Seecamp Pocket Pistols

Lee Williams was delighted to find a manufacturer at SHOT whose products he knew well, but one that he’d thought was pining for the fjords: L.W. Seecamp, a maker of high-quality pocket pistols in .32 and .380.

[T]he L.W. Seecamp Co. is back, and according to Christopher Garvey, their program manager, they’re increasing production.

Chris had three models at SHOT Show 2017, in .25, .32 and .380.

They’re everything you want in a back-up handgun.

The fit and finish is incredible — there’s not a sharp edge on the gun. The slide to frame fit is fantastic. It feels like the slide is moving across oiled glass. The trigger is stiff — eleven pounds — but it’s clean.

Thing is, family-owned manufacturer L.W. Seecamp has not been dead, but they haven’t been promoting their guns much because, as one of the first little DAO pistols, with a following that approaches fanaticism, they sell sufficiently well without further promotion. Lee references that when he says:

[T]he small, precisely-machined pocket autos made by the L.W. Seecamp Co. have always been something of a legend — a cult following.

First, they were difficult to obtain. The had waiting periods that sometimes stretched for years.

Second, they were expensive — very expensive compared to other pocket autos.

But more importantly, they were reliable as hell

Lee’s going to test a couple of the pistols, and we’re looking forward to seeing his report.

In fact, despite the company having been in business for many, many, years, and having produced the pocket pistol line since 1981, this was Seecamp’s first trip from their western Massachusetts plant to SHOT — ever.

Call the flip-phone old-fashioned? The Seecamp LWS has been in production since a cell phone filled half our trunk.

Unlike a lot of small pocket pistols, the Seecamps are beautifully made and highly reliable. Parts primarily are made of machined stainless steel castings, and the gun comes from the factory well “melted” for pocket carry. It has no sights. As Seecamp says in their entertaining and informative FAQ:

If shot placement is so important, why no sights?

An exhaustive NYPD report (NYPD SOP 9) revealed that in 70% of recorded police shootings (the majority under poor lighting conditions) officers did not use sights while 10% of the time officers didn’t remember whether sights were used. In the remaining 20% of the cases, officers recollected using some form of visual aid to line up the target ~ which could be the sights themselves or just the barrel.

The NYPD statistics showed no correlation between an officer’s range scores and his ability to hit a suspect at close range. The mean score for NYPD police officers (1990-2000) for all shootings is fifteen hits per 100 shots fired, which is almost the identical hit ratio seen among Miami officers ~ who in the years 1990-2001 fired some 1300 rounds at suspects while recording fewer than 200 hits. Almost unbelievably, some NYPD figures show 62% of shots fired at a distance of less than six feet were complete misses.

The 1988 US Army training manual for pistols and revolvers [FM 23-35], in apparent recognition of the disconnect between sighted shooting at the range and the ability to score hits in short distance combat, wisely calls for point shoot training at distances of less than fifteen feet. The ability to shoot targets at 25 yards using sights sadly seems to provide little or no advantage in close combat. Nor are there recorded instances where an officer required a reload in close combat. When reloads do occur, there is no immediate threat to the officer’s safety and the perpetrator has usually barricaded himself in a defensive posture. A study by Etten and Petee (l995) showed that neither large capacity magazines nor the ability to reload quickly was a factor in shootings.

Speed reloads at short ranges just don’t happen, and practicing paper punching at long ranges using sights appears to prepare one for short range conflict to the same degree it prepares one for using flying insect spray. (Hitting an annoying yellow jacket buzzing a picnic table without spraying the guests or the food might be better practice for combat than long range paper punching. So might a plain old-fashioned water pistol fight.)

In the FWIW department, of 250 NYPD police officers killed in the line of duty in the years 1854-1979 there was only one instance where it could be determined an officer was slain at a distance of over 25 feet ~ by a sniper 125 feet away. Of the 250 fatal encounters, 92% took place under fifteen feet and 96.4% under 25 feet. In the remaining eight instances the distance was unknown.

But how do I qualify at 75 feet without sights?

