An aristocrat from Pasadena. The first automatic magnum .44

An aristocrat from Pasadena. The first automatic magnum .44
An aristocrat from Pasadena. The first automatic magnum .44

A pistol that has become something more than an attribute of Hollywood action movies of the 70s and 80s of the twentieth century.

Forty years ago, on August 8, 1971, the first Auto Mag.44 AMP pistol was sold. Billed as the "aristocrat of large-caliber pistols," the Auto Mag Pistol became the world's most powerful serial self-loading pistol at the time. It was a unique example of a very original device and impressive appearance. The developers positioned it as a hunting weapon and a direct competitor to.44 Magnum revolvers. With its appearance, AMP made a splash in the arms world. The pistol has become an indispensable participant in Hollywood action films, a symbol of punishing justice and the struggle for justice. For amateurs and collectors, it has become an iconic weapon and a symbol of America. But the history of its creation and "life" is ambiguous, strange, confusing, and not devoid of intrigue and mystery …

An aristocrat from Pasadena. The first automatic magnum.44

Over the forty years of its existence, the production of the pistol was repeatedly stopped and then resumed again.

The blockbuster legend of the Dream Factory, figuratively speaking, has survived several deaths. And each time he was revived under his own name, changing only the logo and the inscription on the receiver. As a merchant ship, which often changes its owner and home port several times during its life. From 1971 to 2000, eleven (!) Different companies were engaged in the production of Auto Mag. A total of about 10 thousand units were produced in 13 different, sometimes very exotic calibers. His multiple reincarnation gave rise to many rumors, conjectures and is not devoid of mysticism.

The history of the most powerful pistol of the 1970s began in the late fifties of the last century …

The first was the egg … Cartridge.44 Auto Mag

- This is a case for a rifle three-zero-eight, cut off under the automatic magnum 44. Where did you get it?

- It's a Christmas present. Charles Bronson is a friend of our family. And he gave it to me for Christmas.

("Beverly Hills Cop II")

The Americans themselves joke that they like it when the calibers of their pistols and revolvers start with a four. At the same time, they themselves are in constant search of weapons with a recoil equal to that of weapons of calibers starting with three. That is, wishing to possess large-caliber "guns" (.45 ACP,.44 SW,.44 special, etc.), most Americans prefer less powerful and more comfortable.32 "barrels".38,.38 special,.357 Magnum, etc. And this is understandable - not every shooter will be able to control weapons like those used by the heroes of Clint Eastwood.

Big "guns" are very fond of action film directors. The impressive Smith & Wesson in.44 Magnum or Desert Eagle in the hands of the hero of the film is both his irresistible charisma and guaranteed death to all bad guys. An ordinary man in the street or a couch hero, fascinated by the magic of Hollywood, also begins to believe in the limitless possibilities of monster pistols. In the early 70s, after the release of the film "Dirty Harry", Americans simply swept S&W.44 Magnum revolvers off the shelves.


However, the American passion for large revolvers has been known since the time of the development of the Wild West. At that harsh time, in order to survive, it was necessary not only to shoot accurately and quickly, but at the same time to have a revolver, a shot from which was supposed to kill at a distance of fifty steps, figuratively speaking, not only the enemy, but also his horse. And a larger caliber gave more chances for this.

"Cool trunks" together with other traditions of the "Wild West" have become a specific fashion in the United States, a cult, inspired by the romance of the past dashing times.And thanks to Hollywood, the 44th caliber has become almost an icon for Americans, a kind of symbol of power and justice. It was the incredible popularity of large-caliber weapons among Americans that led to the emergence of cartridges such as the.44 Magnum, 40 S&W,.44 Auto Magnum, and even more powerful ammunition such as the.50AE.


In 1955, the most powerful.44 Magnum revolving cartridge (11, 18x33 mm) was created in collaboration with the companies Remington and Smith & Wesson by the American farmer and legendary shooter-hunter Elmer Keith.

The performance of the new flanged cartridge was impressive. When fired, a bullet weighing 15.5 g (which is 9 grams of heart …) developed an initial velocity of 360 m / s and a muzzle energy of 1,260 J. The muzzle velocity of a bullet weighing 12.24 grams reached 450 m / s. At the same time, the recoil of the weapon and the sound level of the shot were prohibitively uncomfortable for the shooter himself.


Smith & Wesson almost immediately released a Model 29 revolver for it. The strong recoil when using the lethal.44 Magnum forced the development of a new reinforced frame for the 29th, which received the N index. The weapon was a double-action revolver with the largest frame among the revolvers of production Smith & Wesson. At the time of launch and for a long time, the revolver was considered the most powerful handgun in the world.


At the end of November 1956, Sturm Ruger released its single-action Blackhawk revolver chambered for the.44 Magnum cartridge. There were few such revolvers produced. Soon, the "Black Hawk Down" was replaced by the Super Blackhawk model with a reinforced frame and a smooth, no dolly, drum. Which was quite logical, given the power of the ammunition used.


With the "forty-fourth" caliber, the heroes of Hollywood blockbusters on the screen famously sent thugs and other evil spirits to the next world. But in life everything turned out to be much more complicated.

The excessive recoil of weapons loaded with.44 Magnum cartridges was unacceptable to the police and the army. But civilians loved him. Shooting and hunting with 44-caliber revolvers has become one of the popular fun. For 15 long years, pistols that could compete with.44 Magnum revolvers simply did not exist.

