This vest-pocket pistol overcame economic and legal obstacles
by MATTHEW MOSS
In the early 20th century, Colt peddled a line of vest-pocket pistols developed by John Browning. The Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket Hammerless proved extremely popular, moving 400,000 units between 1908 and 1941.
After World War II, Colt looked to re-enter the pocket-pistol market. In 1946 and ’47, Colt restarted production of the 1908 Vest Pocket Hammerless, assembling 1,200 drawing on pre-war components that the company had in storage.
But the revived 1908 was a dud. Cheap European pistols had flooded the market, crowding out Browning’s classic gun.
While Colt had developed a new pocket pistol, it proved too expensive to mass-produce in the United States. So the company turned to the Spanish firearms-manufacturer Astra Unceta y Ca to manufacture what would become known as the Colt Junior.
The Junior was little more than a rebranded Astra Cub, a small pistol Colt introduced in 1954. It was 4.4 inches long and weighed 13 ounces unloaded.
The standard Junior came chambered in .25 ACP. There was also a version that fired .22 Short. The Junior featured a six-round, single-stack magazine and made use of a simple blowback action.
The Junior lacked the grip safety of the Vest Pocket Hammerless but did have a manual thumb safety. A push-button magazine catch at the bottom of the left grip panel released the magazine.
Colt began producing the Junior in 1958 and built more than 40,000 copies before discontinuing the line in 1968, when the federal Gun Control Act halted the import of non-sporting firearms.
Smith & Wesson attempted to capitalize on the law by introducing the Model 61 Escort. Meanwhile, Colt devised a workaround in 1970. Florida-based Firearms Import & Export imported Spanish parts and assembled Juniors on U.S. soil.
The Spanish-made Juniors have a “CC” serial number suffix, while the American Juniors have “OD” prefixes. In 1973, Colt discontinued the Junior. But Firearms Import & Export continued to produce and sell the pistol, which it rebranded as “The Best,” into the 1980s.
Originally published at Historical Firearms.