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.
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:
- 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.)
- 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.
Kevin was a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S). His focus was on weapons: their history, effects and employment. He started WeaponsMan.com in 2011 and operated it until he passed away in 2017. His work is being preserved here at the request of his family.