By Dr. S. Flint
Sleeve guns were first produced by the British secret Station IX (part of Special Operations Executive -SOE) during WWII.
This device was called Mk II and was a single shot weapon in .32 ACP with an incorporated suppressor.
It was a “one shot, one kill” weapon, as the reloading process took a lot of time. The idea was to carry the gun up the sleeve of ones coat. At the end of the suppressor tube was a little lanyard-hole to attach one end of a rubber band. The other end was attached to the arm right above the elbow, allowing the operator to discreetly go about his business and yet be able to take out the weapon at moment’s notice. The MK II was 9 inches long which made it pretty small considering that it had an incorporated suppressor.
The trigger, a device resembling the switch of a flashlight, was mounted close to the muzzle of the gun and doubles as a safety. To fire the gun, the knurled switch/trigger must first be slid backwards and then forwards. Having fired the gun one simply lets go of it to let it slide unnoticed back up the sleeve. (Source)
The empty case was retain in the gun. So the British spies could’ve used the Mk II to kill a high ranked Nazi and still had a chance of getting away with it.
The Modern Quick-Draw Sleeve Gun
Of course modern sleeve guns are commercial small guns fixed on a homemade quick-draw devices.
I remember that in The Wild Wild West (1965), James had a sleeve gun strapped to his right forearm under his jacket and the device would cause a derringer to slide forward into his hand. The Sleeve gun (a Remington derringer), featured in many episodes as an unexpected concealed carry alternative to his holstered and openly carried full sized revolver. The device became so popular that appeared in a lot of movies afterwards.
One of the reasons why I’m telling you this is because until recently, Tim Smythe, the propmaker from the Wild Wild West TV show had had a company that produced replicas of his sleeve gun from the show.
Here’s the description of one of his customers (Police Lieutenant):
“The gun is released from the retracted position by the brass bar. You press your arm against your side which depresses the bar and releases the catch that normally keeps the gun in the retracted position. The bar functions as a release lever and is, IMHO, pretty clever.
I used a blank gun on my setup. When I first received it, I briefly considered using the mechanism with a small .25 cal. Beretta as a backup gun for work, then thought about how many times I point at people, shake hands, reach for donuts, etc. and dismissed the idea.
Once released, the mechanism must be manually reset. You retract the extender and set the retaining catch (the brass bar). The photo show the setup with the bungee cords off the rollers.” (Source)
Unfortunately, nobody mass produce sleeve guns these days.
Sleeve gun rigs are usually made in a basement workshops and custom built for the user. The actual component parts scavenged to assemble the device vary greatly. But here are 3 very good examples:
Using a Desk Drawer:
The rail is disassembled and sawed-down to forearm’s length. It is then modified to prevent parts from sliding off during use. Many parts are fabricated from scratch for the firearm holder and the ejecting mechanism. The mechanism is triggered by releasing a spring that holds the firearm under the wrist. The gun itself is ‘activated’ by either pulling the ring attached to a metal wire or just the sudden movement of the forearm, using the force associated with “flipping” the arm out to propel the gun down the slide.
Modifying a Similar Device:
Believe it or not there is a toy called Sleeve Gun Mr. Bickle and all one has to do is to remove the toy gun and attach a small but real gun. They sell this toys on eBay for $200 – $400 (which is a looooooot for a toy).
Using a Combined Mechanism:
Desk drawers are too rigid and their movement is only horizontally. A better system is one that combines a horizontal movement with a rotation. This way the device is shorter (with the length of your gun) and can be fixed on just the lower half of your forearm making it completely invisible and giving you a lot more flexibility.
Another advantage is that the gun is not totally rigid. You’ll still have to move your whole arm to aim horizontally, but vertically you can just move your wrist.
Here’s a prototype from the movie Tomb Raider:
John Elliott from Guns.com remembers about his activity as an undercover officer:
“I was once required to carry a type of sleeve gun. It wasn’t spring-loaded (I’ve always been suspicious of these), but just a small .22 LR Derringer attached to a makeshift rubberized holster that wrapped around my left forearm. I have to say that it was pretty darn comfortable but, in hindsight, probably not too practical (it was only accessible using my right hand, and fishing up my sleeve). I never did use it.”
The problem with this kind of device is that
- the weapon is fixed onto the forearm and can’t be articulated properly;
- it’s impossible not to break at least 2-3 safety rules;
- it would be the most uncomfortable holster;
- it’s pretty heavy for a holster;
- homemade devices are not usually reliable;
Bottom line: I wouldn’t wear this on a regular basis. No way. But I think that in some very rare cases – even when SHTF – this would make a super “surrender and kill the bad boss” tool or a last resort self-defense weapon.
… and let’s not forget something which is probably the main reason why you are still reading this article: it’s COOL and I have the pictures to prove it:
Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver ” You talkin’ to me?
Antonio Banderas – Desperado “It’s strange how pulling a trigger is easier than playing the guitar”
Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained “Stephen: I count six shots, nigger. Django: [pulls out a second revolver] I count two guns, nigger.”
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