Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

SIG-nificant Shipping Update: MPX pistols, SBR

Back in January, 2013, we were pretty excited when SIG announced the MPX submachine gun, along with civilian-legal pistol, carbine and SBR variants. The piece we wrote then put this part-polymer MP5 analogue with AR-like ergonomics in its tactical, technical and historical context, but rereading it now, we were excited about this thing. We really wanted an SBR-SD version (and still do, and when we’re back in New Hampster we’ll enquire at the Pro Shop).


It’s also just the thing for PDs looking at dog-eared 1980s MP5s and cringing at what HK wants for replacements; the SMG version is priced a lot more attractively than the German firearm.

And then, of course, came the long wait for shipping, compounded by SIG and the ATF going to war (well, going to law, actually) over SIG’s design for a convertible carbine/SD variant. That one is still generating billable hours, so the very welcome news that MPX variants are shipping must except, at this time, the MCX carbine. But the first three variants are shipping, says SIG on Facebook:

Good news, SIG SAUER fans! The 9mm SIG MPX is now in full production and shipping! Three variants are on their way to distributors as we speak (Pistol, Pistol with SBX brace and Short-Barrel Rifle).

And they include this triumphant picture (you know the embiggen drill):

” 9mm_mpx_shipping

That looks like the new building to us, too. Well done, SIG.

The shipping variants include the pistol (illustrated), the pistol with folding SIG brace (naturally), and the SBR. No caliber conversions or variants, but these are coming: SIG has staked its future on modularity, it seems clear from the firearms it’s promoting on the SIG Evolution website. (That’s for specs and tech. For promotions and news, the place to look is the facebook site, or the Promotions page on the website).

The polymer magazines are molded for SIG by Lancer.

If you’ve been waiting to decide on one of these until you can see and handle it in your LGS, the hour is soon at hand. Hmmm… wonder if they’ll sell us an SBR now and let us trade it on an SBR/SD when it’s ready?

Fight’s On, Miss Thing: J Edgar and the .357 Ban

There are two points of view on J Edgar Hoover. Viewpoint One goes like this: he was the greatest American ever, the scourge of organized crime and hostile espionage, defender of the Constitution, and the model of the incorruptible servant leader; in short, a brilliant and upright stalwart who was a bulwark of society.

And Viewpoint Two: he was a worthless bum, no better than the gangsters his G-Men used to lock up (or shoot up), corrupt as any Latin caudillo, hostile to civil liberties, and recognizing no law but his own self-interest; in short, a crooked, waspish queen who took long vacations with his “right-hand-man” in which they’d roll each other in melted butter and lick it off, or something.

J Edgar Hoover Drag

If you haven’t swung between those viewpoints, you probably haven’t read much on Hoover; the real truth of the man is probably somewhere in between, but everyone who writes about the long-dead prototype of the Beltway Insider seems to swing to one extreme or the other.

Well, let’s try an experiment and see who we can swing to Viewpoint Two today. Did you know Hoover was a Gun Banner? In fact, the evidence for that is a lot stronger than the evidence for his cross-dressing or even homosexuality (and the evidence for those is probably strong enough to convict).

Hoover and the NFA

J Edgar HooverThe National Firearms Act of 1934 was largely Hoover-promoted legislation. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the registry and ridiculous series of steps that we must jump through to own and enjoy what were scary weapons around the time FDR inherited Hoover and his blackmail files from Herbert Hoover (no relation).

Hoover considered civil liberties of all kinds to be a sort of Original Sin or fundamental flaw in the Constitution, and so he just didn’t see them as constraining him and the FBI. He was especially keen on ending the right to keep and bear arms, except as he would forbear to further narrow it, and the NFA was designed not to limit but to eliminate firearms J Edgar didn’t like, through the workings of what economists call a Pigovian tax — a tax set at such a confiscatory rate it changes the behavior of the taxed. The $200 tax of 1934 was from 20 times the least expensive NFA gun to match the cost (and essentially double it) of a premium firearm like a Thompson M1928 or a Colt Monitor, and one result was, not surprisingly, a collapse in the sales and the value of those firearms (which were now widely acquired by police forces at a fraction of the pre-Act prices, as police forces were exempt from the act). But that’s far from the only way to look at it: $200 was a serious fraction of the median household income in 1934-36, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(.pdf).

But what Hoover wanted from the bill is not what he got. He wanted the bill to ban machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, destructive devices, and handguns. He thought that only people like he and his catamite1 and their merry men should be able to be trusted with them. He lost on that; he didn’t share enough compromised rent boys with enough Senators and Congressmen to keep that from being amended out.

