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Pocket full of tricks - The Stinger Pen Pistol
By Alex Osinski
Sometimes, I get that James Bondish feeling and pick up some piece of "spy gear" not so much out of paranoia, but because it is just plain cool. One such item is the Stinger Pen Pistol. True pen guns are specialized weapons of spies and assassins. As such, they also fill a niche as curiosity items for gun collectors and are one of the very few classes of weapons that was not affected by modifications to NFA in 1986. Lacking firepower and having not been used in any high profile school yard massacres, the BATF eased restrictions on these weapons around a decade ago and approved the Davis Industries Pen Pistol in 1991. This classy little piece is made almost entirely from stainless steel and is the perfect accessory for that Minox camera and miniature telescope.
Unlike most "pen guns" the Davis Pen pistol had to be partially folded into the approximate shape of a pistol before firing. Thus the single shot "weapon" was more like the infamous "Golden Gun" of James Bond Fame than a true pen pistol which is considered an AOW. In the case of true pen guns and similar weapons (like those made from a flashlight), the weapon is not readily recognizable as a gun even when it is ready to fire. The original Davis Pen pistol was a costly albeit well made curiosity gun intended for a niche market IE those who wanted a "pen gun" but do not require the ultimate stealth or wish to deal with the paperwork hassles of the NFA items. It was withdrawn from production almost as quickly as it had been introduced and the prices went up accordingly when they were no longer being made. Most versions of the gun are made from stainless steel and chambered for .22LR, but there were some made in .25ACP with the on and off availability of blue steel and gold plated models. The gun cannot be fired unless it is folded into the "gun" configuration. One disadvantage of this pistol in relation to true penguns is that the Stinger requires the use of both hands to operate safely.
The current Stinger Pen gun is made by a specialty manufacturer and is not commonly available from normal wholesalers. The company does maintain a website. The quality of the new models is as good or better than the originals and parts appear to interchange. Stinger Corp has also come out with some attachments including a knife blade and a flare launching kit. While not cheap, the new Stinger Pen guns are priced below what the originals had been going for. Chambering is .22 LR, but the gun will also fire all shorter .22 based cartridges and I personally found the .22 Shorts to be my favorite. Another good option is the Aguilla Super Collibri which is a subsonic load. While the attachment of a silencer to the pen gun would require NFA paperwork, I found that firing the pen gun through a rolled up newspaper or magazine does a lot to bring the noise levels of the subsonic rounds down to the point that hearing protection is not required. Be careful to make sure the barrel is screwed on tight when you carry the pistol. Otherwise, the barrel can come undone and render the gun nearly useless. Reloading is accomplished by re-engaging the safety ring (rotate to the fold position), then unscrew the barrel, pick the empty case out with your fingernail, then drop a new round in the chamber and screw the loaded barrel back on. You will need to recock the gun by closing and opening the action again. The gun decocks whenever it is closed and cocks the mechanism when it is opened to the fold/fire position seen below.
Accuracy on the guns is, well, not to be considered for much. This is strictly a contact distance weapon. That said, the poor ergonomics of the weapon makes aiming difficult. If you need to aim it, you are probably too far away. The pictures to the right and below show one option in holding the gun. Use the index finger to steady and point the barrel and activate the trigger with the middle finger. Note that disengaging the safety ring is pretty much a two handed operation.
The gun is obviously compact enough to easily conceal, but more importantly, it can be "hidden" in plain sight without the necessity of concealment. This is an important issue for those who must contend with the letter of the law while maintaining a very low profile while armed. A deft individual can "draw" and prep the gun without broadcasting the action, and as these pictures illustrate, the gun can be easily hidden in the hand when ready to fire. Thus, a true pointing motion is used to index the gun on target, but remember, this is a weapon for very close range.
|Cost - You can usually get out the door under $200 with one of these, which is pricey for what it is, and figuring some places are as high as $275. It's as much art as it is "gun" and should not be compared to "Saturday night special" type mini-pistols||Accessories - Actually some interesting options here, not to mention some custom possibilities that boggle the mind. I could imagine this being integrated into a replica of the bad guy's Golden Gun from the classic James Bond movie.|
|Mags - A non-issue with this gun since it is a single shot only weapon. Reloading is slow.||Longevity and durability - It is built almost entirely of stainless steel and should last at least two hundred years of normal use. Dry firing might mess it up though. I would not even want to dry pop the trigger with the safety on because that seems to drive the firing "pin" into a piece of steel and something there could eventually give way and break.|
|Ammunition - Readily available almost anywhere and a gun like this is not going to be using a whole lot of ammo. Cost is nominal.||Power - Nothing to brag about here, it's your basic .22 LR that can use all lower powered ammo like .22 shorts. Don't discount that as nominal power though, you can get some mean little hollow points that can kill at moderate ranges.|
|Parts - If you are not able to get them from the manufacturer, you are not entirely out of luck. Parts for this gun are probably not too difficult to fabricate.||Ergonomics and handling - Pretty bad even by pen gun and derringer standards, but it does have some unique capabilities when it comes to concealability and use.|
|Reliability - My test specimen has been 100% reliable with no failures of any kind. It's hard to imagine how the mechanism could be screwed up.||Maintenance and repair - The Stinger should most likely see so little use that maintenance will be minimal. Stainless steel construction ensures it will last a long time.|
|Accuracy - Not even an issue with this kind of gun. It is strictly a "screw it in their ear" type of weapon. You might get some interesting accuracy results from the "sniper" barrel they have available as an accessory.||Popularity - This is not a common gun for the common gun owner, still it is a good conversation piece that proves to be an entertaining curiosity. I doubt they will be taking over the firearms markets any time soon.|
Stinger Mfg Corp - The current manufacturer of Stinger pen guns.