Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Carbines for Collectors

carbines_for_collectorsCarbines for Collectors is a website that has outrun its own name. Originally, it had pages on some of the key bolt-action carbines of the 20th Century, but over time it has evolved to contain a great deal of information on many weapons and the historical periods and events that they helped shape.

One of the reasons that this site may have been overlooked is that there are relatively few embedded pictures. Instead, the pages are mostly text, and the pictures are mostly linked. This does mean it loads lightning fast, and you don’t have to load pictures you don’t care about. But if you’re a visual learner, clicking back and forth might be frustrating for you.

carbines_for_collectors_mx_36Despite the dense, high-quality content, it is a very simple collection of pages menued off the index page. Navigation is a snap, and if you want to learn the ins and outs of, say the rifles of the Spanish Civil War (an extremely complex period) or a specific rifle like the Mexican Modelo 1936 (left) then this is for you.

It isn’t only about rifles; there’s some good pistol content, too, and it isn’t just for collectors, because there’s plenty of meat for history buffs. It also has excellent pages that try to explain the small arms history of specific countries.

There are good essays on, for instance, the small arms of Bolivia (below)…


…or of many other nations, and even some small crew-served weapons like the Japanese 50mm “knee mortar” grenade launcher.

RK Smith, Dan Reynolds, and Cliff Carlisle are credited with this site, but at least some specific pages are written by well-known authorities — we noted that Ruy Aballe was responsible for the pages on Spanish pistols.

All in all, Carbines for Collectors is a good site for anyone interested in the military weapons of the world, especially those of the mid-20th Century.

Thing From the Vault: Pinfire 9mm Double Pistol; Worst Trigger Ever

In this Thing From the Vault, we have a double pistol gifted to us recently by a friend. It is a 9mm  pinfire of uncertain European (Belgian, perhaps?) make. It’s an oddity with a number of screwball design features; maybe it was French, because it has some of the sorts of quirks our long-departed Citroën had. Wait… it is Spanish, we just figured that out, and we’ll tell you why. First, a picture. (All pictures here do embiggen).


The pistol is furnished with a carved walnut grip and is finished in the white. We’ll give you a quick walk-around, starting from the hammers and proceeding clockwise. There are two single-action hammers, each with a full cock and a half-cock position. The hammers are serrated at the top of the spurs. The retractable triggers only extend at full cock; with the hammers at half-cock or at rest, they are approximately flush with the bottom of the pistol.


pinfire_pistol_3Forward of the hammers, atop the barrels, is the sight, a simple notch; there s no front sight. The sight slides and forms the safety (we’ll show you later how this works). The barrels are octagonal in section and 9mm in caliber. Beneath the barrel, the pivot screw, pivot spring and locking block are evident.

pinfire_pistol_6The main lock of the pistol shows trigger and hammer pins, and is curiously cross-hatched.

The grip is rather crudely formed to fit the decorative shape of a steel grip cap with lanyard ring.

The right barrel bears black-powder proofs from Eibar, Spain in the 19th Century.


The markings on the right side are Xº1 9,9 [an Eibar proof crest with antlers] [an Ebar black powder proof with three non-interlocking rings] and the strength of the proof, 700 Kgs (Kilograms/square centimeter pressure). The markings on the left side of the barrels are a serial number, 05435; what may be 2.2 in a lozenge shape; and CAL. 9.



The pistol must be half-cocked to be opened. With the hammers on half-cock, pushing the locking bolt from right towards left allows the barrels to be opened. No extraction is provided; the pins in the cartridges can be used for that.

Pinfire  was an early cartridge system that was quickly made obsolete by the rim- and later center-fire cartridges. There’s actually a lot to say about early cartridges (including a great three-volume work by George A. Hoyem). Pinfire allowed self-contained, more or less hermetically sealed, metallic cartridges, but they had to be inserted so that the pins fit into the slots in the barrel. The pin was like a little firing pin built into the cartridge, and activating an internal priming compound set against the inside of the cartridge case. It sure beat muzzleloading and paper and linen cartridges, but the popularity of the rimfire after 1850 consigned pinfire to the history books — and the Vault. By 1900, pinfire was a dead concept, but cartridges were made for existing firearms as late as World War II. A few die-hard enthusiasts remanufacture and reload pinfire cartridges today.

For more, including a look at the primitive safety, click on the link below.

Continue reading

What Good is a Dirt-Cheap Pistol?

Here’s an interesting appreciation of the Jimenez J.A. NINE 9mm pistol, an el cheapo blowback 9 x 19 pistol, as sold to those self-defenders who can’t spend $200 after tax on a pistol, and as disparaged by all right-thinking pistoleros.

