When asked what the best self-defense pistol on the market is, the author usually replies with the same answer 99% of the time: “Seecamp LWS-32”. The main reason is because that is what is kept in the front right pocket about 99% of the time.
The Seecamp was developed in the late 1980s by Ludwig Seecamp as a backup handgun that was the size and weight of a typical 25 ACP pistol of the day, yet chambered for the larger and more potent 32 ACP. In this case a specific loading produced by Winchester as the Silvertip Hollow Point.
In a sense the pistol was designed around the cartridge and most of Ludwig Seecamp’s energy was dedicated to ensuring this particular round would function with the pistol.
Constructed of stainless steel with Lexan grips, the palm sized pistol weighs less than 12 ounces. It is double action only, with no reset of the hammer to the cocked position between shots and operates on a retarded blowback system due to a ring around the chamber, which halts rearward movement of the slide while unlocking.
There are no external safeties on the basic version and the pistol relies merely on a magazine safety coupled with a long double action trigger pull. An external safety was added for California residents in the late 1990s. The pistol has no slide stop or slide release, either. Its magazine holds six rounds.
In addition to the lack of external safeties there is a distinct lack of sights. These were disposed of with the notion that the pistol would be drawn and fired at point blank range where sights would not be needed in close range self-defense. Like the safeties and any semblance of a slide stop or release, these were seen as detriments to a smooth draw from a concealed position.
Some shooters feel the lack of sights is a mistake, but point shooting is a skill that can be quickly and easily learned. It is definitely not the pistol with which the average shooter wants to run an IDPA or Three-gun match, but one that may save your life while the larger heavier pistol is locked up in a safe.
The reliance on a particular type of ammunition raised concerns at first, but modern ballistic tests at the time and real-world use showed the Winchester Silvertip to be the most effective round for the 32 ACP. This meant practicing with the most expensive cartridge of its type on the market as cheaper full metal jacket ammunition would not chamber in the Seecamp due to its length.
In spite of all these or because of them, the Seecamp became the hot pistol to own as Concealed Carry Reform swept the nation in the late 1990s. The handgun which had an MSRP of $300 – $400 was backordered for years and scalper prices at the gun shows and gun shops became the order of the day with the little pistols selling for over $1000 in some cases for a pocket pistol that only fed Silvertips, but functioned perfectly with them.
Unfortunately, sometime after the year 2000 it was discovered that something had changed at Winchester and the new round would not work reliably in the Seecamp.
Other manufacturers took up the slack such as CorBon, Federal, Magsafe and PMC. Seecamp maintains a list of what ammunition will work in their firearms.
A number of companies design pocket holsters for the Seecamp. Typically they are constructed with a “rough out”, Velcro or “sticky texture to leave the holster in the pocket while the shooter draws it. These are deep concealment pistols and most belt or shoulder holsters defeat that purpose. Ankle holsters are available, but allow the pistol to collect a lot of dirt and dust which can compromise reliability when it is needed most.
Accessories such as lasers and a grip extension to allow a better hold on the pistol are available as well on Seecamp’s website.
In 2014 Whalley Precision of Massachusetts took over production for the Seecamp line of pistols, with Larry Seecamp (son of Ludwig) maintaining a hands-on role in the transition.
More than just a footnote in history, the Seecamp LWS changed the perception of a pocket pistol from an unreliable, mediocre handgun into a proven defensive weapon. Most importantly, its small size means that while it may not be fired often, it will be carried more often than not and be there when you need it. This attribute makes it one of the best self-defense handguns on the market for concealed carry.
Photo credit – Wikipedia