If you hold the LWS pistol at a 45-degree angle semi-gangsta style there is a groove formed that can be used as a sighting toolThe 25 yard shooting proficiency test for carry qualification required by many issuing authorities is absurd. It’s a request to perform a feat that would land you in jail if you ever tried to perform it “in self-defense.”It’s like passing a driver’s test that requires you to slalom between traffic cones at 120 miles an hour. Seventy-five feet shooting proficiency is not too much to ask from a police officer who may be firing at a barricaded target, as the ability to drive at high speeds is not too much to ask from a Trooper pursuing a fleeing vehicle, but it’s ridiculous to ask it of civilians. Shoot an “assailant” at 75 feet. Then try to find a lawyer good enough to keep you out of prison.On the one hand the law demands that you use deadly force only when you are in danger of serious bodily injury or your life is threatened. On the other hand they demand that you have the ability to commit a long-range homicide with a firearm before they give you that right.

Using sights at shorter ranges invites problems

In order to use sights a shooter has to put at least one hand in front of their face. This obstructs the view behind the hand they have placed there. When the focus is on the upper torso of the threatening individual, the lower portion of that person is partially or completely hidden from view by this deliberately chosen visual obstruction. The closer the target, the greater is the degree of visual impairment that may cause the shooter to fail to recognize potentially important information below the sight picture.

Statistics show pistol sights generally go out the window once shooting starts; however, this does not mean sights are not used prior to the commencement of hostilities. We can see on reality TV police programs numerous instances where officers in a Weaver stance point guns at suspects who are in absurdly close proximity to them.

With both hands in front of one’s face, one is less able to recognize whether a possible threat is reaching for a gun or a wallet when the landscape below the target area is blocked from view. One might perceive movement but one cannot see what is being moved. There is no doubt in my mind accidental shootings of unarmed individuals have in many instances been caused by sight shoot training, in which a trained focus on a clear sight picture leaves one necessarily with an incomplete view of the important overall scenario.

The potential hazard of losing perspective of the complete picture of the environment is well illustrated by American Matthew Emmons. He lost what appeared to be a safe Gold medal in the 2004 Olympics by shooting, with great accuracy, holes in his neighbor’s target. Overmuch concentration on the bull’s eye, which can be achieved with sights that exclude distracting but possibly important stimuli, may assist in hitting what one is aiming to hit but it can do so at the great cost of making an improper choice of target.

Suggestions for achieving proficiency

Other than range practice of point shooting at realistic combat distances (under fifteen feet), here’s what you can do to achieve proficiency, making sure you are using an unloaded pistol:

  1. Dry fire the pistol to get acquainted with the trigger pull. Dryfiring will not hurt the LWS. Slow deliberate dry firing will helpyou get acquainted with the pull, but make it a snappy pull once youget the feel because you’ll never use the slow pull to defendyourself. (Please keep in mind ‘unloaded’ guns are probablyresponsible for most accidental shootings, so never under anycircumstances point the pistol at any living thing or something youare not prepared to suffer the consequences of shooting.)
  2. Repeatedly pick up the pistol and point it towards a targetwithout looking at the gun. Holding the gun in that position, bringyour eyes down to examine whether the position of the gun lines upwith the target. As much as you can, keep your arm straight withoutallowing it to interfere with your vision. A straight arm makes formore accurate pointing. (The pocket slipper laser aimer is also agood training tool for getting you on target. If a threat arises youshould not be thinking of the pistol, which should become anextension of yourself, but on the threat that faces you.)

Most of those who buy pistols for self defense shoot infrequently. At the distance at which handguns are likely to be used for self-defense this doesn’t bother me as much as it perhaps should. Who doesn’t have a shotgun or some other weapon stashed away, seldom or never used, that they wouldn’t hesitate to bring center stage if there was a forced house entry. People who buy pepper spray and Mace don’t normally feel the need to practice a thousand squirts to feel comfortable they can hit an assailant. And, as mentioned, the studies seem to show little practical benefit from long distance range practice. I’d rather go up against a target shooter than an individual who plays occasional paintball.

Sorry for the long excerpt, but you needed it all. (To their recommendations for proficiency, we’d add that practicing with a laser round has absolutely helped us with first round snap shots from our DA CZ P-01). In fact, the FAQ is a perfect illustration of how a small company that lets its character shine through can thrive in a forest of huge competitors: go Read The Whole Thing™. WeaponsMan.com will still be here when you’re done chuckling, and learning, and calling your dealer to order a Seecamp. (Bear in mind, it’s a bunch more money than a Kel-Tec or Ruger LCP. Think of it as self-defense jewelry).