The Jimenez has an interesting corporate history and uses some purpose-selected manufacturing technology. The die-cast Zamak parts (the cheap pot metal used in cast toys, like Matchbox cars) are cast to near-net shape, and that keeps costs down. The simplicity of the pistol does, also. (It also means the heavy slide and stiff spring are hard for some percentage of humans to manipulate). Everywhere you look in the design, you see that simplicity and low cost were the design objectives. Aesthetics and durabilty and, really, everything else, took a back seat. For instance, look at the magazine floorplate with its clever little bend.

It’s not a Glock, but you can’t buy a Glock for the price of this. Not a used Glock. Not for the price of two Jimenezes (Jimeni?), actually. (Ugh. Vision of dual-wielded Jimenez pistols whilst leaping through the air in a Hollywood blockbuster). But it works with cheap ball ammo (which is what it will almost certainly be loaded with, the cheapest 9mm in the store), and it hits a price point that poor people can meet.

Yes, they can get better used guns for that money, if they shop around and know what the hell they’re doing. But who knows what he’s doing, when he buys his first gun, if he didn’t grow up in it? For most of the people who buy these, it’s a rational buy.

Now, two kinds of people tend to tut-tut at the Jimenez and its Jennings and Bryco ancestors. Those are gun snobs like us, and anti-gunners. We tend to dismiss the pistol as cheap junk, and the anti-gunners have named guns like this Saturday Night Specials. And it’s true: every Monday morning, there’s probably a couple of Jimenezes or their antecedents in the evidence lockers of Chicago. But many thousands of these are made — almost a quarter million in the last five years, according to official ATF production reports.

Year Report Link Production










 five-year total of Jimenez production: 229680

This sounds like a lot of guns, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t. It’s half a year’s SIG domestic handgun production, for instance, but spread over five years. Still, it’s obvious that for all that the gun-ban groups like to call them Saturday Night Specials, and even our fellow gun culture members dismiss them as, for example, “evidence-locker stuffers,” most of these guns must not be used in crime… instead, they’re the home-defense gun of choice for the home defender who doesn’t have any of the good choices that most of us take for granted.

The history of Jimenez is interesting. It is the descendant of several companies that made small, cheap pistols in California and Nevada. The ur-founder was George Jennings, whose original product was the Raven .25,  and his son Bruce and son-in-law Jim Davis founded various similar companies making similar firearms. Their names include Raven, Jennings, Bryco, Lorcin, and some others. Jennings and Bryco were sued into nonexistence in the California courts after one clueless idjit shot another clueless idjit with one. (He didn’t know that if you take out the mag the gun still has a round in the chamber, and he pointed it at his friend and pulled the trigger. Moral of story: choose better friends. But a California jury thought that was proof that the gun was unsafe. Moral of story: choose better states).

How the same apparent operation went from Jennings to Jimenez is a tangled tale. The story in the industry is something like this: at the bankruptcy auction, the high bidder for Jennings’s assets was one Jimenez, previously a foreman at the company. The source of his half-million dollar bid is not clear. Jennings/Bryco had operated in California under some kind of questionable deal where the company’s pot-metal pistols passed the California tests that Colt and S&W and SIG flunk all the time, to the benefit, no doubt, of some state official’s off-the-books retirement fund.  That same dope deal wasn’t available to Jimenez, so he relocated to Las Vegas and later Henderson, Nevada.

Former owner Bruce Jennings sheltered some of his assets by redomiciling in Florida. Under the Florida homestead law he was able to shelter assets from the judgment by investing in an expensive home. As far as we know, while  the plaintiff’s attorneys got paid (being lawyers, they always pay themselves first), the actual plaintiffs, we believe, have gotten skunked.

That was not Jennings’s only unhappy result in a courtroom. For one thing, he had previously been convicted for busting his wife’s jaw, in 1985.

[I]n a newspaper interview in 1992, Jennings admitted that he had assaulted his wife. “I lost my cool, and I hit her,” he said. “My wife had taken all the bonds, the Rolexes, the diamonds and the gold.”

And he would subsequently be convicted for some kind of child porn or child sex offense, and is now Federal Inmate number 57403-018, who’ll get out in 2020-something, if he lives that long. That is some of the ugly backstory to this ugly gun.

It’s fair to say that this unlovely and unloved firearm is not going to evolve into a swan. That only happens in fairy tales, kids. But it does fill a market niche, and

Join a Minority (Pistol) Group

join-a-minority-groupOK, so “It’s Over. And Glock Won,” as we posted a while back. But as we never really warmed up to the G17, we went back to a CZ.

