The Derringer Pictures

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22 thoughts on “The Derringer Pictures

  1. Pingback: New Section – Picture Galleries! « BoothieBarn

  2. John Ludlow

    Hmmm… most internet sites say that the Booth derringer was .44 caliber, but a close look at the FBI picture of the muzzle above looks like a 10mm diameter which would make the actual caliber closer to a .41 caliber. Any thoughts on this? I was just wondering…..

    • John,

      I’m afraid I’m not a firearms expert. I can say that practically every source I have read states that the deringer is a .44 caliber weapon. Most seem to believe that Booth used a .41 or .42 caliber bullet in the weapon due to the inclusion of the wading.

    • The Derringer was sold originally as a “calibre .41”

      • John Ludlow

        Do you have a specific reference that indicates that the original deringer was sold as a .41 caliber?

        The information in this thread indicates that a book was being written regarding Booth’s weapons. I don’t know if it has come out yet. It would be good to know the book’s status and where it can be obtained, when it is available…

  3. Laurie Verge

    The derringer that did in President Lincoln is a .44 caliber, but Booth used a .41 caliber ball, which is held in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in its new location in Silver Spring, Maryland. Another unique thing about Booth’s derringer was found in the 1990s when the FBI examined the pistol. Its rifling (seven grooves inside the barrel) are counter-clockwise.

    Relative to the smaller size of the ball, I believe it had something to do with the derringers being built to accept bullets from .30 caliber up to about .50 caliber. Again, like Dave, I’m no firearms expert.

    There is a member of the Surratt Society, however, that is putting the finishing touches on a book entitled Tools of the Assassin. Wes Harris hopes to have it on the market in 2014.

    • John Ludlow

      Thank you for your timely comments. You mentioned Wes Harris’ upcoming book. Perhaps I should contact him regarding his thoughts on the subject. Might you know his email address?

      • Laurie Verge

        I do have contact with Wes, but it is our policy to not give out information without permission. If you will email me at, I will forward your information on to him. It would help if you would give a small indication of why you are seeking information on the derringer. I try not to jeopardize anyone’s research.

  4. John,
    I can understand the confusion especially since the sources are not consistent in giving the caliber of the pistol or the lead ball. Since every Henry Deringer pistol was handmade, the size of the pistol and its caliber can vary from weapon to weapon. It’s hard to tell from the FBI photo, but it’s actually closer to .44 caliber. A ball of about .41 caliber was ideal for the weapon; anything larger would be very difficult to ram down the barrel. Each pistol had its own bullet mold for that very reason. My email address is

    Wes Harris

  5. Erik

    Looking at the older photos vs the more modern images, it appears at some point a person tightened the screw on the derringer’s side plate. Are you aware of any restoration and/or maintenance that has been done to this piece over its history?

    • Erik,

      Wesley Harris is the expert on the derringer and the rest of Booth’s arsenal. He’s working on a book about the weapons of the assassins. All I know I’ve learned from him. If memory serves me, at some point the screw which held the hammer in place fell out. It was replaced with a wood screw about the same time as when the wood stock around the barrel was repaired. Maybe Wes will see this and chime in with more.

  6. Wesley Harris

    The earliest photos of the pistol show the head of the screw missing. We don’t know if it was like that when Booth had it. Some time in the 60s or 70s, the broken screw was replaced with a common wood screw. There was talk at one time of replacing it with a genuine Deringer screw but the NPS decided not to do so. Note some of the photos show a string–that was to keep from losing the hammer with the defective screw.

  7. Erik

    Thanks for the responses. However, I’m referring to the screw of the side plate, a short way to the left of the “Deringer/Philadelphia” inscription. I’m sure it isn’t a consequential detail, just something I noticed. Again, Thanks!

  8. Wesley Harris

    Erik, the FBI examined the pistol and took it apart back in the 90s, so that’s why the screw is in a different position from the earlier photographs.

    • Carlo J. Rosati

      Sir; I respect your knolege on the subject. However, I am sorry to tell you, I never changed anything on any historic firearm that I have worked on. I only did the exams requested by NPS. This deringer was keep as recieved. I did one additional exam which was to make a cast of the barrel which was returned to the NPS.

      • Wesley Harris

        Carlo, that account was related to me by someone on the Ford’s Theatre staff. The story I was given was that the pistol was taken apart. Thanks for the correction.

    • Carlo J Rosati

      No Sir, I never took the gun apart. It had been worked on well before it was submitted to me. I examined the deringer every way possible. I made a full cast of the barrel which had never been done in the past. If I knew how to post the picture here I would.

      • Wesley Harris

        Mr. Rosati, would you consider emailing the photo to one of us to post here? thanks.

  9. Erik

    Thanks Wesley. Appreciate your responses. And I love this website.

  10. I don’t have a specific reference, but I’ve been collecting guns for over fifty years and cannot recall anything other than .41 being the caliber of the Philadelphia Derringer. I will attempt to locate some specific references so I can adequately respond to your question. You must understand that the actual bore diameter is frequently different from the listed caliber of any weapon. The well-known .38 Speciial bullet is actually .357 inches.

  11. Here is a reference from a magazine article about the history of Henry Deringer’s gun:
    You could do some additional Googling yourself. While some of the original Deringer/Derringer pistols may have been made in different calibers, I’m pretty certain the Lincoln pistol was the classic .41 caliber.

  12. jett

    from article about the authenticity of the gun and its caliber. Indicating the caliber would fluctuate with the firearm. ‘the Deringer pistol’s non-martial status was underscored by the lack of a standardized caliber among pistols of its make. Because each paired set of Deringer pistols included a bullet mold specific to the caliber of the two matching pistols, loss of this mold virtually precluded the proper fit of ammunition for the paired set.”

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