Seecamp also links to this comparison size chart (.pdf) of in-production small-caliber defensive guns, and to some other comparative-sizing tools (linked below).

The first Seecamps were not original guns, but were double-action .45 conversions made in the 1970s. They were unique in that they were a DA conversion of the 1911 that looked good and worked well. As custom guns, they were premium priced for the day. About 2000 of these were made, and they all are now, along with a few hundred limited early “Restricted” and “Special” editions, the holy grail of Seecamp collectors. Yes, we said Seecamp collectors. Can you spot the .45 in this photo by Seecamp collector and expert John Dommer?

The first original Seecamp was the LWS-25, which has been out of production but was reintroduced at SHOT, to the delight of all of us fans of the tiny but admittedly weak caliber. Building on the mechanism of the rare (in the US) CZ-36 and CZ-45 pocket pistol, Larry Seecamp produced a small, reliable, high-quality pocket pistol.

The major parts of the Seecamp pistols are machined investment castings of 404 stainless; there are some stainless stampings and turnings, and the magazines are made, also of 404 but of sheet in this case, by a trusted subcontractor (complete details are on Seecamp’s website). The website says this about the pistol’s design:

We have been making the basic design essentially unchanged except for caliber upgrades since about 1981. The pistol is a traditional CZ 45 type double action only design with one notable feature. The pistol’s magazine safety is unusual in that when the magazine is removed, not only is the trigger blocked but also the slide cannot be pulled to the rear far enough to allow the hand loading of a round. As with other designs, applying pressure to the trigger while removing the magazine can deactivate the magazine safety function and so the finger should always be away from the trigger when this is done.

The .32 and .380 have some different internals from each other and the .25, but all three are the same size. Almost 40 years later, the late Larry Seecamp’s original design continues to be size- and feature-competitive with modern pocket pistols. When initially introduced, the Seecamps were smaller and lighter than other .32s and .380s, but the advent of new products, like the North American Arms’ Guardians and the Kel-Tec P-32, means Seecamp is now playing in a crowded market. Seecamp helpfully provides a comparison chart (.pdf) of several small DA pocket pistols’s dimensions, and a set of overlay photos that show a solid LWS pistol and various shadowed competitors. It also links an independent chart / poster of practically every current production .32 or .380 with dimensions.

Of course, the downside of a powerful pistol in a very small form factor is that it’s not a joy to shoot, with prodigious noise and blast, but that’s true for the whole class of guns, not just the Seecamp or any one of them.

There’s even a California edition which has passed CA and MA testing in .32, and is hoped will pass soon in .380. It adds a trigger-block safety, which gun designers Kamala Harris and Maura Healey demanded. (Can we get a, “Heil Healey!” from the serried ranks?)

In addition to the website, a far more informative website than one usually encounters in pocket-pistol world, Seecamp also supports an engaging forum well stocked with enthusiasts and experts in this small American pocket pistol. The website hasn’t been updated to show the reintroduction of the .25 yet, but they’re already showing up at dealers.

34 thoughts on “Seecamp Pocket Pistols

  1. Neil S.

    I had no idea that Seecamp was still a going concern! I assumed that Kel-Tec and then Ruger borrowing their form factor to make plastic .380s had run them under. Self-defense jewelry is right.

    With regard to the sighting issue, or lack thereof, at distances over 10 yards – I’ve had good results with my LCP by ignoring the “sights” and superimposing the gun silhouette onto the target. Using the nub sights tend to make me waste time and shoot low due to the odd grip angle required to align them.

  2. Daniel E. Watters

    The father Louis (Ludwig) Seecamp died back in 1989. However, I was under the impression that his son Larry (Lueder) was still alive.

    That said, Larry announced in 2014 that production of the pistols was being passed on to Whalley Precision, owned by brothers John and Dave Whalley. Much of Seecamp’s own production staff had been attrited through retirements, and Larry was simply unable to train up new staff fast enough to adequaately replace the old hands. At the time of the announcement, Larry stated that he intended to stay involved. However, his personal Facebook page shows him as “former owner/president.” It looks like Larry’s current project is LWS Ammunition, using his patented projectile design: US8881654, US9200878, USD707785, and USD751166.