Like we did when we filled out the first of many sheaves of volunteer paperwork, we Joined a Minority Group.

When you join a minority group, you can find yourself, well, not fitting in. You’re different. People look at you funny. You might be feared, shunned, even hated. You tend to band together with people like yourself.

There’s probably something about it in the Bible, or maybe the Book of Mormon (in the Book of John Moses?), that says that the bearers of the 1911 shall cleave to one another, and not suffer the bearers of the unclean European wondernine to pass among them; and the Pharisees of the K-Frame and Python listened not to the gospel of the autopistol, but gathered among themselves and called for the stoning of the autopistoleros, especially those whose frames were cast of polymer, which is unclean.

Well, there’s a certain sense to that. With your only six rounds gone, aren’t fist-sized stones the handiest Plan B?

The cultural Siberia to which the odd-brand pistol-packer exiles himself is not the whole problem, or even the largest part. More practically, changing pistols is a royal pain in the part where Glock operators occasionally puncture themselves. If the pistol were the be-all and end-all of your self-defense, that’d be one thing, but think of all the other parts of the self-defense handgun ecosystem:

  1. ammunition;
  2. spare magazines;
  3. sights (factory sights peak at “fair,” and some are horrible. And they are usually day-only. Take a look at what side of the clock defensive gun units happen on);
  4. holsters, and magazine carriers.

beretta_m9_kyle_defoorThen, there’s training. Some trainers will expect you to run what you brung and will work to make you better with it (here’s Kyle Defoor discussing training a Beretta-using entity). Other trainers will use a training class as a platform to disparage your selection (or worse, your agency’s or service’s selection, as if you, a gravel-agitating bullet-launch technician, could influence it), and promote their own 99% solution.

(But we do agree with Defoor’s aside — if you’re going to carry the Beretta, or any safety-equipped DA/SA auto, carry it hammer down on a loaded chamber, safety off. We also agree that even better than the 92F/M9 is the decocker-only 92G).

Fortunately, most trainers can teach you something that will make your shooting better. If you’re already really good, there are specific trainers that specialize in wringing the last 4% of potential out of any given platform. (So maybe it’s necessary to change trainer when you change gat).

It’s wonderful that those guys can make a living, but the fact is, you probably don’t need that kind of specific training. You might still seek those trainers out — because they’re probably pretty darn good, overall. (If you’re going to do heavy maintenance on your pistol, of course, you’re well advised to attend the factory or importer armorer course, if you can. But operation, many experienced trainers can help you with).

Some of those things often aren’t that big a change. If your old and new guns are in the same caliber, and the new gun will feed your old ammo, there’s one change you don’t have to make or consider. Your mag carriers often will take any other mag in the same caliber. And sights? You’ll be at the mercy of the aftermarket, and your pistol’s standard or not-so-much sight dovetails.

With all that out of the way, the real thing that’s a problem is a holster. These don’t interchange among pistols, much. (Unless they’re crappy holsters that “fit” many pistols because they don’t actually fit anything). So we went to the holster maker that skinned our Glock, Raven Concealment, only to find out our CZ was not on their supported list.


The P-01 didn’t really fit in the concealment holsters we had for the old CZ-75 Pre-B. It has a squared off “chin” with a light rail, and a larger trigger guard.

We heard that Black Storm Defense in Tennessee made a decent holster, so we went on line and ordered one each of their Signature and Pancake holsters for the P-01.

And waited.

And waited.

D’oh. This is what happens when you join a minority group, kids. We could get forty-eleven holsters for a Glock 17 within twenty miles of Hog Manor, nearly as many for a SIG, and even a few for an M9. CZ-75 P-01? Not so much.

Welcome to the minority group. But then, in the process of rounding up some stray tax paperwork in the pile of untended paper on the breakfast table, we discovered (along with a pile of unread magazines, a $355 rebate check from our health insurer, apparently for not having another myocardial infarction in the last twelve moths, and a box of hollow points) a holster we’d bought on a whim on eBay of all places, for the old CZ, months or maybe years ago.

And never taken out of the bag, because were were rockin’ the Glock when it came.


It was a very inexpensive, an “Anatolia” brand from the Turkish company Anatolia Hunting & Nature Sports, Leather Products Company, which is quite a mouthful in English, and must be a remarkable jawbreaker in its native Turkish. The holster seems well-made, it’s made of solid leather and appears to be hand-stitched. Will it hold up?

And… will the P-01 fit? It just might, because the holster’s a simple slide-in job, with a free muzzle. It might not care about the P-01’s prognathous jaw, and it looks like it’s shaped to take a protruding or squared-off trigger guard, and not just the rounded one of the Pre-B.

