DERRINGER is a small handgun that is neither a revolver nor a semi/fully automatic pistol. It is not to be confused with mini-revolvers or pocket pistols, although some later derringers were manufactured with the pepperbox configuration. The modern derringer is often multi-barreled, and is generally the smallest usable handgun of any given caliber and barrel length due to the lack of a moving action, which takes up more space behind the barrel. It is frequently used by women because it is easily concealable in a purse or a stocking.
The original Philadelphia Deringer was a muzzleloading caplock single-shot pistol introduced in 1825 by Henry Deringer. In total, approximately 15,000 Deringer pistols were manufactured. All were single barrel pistols with back-action percussion locks, typically .41 caliber with rifled bores, and walnut stocks. Barrel length varied from 1.5 to 6 in (38 to 152 mm), and the hardware was commonly a copper-nickel alloy known as “German silver”.
The term “derringer” (/ˈdɛrɪndʒər/) became a genericized misspelling during the reporting of the Lincoln assassination, which was committed with a concealed Philadelphia Deringer. Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gunmakers worldwide, and the name remained often misspelled; this misspelling soon became an alternative generic term for any pocket pistol, along with the generic phrase “palm pistol'”, which Deringer’s competitors invented and used in their advertising. With the advent of metallic cartridges, pistols produced in the modern form are still commonly called “derringers”.