The original text of the relevant definition in the draft Act reads (emphasis ours):

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That for the purposes of this act the term “firearm” means a pistol, revolver, shotgun having a barrel less than sixteen inches in length, or any other firearm capable of being concealed on the person, a muffler or silencer therefor, or a machine gun.2

Before the law was passed, the bolded terms had been taken out, and short-barreled rifles had been added in.

Now, frankly, if a guy wants to dress up like Lady Astor and take long vacations with his “assistant,” well, it probably wasn’t the first time the taxpayers paid for that, and probably wasn’t the latest, either. (Come to think of it, there was that ATF executive in New Orleans….) But when a guy wants to ban pistols, his swinging fist just hit our nose. Fight’s on, Miss Thing.

That wasn’t all the odious stuff that got peeled out in the sausage-making of the NFA, either. There was also an absolute import ban, unless the gun was, “…of… a type which cannot be obtained within the United States….”3 The purpose of that was as an enticement to split pro-gun and pro-liberty legislators, with those from gun-making states subject to influence by rent-seeking gunmakers.

But J. Edgar wasn’t done yet.

Hoover and the .357

In the NFA, Hoover didn’t get everything he wanted, but by destroying the then-economics of automatic weapons, he did his bit for police militarization before that was a phrase anyone would recognize. He still recognized, as police always have, that despite whatever press and activists might call criminal’s “weapons of choice” at any given point, what a criminal wanted was usually something compact and concealable, to wit, a handgun.

Having had his ass handed to him (something he might have enjoyed, if it hadn’t been figurative) on the pistol ban, he regrouped and tried again. When Smith & Wesson demonstrated their .357 Magnum, Hoover didn’t react like most cops of the day (“Want!”). Instead, he saw a Deadly Threat.

Hoover, it is widely known, received Registered Magnum #1 from Smith & Wesson on April 8, 19354. The Registered Magnum was built with a stronger frame and a longer cylinder, so that rounds could be loaded to velocities and pressures that would have been unsafe in Smith’s bread-and-butter .38 S&W Special revolvers. Smith saw it as a custom-shop rarity, for discerning pistoleros. (At that time, many police forces still carried .32 S&W or .32 Colt revolvers). The customer paid a record-setting $60 (the equivalent of over $1,000 today, in a much poorer, mostly agrarian nation) and got to specify many of the features of his firearm.5

SW Registered Magnum regmag3

“Registered” guns came with a certificate, and a matching number inside. Smith made 5,500 of them before making the .357 a more regular product; they discontinued it because of the demands of war production, and only resumed in 1948. The pistol had no model number until 1957, when it became the Model 27.

But if Smith thought they’d bought Hoover off with the pistol “REG. 1″, they were very mistaken. The FBI acquired some of the revolvers and parceled them out to HQ and field offices, but they weren’t standard. In fact, FBI standardized on the Model 10-6 in .38 Special 6.

Nope, Hoover got right to the Attorney General suggesting… what else? A ban. His first letter has yet to surface, but David Codrea posted an insightful article about a second, in which Hoover spread some apocalyptic fear of the coming of Magnum Doom to one and all. We have OCRd the letter and post it here.

Hoover .357 ban letter[.pdf]

Here are a few excerpts (edited at the ends and where ellipses show to trim some of Hoover’s characteristically ill-educated and insecure verbosity):

I advised you that I anticipated that the qualities of the Magnum cartridge and the zinc bullet would eventually be combined, thereby again increasing the velocity and penetrative ability of sidearms and their ammunition.

…[E]xperimentation is at the present time in progress, whereby the combination of the zinc bullet and the Magnum cartridge will soon be perfected. Also, that the Magnum cartridge will soon be manufactured with a metal jacket, which will again, increase its penetrative force. 

So… we haven’t yet got to where he asks for a ban, but let’s note that he wanted the AG to work with him in secrecy to develop the ban:

[T]he above information is of a confidential nature and if divulged to the public, would seriously jeopardize the possibility of obtaining additional information.

It’s all about Officer Safety, you see:

[E]ach advance in velocity and penetration renders hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment now in use by law enforcement agencies useless and obsolete. …[T]hese developments will eventually be of much greater assistance to the criminal element than to the law enforcement agencies or to the law abiding citizens.

He then has a whole section on ballistics that is almost completely wrong:

[T]he most effective pistol bullet … is the one exerting the greatest amount of shock. This [comes from] combining a heavy bullet with low velocity, … remaining in the body … thus causing the recipient to absorb the entire energy of the bullet.