And it did fit.


And with delight, we started carrying the P-01, finally.

The next day, we got an email from Black Storm that our holsters had shipped. The wait wasn’t even that bad (three weeks from order to ship) but we’d gotten impatient. Now the Black Storms will have to play King of the Hill with this $15 Turkish special — which starts out at the top of the hill.

That, too, is life in a pistol minority group. The delights, as well as the sickeners, come in clusters.

Is This Patriotic Pistol Polarizing?

We have a feeling nobody’s going to be neutral about this finish job. You might like it. Colin Kaepernick, not so much.


It was posted by @PitBullDan on Gab:


Freedom dispenser

And when @JAFO flagged us to it, we commented..


@JAFO @PitBullDan

“De gustibus non disputandum est.” I wouldn’t do one of my own up like that, but it’s a free country, so knock yourself out. #guns #SpeakFreely

Dan came back with:

@Hognose it’s just one of a few, more show than go but is functional. More of a statement piece to trigger anti gunners #2A

(Sorry for the ugly formatting. We can’t figure out how to post a Gab post like a Tweet, yet).

But you know, it has grown on us, especially the blue field of white stars on the freefloated handguard. And is that guard somehow translucent? Because it looks like you can see the barrel in there. Interesting x-Kote job.

A Rockin’ Mystery

Here’s a video Ian did over a year ago, about a gun that was up for auction at Rock Island Auctions. It beats us with a stick, but it also beat him with a stick, which takes a little more doing. And it beat his commenters with a stick. In the end, it didn’t sell at the auction.

He said this in the text area to the video:

There isn’t much I can say about this one, as I have no idea who made it or when. What I can tell is that it is a blowback action with a rather unique “rocking block” type of bolt and what appears to be a clock style coiled flat spring for the hammer.

And elaborates on that in the video. He does do a credible job of explaining its unique method of operation. He doesn’t comment at all on markings but it looks to us like it might have some kind of proofs up above the barrel. What do you think?

Rock Island also had limited information about it, and no provenance that might help out.

Description With no markings and a unique angled slide. The pistol appears to be almost entirely handmade with a smooth unrifled barrel, hand checkered grips, hand checkered cocking piece and a hand checkered trigger. The rounded spur hammer seems to work on a simple leaf spring mechanism and is vibrantly colored from what appears to be a rudimentary heat treating process. A very interesting piece with a “rolling block” style mechanism.
Condition Very good with traces of blue finish. The balance has a mottled gray/brown patina with some light spotting and minor pitting. Grips are fair. Mechanically needs adjustment. The leaf spring for the hammer appears broken or detached.

As we said, it failed to make reserve at the auction and so was a no-sale and returned to consignor.

And as far as we know (again), nobody’s ever figured out what it was, found a related patent, or anything.

The Pushmi-Pullyu of Pistols

47-year-old Christopher Bechtler, his two sons Augustus and Charles, and his nephew, who came to be called Christopher, Jr., emigrated to the US from the Duchy of Baden (a German principality) in 1829 (without a word of English among them, apparently) and immediately took out naturalization papers. They moved on quickly from Philadelphia, where German craftsmen were in healthy supply, and settled by the summer of 1830 in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, where there was just enough of a German community to serve as interpreters. And thereby we come to this bizarre image, from Lewis Winant’s classic Firearms Curiosa (published in five editions, all of which are textually identical as far as we know, from 1954 to 1961).


Of this pistol, Winant writes:

Some guns reveal at a glance their freakishness…. Illustration 237 is a reproduction of the frontispiece from the August, 1912, issue of Magazine of Antique Firearms. The caption for the frontispiece reads, “C. Bechtler’s Double Ender Pistol. A Southern made pistol of great rarity. Fisher collection.” An accompanying article by Dr. A. L. Fisher explains that the mainspring is the trigger guard and that this mainspring may be released by either trigger. Dr. Fisher notes that as the two hammers can not both be cocked at the same time, simultaneous murder and suicide can not be accomplished! The gun is some times known as the „Fore and Aft” and is assumed to have been made by Christopher Bechtler. Mr. Bechtler was a German gunsmith who settled in Rutherford, North Carolina, in 1829. Certainly a collector may need a second look to be sure his eyes have not deceived him, but not to decide that this is truly an oddity.

Here’s a forum post about what appears to be the same pistol, including a reprinted page from a 1955 Texas Gun Collector newsletter. The owner of that example, Harry B. Harmer of Philadelphia, thought he had the sole example (perhaps the same one Fisher described in 1912).

