Forgotten Weapons: The World’s Smallest Pistol

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For those of us who carry concealed handguns on a daily basis, it’s often a necessity to “dress around the gun” by wearing slightly roomier and less-form-fitting clothes. Of course, carrying a smaller pistol makes this less of a challenge — but how small should you go? Most will settle on a subcompact, while a few will consider pocket pistols with even smaller frames. At the most extreme end of this spectrum is the 2.7mm Kolibri, the smallest centerfire pistol that was ever mass-produced. In a classic Forgotten Weapons episode from back in 2014, Ian McCollum gets his hand (singular) on one of the few remaining examples of the world’s smallest pistol.

The Kolibri, which means “hummingbird” in German, was developed by an Austrian watchmaker named Franz Pfannl and released in 1914. It fires a 3-grain bullet. No, that’s not a typo — three grains. For a quick comparison, that’s 7.5% of the weight of a 40-grain .22LR projectile, or less than 3% of the weight of a common 115-grain 9mm.

This 2.7mm round delivers 3 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, which was reportedly enough to penetrate about an inch into a pine wood board. It was also said to be quite inaccurate, since early-1900s machining technology made it difficult to add rifling to the tiny barrel. Understandably, it seems that this weapon was not well-received as a practical tool for self-defense.

Unlike the simple derringers that are a mainstay of this ultra-compact pistol category, the Kolibri uses a semi-auto blowback mechanism with a reciprocating slide. It even has a removable magazine that holds six rounds. About 1,000 of these pistols were produced before they were discontinued in 1938.

For a closer look at the world’s smallest pistol and some more interesting details, check out the Forgotten Weapons episode below. We agree with McCollum’s conclusion: “It may be insanely impractical, but it’s a great piece of mechanical art.”

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