He belabors the point at great length… we’ll spare you… and concludes:

The foregoing description of shock is [itended to show] that the recent developments in pistol and revolver cartridges are not of any particular advantage, other than for their penetrative force, which the higher velocities are rapidly increasing.

He noted that the Bureau’s bullet-proof shields and vests wouldn’t stop a Magnum round, a zinc bullet, let alone the two in combination. He then tells the AG, don’t sweat it, because the gun-club guys don’t care if we ban these.

It is not believed that members of the various shooting clubs and organizations would concern themselves over a curtailment of highly-powered sidearms. Additional penetration is of no value to target shooting, and i t is logical to assume that organizations promoting this sport would be in hearty accord with legislation curtailing high velocity bullets in an attempt to insure their members the continued use of target pistols.

Remember, he’d just tried and failed to ban those target pistols with the NFA. This is one of the earliest illustrations of the way a ban enthusiast is never telling the truth when he says he wants only an inch. He wants only an inch, now. 

Then, there’s the curious fact that the NRA did testify in favor of the National Firearms Act, even when it was a pistol ban. Best guess? Hoover had a line on the NRA guy’s rent boys.

Finally, Hoover flounces out with some inflammatory language, and a promise to generate some scientific-sounding bushwah that will accomplish the desired ban.

As the menacing developments of these guns depend wholly upon the breach [sic] pressure and velocity, it would not be difficult to definitely define a limitation on these two items which would permanently control the rapid advances now being made. I f you so desire, technicians of thisBureau will offer specific suggestions….7

Yes, J Edgar Hoover was trying, in shameful secret, to ban the very firearm that would spend the 1980s and 90s as synonymous with FBI, the .357 Magnum.

But then, he always was simply fabulous at “shameful secret,” wasn’t he?


  1. In fact, nobody knows if Hoover was Tolson’s catamite, or Tolson Hoover’s. Does it matter? The two corrupt old lovers are buried together.
  2. From Keep and Bear, which has the text as part of their html page, but also preserves the .pdf of the proposed bill as originally published.
  3. Same link as 2 above.
  4. The Hoover #1, serial no. 45768, is currently believed to exist but its whereabouts are not known. (Hoover was known to give firearms away; the FBI does not claim title to this pistol). Retired agent Larry Wack is seeking information, and has tracked a lot of other Hoover and Tolson guns.
  5. Most of the general early-Magnum facts are from Campbell, Dave. The History of the .357 Magum. The American Rifleman, 23 November 2010. Retrieved from:
  6. The Bureau and the Handgun. The Investigator (FBI in-house magazine), May 1982.
  7. The damning Hoover letter is housed in the Papers of Homer S. Cummings, MSS 9973, Box 103, Folder “Attorney General Personal File – Firearms and National Firearms Act 1935 May-1938 September.” Cummings was the Attorney General who received, but may not have acted on, Hoover’s ban attempt. Via David Codrea. FBI’s Hoover tried to curtail ‘highly-powered’ handgun development., 3. April 2015. Retrieved from:

Toggle-Locked Orphan: the Benelli B76

If you have a well-rounded firearms education, the name Benelli needs no introduction. Now part of the Beretta family, the marque has been known for its semi-auto shotguns since its founding in 1967. But Benelli made an attempt, in the 70s and 80s, to make a NATO service pistol. It’s interesting for its unusual toggle-lock mechanism (one we missed when we covered toggle-locking), its fine Italian styling, and its relative rarity: internet forum participants, at least, think only about 10,000 were made. (We do some analysis on this claim below, and posit a lower number).

benelli b76 pistol

There were other Italian semi-autos at about the same time, like the Bernardelli P-018, competing in part for European police contracts, as many Continental police departments replaced 7.65mm service pistols during the 1970s and 80s rise of European communist terrorist groups like the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof Gang. But the Benelli was a unique blend of design and functionality. Arriving too late into a market saturated with double-stack double-action pistols, it might have been a killer competitor for the P1/P.38 or the Beretta M1951 twenty years earlier, but by the end of the eighties, the market was heavily oriented towards double-stack, double-action, and often, ambidextrous-control service pistols. Even European police services who had thought 8 rounds of 9mm a real fistful of firepower had moved on — and so did Benelli, retreating to a concentration on its market-leading shotguns.