The gun quite caught our fancy. It’s the firearms version of the Pushmi-Pullyu, of which Hugh Lofting wrote:

Pushmi–pullyus are now extinct. That means, there aren’t any more. But long ago, when Doctor Dolittle was alive, there were some of them still left in the deepest jungles of Africa; and even then they were very, very scarce. They had no tail, but a head at each end, and sharp horns on each head. They were very shy and terribly hard to catch…. no matter which way you came towards him, he was always facing you.

Except, of course, the Pushmi-Pullyu was entirely fictional, and this pistol is entirely not. It’s two guns in one! It’s a New York Reload, 150 years before Jim Cirillo coined (or at least inspired) the term! It’s… an oddity. It’s the polar opposite of OSHA approved. We like it.

But Winant didn’t really have a handle on the maker of this gun that had the grips and barrels all confused. Well, in the 1950s, the well-respected Winant didn’t have the less-respected Intertubes. We do, which is why we know more about him than long-gone Winant (who passed away in 1963) ever did.

The Bechtler family were broadly skilled craftsmen, who were at one time or another (and often at the same time) clock and watch makers, jewelers, gold miners, operators of a private mint  that struck millions of dollars worth of gold coins, beginning almost two decades before the US Mint struck a gold $1 piece. (The Constitution bans the States from striking coins, but is silent on whether citizens can; several private mints operated in the 19th Century, and the Bechtlers’ was perhaps the most trusted).

And, of course, they were gunsmiths. About the men:

The only first-hand description of the Bechtlers comes from the journal of George W. Featherstonhaugh. He describes in some detail the Bechtlers’ mining and gun-making enterprises and the transactions between Bechtler and the customers who brought gold to him for assaying and coining. Featherstonhaugh had doubts that the mining he saw at Bechtler’s farm was likely to be productive, but he was most impressed by Bechtler’s ingenuity and honesty.

During the 1830s and 40s, they seemed to be ess known for the quantity than the ingenuity of their designs, which brings us one step closer to the pushmi-pullyu at the top of the page.

Signed Bechtler percussion pistol.

Bechtler percussion pistol. The Bechtlers customarily appear to have  marked their work “North Carolina” on the left and with the gunsmith’s name on the right. 

The Bechtlers were also known throughout North Carolina and neighboring states for manufacturing rifles and pistols. The family manufactured guns prior to coming to America and continued that trade for many years after taking up residence in North Carolina.

The quality and reliability of the Bechtlers’ guns so impressed the visiting geologist Featherstonhaugh that he purchased a rifle from the family and asked Bechtler to inlay his name with native gold. Featherstonhaugh wrote that as gunsmiths, Bechtler and his sons are “preeminent in their ingenuity: they had invented various ingenious modes of firing rifles eight times in a minute. One with a chain for sixty caps, revolving by a catch of the trigger, and was exceedingly curious. Young Bechtler fired it off several times at a target placed at a distance of one hundred and sixty-five yards, and with great success.”

In 1837, the Bechtlers took on the training of a 14-year-old apprentice to learn “the art of a gun smith,” possibly in expectation that the opening of the federal Mint in Charlotte would lead to a decline in the coining business and a renewed concentration on their gun-making business.

This fine pisrol, c.1840, is attributed to Augustus Bechtler. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Museum of History

This fine pisrol, c.1840, is attributed to Augustus Bechtler. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Museum of History

A wonderful site (especially for those with German-American connections), Immigrant Entrepreneurship, has a much more thorough bio of Christopher Bechtler, from which the following is excerpted:

On April 25, 1830, Bechtler purchased a tract of land in Rutherford County from John Bradley. Bechtler was not yet a citizen, so he could not hold title to the land. Instead, he conveyed the land to Martin Kibler, a German-American resident, to be held in trust for him until he became a citizen in July 1832. Rutherford County had a substantial number of German immigrants, and Bechtler frequently availed himself of their assistance as translators and witnesses of legal transactions. Bechtler never mastered the English language, although he could communicate tolerably well in broken English.

That is quite amazing, when you consider the Bechtlers’ success. No doubt his sons mastered English to a much greater degree, although after them we lose the trail of the family. Which is a pity, because if you’re on this site, you’re interested in the gun angle, and you wonder whether subsequent generations carried on with it.

Immigrant Entrepreneurship’s engaging bio is worth reading at length, but we’ll quote from it, about his and his sons’ gun manufacturing progress.

