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Just For Fun Project: “The Apache Pug” - NAA Homage to 19th Century Gangster Knuckleguns


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***Note for those with short attention spans: the following is word-heavy. With that said, let’s begin...

 

Introduction:

 

For as long as I’ve been into guns and shooting the bulk of my focus has been fairly evenly divided into two distinct categories of interest; The first being cutting edge, state-of-the-art-and-industry, next evolution and even near-future weapon platforms. The second category, arguably diametrically opposed with the first, is that of unique and/or quirky detours from historical firearm development. Those classic antique guns that were oddities of their time have always grabbed my attention, peaked my interest, and invoked a strange obsession appropriate of the strange nature of the guns themselves.

 

To put it in different terms, I have a particular interest in firearms that could be fairly considered to be of the “Cyberpunk” and “Steampunk” genres, respectively.

 

As some of you may be aware I’ve spent the last few years dedicating my time and resources towards development of the first category with my Project Nemesis builds, modifying and upgrading the Sig P320 platform with just about every useful modern gadget, gizmo, and design philosophy in an attempt to maximize the mechanical performance potential of a modern duty pistol (to those interested, that thread can be found here:

 

3CC51EDE-8DE2-4B73-859A-8BC8EC9FB0F2.jpe

 

After many years, much effort and resources, and a lot of trial and error I’m extremely pleased with the culmination of my efforts which have resulted in a selection of some of the best shooting, most accurate, most broadly capable handguns I’ve ever shot or seen. While I have no allusions to the idea that my P320 shenanigans are or ever will be complete - there will always continue to be excellent new products and parts developed for the platform by the aftermarket that will help squeeze just a bit more performance out of the pistol - I have reached a point where I’m feeling the urge to shift my attention to the second category of interest. It’s now time for me to appreciate something old and odd.

 

Background: History of the Apache Pistols

 

(Note: While I’ve done my best to gather and organize the relevant historical context, I must confess I’m no history major and there’s a lot of conflicting information on this topic available to the casual researcher. I can’t vouch for the exact veracity of every claim, but this is the story as I’ve been able to decipher it)

 

Anyone with even a modicum of interest in historical firearms curiosa will have at one time or another stumbled across the enigmatic “Apache” pistol - an odd amalgamation of a pinfire pepperbox revolver, a small folding dagger, and a brutish looking set of brass knuckles, all rolled into one Transformers-esque package that could be easily slipped into the pocket of a pair of ye olde trousers or smoking jacket.

 

 

While many are likely familiar with the pistol in the video above, what many may not know is that this was just one of several variants of combination pistol/knuckleduster weapons (I prefer the term “Knuckleguns” when describing the category as a whole) that were manufactured in the mid to late 1800s.

 

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The most well known variant of these pistols would be the Dolne pistol, named appropriately after Louis Dolne who designed this particular variant. Other examples of Knuckleguns of the same period are the Belgian Delhaxhe combination revolver designed by Joseph Delhaxhe, the Sure Defender, and the True Companion - among other even more obscure examples.

 

A4252D14-B225-4973-AA8D-74327C974D13.jpeg.84ec095e5d8502ca6c0c614b87ce1b4a.jpeg
Dolne combination revolver - often referred to as “the” Apache pistol

 

F434FD4C-A250-4BD0-8147-C4D18063AF86.thumb.jpeg.f54e9eea6ae99326f290f1c4f3faf990.jpeg
Delhaxhe combination revolver

 

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The Sure Defender

 

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The True Companion

 

So where did the “Apache” name come from? While not likely used to refer to the family of Knuckleguns at the time of their manufacture or use, the Apache moniker became entangled with the Dolne revolver in particular and Knuckleguns as a whole due to their popularity among and association with members of the Parisian criminal gang “Les Apaches”, a “violent criminal underworld subculture of early 20th-century hooligans, night muggers, street gangs and other criminals,” who themselves acquired the Apache label for allegedly being “as violent and cruel as the American Apache Indians.” I’m sure their parents were very proud.

 

The Project: Turning a NAA Mini Revolver into a Steampunk Retro-Modern Knucklegun Homage

 

Finally, to the purpose of this thread! Ever since learning about the history of the Apache Knuckleguns many years ago I’ve wanted to try building one of my own. Recent events conspired and that dream is finally becoming a reality. My project will be based on the popular NAA Pug 22Mag mini revolver, in my case one of the limited-edition “The Dude” models of the Pug, of which only 2,000 were made.