  3. Sixgunner

    OK. That reference to LWS ammunition got me to looking (still haven’t found any ammo, although did find a page with the patent info). And lo and behold I found some very valuable information. The LWS 380 shoots 38 Special ammunition! It’s on the ‘net, so you KNOW it’s true! That’s cool. Now I can run one with the same ammo that the old S&W Model 10 uses!

    (they don’t like adblockers, but here’s the site)
    http://guns.armsrack.com/l/1836/Seecamp-LWS-380-38-Special

  4. Alan Ward

    Always loved me some Seecamp. It was my go to choice for a pocket or ankle carry back up piece.
    Unfortunately, here in TGWN, CC is almost Masshole level impossible. In my teens and early twenties I had visions of getting a job that would allow me to get the unobtanium CC permit.
    30 years on, now I couldn’t even get a new Seecamp as our betters have determined that our minimum barrel length is 10cm for a handgun.( just under 4″ for our non metric friends)

  5. Looserounds.com

    Those stats quoted by NY police and their use of sights during shootings is curious to me. Because I have some interesting stats about the effectiveness of NYPD cops and shooting that suggests that when they do shoot they don’t hit any suspect, and the only thing the do manage to hit more than dogs, is each other with NDs.

    If memory serves, I posted it to the website a few years ago.

    Seecamp is a name I have no heard in a long time when being mentioned as currently active or making product. Seems bringing back old names and products is a real trend lately

  6. aczarnowski

    Always nice to hear of small businesses with good products making ends meet or, better, thriving.

    A NAA Guardian in 380 was my first CCW piece. Couldn’t find a 380 Seecamp at the time. Very much in the same vein of stoutly made gun jewelry. Always fun to watch other gunny friends the first time with that loooonnnggggg heavy trigger.

    Seecamp’s overlay is the first time I realized what kind of size difference there really was between the two.

  7. John M.

    Incomplete paragraph alert:

    “Seecamp also links to this comparison size chart (.pdf) of in-production small-caliber defensive guns, and to”

    -John M.

  8. Tom Stone

    I have had a chance to handle several Seecamps and shoot a DA .45 briefly ( One magazine).
    Jewelry is right and I don’t have a problem with a heavy pull on a small SD Pistol.
    When I had my little Smith Snubbie smoothed out by a local gunsmith he reduced the DA pull against my express instructions by installing a weaker spring.
    I had him replace the original spring which brought the pull back up to a smooth 10 Lbs. It’s an ” Oh Shit!” pistol and if I am ever unlucky enough to have to defend myself with it I won’t notice the heavy trigger and may not even hear the report.

  9. Keith

    I got the chance to fire a very small .45 DA only many years ago. The slide came back and cut the web between my thumb and finger. If I ever get anything in that frame size it will be in .380. On there web site that caliber is MSRP $845 of course who knows how much it will be in stores if it reaches them.

  10. Cap'n Mike

    I handled one while pocket pistol shopping a few years ago, it was nice, but the $600 for a used pistol (Long wait for a new one) put me off.
    Cool that they are still around and still made here in Masshole land.
    Heil Healey!
    Did you see the that the good gun owners of Mass have filed a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against Herr Healey and the rest of the Government gun grabbers here in The Peoples Republic?
    This one is not just going after her Royal Edicts, but the entire “Assault Weapon” and “High Capacity Magazine” bans.
    They seem to be relying heavily on the language in Heller about Firearms that are “commonly kept in the home”, but are attacking these dumb laws from all angles.
    Hopefully it will make it all the way to a Trump Appointed Supreme Court.
    http://comm2a.org/images/PDFs/awb.pdf

  11. Docduracoat

    I have a laser on all my pistols
    I used iron sights for many years, but now am convinced that laser sighting is better
    You do not have to raise the gun to eye level
    You can shoot from unusual positions, like looking through an opening in cover while shooting over the top of the cover
    I can actually make hits while running away and shooting one handed!

    1. Brad

      With the recent price drop in lasers, I’ve begun experimenting with them on a couple of my handguns. And I’ve been really surprised so far, it really is revelatory. I think you may be right that laser sighting is better. Dry fire practice is much more productive with a laser than it is normally. That alone makes the laser worthwhile.