Bechtler did not aspire to be a mass market manufacturer. His products were high quality, finely crafted items, often custom made. The same vision guided his gunsmithing business, which evidently took place at his farm in the country. Known as a “first rate gunsmith” who produced “beautiful rifles and pistols” of innovative and sometimes curious design, Bechtler crafted repeating rifles capable of firing eight times a minute, and also made novelty items such as a “snuff box pistol,” a “walking stick rifle” and a twin-barrel pistol with the barrels facing in opposite directions. During his tour of Bechtler’s farm in 1837, Featherstonhaugh was so impressed with the firearms on display that he bought a rifle which Bechtler personally engraved with gold. Bechtler achieved local renown as a jeweler, watchmaker, and gunsmith, but the coining business he established would overshadow all of these other activities, becoming the most successful private mint in the eastern United States.

The Pushmi-Pullyu may, in fact, be that “twin-barrel pistol with the barrels facing in opposite directions” that is mentioned above. Or it may be this one, held in the Swedish Royal Armoury collection.

(sv) Slaglåsdubbelpistol, 1800-talets mitt, "Double-Ender" - (sv) Christopher Bechtler (Tillverkare, , ). Livrustkammaren. Public Domain -

(sv) Slaglåsdubbelpistol, 1800-talets mitt, “Double-Ender” – (sv) Christopher Bechtler (Tillverkare, , ). Livrustkammaren. Public Domain


The Swedish text of the Europeana page from which we drew this titles it (our meatball translation) as a “Percussion double pistol, mid-1800s, “Double-Ender”, made by Christopher Bechtler. and says:

Double gun in the form of two barrels counterposed at a 135º angle, sharply turned, smooth-bore barrels of steel, triple rings at the muzzles. One barrel forming the grip for the other. Deep pitting on both sides. Underneath each barrel is a dual-purpose hammer/hammer spring, fastened with screws at the muzzles of the barrels. Priming cap nipples screwed into the touchhole in the barrels. Between the springs, a round trigger is suspended, and catches the springs when they’re under tension.

(Some Swede will probably correct us on many errors). This gun is fascinating, because it’s the same concept but a very different form (and we think, an earlier one) than the gun in the Winant book. The Winant gun, too, though, appears to be at a 135º angle; it just has much more conventional lockwork, apart from the shared spring and interlock feature Winant describes.

But the mystery of “A Southern made pistol of great rarity,” seems to have been resolved over the last sixty years, although who knows what new facts about Christopher Bechtler and his sons and their gun enterprise will come to light next? In any event, now the restless shade of Lewis Winant can find peace — on this question, at least.

Come to WeaponsMan for the gun pictures, stay for the laying of the ghosts!

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Serbu Videos

Today we’re not calling out a website so much as one guy’s, and one company’s, YouTube channel. Mark Serbu’s Serbu Firearms is known for its .50 rifles and other innovative products, which manage to combine shade-tree mechanics with practical engineering. But his YouTube channel is something else entirely.

For instance, he unearthed this video of a mid-2000s prototype .50 BMG semi-auto, the HyperDel, which seems to have vanished, since. It was a 5-round semi .50 with a tubular receiver and a Stoner-style direct-injection gas system. The barrel is screwed into the receiver with a racheting barrel nut à la Uzi. It looks like the trigger and hammer are AR-sourced, and the mag release resembles the M-14, Tokarev, AK style. It seems to have a cross-bolt safety on the receiver, but we might just be seeing that wrong.

The recoil-management and -measurement rig is pretty clever and straightforward. It looks like they went back to the drawing board after this video. Not only does the video have some possible gaps, the “design enhancements” suggest that the prototype had failures to fire, feed, and extract. According to Mark, this company did not advertise completed guns, only plans.

This thread on the Home Gunsmith forum suggests that Hyperdel (Hyper Delivery Systems) was selling the plans before they ever built the rifle, which seems a bit ass-backwards to us. A look at yielded these claims from 2006:

The Patented hyperDEL semiautomatic big bore rifle, chambered in either 50 BMG or 50 DTC Euro calibers, is now undergoing the second of four, live-fire, test phases. See News for more information.