Mechanics of the B76

The toggle-lock is not truly a lock in the sense of a Maxim or Luger lock, but more of a hesitation lock or delayed blowback. Other weapons have used a lever in delayed blowback, like the Kiraly submachine guns and the French FAMAS Clarión, but the Benelli one is unique. It’s described in US patent No. 3,893,369. The toggle lock or lever is #5 in the illustration below, from the patent.

US3893369-1Benelli B76

Benelli often cited the fixed barrel of its design as a contributor to superior accuracy in comparison to the generic Browning-type action.

Aesthetics & Ergonomics

The styling of the B76 is a little like its Italian contemporary, the Lamborghini Countach: angular, striking, and polarizing. You love it or hate it, or like Catullus, both at once: Idi et amo. It came in a colorful printed box, resembling consumer products of the era…

BenelliB77Pistol in box

…or in a more traditional wooden case.


The somewhat blocky slide needs to be protected by a holster with a full nose cap, if you intend to carry the B76. It’s a large pistol and it would be prone to print if you did, much like any other service pistol like the M9, the Glock 17, or various SIGs. Where the pistol comes into its own is when you handle and shoot it. The safety falls right to hand, like that of a 1911, although as a DA/SA gun it’s perfectly safe to carry hammer down on a loaded chamber. The grip angle is much like the P.08 Luger, making for a very natural pistol pointing experience. The pistol’s steel construction and roughly 1kg (2.2 lb) weight makes it comfortable and controllable to shoot. The heavily-contoured grip on the target models makes it even more so.

The guns are known for reliability and accuracy, and their small following is very enthusiastic, reminding us of the fans of the old Swiss SIG P210 pistol: the sort of machinery snobs whose garage is more accustomed to housing premium European nameplates than generic American or Japanese iron, and who not only buy premium instead of Lowe’s tools, but who can take you through their toolboxes explaining why the premium stuff is better.

Production and Variations

The Benelli company was relatively new when it designed the B76. The US Patent application for its locking mechanism dates to 1973, and the planned start of production was 1976 (that may have slipped).

There were several variants of the B76, most of them sold only in non-US markets. The B76 was the name ship of the class, if you will, but there were several variants. The B77 was a scaled-down model in .7.65 x 17SR (7.65 Browning/.32 ACP); it was a completely different gun. The B80 was a 7.65 x 22 (7.65 Parabellum/.30 Luger) variant, largely for the Italian market; only the barrel and magazine differed from the B76. The B82 was a variant in the short-lived European police caliber, 9 x 18 Ultra (sometimes reported, mistakenly, as 9×18 Makarov). In addition, there were several target pistol variants, including the B76 “Sport” with target sights, grip, longer barrel, and weights, and a similar target pistol in, of all things, .32 S&W Long called the MP3S. We’ve covered some of these exotic Benellis before, in the mistaken belief that we had brought this post live, which we hadn’t. (D’oh!)

The one modification that might have brought Benelli sales to police departments or military forces was never done, and that is to develop a double-stack magazine. A “mere” 8 rounds of 9mm was already insufficient in 1976, when many NATO armies already issued the 13-round Browning Hi-Power as their baseline auto pistol, and the novel Glock 17 coming on strong.

Benelli dropped the pistols from its catalog in 1990. The company still produces its signature shotguns and a line of high-end target pistols, and even some rifles based on the shotgun design, but its foray into the pistol market has left Benelli with bad memories, red ink and a few curiosities in the company museum. But the curious pistol buyer looking for a firearm with a difference will find here a remarkable and character-rich handgun. If you’re the sort of man who can rock an Armani suit or avoid looking ridiculous in a Countach, this might be a good companion piece.

We’ve mentioned the internet claims of production of 10,000. The highest serial number we found on the net (5462) was well below that, but we certainly don’t have a statistical grasp on production yet. With 7 known serial numbers we can make a rough calculation that there’s a 9 in 10 probability the total production is under 6400, and a 99% probability it’s under 8500. That’s assuming our rusty MBA-fu still retains its potency.


No B76s are on GunBroker at this writing, and only very few — single digit quantities — have moved since 2012. The guns offered were all in very good to new-in-box condition, and they cleared the market at prices from $585 to $650. One went unsold at $565 against a reserve of $600, hinting that, despite these guns’ character and quality, there’s just not much of a market for single-stack full-size DA/SA autopistols.

For More Information

We’re seeking a better copy, but for the moment, heres a .pdf of the manual. Unfortunately, it takes greater pains to describe the mundane DA/SA trigger system than the rare, patented breech lock!


