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CCW In Chief: What The Presidents Carried

The carry guns of the US Presidents

Believe it or not, even American presidents have had concealed carry guns. Granted, almost every president running has shown some sort of appreciation for firearms.

Jefferson believed a person should take a gun every time they take a walk through the woods. Eisenhower was fond of skeet shooting. Teddy Roosevelt, a soldier and a lifelong hunter, was particularly fond of the Winchester Model 1895; he carried one in Cuba in .30-40 Krag, and boasted of his 1895 in .405 Winchester as "the medicine gun for lions" during his safari of 1909-1910. Even Barack Obama enjoyed rounds of skeet during his stays at Camp David.

But what about their concealed carry guns? As it happens, a few Commanders in Chief were known to be packing during their time in office or at other points in their lives. Here are a few of them.

George Washington's Damascus Saddle Pistols

Damascus Saddle Pistols of George Washington

George Washington was presented with a matched pair of saddle pistols, with Damascus steel barrels, by a young French soldier who had volunteered to fight on the American side during the Revolutionary War. The soldier was Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, later author of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen," a highly influential political treatise on both American and French democracies.

Washington carried these pistols (and others; he had a few) throughout the war and then for the rest of his life. After his death, the guns eventually found their way into the collection of President Andrew Jackson, who gave them back to the Lafayette family.

Jefferson's Dueling Pistols And Pocket Pistol

The pistols used by Jefferson in the Dickinson-Jefferson duel

Thomas Jefferson believed in the freedom to bear arms, and was amply stocked. Among his collection was a matched pair of matchlock dueling pistols made by Honore Blanc, a French gunmaker who pioneered the idea of standardized parts. In that era, guns were often one-off affairs or were handmade; Blanc reasoned that consistency and better quality of product could be achieved by making the same parts and creating guns from them.

Jefferson advocated the same ideas to Eli Whitney - inventor of the cotton gin - who created the first modern factories. Mass production in America, therefore, was made possible in part by Jefferson's French dueling guns.

He was also known to pack a matchlock pocket pistol.

Ulysses S. Grant: .32 Rimfire S&W Model 1 ½

Ulysses S Grant's 32 Rimfire S&W Model 1

In 1870, Ulysses S. Grant obtained a second-generation Smith and Wesson Model 1-½ with gold inlays in .32 rimfire. The Model 1-½ was an early Smith and Wesson concealed carry pistol, and was a tip-up break action, carrying five of .32 rimfire. That cartridge was eventually converted to centerfire for the third generation of Model 1-½, and dubbed .32 S&W aka .32 Short.

The pistol was eventually donated to the National Firearms Museum by the Grant family.

Andrew Jackson: A Lot Of Them

Some of the guns owned by Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was one of the most colorful characters to ever inhabit the office. He was also a certified gun nut, with an extensive collection of long arms and pistols. This included numerous matched sets of dueling pistols. (Including Washington's.) His presidency featured one attempt on his life; both pistols of Richard Lawrence, the would be assassin, misfired.

Jackson wasn't amused, and beat Lawrence with his cane until the nearby crowd restrained him. Lawrence was prosecuted by Francis Scott Key (yep, the guy who wrote the national anthem) and was found to be incompetent to stand trial, eventually dying in an insane asylum.

Jackson also killed one Charles Dickinson in a duel in 1806. Dickinson, a skilled shot, hit Jackson in the chest. The ball lodged in Jackson's lung, which he carried for the rest of his life. Jackson's shot also hit Dickinson in the chest, but proved fatal.

Martin Van Buren, Vice President under Jackson and later elected president himself, also carried and bore. Van Buren wore a brace of pistols while presiding over the Senate in case anything got out of hand.

Teddy Roosevelt's FN M1900

The carry FN M1900 of Teddy Roosevelte

Theodore Roosevelt carried an FN M1900, or Model 1900, in his pocket and when at home - it's not like they had holster mounts at the time - kept it in his nightstand. TR being TR, a little ostentatiousness was requisite, so his wore mother-of-pearl grips. The Bull Moose was always packing...not that he couldn't take you in a fistfight.

The Model 1900 was a John Browning design, just like the 1911, but was a purpose-built concealed carry pistol. It's striker-fired, so no hammer to worry about (you silly fanboys didn't think Glock came up with that, did you?) and carried 7+1 of .32 ACP. It was also the first semi-automatic pistol to employ a slide.

Granted, Teddy Roosevelt was better known for his love of the Winchester Model 1895 rifle. He carried an 1895 in .30-40 Krag during the Spanish-American War and took several 1895s on safari in Africa. He reported that the .405 Winchester was "the medicine gun for lions."

Harry Truman's Colt 1911...and Jesse James' Guns

Harry Truman & Garner messing with Jesse James' guns

During his time as president, Harry Truman was presented with an engraved pair of pistols, including an ornate .45 caliber 1911 and Officer's Model Colt .22 revolver. He got it straight from the horse's mouth (so to speak) as the pistol was presented to him by the then-president of the company himself.

Truman was also something of a collector, and in his collection were two pistols that had belonged to notorious outlaw Jesse James. There's no doubt that Bob Ford gave James his just desserts, but people sympathized with James for some reason and he has been a part of Americana ever since. Truman obtained his Smith and Wesson Model 3 and Colt Single Action Army.

Eleanor Roosevelt Had Her Carry Permit

Eleanor Roosevelt concealed carried

She wasn't the president, but she was married to one and had a permit to carry, being one of the few people to actually get a New York concealed carry permit. The then-FLOTUS - widely considered among the most exemplary of the First Ladies - was fond of target shooting and became quite proficient.

For much of FDR's tenure in the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt spent her time on the road, championing her and some of FDR's causes. Partially it was to give something back (there was a depression going on and worse still, Prohibition, so you couldn't drink to take the edge off the Depression) and partially it was because FDR philandered more than Bill Clinton and she could only stand the sight of him in doses.

The Secret Service didn't like her going on her frequent cross-country road trips without an escort, so she got the permit to allay their concerns and started toting a Smith and Wesson .38 Special concealed carry revolver. She was also fond of shooting her .22 target revolver.

Eisenhower's Detective Special

Pre-War Detective Special like the one in Eisenhower's briefcase

Ike loved upland bird hunting and skeet shooting, and he had the shooting range at Camp David put in...but Ike was known to be packing a Detective Special during World War II in lieu of the standard-issue 1911.

He wasn't the only Army man to deviate from the norm during that conflict. General Patton wore a Colt SAA on one hip and his "killing gun," a S&W Registered Magnum (an N-frame in .357 Magnum) on the other.

Ronald Reagan's .38 Special

Reagan carried a .38 Special snub-nosed revolver for most of his life

The Gipper was adamant while in office that gun control was not the solution - strange, given that he passed California's Mulford Act which banned open carry of loaded guns, but one digresses - and carried a .38 Special snubbie in his briefcase for much of his life, including his time in office. He was even known to carry it while aboard Air Force One.

The Gipper was also known to wear a SAA around his ranch in California, while tooling around in his Subaru BRAT.

Purportedly, the Secret Service wasn't happy about it and neither was Nancy Reagan, but he wasn't going to stop and both parties conceded that he was going to carry.

About The Author

Writer sam hoober