Caliber: 50 BMG or 50 DTC Euro
Dual Caliber Rifle, Barrel Assy Interchangeability

Patented hyperDEL Gas Reciprocating Action
ON/OFF Gas Toggle for Bolt-Action-Like Touch-Offs
hyperBUFFER Adjustable Damping System
Free Floating 29 in. Kreiger Barrel, Chromed Chmbr
Dry Weight: 30 lb. (no scope, no ammo)
Overall Length: 60.1 in.
Four Lug Bolt and Barrel Extension
Alloy Steel Barrel/Action Construction
Aircraft Aluminum Receiver
Patented hyperTAME Recoil Brake
Patent Pending hyperTIGHT Group Size Reducer
Fixed Head Space
“AR15” Fire Control

Pistol Grip for Man-Sized Hands
hyperLIGHT Trigger Break
Patent Pending hyperPOD Bipod
Two 10 rnd., Dual-Stack, Parkerized Steel Mags
Ambidextrous Magazine Release
Magazine Accommodates Both Calibers

Finishes: Hardcoat, Parkerizing, DuraCoat®
Easily Breaks Down into Receiver & Barrel Assys

Field Strips w/o Tools
Rotatable Butt Pad To Fit Any Shoulder Pocket
Sorbothane II Shock Dissipating Butt Pad
MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Rail, 50 MOA Declination
Closed-OFF Ejection Port While Bolt in Battery

By 2010, the site was occupied by domain squatters, cheating advertising networks with bogus searches and hits. It last resolved in DNS at all in 2015.

Recently, Mark has been engaging with the much reviled experimenting kid, Rick, whose YouTube persona is Royal Nonesuch… helping both to educate the boy and keep him from killing himself. We suspect that Mark sees in the tinkering youth a shade of his own young self, and his own tinkering keeps him young at heart.

Of greatest interest to readers, perhaps, is his series Gun Design 101 in which Mark originally intended to talk about conceptual and detail design (like some of the books on our Gun Design Books page linked at the top of but has wound up, instead, talking design of simple, almost improvised, firearms. So watch these three videos, and be Ready for Hillary.

December 2014: “The Making of the $7 12-Gauge Zip Gun Shotgun”

He calls it the ZG-12 for “Zip Gun 12,” heh, and doesn’t give dimensions directly as a “barrier to entry” — if you can’t figure it out, he says, you’re a “punk.” It’s not a terribly practical gun, but it exists “as a testament to what can be done,” with minimum costs, materials, and time.

The video is actually a good “Design 101” because it shows the conceptual design and engineering substantiation of the firearm, as well as its production. If you’ve been listening to Dyspeptic Gunsmith about the power of a file, you’ll be nodding along when Mark applies the unexpected combination of a massive industrial CNC turning center and a hand-held file together on the same operation!

Firing the gun lets him check his calculations.

Even in oppressive environments where guns are outlawed, the last ammunition to become unavailable is birdshot.

The next video in Gun Design 101 makes a slam-fire .22 pistol.

May 2016: Apocalypse Hardware Store Gun Build!

“We’re not talking a complete apocalypse, where you’re running around in a loincloth in the woods.” And “We used some pretty expensive equipment, but we didn’t have to.”

And the latest (and possibly ultimate?) version: the GB-22. The “22” in the name is obvious… the “GB” stands for “Gun Buyback,” which is one suitable deployment for such a firearm… used to convert doo-gooders’ cash into money to buy that Serbu .50 you’ve had your eye on.

October 2016: World’s simplest homemade pistol…the GB-22! Gun Buybacks beware!

“16 years ago I came up with the idea for this really simple gun to turn in on a buyback.”

World’s simplest homemade pistol…the GB-22! Gun Buybacks beware!Skills displayed here include making and heat treating a spring with improvised tools, including a toaster oven as a heat-treating oven (including a temperature botch that didn’t produce the desired temper)


So, You Want a Remington-UMC 1911?

They were rare. Very rare. 21,677 of them were made in 1918 and 1919, numbered from 1 to 21,677. And that was near-as-dammit a century ago, during most of which time they were a USGI pistol through four major and a bunch of minor wars. So survivors from that small old batch are rare today, and they change hands rarely these days.


Here’s the back story, from the NRA Museum, which holds this one, Nº 2900:

In late 1917 and early 1918, the government approached both Remington-U.M.C. and Winchester Repeating Arms Co. about manufacturing the M1911. Remington-U.M.C.’s Bridgeport, Connecticut plant was the largest in the United States at that time, and production lines at the 1.6 million square-foot complex were turning out a variety of arms, including M1917 bolt-action rifles and Browning .50 caliber machine guns, as well as M1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles for the Russian government. In nearby New Haven, Winchester also produced M1917 rifles, in addition to Browning Automatic Rifles and M1897 trench shotguns. Both companies received contracts for 500,000 M1911s. Under terms of their agreements, pistols manufactured by these two firms were to be completely interchangeable with those produced by Colt and Springfield Armory.

