Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

Can This Gun be Saved?

This classic old Colt Mustang .380, the original Colt knockoff of the Llama pocket-pistol knockoff of the 1911, has seen better days. Can it be saved? A customer brought it to a gunsmith who told the story on Reddit and Imgur (all these photos came from Imgur, and are linked in the Reddit thread).

Colt Mustang Before

The old Colt is still functional enough, but it’s fugly. The steel slide and barrel are pitted. The alloy frame is also corroded, and the trigger guard, integral to the frame, is nicked and generally chewed-up looking.  Can it look like new again? Click “more” to see!

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How We Did at RIA vs. Blue Book

In April, we bought two lots adding up to four firearms from Rock Island Auction’s online auction. One was a Walther Model 8 pistol, and the other was a collection of three Eastern European pistols: an East German Makarov, a Czech Vz52 service pistol and a Czech Vz50 pistol.

Walther Model 8 RIA

The guns arrived and were in such good condition that our friendly FFL was surprised — pleasantly — when he unpacked them to check the SNs. After a single instant NICS check, we had them at home, and they’re still sitting out, waiting for Kid to have a break from school and from a round of doctor’s appointments. (He’s gonna live but he’s going through a tough time, and that’s all we’re gonna say about that). These four firearms were in four different European calibers: respectively, 6.35mm (.25 ACP), 9x18mm, 7.62x25mm, and 7.62x17SR, aka .32 ACP.

And on our trip to the Biddeford Gun Show, we relieved George the Book Guy of a few of his volumes, including a new Blue Book (ours being old, and this a new edition). Now, we have had a nagging feeling that we overpaid for the auction guns, especially with the stiff Buyer’s Premium typical of traditional auction houses. We were still happy with our purchases, because we always wanted one of each of these, although we’d rather have non-import-marked ones. But the question remained: how did we do?

The Walther Model 8 is important as the last all-new numbered model before the revolutionary PP. (The Model 9 was a rehash of the Model 1). Some PP features are already evident in this single-action, internal-hammer pocket pistol which was made from 1920 to 1943. We’re not very good at grading according to the percentages used by the Blue Book, but if it’s 95% (the image is our actual Model 8), the then Walther is worth what we paid — before the Buyer’s Premium. So yeah, we overpaid a little for this little jewel.

We paid, in effect, $400 for each of the three Eastern European guns. How did we do?

On the minty Makarov, near-100% condition, we were shocked to see the Blue Book valued it at only $250-295. The CZ 52 and CZ 70 are worth even less…we took a bath of $100-250 per gun on these. No wonder we won the lot!

And no wonder Rock Island keeps calling us to bid in the next auction. “We got a live one here, Ethel!”

Will we do it again? Yeah. There’s a certain amount of “what the hell” in plugging three holes in your Warsaw Pact collection with a single bid. (We still need a Skorpion SBR, a CZ 82, CZ 83, PM 64 and a few other odds and ends). We also think that the Blue Book is lagging a bit on these prices, as some of the supply of new imports seems to have dried up during the Great Obama Gun Sale-a-Thon Years. We’ll probably upgrade the guns to non-import-marked ones gradually, one at a time, over the next decade or so (the Blue Book says that draws a 30% premium — seems higher in our experience). And we’ll shoot the living daylights out of ’em.

Some Thoughts on Police Trade-Ins

Favorite FFL emailed his list of customers to say that he had some police trade-ins:

Available starting tomorrow at 9AM are these police department trade in guns.

Bushmaster XM15E2S 5.56mm rifles.  16″ barrel, collapsible stocks, will come with one 30rd mag.  Used, cosmetic blemishes from being in cruiser racks however mechanically sound.  We also have a special going with our Cerakote vendor to get $25 off a refinish with Cerakote gun coating if you so desire.  $475

File photo of a Remington 870 tactical police shotgun

File photo of a Remington 870 tactical police shotgun

Remington 870 Police Magnum 12ga pump shotguns. These have 18.5″ standard barrels with sights.  Two have BlackHawk recoil reducing stocks and two have regular stocks with side saddle shell holders. These also will have some finish wear as well but are mechanically sound.  $325

They’re going to be gone by now, probably; he just had single-digits of each.

Meanwhile, SF Buddy on the phone described his new score:

An HK imported Benelli shotgun that the local detectoves used to use. They have changed (not upgraded) to Mossberg pumps.

Aside: asks your humble host: “Wha’s wrong with a Mossberg pump?”

Turns out, lots of things, but basically, the single aluminum alloy op-rod is prone to bending when used hard. When Army Mossbergs had this problem, the answer was, per Mossberg, a thicker aluminum op-rod… result? One thicker bent aluminum op-rod.

He’s very pleased with the new gun so far. It was a lot more expensive than the above-referenced 870s, but it was a good buy for an HK-era Benelli.

Pros and Cons of Police Trade-ins

Police trade in weapons when they buy new ones, in most states and cities. This lets them save a lot of money on this vital equipment, while keeping their equipment pool up to date (and sometimes, even, under warranty).

The strengths of these weapons usually are:

  1. The weapon design and manufacture was generally good. Police agencies seldom buy junk. When they trade them, it’s more likely to be because they are out of fashion than any real substantive difference between the new guns and the old.
  2. Police weapons are usually chambered for what is thought at the time to be an effective cartridge. All 20th and 21st-Century police firearms can be effective on homo sapiens, to the extent that a handgun can be, with well-selected or handloaded rounds.
  3. The weapons are usually little shot and in good mechanical shape. 90% or more of cops would sooner attend a Free Mumia rally that shoot a single round more than minimum to qualify, so few of these weapons are shot out.
  4. The weapon was subject to some kind of periodic maintenance and inspection.
  5. The police provenance may give you an entertaining story to go with the gun. Or not.


