Almosts: The .22 Double Deuce


A newer model of the Double Deuce, with the “Desert Industries” marking on the slide.
Very early pistols have the “Steel City Arms” engraved lettering instead.
The beautiful grain of the rosewood grip panels is easy on the eye and comfortable in the hand.

Back in the early 1980s, Charles J. Bailey had a really good idea — a small .22 auto pistol very similar to the Walther TPH, but different mechanically. The infamous Gun Control Act of 1968 banned importing the original TPH, as you might remember. It was later made here, from around 1990 to 2000, and the suggested retail price was $460.

Meanwhile, in 1983, Chuck Bailey established Steel City Arms in Pittsburgh, and began limited production of the .22 Double Deuce. In 1990, the company moved to Las Vegas, Nev., and became Desert Industries. As mentioned above, the Double Deuce was like the Walther, but different. One important addition was an ambidextrous manual safety. And to finish it off, the construction was entirely stainless steel.

The grip panels were smooth, a nicely figured rosewood. The Double Deuce weighed 18 ounces, and the dimensions were 5.5″ by 3.25″, with a width of just 7/8″. Back in 1985, the retail price was $290 — a bit pricey for those times, but considerably less than the US version of the Walther. Chuck Bailey and his partner, Elaine Savage, had a winner here, but there were complications.

Featuring an ambidextrous manual safety and an all-stainless steel construction,
the Double Deuce differed from the Walther TPH. The serial number “JBW”
marks a special tribute to J.B.’s design work on the Double Deuce.

As with many small companies, a considerable number of the parts were “jobbed-out” — produced by other firms — and payment was often a problem. Also, working entirely in stainless steel meant accelerated wear on the production equipment. Bottom line: They had a lot of orders, but couldn’t deliver the product.

In 1997, just a year after the company dissolved, Chuck Bailey died. According to Elaine, the production figures for the Double Deuce were “more than 60, less than 100” finished pistols. Also, around 10 prototypes were made in .25 Auto. Beautifully made and functionally perfect, the Double Deuce in .22 LR would be perfect today for a concealed backup gun, or in a lady’s purse.

I was a “design consultant” on the Double Deuce, hence the “JBW” serial number on the pistol shown here. Some of my suggestions were intended to simplify production, while others were operational. I recommended the automatic hammer drop when the manual safety was applied should be eliminated. Also, I suggested the protruding tabs on the safety levers should be replaced with serrations, reducing the width to just 3/4″. And finally, I advised a regular-steel version should be made, to sell at a lower price. It’s ashamed it didn’t make it.