Colt provided technical assistance in the form of sample pistols and production drawings, but problems quickly arose. In addition to numerous discrepancies, these drawings contained only nominal dimensions and no tolerances. Finding it easier to make their own blueprints based on measurements obtained from the Colt-produced sample pistols rather than reconcile more than 400 known discrepancies, Remington-U.M.C. created a set of “salvage drawings” that were later used by other contractors as well. The Army suspended its contract with Remington-U.M.C. on December 12, 1918, but allowed the company to manufacture additional examples to reduce parts inventories on hand. All told, nearly 22,000 M1911s were delivered to the government before Remington-U.M.C. shut down its production line.

In the summer of 1919, the company turned over its pistol manufacturing equipment to Springfield Armory, where it was placed in storage until the Second World War.

Winchester’s 500,000 pistols? None were delivered: just parts. Indeed, the US took delivery of just over 500,000 1911 pistols in total from all manufacturers, mostly from Colt, including about 100,000 made before the US entered World War I. So, while Winchesters and some other abortive contract 1911s are functionally nonexistent, the survivors of the 21,677 Remington-UMC pistols are about the rarest 1911s that a regular guy can acquire — but the prices of the pistols have been climbing.

Until Remington and Turnbull cut a deal… which put new Remington-UMC pistols on the market. Turnbull made a run of 1,000, but they’re identically marked to their 1918-19 forbears — except for the serial numbers, which start at UMC 21,678 and go up from there.


It’s a close match in processes, finish, and detail to the original. It even has the inspecting officer’s initials, reproduced, behind the trigger on the left side of the frame.


Each pistol comes with a nice collection of accessories — holster, lanyard, mag pouch, and a display case that holds the pistol and the accessories.


The accessories include original-style “2-tone” magazines.


These photos came from one that’s up for auction for $2,000 opening bid, or a buy-it-now of $2,100, which is close to the recommended retail. Sure, you can get four generic imported 1911s for that, but that’s not what you’re buying here. While an original Remington-UMC 1911 in good condition is worth more than double the cost of this rig, the reproduction will never be worth as much as the original. On the other hand, Turnbull guns could certainly emerge as collector’s items in their own right.

If you shop around, you can find one or another for around $1,300.

Of course, this GI Turnbull is kind of entry-level for Turnbull’s 1911 line. You can spend many thousands on one, with, say, engraving and color case-hardening. And you can buy them in sets. 

Sure, it’s a modern reproduction, but it’s made in the USA, and isn’t a bad centerpiece for a US martial arms collection.

Rangers Also Use the Glock 19

Saturday, we told you, “It’s Over. Glock Won,” in reference to the ubiquitous use of Glock pistols, mostly the G19, by American Special Operations Forces. Not having good hooks into the Ragnar community, we weren’t sure if they were running G19s, too:

[W]e are not 100% certain the Rangers are on the Glock bandwagon, but if they are, it’s over, because that’s where the top leaders of the Army come from these days. SF is on its way back to being a backwater of somewhat irregular irregular-war enthusiasts (thank a merciful God), and the lamprey-lipped careerists are all trying to get their tickets punched with the Ragnars and/or They Who Shall Not Be Named….

Well, shortly after that post went live, the phone rang. Yep, the Ranger Regiment is running with G19s, also.

The Glock Infection

The course of infection seems to run something like this: a few Glocks are bought as an experiment, and then more of the pistols are bought with MFP-11 funds, and finally there’s one for everybody, along with whatever the issue gun is. In time, as guys try the Glocks and go, “Hey, these are OK!” more and more of them switch and fewer run the old 1911 or DA/SA platforms. It  becomes a preference cascade, like Hemingway described bankruptcy: gradually, then suddenly.

The Navy also wants the world to know that their special operations elements went all-Glock before the Marine Raiders. Aye aye, frogmen, we’ll pass the word for you, although why that wasn’t in the 2,317 SEAL tell-all books, well, only their ghostwriters know for sure.

Our Traveling Reporter told us a story of a friendly foreign SOF unit that went through this exact process, and gradually the preference cascade has come and most of them prefer their “secondary standard” Glocks to their “standard issue” pistols, the HK P30.

Pity the Poor Beretta Rep

Along with the news of the Rangers using Glocks, we got a story of a Beretta government-sales representative who was re-enacting the old R&B song, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.

“It was unseemly,” reported One Who Was There. “He was like that crazy chick that can’t take being dumped, and keeps begging you to take her back.” Much nodding and grinning; maybe a little flash of half-remembered irritation. “It’s not even that the Beretta is bad, but it’s just 40 year old technology. And twice the money, which isn’t the big thing.” (For the military, the system cost of a pistol is mostly in the training, and that’s either a wash or the Glock saves a little).

The Beretta guy was offering to do anything, anything, to make the pistol meet the customer’s needs; but there was nothing he could do. The customer had moved on; his mind was made up.