PSP Patch Beretta 2

The Pennsylvania State Police is one agency that disposes their used handguns — in this case, a Beretta 96.


Weaknesses of these weapons usually are:

  1. Because PDs so dependably follow trends, you’re probably picking up something from one trend ago.
  2. They generally only come in limited configurations. If you prefer, say, the 9mm to the .40 S&W, you don’t get to choose, the way you would with a new gun.
  3. The weapons are usually in fair to poor cosmetic shape, and may not have been cleaned in a long time — if ever.
  4. Cop trades, unless a very large agency suddenly gluts the market or the agency’s version of the gun had market-toxic lawyer “improvements” like a New York or DAO trigger, tend to be priced a little higher than similar used guns.
  5. Police guns are bought by collectors as well as users, especially if the firearm is marked with police identification.

Why This Guy is NOT Bubba

Here is a Glock pistol with a home-made modification: golf-ball like grip dimples. Whether you like it or not, it’s a personalization the owner is happy with, not that that alone prevents a hack job from getting the dreaded Bubba the Gunsmite label. (After all, some owners have extremely low thresholds of satisfaction).

Bubbas Glock

Nope, several things prevent this home-gunsmithing job from being the work of Bubba:

  • Not-Bubba did it with great care;
  • Not-Bubba made a plan first;
  • Not-Bubba followed his plan;
  • Not-Bubba took precautions to prevent damage to his Glock;
  • Not-Bubba practiced on other materials before taking his tools to the Glock, and even then,
  • Not-Bubba started on the least visible and most easily replaced bits of the pistol (in the case of a Glock G4, the replaceable backstraps).

Bubbas Glock 4

He tells his own tale on Reddit (with the ironic title: Burnt Plastic: How I Lowered the Value of my Glock, and the images of his work (with captions) are at Imgur.

Let’s let him tell a little of the story himself, beginning with why dimple your Austrian self-defense appliance:

I hate the grip texture on my G19. I have always shot Glocks well, but they feel like I’m holding a greased up pineapple. I’ve tried the grip tape. It greatly improved my grip for followup shots, but also had a tendency to peal off too easily and was too rough on my skin for carry also making my shirt ride up.
So I decided to take the plunge into grip stippling. Here’s the result. No, I’m not reselling it; no, I don’t care how it looks; Yes, I voided the warranty, and Yes, it feels MUCH better, both shooting and carrying against my back (8 o’clock, lefty).

This is a classic of home gunsmithing, actually, because Not Bubba took a generic, mass-produced pistol and made it better for him. Yes, it may punish him at resales time, but what’s the wholesale on a G19? They’re one of the least expensive firearms in class, new (especially if you get the LE discount, which we don’t know if he did). Nobody buys it for the resale value.

Remember how we said he practiced? He needed some Glocklike polymer to practice on and figure out what he was doing, and you may not have thought about it, but you probably have something pretty close, in your mag pouch.

Step 0: Practice and experiment. I bought a soldering iron with a bunch of tips. Some pointy, some round and skinny, some round and fat, some flat, etc. I used several of them to make different patterns on Pmags I had sitting around. Once I had a pattern I liked, I practiced on one of the back straps that came with my glock. Only after I was comfortable with the texture and pattern was I ready to work on the real thing.

That kind of incrementalism and thinking-it-through is evident throughout his activities. He drew out a plan for his dimples, once he figured out what size and texture he wanted, after sanding off the Glock factory sort-of-rounded-rectangles.

Bubbas Glock in-prog 2


The blue tape, put on before the sanding, keeps dust and grit out of the innards of the polymer frame. Note also that he steered clear of defacing any of the factory markings, which is a Federal (and most States, too) no-no .

A weird side-product of the dimpling process was a quantity of raised rings where the soldering iron had displaced plastic. The tool he used to shave them off is the razor-blade holder at left in the picture below. Bubbas Glock in-progress


Since he was hacking on the pistol anyway, he also relieved the rear end of the trigger guard to better suit his grip.

Bubbas Glock 2

End product: a customized Glock 19 that he likes better, can grip better and feels more confident about. And, not incidentally, the warm glow of having done it himself, rather than sending it out to a Glocksmith for the work. Note the regular rows of dimples, thanks to that sketched-on plan, as opposed to the random scattering that is the Mark of Bubba.

Bubbas Glock 3


Golf-ball dimples may not be your preferred surface treatment. In that case, don’t you do this to your gun. For this guy, it worked; it doesn’t look especially bad, and it’s not as if a Glock’s industrial design is gunning for a place in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art anyway.

You can get the whole story, as mentioned above, on Reddit (complete with very thorough descriptions of tools used, down to the grit of sandpaper) and the images at Imgur (linked in the Reddit comment).

150 Years Ago Today: Booth Murders Lincoln

150 years ago this evening, actor John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head with this beautifully-crafted pistol.

Booths Deringer

In 1865, a single-shot percussion pistol, like this Henry Deringer model that named a class of pistols, was already obsolete, although still in common use. Rimfire and centerfire cartridges were simply too convenient for storage and reloading, compared to bulk powder and percussion caps. The cartridge also enabled a new class of repeating firearms, and benefited even the design of common revolvers.

But for what the Deringer was designed for — a single shot at contact range — it was very effective.

Massively brain-damaged, Lincoln never recovered consciousness, and died the next day. Booth and his co-conspirators were hunted down and killed (some got a brief trial before a military commission, first). His dream of rekindling rebellion in the exhausted, beaten South failed utterly.

Conventional wisdom is that Reconstruction was harsher for the murder of Lincoln, given VP Andrew Johnson’s sympathies with the Radical Republicans in Congress. Had Lincoln actually had conciliation and magnanimity in mind, Booth’s bullet put an end to it.

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!