Sharply Charged Record Holders

The world of pistols is very diverse, and you can find many pieces in it that can boast of some superlatives. Get to know handguns that rightfully bear the title „unique“.

Published 01.03.2024 / RaptorX

Colts from a meteorite

The pair of the most expensive pistols in history was born in the workshops of the American company Cabot Guns. The set of Colt M1911 clones is named the Big Bang Pistol Set and is made from pieces of the Gibeon meteorite, discovered in the 1930s in Namibia. The material, aged 4.5 billion years, corresponds to an astronomical price – Cabot Guns valued the „big bang pistols“ at 4.5 million dollars.

These are the first functional firearms made from extraterrestrial material. The choice of this material by the firearm manufacturer follows a tradition that has lasted for centuries – ancient members of the Nam tribe found Gibeon and began crafting tools and weapons from it.

The craftsmen at Cabot Guns began working on the pair of .45 ACP caliber pistols in 2015. They utilized the composition of the meteorite's durable iron-nickel alloy, allowing them to create all components except for the trigger and bushing of the barrel using electron beam welding technology for heavily stressed parts. The surface finish is designed to highlight the attractive pattern of the meteorite, preserving the original structure on the frame. The grips are polished.

In 2018, information surfaced on the internet that Cabot Guns was putting the set up for auction. However, the enormous price tag likely deterred collectors, as today you can still find the Big Bang Pistol Set on – with a note that the current price will be provided upon request.

Auction Hall Gems

Historical pistols occasionally sell for astronomical sums at auctions, and we will look at three pieces. The first is the „führer's golden weapon“, a gold-plated Walther PP in .32 ACP caliber. Hitler received it as a gift from the owners of the gun factory for his 50th birthday in 1939. He valued the tasteful weapon and kept it in the drawer of his desk in his Munich apartment. Sometimes it is said that he used this pistol to commit suicide in Berlin, but the story has a crack – a certain American soldier found it in the mentioned residence. It changed owners many times and in 1987 went up for auction, where an anonymous buyer bid $114.000 for it.

The buyer dug deeper into his pocket for a pair of dueling pistols with flintlocks that belonged to Venezuelan General Simón Bolívar. Their value comes from the connection to the politician and military leader, who is perceived as a hero in the fight against Spanish rule, and in 2004, they were auctioned in New York for $1.687.500.

The top spot was occupied by a pair of saddle pistols owned by George Washington. He received them as a gift from French ally Marquis de La Fayette and used them during the War of Independence against Great Britain. The fact that the first American president demonstrably shot both guns makes them unique. Additionally, they are adorned with rococo engravings, making them works of art. In 2002, the pistols were purchased for $1.986.000 by the Richard King Mellon Foundation and donated to a museum for history enthusiasts to admire.

Pocket-Sized Hummingbird

The 2.7mm Kolibri Car Pistol is considered the smallest pistol for centerfire ammunition. The „Hummingbird“ was assembled in 1910 by Austrian watchmaker Franz Pfannl and patented. He also designed corresponding cartridges in 2.7×9 mm and dreamed that this tiny pistol would become a popular means of self-defense.

The novelty appeared on the market in 1914, and Pfannl introduced two versions – a semi-automatic with a seven-round magazine and a single-shot. However, it soon became apparent that the pistol couldn't even stop an aggressor with a direct hit. The entire cartridge weighed 5.3 g, the projectile alone 0.2 g, and at a muzzle energy of 4 J, it could barely handle a mouse. Handling the small cartridges was awkward, and loading the magazine was a superhuman task. Additionally, the barrel lacked rifling, causing poor accuracy even at short distances.

Pfannl didn't give up and promoted the „Hummingbird“ as an ideal weapon for ladies to carry in their purses. They were supposed to aim not for the chest or limbs of the aggressor but for the face. However, customers were rarely convinced, and only a thousand pistols were produced, which are now sought after by collectors.

Most Powerful Cannons

The legendary Desert Eagle is considered the most powerful pistol. Although most fans consider the gun an Israeli design, it originated in the USA under the auspices of Magnum Research. Israel Military Industries improved the design and subsequently produced the pistol, but in 2009, production returned to America. Typical features include a locked breech with gas removal from the barrel or a rotating bolt with a trio of teeth that fit into recesses on the barrel extension.

The Desert Eagle shoots from single-stack magazines, yet its grip is larger than that of most other pistols. You can get this iconic weapon in various calibers, with the highest stopping power in the half-inch caliber. The magazine holds seven .50 Action Express rounds; in the Czech Republic, you can find one with a six-inch barrel (15.2 cm) for about 73.500 CZK.

However, some hunters challenge the prominent position of the Desert Eagle. They consider the single-shot break-action Contender as the most powerful pistol, designed specifically for hunters and developed in 1967 by the Massachusetts-based company Thompson/Center Arms. The Contender has interchangeable components with hunting rifles and since 1998, the manufacturer has offered its second generation, which is supposed to be more user-friendly due to improved ergonomics of the frame, grip, and forend (the pistol is so large that it needs this part). Enthusiasts can choose from 40 barrels; the most effective weapon combines a 14-inch (35.6 cm) barrel and .45-70 Government caliber.

Cosmonauts Against Bears

While astronauts commonly carry knives into space, you would futilely search for firearms on spacecraft. This is because a gunshot could damage the hull, cause decompression, and kill the crew. An exception is the TP-82 pistol, which was part of the survival kit for Soviet and Russian cosmonauts.

The atypical weapon was not intended for interstellar distances. It was meant to facilitate the survival of astronauts after the return module landed in the Siberian wilderness. Until rescuers arrived, it would serve for defense against predators, hunting, or attracting attention with acoustic signals. The idea of equipping crews with such a tool came from Alexey Leonov – the first person to perform a spacewalk. He knew what he was talking about.

When returning to Earth with Pavel Belyayev in the Voskhod 2 spacecraft in 1965, the automation failed, and the module landed in the middle of the Siberian taiga. They survived three days in -25 °C until they reached safety. Part of their survival kit included a 9mm pistol, but Leonov suspected that it wouldn't be effective against bears or wolves. Therefore, at his urging, the designer Igor Skrylev initiated the development of a specialized weapon with three break-open barrels. The top two barrels were shotguns with a caliber of 12.5×70 mm, and they could be loaded with both hunting and signal rounds. The bottom barrel could fire ammunition of 5.45×39 mm, known from the AK-74. It also featured a sharp blade in the form of a machete, which was part of a detachable stock.

The space trio weighed 2.4 kg, and its effective range reached up to 200 meters. It served from 1986 to 2007, and the end of its career had a peculiar reason. The old cartridges became unusable, and the production of new ones stalled. As a result, Russian cosmonauts now have, once again, 9mm pistols in their survival kits: MP-443 and Makarov PM.

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