have shot, a bit clumsy to shoot. I don’t have particularly big hands either. When I shoot it I have to squeeze the whole pistol to get it to go bang. It reminds me of the old S&W Safety Hammerless, aka the Lemon Squeezer. There is another good idea for a Shooting History article!
The grip safety squeezing aside, the Vest Pocket does work and shoots well for a pistol of its size. This is especially true when you take into account the size of the sights. But this was not designed not intended to be a target gun. This is a hold out or “belly” pistol. From 15 feet if will easily put 6 rounds into a man sized target in a hurry. But they are tiny little holes. See the pictures for an idea on group sizes.
For this review we ran about a 100 rounds FMJ and Hornady XTP. Both preformed without a problem. I had never tried hollow points in the Vest Pocket until this review and was pleasantly surprised with the way it handled them. Its big brother 1903 has never liked them.
So is the old Colt Vest Pocket still relevant? In my opinion not as much as the Pocket Hammerless. For one the .25 ACP is not exactly a great carry round. You can also get a new pistol that is about this size in .32 or .380 now. I also would be leery of carrying a Vest Pocket with a round in the chamber. I do not feel confident in the striker holding if it was dropped. But it is sure is a good looking little pistol. It does go well in the vest pocket of a 3 piece suit. Not that I wear many of those. If I did, a Pocket Hammerless would be in the coat pocket.