The modern carry gun market is absolutely awesome because you can find something for everyone, in every caliber you could imagine, with all the features you could ever want. In the old days, this wasn’t so. If you wanted a small pistol, it was in .32 ACP, .25 ACP, and just maybe .380 ACP. The .32 ACP dominated this territory, and it gave us some truly fantastic pistols. This includes the subject of today’s article, the Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless, and the Savage M1907. Both guns came in .32 ACP and .380 ACP, but today we are looking at two .32 ACP models, the Colt M1903 and the Savage M1907. These two guns are excellent examples of retro-carry guns, and both dominated the market in their time.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on both of these guns and a few hundred rounds of .32 ACP. It’s easy to do Glock vs. S&W or Ruger vs. KelTec, but how often do we get a chance to take two retro blasters out for a spin? Maybe we can figure out which gun would have been better for our grandfathers to conceal carry.
Introducing the Competitors
Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless
The Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless is a simple blowback design from the mind of John Browning. It was developed alongside several Browning M1903 guns at the time, including the FN M1903 and M1903 Pocket Hammer. The Colt M1903 has a hammer, but it’s concealed by the slide. It was immensely popular and produced from 1903 until 1945. The weapon was issued as a General Officer’s pistol during World War Two and was a favorite of the OSS.
The Savage M1907 is the P365 of its era. It holds ten rounds, is striker-fired, and was designed for concealment. The M1907 utilized a delayed blowback system that was novel for its era. The M1907 was quite popular and was produced until 1928. Savage used influencer marketing, with people like Bat Masterson being a part of the advertising.
The guns are very similar in their ergonomics and are both products of their era. At first grip, the Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless offers you a very svelte grip that’s thin and meets the hand well. The Savage isn’t exactly the thickest gun in the world, and it is comfy in your hand, but it’s thicker than the M1903. For me, the M1903 is a bit better. It’s just a hair longer, and my pinky doesn’t hang off the grip.
Both guns feature a frame-mounted safety on the left-hand side of the gun. While they are similar, they are also a fair bit different. The Colt M1903 is more akin to an M1911 and moves just a hair downward to deactivate.
The Savage M1907 safety sits further back and is a broader sweeping motion than the M1903. Admittedly the Colt is easier to deactivate and more intuitive. With that said, the Savage safety is much more difficult to accidentally remove or engage. There can be some real benefits to that.
Colt uses a traditional heel magazine release that’s out of date but was common for the era. The Savage M1907 uses a novel design that remained novel for a reason. It’s positioned on the front portion of the grip and is a tiny button that’s tough to hit. No one was planning for rapid reloads with the M1907.
The Savage M1907 has a striker control that looks like a hammer. This allows you to manually decock and cock the gun fairly easily. Older .32 ACP rounders, and even some modern European loads, have hard primers, and you could restrike the round by just pulling back the striker. That’s handy, buts it’s not enough to win this comparison, in my opinion.
Ultimately I think the Colt has slightly better ergonomics.
The Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless is a proto-1911 and features a simple single-stack magazine that holds eight rounds of .32 ACP. It’s very standard for the era and would be for quite some time. The Savage M1907 did something different. In fact, in 1907, it would have been considered unique.
The Savage M1907 utilized a double-stack magazine that contained ten rounds of .32 ACP. This was the first handgun that used a double-stack magazine, and it offered more ammo in a shorter package. The M1907 clearly wins this category.
Little guns from the early 1900s aren’t easy to shoot. The main problem comes from the sights. The Savage M1907 uses a striker-fired action that’s fully cocked, and the M1903 uses a single action-only trigger. Both are rock-solid triggers that are fairly light and crisp. Nothing crazy, but they aren’t detractors for accuracy.
What makes these guns hard to shoot is the sights. Have you ever heard the “You won’t see your sights in a gunfight!” That might not be true these days, but in the early 1900s, I could see why! These things are tiny and tough to see. When you compare the two side by side, the Savage M1907 is a bit worse.
The rear sight of the Colt is a bit bigger, and that makes it easier to see the front sight. That makes it easier to shoot the gun, especially when it comes to trying to track the front sight. Mechanically, the accuracy is likely pretty close, but with the human error accounted for, the Colt is easier to shoot accurately.
Both guns are compact, at least for the era, but they are way bigger than the standard .380 ACP you’d see these days. They are small in different ways. The Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless is much thinner and more svelte than the Savage. The Savage is shorter but thicker than the Colt M1903.
This is a tie by far. It just depends on what you’d favor for concealability as a citizen at the turn of the century.
The Retro Little Fellas
Firearms have come a very long way in the last hundred years or so. Guns like the M1903 and M1907 are way bigger than a Ruger LCP or even a P365. They are stuck in somewhat anemic calibers and with relatively low capacities. Heck, they are even heavier than most modern pistols, chambering larger, more powerful rounds.
While they might not be up to the standards we have today, they were interestingly unique for the era. Both were massively successful pistols and are cool antiques to this day. If you had a time machine and had to step back into 1910, which gun would you take? Let us know below!