 

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While the Dolne revolver is the most popularly known Knucklegun variant, the intricacies of the folding grip mechanism make it less appealing to me from the viewpoints of cost, complexity, and practicality. Having to stop and reconfigure the weapon, folding/unfolding it in the middle of a deadly confrontation is a dubious manual of arms at best (Full Conceal anyone?). For that reason as well as my own personal preferences, my Knucklegun project will be loosely based on the Delhaxhe revolver variant, with the muzzle of the revolver fixed in the same orientation as the strike face of the impact surface of the knuckles. This affords practical use of the weapon as both a firearm and an impact tool from one universal, unchanging grip.

 

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I’ve contacted and commissioned a maker of custom brass knuckles who is also familiar with NAA revolvers and the original Apache Knuckleguns (@billy_trident on Instagram) to design and fabricate a special set of four-finger brass knuckles that will attach to the frame of the Pug like a set of replacement grips, solidly integrating the revolver and the knuckles together. The index finger stall of the knuckles will act as the trigger guard, while the remaining stalls and palm brace will create a much more hand-filling and controllable grip for the revolver, ultimately making it far more shootable than the diminutive stock grip. The extra weight of the knuckles will act to absorb what little recoil there is from the 22Mag rounds, and of course will serve as a venerable close-contact impact weapon if and when the cylinder of the revolver runs dry.

 

The completed project will not be an exact duplicate of any of the historical Knucklegun variants but will encapsulate the same philosophy of use and spirit of the original designers with a discernibly “Steampunk” twist, and hopefully pay appropriate 21st Century tribute to one of the most curious branches of historical self defense firearms development.

 

For those who are interested feel free to follow along here, pictures and updates will be added as they happen. Any questions or comments are also always welcome!

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Sounds like my poor little Pug is going to be stuck in NICS backlog limbo until this weekend. As soon as I get it home there will be a lot more pics and initial impressions to kick things off here

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Gentlemen, ladies, attack helicopters one and all - WE HAVE A PUG!

A4786585-C0D8-4918-86CA-B39353081E5F.thumb.jpeg.a71d728182e21b816c533708318180bc.jpeg

 

And what a fine specimen of a Pug it is:

 

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Initial inspection indicates a flawless fit and finish as expected. The colors resulting from the case hardening on the frame are a bit muted in indoor/unnatural lighting but sometime tomorrow I’ll wipe it with some Rem oil and take it out into the sunlight to get a better sense of the pattern on the frame.

 

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Looks like I snagged the Dude number 1,701 out of 2,000 made:

 

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It feels solid in the hand and the hammer/trigger mechanism are some of the smoothest (if a bit heavy) I’ve ever felt on a revolver of any size. To say I’m quite pleased with my first thorough once-over would be an understatement. More once I’m done fondling it a bit more!

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Broke the Pug down for further inspection this morning. Every part and piece is exquisitely machined and fitted together, and the takedown procedure for removing/installing the cylinder couldn’t be easier.

 

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A very crude initial mock-up using my Cold Steel Chaos, which is the closest thing I currently own to a set of brass knuckles. Obviously the dimensions are a bit off as it wasn’t designed with the Pug in mind - the custom knuckle grips will much better match the curve of the Pug frame, but at least this is an idea of what it may end up looking like. And just for fun, turned the grip around:
 

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Mini revolver trench knife anyone? 😈

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One observation I can make from manipulating the Pug all of last night and nearly constantly since waking up today - I have smallish-medium sized hands and even my hands feel a bit cramped between the stock frame/trigger/hammer for cocking and firing. I can’t imagine how someone with larger hands would be able to comfortably or easily manipulate one of these pocket rockets in stock form.


I’ll certainly be pleased to have the larger grip and greater leverage of the four-finger knuckle once I get it. It won’t be nearly as easily concealable of course, but at only slightly larger than a standard set of brass knuckles it’ll still be perfectly pocketable and much, much more comfortable to manipulate. Thoughts on actually firing it in stock form will likely have to wait for a couple weeks until I’m fully recovered from surgery. By then I should also have the EVO320 back from my gunsmith and I’ll take the whole gang to the range to get some real trigger time in on both new platforms

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Well, I’ve just begun what’s likely to be the most challenging part of this project - finding ammo for it. Went to every online ammo retailer (except CTD, cause screw them) and set in-stock notifications for any reasonably priced 22WMR rounds I could find listed. I’ll make stops at local sporting goods stores this week while running other errands to check them as well but something tells me it’ll be a futile exercise...
 

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On 1/25/2021 at 1:00 AM, Rudukai13 said:

Well, I’ve just begun what’s likely to be the most challenging part of this project - finding ammo for it. Went to every online ammo retailer (except CTD, cause screw them) and set in-stock notifications for any reasonably priced 22WMR rounds I could find listed. I’ll make stops at local sporting goods stores this week while running other errands to check them as well but something tells me it’ll be a futile exercise...

 

I've seen more WMR around than I have LR, at least. Both are pretty scarce right now.