CORRECTION: ICE Bosses Deny Shooting for S&W

This morning’s story created quite a stir in ICE, both in the field offices and at headquarters. In the headquarters our little story apparently alarmed an organization called OFTP, the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs. OFTP used to be called NFTTU, and some ICEmen still refer to it by the old acronym.

Anyway, it’s OFTP that wrote the specs for a new handgun. And insiders say that we were totally wrong — not about whether they had written the contract with one particular gun in mind; a cursory read of the specs makes it pretty clear they did just that. Nope, we were wrong about exactly what handgun they were trying to buy.

OFTP wrote they spec, so they thought, to explicitly exclude everything but the SIG P320 Compact.

The SIG P320 family. The compact is the "Goldilocks" midsize -- about the same size as a G19.

The SIG P320 family. The P320 Compact is the “Goldilocks” midsize — about the same size as a G19. (The smallest is called the P320 Carry).

Some in ICE are in deep denial about that. They remember the fiasco with the SIG 250, SIG’s previous modular polymer pistol. They have fought NFTTU, which also specifies which personal off-duty pistols ICE agents are able to use. Any agent may carry a pistol from an approved list, but he or she must qualify with the pistol, and can only be authorized to carry two firearms. The qualified pistol list is strange: for example, the Glock 26 and Glock 17, compact and full-size 9mm pistols, are authorized, but the intermediate Glock 19 isn’t; fullsized Glocks are OK in .40 but the compact G27 is verboten. Why? No one has gotten a credible answer out of OFTP or its forerunner. Agents who prefer Glock pistols have long suspected NFTTU/OFTP of bias against the Austrian sidearm. OFTP insiders deny this, and claim that the new solicitation doesn’t exclude Glock.

“But it requires an ambidextrous slide release, which no Glock has.”

“Glock could make one.”

Whether that is possible for a company that’s already introduced several new models in the last year is an open question, as is whether it would be economical. (Beretta could tell you how lucrative it isn’t, making a new version of lockwork when a single client holds its breath until it turns blue). Glock has modified its weapons for a single customer in the past, but NYPD was a large customer with some 40,000 armed officers at the time. All ICE is probably a max of 12,000 gun carriers, split roughly evenly between HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) and ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations).

The interchangeable grip frames are possible because the trigger mechanism is the legal, serialized "firearm," a feature pioneered on the SIG 250. Absence of a hammer reveals this to be a 320 part.

The interchangeable grip frames are possible because the trigger mechanism is the legal, serialized “firearm,” a feature pioneered on the hammer-fired SIG 250. Absence of a hammer reveals this to be a striker-fired 320 part.

Another weird thing in the solicitation is this: when the competitors provide test guns, they also have to provide magazines. So far, nothing abnormal there, right? But they have to provide, we are not making this up, fifty-two (52!) magazines per pistol. We don’t think we could find 52 mags for any single make and model of pistol around here. We might have 30 or 40 M9 mags, but that would require us to shake out 30 years of rucksacks, ammo pouches, vests, and duffle bags. What earthly goal can one accomplish with as many pistol magazines as cards come in a deck?

UPDATE: Correction to the Correction

The only ICE employees authorized to carry the Glock .40 are members of the Federal Protective Service. FPS was consolidated into ICE after adopting the Glock 22, and so they’re grandfathered. However HSI and ERO agents can’t carry the G22, only 9mm Glocks. We regret not making this clear initially.

UPDATE 2: OFTP’s justification for not approving the G19 is that it supposedly failed an endurance test that the 17 and 26 did.

UPDATE 3: This issue is being discussed on the HSI SA’s forum on Delphi. Note that that is their sandbox and so we don’t usually go there to play. They are

How To Sole-Source a Contract: ICE’s Next Pistol, S&W M&P

So, the gang at ICE want to buy a new pistol. The initial contract solicitation, a Request for Information, is here (the meat of it is in the bit called the Statement of Work [.pdf]).

They’re buying the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, even though that firearm is mentioned nowhere in the solicitation, which is ostensibly a request for several makers to provide guns for a run-off.



How do they get from a multi-vendor solicitation and, presumably, evaluation, to the apparently preselected M&P without mentioning either the pistol itself, or even the fact that “the fix is in”, in any of their documents?

Welcome to the wacky world of government contracting, where sole-sourcing a contract is generally forbidden — and common.

How do they do it? When they’ve decided what they want, they look at characteristics that set the preferred item they want apart from its competitors, and then they write those characteristics — whether they’re important, or not — into the Statement of Work.

