"HERO"....."the poor man's derringer".
manhattanfirearms.com
Right Side

Manhattan HERO Pistols!!!
( double-click on the photos for larger pictures )

These are the HERO Model Singleshot pistols. They are called by some a "poor man's derringer" or "boot pistol".  These
pistols have very little written about them in the book "Manhattan Firearms" by Waldo E. Nutter.  He had identified only
two models (MFA Co and AST Co) and two barrel lengths (2 inch and 3 inch) in each model.  He speculated that these
were so cheaply sold that people did not keep them after cartridge guns came along, and early collectors were not
interested in these simple pistols.  Nutter guessed as to the quantities manufactured as he never saw any M.F.A. Co.
(Manhattan Fire Arms Company) marked HERO pistols with serial numbers.  He had only four guns pictured in his
collection, some of these were in poor condition. HERO barrels screw off for cleaning.  Many today show pipe wrench
scrapes on the round barrels where stuck barrels were loosened by people, further worsening condition of the surviving
pistols.  Fine condition Hero pistols are, in my experience, very rare.  I think that parents gave them to their kids to play with
as cap pistols and many were lost or left in the weather. They were not big enough for the housewives to keep to use as
a "hammer" like a lot of today's Manhattan Navy models that I have seen, so most were probably just thrown away.

My research has turned up two other models, a transition Manhattan model marked just "HERO" whose serial numbers fall
just after the first models and a second American Standard Tool Co. Model. The
Manhattan First Model HERO were
marked "HERO" and directly underneath "M.F.A. Co" (Manhattan Fire Arms Company). The
Manhattan Second Model
HERO
were serial numbered during the time of transition of the Manhattan company name to American Standard Tool Co.
and were marked only "HERO" with no manufacturers Initials added.  I have found some of the HERO M.F.A.Co. pistols to
have serial numbers marked on the trigger and some have no easily visible serial numbers.

The
AST Co. First Model HERO and the AST Co. Second Model HERO are marked "HERO" and directly overhead
"A.S.T.Co"
(American Standard Tool Company).  The first AST model is an exact copy of the Manhattan models. While the
second AST model is a completely new style brass casting. This new brass casting is a more advanced quality allowing for
less finishing and thinner material. It seems to be coated with a zinc-plating that has dulled to a flat gray finish. Also there is
a spinal ridge down the backstrap and new Hammer thumb ridges. Because of the thinner backstrap there was no room left
for the serial number to be stamped, so there are no serial numbers. Also they changed the grips to a pressed-on type that
would also be cheaper to make by eliminating the grip screw.  This does not work well as I have one altered back to a screw
type. The pressed-on grips worked fine as long as they are not removed several times and become loose.  It seems to me
that AST Co. tried to make the Hero a little more economical as well as a little snazzier at the end of the Hero life cycle.

I own several 4 inch barrel guns in different models. Waldo Nutter had never found a 4 inch barrel, but he speculated for
some reason that he expected to find a 2 1/2 inch barrel someday. I have never seen one, let me know if you have!!!
Another collector friend of mine is searching for a mythical factory 10 inch or longer barrel Hero which he has dubbed
the soon to be ultimate Manhattan collectible ....
."The Buntline Hero"... LOL!!

More research is needed on the neglected "Hero" model. Please send me any information you have to help prove or
disprove my conclusions on models, serial numbers and barrel lengths.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact me
using the contact form at the bottom of my home page.

Prototype HERO or just a copy?

This prototype copy of a HERO is unmarked, serial numbers
are stamped on barrel and frame. While very similar in look
and design, this pistol differs from the standard production
models.
Left Side

Manhattan First Model HERO

Frame marked "HERO" and "M.F.A." (Manhattan Fire Arms),
serial numbers, when found, are stamped on frame under the
grips or on internal parts. Estimated Production 5,000+.
Guesstimated Serial range #1 to 5,000+.  
Manufactured between 1861 to 1868.
Left side
Serial number on trigger
Right side

Manhattan Second Model HERO

(Frame marked "HERO", serial numbers, when found, are
stamped on frame under the grips. Estimated production 5,000+.
Guesstimated Serial range # 5000+ to 11,000+.
Manufactured around 1868.
AST Co. First Model HERO Address
Right Side
Left Side
Serial Number marked on frame under
the grips
First Model HERO address

AST Co. First Model HERO

Frame marked "HERO" and "A.S.T. Co" (American Standard Tool),
Serial numbers are stamped on frame under the grips.
Estimated Production 37,000+
Guesstimated Serial range # 11,000 to 48,000+.
Manufactured between 1868 to 1873.
Un plated brass frame, smooth hammer,smooth backstrap
Left side
Close-up of left engraving
Left Side
Screw off barrel
Right Side

Engraved Second Model HERO serial #10,589

As a "poor man's derringer" It would be an oxymoron to have it
factory engraved. 25 years ago I bought this "factory engraved"
Hero from a famous antique arms dealer. While I have never seen
another engraved example, I can't imagine why anyone would order
an engraved one!!
Serial #50 on frame and Barrel
Right Side

Manhattan HERO Barrel lengths

Shown here are the 2 inch, 3 inch, and 4 inch Barrel lengths.
Nutter in his book "Manhattan Firearms" speculates that there may
be a 2 1/2 inch also.  I have seen several HERO's with non-factory
custom made barrels up to 12" long
Serial number marked on frame
under the grips
Second Model HERO address
Barrel Lug
Close-up of right engraving

AST Co. Second Model HERO

Frame marked "HERO" and "A.S.T. Co" (American Standard Tool)
No serial numbers. Estimated Production Unknown
Manufactured in 1873.
Zinc plated brass frame, new style thinner casting, hammer thumb
ridges, spine on backstrap.
Right Side
Left Side
AST Co. Second Model HERO Address
Thumb notches on Hammer
Casting line down the middle
Spinal ridge on backstrap
Casting differences: thinner sidewall,
pin for pressed on grips
No thumb notches on hammer
Smooth backstrap