 

I've had some luck at Murdoch's on 92nd and Wadsworth as well as Scheel's. You may also want to give Westminster Arms a call - they've had more ammo than any shop I've been to lately, but who knows if that's still true given how things are going.

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55 minutes ago, matteekay said:

 

I've seen more WMR around than I have LR, at least. Both are pretty scarce right now.

 

I've had some luck at Murdoch's on 92nd and Wadsworth as well as Scheel's. You may also want to give Westminster Arms a call - they've had more ammo than any shop I've been to lately, but who knows if that's still true given how things are going.


Awesome, thank you for the tips! I’ll try to get around in the next few days/this weekend and see what’s what. And yeah I figured I’d probably have an easier time finding WMR than LR, since it’s probably in less demand than LR in general

Edited by Rudukai13
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The peculiarities of ambidexterity never cease to amaze. After some experimental dryfire and handling it would seem my right hand is the more natural hand for manipulating and shooting the Pug, similar to my right-handed preference for knives. Which is odd considering any time I try to hold my P320s in my right hand it feels like trying to hold a gun with a deformed claw. Somehow my brain is naturally wired to manipulate primary weapons with my left (dominant) hand and backup-sized weapons with my right hand. Curiouser and curiouser...

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Score! Snagged some of the good stuff for a decent price. I’ll keep looking for some slightly cheaper range ammo elsewhere but at least I’ve got a start for now

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Went for a short walk around my apartment complex today as part of recovery from my back surgery. Slipped the Pug into the pocket of my windbreaker and barely noticed it was there the entire time. While my P320s will still be pulling day to day EDC duty, I can definitely see this little party popper being a good pocket option for taking the trash out/letting my dog out/going for short walks around the complex.


I should be in good enough condition to make an excursion to the range in the next week or two, so shooting review in stock configuration will be coming soon!

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Sounds like Monday will be the inaugural range trip for this party popper. Interested to see how it handles in stock format with the diminutive grip, get a good baseline of comparison for the changes that the knuckle grip will provide. Pictures and video will follow of course!

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https://www.instagram.com/p/CLDT5Pjgbnu/?igshid=1imy5s5cvs1mg
 

The Pug shoots! About as expected for a 22 rimfire of its size, rolls back in the hand a bit. No ammo or gun related issues to report, though there was a bit of frigid finger-fumbling with the hammer as it was below freezing and windy at the outdoor range. As expected the reload procedure considerably cuts down the rounds-per-minute rate compared to the P320s, but that just means the ammo I have will stretch out for a while longer. Got a good impression of how the gun shoots in stock form now, looking forward to seeing how the knuckles change the dynamics of recoil control

 

857634DD-17A9-455B-AC11-6996F33B5302.jpeg

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Second range trip with the Pug tomorrow. Most of my focus will be on shaking down my recently completed P320 project, but I’ll intersperse mags through it with cylinders through the Dude. The Pug is still basically brand new and my compulsive thoroughness still wants to do some reliability testing with it, even if it won’t ever be called into any serious use - It’ll still be nice to know that it could

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Billy’s getting closer to this project with his working partner, should be getting the final design finished up relatively soon. And I’ll be able to make it back to the range in the next week after some unexpected chaos the last couple weeks. More coming soon!

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Finally had a chance to get to the range again today. Most of my focus was on shaking down my completed EVO320 build, but I took breaks occasionally to run several cylinders through the Pug. Purchased some CCI MaxiMag FMJ from the range and fed that through in addition to the Gold Dot JHP for some variety, with no malfunctions to report. The little revolver remains 100% reliable thus far. I still have yet to do a “grab bag” ammo test with four or five different brands/loads mixed together just due to current ammo scarcity, but I get the sense it won’t have any issues regardless of the rounds in the cylinder. More news on the grip expected soon, more updates coming!

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Found a neat webpage while doing more research on the Delhaxhe pistol that includes several very good pictures and what appears to be the original patent filing on the design:

 

image.thumb.jpeg.373658020c134ae133e68a09bc3fcfce.jpeg
 

http://littlegun.be/arme belge/artisans identifies d/a delhaxe gb.htm

 

Just a little more background info on the piece, figured I’d share for anyone interested!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

On a heavy note, plans for another big P320 range day with my brother for 3/20 day get thrown out the window pretty quickly when one has a stroke and brain surgery five days beforehand, so there’s that.


On a lighter note as soon as I get out of this ICU bed between #TrumpBux and #BidenBux this little side project will have been 100% gubmint funded, so that’s something at least!

Edited by Rudukai13
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2 hours ago, joenuclear said:

Something indeed! Heal well and soon. 


Much appreciated sir. Surgery seems to have been the worst of it, should just be a couple weeks of therapy to back to relative normalcy. Just another bump in the road I suppose, but projects march on!

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