For example, this SOW requires that the pistol have a polymer frame (so long, most SIGs, Berettas, etc), and that it have a consistent trigger pull on every shot (so long, every DA/SA automatic). At this point, only a plastic striker-fired gun or a DAO model is possible — and the trigger pull requirements rule out the DAO pistol (it has to be from 5-8.5 pounds pressure). So by this point you’re down to Glock, M&P, and Glock’s imitators. The solicitition demands an ambidextrous slide release: Tschuß! to the Austrian.


At this point, the new SIG P320 may still be in the running, because it has a striker-fired system, a polymer frame, and an ambi slide release. But the word we get suggests the fix is in; a few other detailed requirements like front sight configuration firm it up: and ICE’s solicitation writers have written a new-pistol acquisition document that complies strictly with the letter of the law, whilst turning the law on its head and sole-sourcing Smith pistols.

Now, they’re good pistols and most of the agents have fallen out of love with the current standard SIG in .40. (The agency has long been planning to revert to 9mm, as modern duty ammunition is almost as effective as .40 and the reduced blast and recoil translate to more hits on target, in the hands of real agents).

Of course, while we say, “they’re good pistols,” anyone who looks can find examples of agencies that had problems rolling them out. For example, NC Highway Patrol gave up on M&Ps in .357 SIG in 2013, and Texas DPS slow-rolled a rollout after having problems in early 2014.

Chris Costa also encountered a batch of M&Ps with abysmal accuracy problems last December, as reported at Monderno and on Chris’s Facebook page at the time. The photos show rounds keyholing at pistol distances!

Can Your Suppressed Pistol Beat This? 78 dB.

That’s the measured performance of this little beauty:


.32 ACP Welrod, from the collection of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.

Vintage 1941 or so, developed by the SOE. The ASOM notes another detail, which explains the strange magazine-is-the-grip design of the Welrod (bold is ours):

A limited range, close-qurters head shot weapon, the Welrod’s main value was its level of discreetness when used. This weapon could be fired with the magazine/grip removed, in which case it did not look like a weapon at all. Using the weapon in this manner allowed operators a level of stealth necessary for operations behind enemy lines.

Internally, Welrod’s suppressor design features are typical of silencers of the time. It has a ported barrel which vents into an expansion chamber partly restricted by screen discs. Modern suppressor designers abjure these design features as archaic and backward: the ported barrel saps velocity, and the screen discs are thought to be much less effective than shaped K-baffles or other baffles.

Really? Show us the quiet, guys. Show us a centerfire single-shot suppressed pistol that can beat 78 dB. We’re not asking much in the way of accuracy — the original Welrod was intended for contact ranges, but was good for minute-of-Nazi-skull out to 20 yards or so — but let’s see more muzzle energy for less noise than the Welrod.

We’re guessing that, without going to a captive cartridge like the Tunnel Rat experimental revolver or certain Russian silent-pistol designs, you can’t get materially better than those 20th Century Britons did with the Welrod. (For all their efforts, we’ve had a hard time confirming behind-the-lines use of this system, even with so many formerly secret archives opening up lately. Anybody know different?).

True, Jesse James the motorcycle loudmouth is claiming something similar for his rifle suppressor, but when he delivers that you’ll be able to hang it up next to your jet pack in the garage where you park your flying car. He’s the Baghdad Bob of gun credibility with that one.

But you would think we would be able to excel something made before computers, finite element analysis, and 70 years of progress in understanding sound theory and in production and metallurgical technology. That we are not, generally, far beyond the status quo of 1941 speaks volumes for the ingenuity and application of those wartime engineers.

Bubba the Gunsmith has a Rationale This Time

A casual look at this Taurus Judge (or similar) might make you think that Bubba the Gunsmith has been gunsmiting [stet] again. But it turns out there’s a reason for this being so smitten: read on, after casting eyes on the Bubbalicious product.

Here come de judge

This particular member of the Five Lee Sistersdoes of course look like Bubba has been let loose with the Delrin and aluminum, and a $2 knockoff of a Knight’s Armament Co. foregrip. For what purpose would anyone attach this thing to the gimmick of a gun? Because he wants powder burns and lead splatter in his weak hand’s wrist?

It turns out there is a method in this madness, and the clue to it is in this picture. If you look at the engraving on the gun, it has the Taurus “Judge” name on the barrel, and a different marking on the receiver: OC armory, Laguna Hills, California. That’s because Mike Penhall of OC armory is the Bubba who manufactures this pistol into an NFA “any other weapon.”

Why does Mike do that? Because it’s the only way a Californian can legally own a judge.