      1. John M.

        I’m convinced that human beings take a target focus in a crisis. Training to a front sight focus is a fool’s errand for people who aren’t going to have the sangfroid of real operators. Fortunately newer sighting systems (lasers and red dots, in particular) are making life better on that front.

        -John M.

        1. Gray

          John,

          While I do agree that emotional control is important, in my experience it is not necessarily a genetic trait. I think that it is a training issue. Of course, some people’s personalities are more given to certain traits, but with sufficient training, even the more excitable can be taught to harden up.

          The fact that relatively young men can be trained to operate a vehicle while traveling 135 knots, in the dark, in bad weather, onto a pitching deck, all the while fixated upon only doing it by the numbers, means that humans can be taught to possess reflexive responses and maintain them regardless of external stimuli.

          I lived through a lot of the “instinctive shooting” BS (and rejected it as often as possible). Humans have no instinct to shoot just like they have no instinct to play a piano. We can be trained to possess reflexive responses, but frequently people are deluded (self or otherwise) about what that looks like.

          I often call it “tying your shoes”. Can you tie your shoes? In the dark? In the dark while talking to someone? In the dark in a hurry while talking to someone. In the dark, in a moving vehicle while being given information, etc. I would say that most sober-minded adults can. In the same sense, good training results in the same non-conscious competence, and you do not have to be an “operator” to have it.

          1. John M.

            I agree that sangfroid is mostly acquired rather than genetic. Most folks with real sangfroid have both lots and lots of training and a decent amount of experience on two-way shooting ranges.

            In other words, as a percentage of the population, it rounds to zero. So what do we do with the rest of the people out there (including me, incidentally)? So far, we’ve mostly been telling them to focus on their front sights. If Hognose or one of the other combat vets on here wants to tell me that they can focus on their front sight when they’re getting attacked, I’ll believe it. But when I tell Aunt Betty to do it in an introductory pistol class, it just sounds stupid.

            -John M.

  12. Brad

    There will only ever be just the .32 model Seecamp legal for sale in Commiefornia. The insane microstamping law requires than any model self-loading pistol added to the California Handgun Roster must include microstamping tech. Which means no new model pistol is ever added to the roster. Which is why only 3rd generation Glocks are available in California.

    The laws in this state are slowing squeezing out all models of handguns that remain legal for sale from an FFL. In fact if Seecamp doesn’t regularly pony up the yearly renewal fees to Commiefornia, even the currently legal model would be dropped from the roster.

  13. Brad

    Interesting. I see that Seecamp only recommends HP ammo in both the .32 and .380 models. If the new .25 model is recommended for FMJ ammo (which isn’t a given) I would probably prefer the .25 over the other models.

  14. John M.

    “The pistol’s magazine safety is unusual in that when the magazine is removed, not only is the trigger blocked but also the slide cannot be pulled to the rear far enough to allow the hand loading of a round.”

    OK, that all sounds wonderful. But how does one remove a chambered round with this type of mechanism?

    -John M.

      1. John M.

        So in order to unload the pistol, you either need to have a spare empty magazine handy or you need to unload your loaded magazine? What if some dope lost all the magazines for the pistol? This seems… ill-considered.

        -John M.

        1. Hognose Post author

          I am not a fan of magazine safeties, but many pistols have them (the ATF’s ill-considered import criteria, which have been adopted as part of the hurdles for pistols to be sold in antigun states like CA and MA, encourage them). Indeed, the CZ45 has one. ISTR it doesn’t lock the slide (I’m 1500 miles from my CZ45s and CZ36 right now, so I can’t just pop a safe and check).

          1. John M.

            Yeah, I’m not crazy about mag safeties either, but the usual kind at least just prevents dropping the hammer. This one seems to prevent retracting the slide all the way also, per the above quote that I pulled out of your quoted text. And it sounds like the mechanism is unique to Seecamp rather than being based on the CZ45 design.

            -John M.

  15. SemperFido

    So you are a fan of the .25? While I would always prefer a fat .45 for serious social settings I have seen what the little fireball does to a 2×4 at six feet and would not want to be shot with one.

