Concealed Carry History – The Fitz Special

One of the most iconic concealed carry firearms of all time is the snub nose revolver. In the age where revolvers ruled, it was the preferred weapon of detectives and civilians looking to pack a punch in a small package. To this day, small, snub-nose revolvers are still extremely popular. Where did the snub nose come from? How did it rise to its level of popularity? Well, it all starts with a man named John Henry Fitzgerald and his Fitz Special.

Who Is John Henry Fitzgerald?

John Henry Fitzgerald was a man ahead of his time. Fitzgerald lived the life of a tough guy. He was a bare-knuckle prize fighter, a marksman, a police officer, and a specialist in refining Colt revolvers. John Fitzgerald became so well known for his refined Colt revolvers that Colt hired him as a salesman.

He would go on to write a book called Shooting, an early tome on defensive firearms usage. Fitzgerald developed the Colt target, one of the first practical, man-sized targets that would become known as the Colt target. He was one of the first people to advocate for a two-handed shooting stance. The man was ahead of his time.

He also took Colt New Service and Police Positive Special revolvers into a configuration that would become known as the Fitz Special. This was one of the earliest snub nose revolvers on the market.

The Fitz Special In Living Color

John Fitzgerald produced his first Fitz Special from the Colt Police Positive Special revolver. This was a .38 Special, double-action, swing-out cylinder revolver. It was the type of revolver most police carried at the time. Fitx took his Colt and started lopping things off. He trimmed the barrel to about 2 inches and moved the front sight rearward. This required him to shorten the ejector rod a fair bit.

He also bobbed the hammer, creating what was essentially a DAO revolver. Although, if you tried hard enough, you could cock the hammer on these modified guns. Fitz then rounded out the grip to minimize the size of the gun. Finally, the front of the trigger guard was removed. This formed the Fitz Special.

The Fitz Special was designed for concealed carry and quick and easy draw. Each modification was purposeful and enhanced concealment and speed. The Fitz special was a custom-order weapon Fitz would make on order. Supposedly, anywhere from 40 to 200 was ever made. Famed gunslingers Rex Applegate and Charles Askins were proponents of the design. The Fitz Special appealed to all manner of men, from Charles Lindbergh to Clyde Barrow.

The Lasting Effect of the Fitz Special

Colt must have seen the writing on the wall because shortly after, they introduced the Detective Special. The Detective Special didn’t keep all the Fitz Special changes but did provide a production snub nose revolver.

The Fitz Special helped usher in the era of the modern, double-action, snub-nose revolver. The man was a revolutionary in many ways. His thoughts on shooting were way ahead of time, his skills were top-notch, and he designed one of the most popular and long-lasting concealed carry platforms.

These days, Fitz Special guns are popular and expensive collector items. Fitz himself reportedly carried two Fitz Specials developed from Colt New Services revolvers in .45 Colt. If you carry a snubnose revolver, make sure you thank John Henry Fitzgerald. Let’s end with a quote from Mr. Fitzgerald.

“Practical shooting is the placing of your bullets in the human body in such a manner that said human will be unable to shoot at you. The penalty for not being able to do this is the loss of your own life.”

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.


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