Excuse us, a capital-J judge. We don’t think it’s legal to own a small-J judge, even in California’s weird legal system, but we expect judges there are bought and sold just like there are they are anywhere else.

Bubbas own JudgeBy adding the fore grip, Mike has transformed the pistol into in AOW. Judge pistol? Banned in CA. Judge AOW? A pile of paperwork, a long wait, and a five dollar transfer tax. But legal in CA.

A lot of people on the net are hyperventilating over this picture, and declaring that this firearm is illegal (right). That’s why wise men don’t get legal advice from the Internet. Given OC Armory’s 07 FFL, it’s perfectly legal, under both federal and state law.

And there you have it. A rational reaction to an irrational gun law, which presents as an example of Bubbasmithing!


  1. The Five Lee Sisters are, of course, Ug, Home, Ghast, Beast, and Gnar.

What’s Up in the 3D Printed Gun World?

Time for an update, eh?

WarFairy Lower Banner

We’ve been seeing really creative AR lowers for a while now. A lot of the greatest ingenuity, like the FN-inspired creations above, come from the innovator who calls himself Shanrilivan and his creative entity WarFairy Arms. Watching his Twitter feed, or @FOSSCAD’s, is a good way to keep up with what’s coming from the community. (Coming soon: AR and AK fire control groups, for example):

AR fire control group

If you think there’s no innovation happening in firearms, you’re not tapped into the maker community inside the gun community — or is it, the gun community inside the maker community?

Some Words about Development

These lowers are not being “engineered” in any real sense of the word. Instead they’re being designed, and are then being tested, in a very tight closed-loop development cycle. From lowers that busted in a couple of shots, we’ve got lowers that have endured thousands of rounds. And that look stylish. This pastel AR has a printed lower and printed magazine.

printed lower and mag

It’s ready for its close-up, Mr De Mille:

printed lower and mag closeup

To see about 15 more pictures of printed-gun developments, including magazines, a 7.62mm lower, a revolver, and more, click the “More” button.

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PARA USA: “Oops”

PARA USA logoPARA USA provided guns to the new Liam Neeson film, Taken 3. (Well, it’s a new version of the same old Neeson film, as the numeral indicates). And now they have egg on their face, as what they thought was a great marketing opportunity turned toxic. The naturalized American star went out of his way to slime them, other gun manufacturers, and all their customers, in his promotional interviews for the show.

According to the Daily Caller, Para USA has taken to Facebook to apologize to the community and vow never to provide another firearm for a Neeson film. (We can’t check this as we can’t seem to get the PARA facebook page to load, but we can’t stand Facebook anyway, even if one of our clients forbids us from keeping an account there — long story — anyway). Per the Caller, PARA said:


We did get a screencap of the statement before press time, and the Caller’s quote is accurate.

PARA USA regrets its decision to provide firearms for use in the film “Taken 3.” While the film itself is entertaining, comments made by its Irish-born star during press junkets reflect a cultural and factual ignorance that undermines support of the Second Amendment and American liberties. We will no longer provide firearms for use in films starring Liam Neeson and ask that our friends and partners in Hollywood refrain from associating our brand and products with his projects. Further, we encourage our partners and friends in the firearms industry to do the same.

Note that, although Liam Neeson was born in Ireland, previously lived in London, he became a US citizen whilst living in New York at least five years ago. Unlike 99.9999% of Americans, he’s an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire, entitling him to use the postnominal letters OBE. (The order’s motto is For God and the Empire. Sounds a bit… off, to small-r republican ears, but hey, it’s his life and he can do what he wants with it). And, of course, he’s entitled to his opinion.

But it looks to us as if Liam Neeson does not want the half to two-thirds of Americans who own guns to attend his movies.

Transmission received, Irish-American brother.

We’ll do what we can to make him happy, including skipping this latest formulaic bloodbath, for which he was paid $20 mil. (To be sure, we weren’t going to see it anyway. It has a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, suggesting that those who did drop $10 or $15 on a ticket have regrets. Apparently many of the attendees are folks who go to see American Sniper and find it sold-out. Seriously, if you’re in that kind of a jam, try Paddington).

PARA USA 96641_lda_officerWhile we would (and did) put our unique and special epidermis on the line for his right to express himself, there’s something mighty odd about an actor who has reveled in playing characters responsible for hundreds if not thousands of onscreen killings, calling for firearms bans, as he did while bad-mouthing the United States to an Arab newspaper recently.

Maybe it can deploy caltrops like Bond's DB5.

Neeson’s ride for the next Taken outing. Maybe it can deploy caltrops like Bond’s DB5.