  16. Bill Robbins

    Regarding point & shoot, I am reminded of the vintage book “Shoot to Live,” by Fairbairn & Sykes. Their pre-WWII experience with the Shanghai Police fighting Chinese bad guys became the basis for training British and US commandos during WWII.

    According to the authors, at short range in a life-or-death shooting situation, site-aiming goes against experience. Apparently, proper mechanics and muscle memory is the basis of hitting the assailant. Aiming with sites? Not so much.

  17. Ed L

    I’ve owned three different Seecamp .32s over the years. One of them did not function reliably from the factory and the other two broke while shooting them inside of 200 rounds. When I sent them back it was months and months. They did not provide a public phone number, only a fax. So I spent a lot of time mailing them, faxing them, and sending them certified letters to get those guns returned.

    1. Josey Wales

      Like Ed L. my experience with the Seecamp was not positive. In well under 50 rounds, when the gun was fired the slide partially disengaged the frame rails, coming most of the way off. Not what I want to see happen when I fire it, the fact that this gun is billed as a list ditch option even less so. I disposed of it thereafter.

      If you are good with .25 for such a gun, a pre-68 Walther TPH can be occasionally found for a good price on GB, since they are unappreciated. If you need .32 the Beretta Tomcat is pretty small, if you can do .22LR, the Beretta 21A. In addition the classic PPK if you can pay the price. (Not the PPK/s or PP, IMHO the longer grip takes them out of the category.

      Any gun that any example of has tried to disassemble itself when I fired it is a permanent no-go at my station. Yes, I was using the factory specified Winchester ammo…..

      The Seecamp is a gun that I would bet most who have owned one have not shot it much, and IME they should avoid doing so.

      1. Josey Wales

        Forgot to specify, with Walther I am talking about German produced guns ONLY. Nothing built in USA.

        1. Hognose Post author

          I long used a prewar PPK as a backup/summer gun. On the current trip to the subtropics, I’m having no problem concealing the P-01 in an OWB slide with shorts and a baggy t-shirt, though. A pro would spot me printing, perhaps, but it’s not pros I worry about.

  18. rick duff

    I’ve had a chance several times in last few years to get both the 32 and 380 models. And passed up every time. Heavy.. Mags was out of world priced WHEN found any. And seen not a single advantage over the 738 stainless Taurus I own. Nor the diamondback db9 also own. Nice made yes. But its even shorter bbl in 380 that’s marginal ballistics in others was a big question mark. And the quoting of box published ballistics but nothing actual TESTED and crono’d is another no sell. Just like the dozens of $2000+ 45s shown up in last few years. No justification for 1500$ extra for a name. But maybe I see things different than a guy with money and no brain guiding fingers.. Oh. I’m also a marine vet.. One of those who trained a lot of special forces who came to our base.. Wasn’t impressed there either..

  19. William O. B'Livion

    > Seventy-five feet shooting proficiency is not too much to ask from a police officer who may be
    > firing at a barricaded target,

    Apparently it is in NYC.

    > as the ability to drive at high speeds is not too much to ask from a Trooper pursuing a fleeing
    > vehicle, but it’s ridiculous to ask it of civilians.

    Nonsense. Simple application of the basic fundamentals of shooting–sight alignment, sight picture and squeeze the trigger. These are simple things–on the square range–that can be accomplished by any man willing to listen, and any woman not being taught by her man, to whom she will not listen.

    > Shoot an “assailant” at 75 feet. Then try to find a lawyer good enough to keep you out of prison.

    To use lethal force there is (usually) a three part test:

    1) Intent–how do you know the person means to injure you or another person.
    2) Proximity–are they close enough to express their intent in actions.
    3) Means–do they have the means to express their intent in actions AT THAT PROXIMITY.

    A quadriplegic at 75 feet yelling he’s going to kick your butt is *not* a threat.

    Most readers of this board are (I assume) lethal out well past 25 yards with a pistol, and would be “danger close” at 100 yards with iron sights and out to 600 with a scope.

    If your lawyer can’t get you off after shooting someone waving a pistol at 25 yards and threaten to kill you, then you need a better grade of landshark.

    Heck, I’ve hit a 12 inch steel plate with a single shot from the holster (Glock 19) at 75 yards, and I wasn’t even Operator Grade.

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