What you're looking at is the world's smallest revolver. It may look like a toy, but stick a few miniature bullets into the .7 inch barrel and it becomes a fully functional firearm.
At two inches (5.5 cm) long and weighing under an ounce (0.7 oz), the SwissMiniGun C1ST is a highly sought after collectors item. Making the parts and assembling the gun requires the skill of a master craftsman, all of which are trained at jewelry and Swiss watchmaking. Thus about only 100 are handmade each year, with each order customized to the client's specifications, including the option for a special model made of 18k gold. Adding the double-action .09 caliber six-shooter to your collection will run you at least $6,705.
"We are producing in very small quantities – perhaps 25 gold guns and 100 steel guns a year, and there is a six month waiting list to get one," SwissMiniGuns owner Paul Erard told the Daily Mail. "We will make whatever the customer wishes for. The most expensive version we have sold cost £30,000 and was covered in diamonds and came with a gold chain."
However, the fact that a firearm this tiny actually works makes gun regulators quite nervous. For instance, the bullets are so minis cue that firing a cartridge essentially smashes the bullet, making them impossible to trace to the original model. And being that it fits in the palm of your hand or inside your shoe, it's also highly concealable. U.S. gun laws prohibit firearms that can slip by undetected at airports and require that working guns come with a barrel that's at least 3 inches long. Needless to say, the C1ST has been banned in the US and the UK.
But Erard has derided such fears surrounding the C1ST as simply irrational. In an interview with the Daily Mail, he pointed out that the gun packs only a tenth the firepower of some air guns. "Since September 11 there has been a lot of paranoia in America", he said. "It is ridiculous. Why would criminals want my gun when you can go out and buy a Kalashnikov there already?"
A close analysis of the gun's mechanics shows that while concerns over the C1ST's ability to inflect physical harm might be a bit overblown, it isn't entirely unwarranted either. According to HowStuffWorks:
The SwissMiniGun's 2.34mm-caliber ammunition travels just under 400 feet per second. Its bullets pack a punch of about 0.71 foot pound of energy [source: SwissMiniGun]. By contrast, the Remington 300 Ultra Mag round carries 4,220 foot pounds of energy with it [source: Remington].
On the other hand, according to the United Kingdom's House of Commons, it takes at least one foot pound of force to inflict a penetrating wound, like a gunshot injury. Anything less (like the force delivered by SwissMiniGun cartridges) "is incapable of penetrating even vulnerable parts of the body, such as the eye" [source: House of Commons]. But ballistic experts claim that even when fired at close range, a projectile with less than a foot pound of force can still penetrate the skin -- especially the eye.
In the meantime, Erard is working on designing a second gun that would meet U.S. standards.