That’s certainly odd. But is that as odd as the Social-Security-age Neeson creakily playing an action hero? He was already visibly over the hill at 60 in the creaky Taken 2. What’s he going to do in Taken 4, run his Lark over the terrorists? Tune ’em up with his walker?

Let’s face it, as an old man ordering a kid off his lawn, Clint Eastwood retired that setup for all time in Gran Torino. And went on to a directing career of some significance.

As far as PARA goes, we’re not sure how PARA-USA relates to the original PARA-Ordnance, but that was (is?) a Canadian company. (We think they were the first to double-stack a 1911). In any event, it’s always painful when a well-meant marketing move backfires on you. Our taste in .45s runs more to old 1911s or a Norwegian Model 1914, but we almost want to buy a PARA just to buck these fellows up. They do have a nice DAO compact in .45 or 9mm, the LDA Officer Model. We haven’t tried it but it looks tempting.

Nite Owl Can’t Spell, But Can Make a New Pistol

Here’s the Nite Owl. It’s being introduced to the world today at SHOT, although the web site and Facebook have been up for a while.

Nite-Owl-1795Err…. wait one. Wrong Nite Owl. Please stand by.

Here’s the Nite Owl, a 9mm and .45 caliber service pistol. It’s being introduced to the world today at SHOT, although the web site and Facebook have been up for a while.


As you see, it’s a polymer-frame steel-slide of Glock-inspired conventional design, with a blocky slide, fixed 3-dot sights (what, not “nite” sights? Nope, not even an option yet, although adjustables are), and no safety. (There’s a firing-pin block drop-safety, and a trigger-bar safety of the Glock style). There are some detail differences of course, and the pistol has an aesthetic sense of its own. It is made in the USA; Nite Owl is a brand of Evans Machining Service of Clairton, Pennsylvania (isn’t that the setting of The Deer Hunter?), and Evans has been cutting metal for firearms industry clients for a long time. Making their own handgun is a big step up.

Nite Owl rendering

All we have so far are prototype photos, renderings, and specs. Rather than just pontificate on the specs, we’ll share them with you. Here’s the 9mm:

Model: NO9-R

Type: Striker Fired Semi-Auto
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 10+1 / 15+1 / 17+1 / 18+1 / 20+1
Barrel Length: 4.17″ (105.91mm)
OAL/Height/Width: 7.20″ (182.88mm) / 5.28″ (134.11mm) / 1.12″ (28.44mm)
Weight: 28 oz.
Construction: Polymer Frame with Steel Slide
Sights: Standard 3 Dot Fixed
Trigger: Single Action with 5.25# Pull (measured)
Safety: Firing Pin Block, Trigger Lever Safety
MSRP: $ 675.00 EA
Manufacturer: Evans Machining Service Inc
Handedness: Available in Right or Left Hand

That last bit is worth mentioning. The N09 is available in -R or -L models — not something you fiddle with to make ambidextrous, but a real left handed, mirror image version. (If CBS-era Fender had done this for guitars, would it have been better or worse for Jimi Hendrix’s visual impact?) Nite Owl says:

We thought about the left-handed shooters and have left out the universal word ‘ambidextrous’ out of the equation during the development of our products. Both right and left hand models will be available in 9mm and 45ACP. This is a true left-handed model that extracts to the left side of the shooter allowing the shooter to stay focused on the target. The casings that you would normally experience while shooting a right hand model is no longer a distraction.

Our guess: someone in management is a lefty. After all, the rest of us always fail to check our right privilege. Hollywood movie with duel-wielded consecutive-numbered guns in 5, 4, 3… well, we hear Liam Neeson needs a new gun supplier for Taken XLIV or whatever is next… although we wouldn’t recommend him to Nite Owl.

Another novelty that doesn’t come out in the specs is that, rather than go down the road of a proprietary magazine, they just lifted proven designs from other manufacturers: any Beretta 92 (92SB and newer, with the mag release where the frame joins the trigger guard bow) will fit the N09, and any Para P14 style will fit the .45. Speaking of which, its specs are not on the website yet.

Nite Owl plans, ultimately, to have 9mm and .45 in full size (that’s this one), compact and subcompact sizes — each one available righty or lefty. For now, just the full size is supposed to become available this week. If you like the Glock or S&W M&P style of pistol, here;s another alternative to consider. (Bearing in mind the Caracal disaster, nobody should buy a new product as an only pistol. Let the pros wring it out for a while. A lot of the guns that got on magazine covers are now collectors’ items exactly because they didn’t succeed in the market).