The situation changed with the appearance on the ammunition market of a new cartridge of the same caliber and power, but with a sleeve without a flange.

The cartridge, later designated.44 Auto Mag (.44 AMP), entered the small arms market in 1970. Other sources call 1958 or 1971 the year of birth of the new ammunition. And most of them attribute the authorship of his invention to gunsmith Harry Sanford (Harry Sanford). Let's try to sort out this confusion.

An article by American expert Jeff Cooper in the March 1970 issue of Guns & Ammo, dedicated to the Auto Mag, sheds light on the mystery of the.44 AMP. In particular, he writes that earlier this magazine published a photograph of experimental pistol cartridges for which no pistol existed at that time (G&A Vol. 1, No. 1 - Summer, 1958). They were made on the basis of a.308 flangeless rifle case, cut to the length of a.44 Special revolving case. These new cartridges were loaded with a.44 caliber pistol bullet. It was assumed that they would interest the developers and manufacturers of automatic pistols. But that did not happen. The author noted that Harry W. Sanford had never seen this article, but developed a pistol for similar cartridges. And, although this is still a prototype, he hopes that this weapon will be of interest to sports fans.


Max Gera, one of the creators of Auto Mag, in an interview with Bruce Stark, author of Auto Mag the Pasadena Days, which he gave on April 27, 2009, confirms these facts. According to him, in late 1968, during a conversation with Harry Sanford, for whom he worked as a gunsmith in a shop, they came up with the idea of ​​creating an automatic pistol chambered for the Magnum.44. Max conducted research on this topic and came to the conclusion that the use of revolving cartridges with a flange in automatic pistols is very difficult and unpromising.So he came up with the idea to take a.30-06 or.308 case and cut it to the length of a.44 Magnum case and, in fact, get the exact same.44 Magnum cartridge, but without a flange, in order to avoid problems with feeding them from the store. … At the time, he had no idea about an article published ten years earlier in Guns & Ammo magazine.

The idea of ​​a pistol cartridge, similar in power to a revolving cartridge, has been in the air for a long time. But for 1958, it was premature and did not find application, because the very idea of ​​creating a pistol for such a cartridge was considered seditious. And only after ten years, two enthusiasts from Pasadena decided to implement it. It should be noted that to implement their idea, they took as a basis a different cartridge - not.44 Special (sleeve length 29 mm) with a pistol bullet, but a more powerful.44 Magnum (sleeve length - 32.6 mm) with a revolver.


Max Gera withdrew from the project and parted ways with Harry Sanford in October 1970. At this point, two prototype pistols were produced (one of which was pictured on the cover of Guns & Ammo, March 1970), actually firing.44 AMP cartridges. Jeff Cooper confirms this in his article. Therefore, with a great deal of confidence, we can name the date of birth of the patron - 1970, when it was officially presented to the shooting community on the pages of the magazine. Well, the authorship in the invention of the cartridge, in my opinion, would be fair to recognize for both progenitors of Auto Mag.


Why did the creators of the new pistol cartridge choose.30-06 and.308 caliber cartridges? And what are those cartridges 30-06 and 308?

A small digression into history will help explain this.

The.30-06 Springfield cartridge was adopted by the US Army in 1906 (which explains the presence of the "06" index in the designation). This cartridge has become a permanent companion of the American army in both world wars. And thanks to the support of the United States of its allies, the patron was in the service of the armies of many countries. The armies of Brazil, Great Britain, France, China, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands were armed with rifles chambered for caliber 7, 62x63. And, of course, the.30-06 cartridge has become widespread in the United States. And thanks to the successful combination of caliber and sleeve length, allowing the use of the entire range of.308 caliber bullets (7, 82 mm), this ammunition has successfully conquered the civilian market in many countries. The.30-06 peaked during World War II.

In 1953, the.30-06 Springfield (7, 62x63) cartridge was replaced by the.308 Winchester cartridge, under the designation 7, 62x51 NATO.

It should be noted that after the Second World War, many countries conducted their own developments to create an intermediate cartridge, similar to the German 7, 92x33 Kurz. But the American lobby pushed for the adoption by NATO countries of its cartridge 7, 62x51. As an intermediate cartridge for army weapons, it turned out to be too powerful. This led to the fact that often automatic weapons developed for it were used in the army in reality only as self-loading (American M14 rifle, Belgian FN FAL and others). In 1952, Winchester introduced this cartridge to the civilian market under the name.308 Win.


The.30-06 and.308 Win calibers were then and are still being produced by most companies around the world. They are very cheap and are especially popular for hunting a wide variety of game. And if we are to make an exotic cartridge, then at least based on the case of the most common and affordable cartridge. Therefore, the choice of the 30-06 / 308 for trimming cartridge for the Auto Mag cartridge was quite understandable and logical.

Pistol 44, made on the basis of the case of rifle cartridge.308 Winchester (7, 62x51), shortened to 32, 77 mm (1, 298 inches), turned out to be extremely powerful. A.44 caliber bullet (diameter 0.429 inches - 10.9 mm) weighing 240 grains (15.55 g) developed an muzzle velocity of up to 500 m / s, providing a very serious muzzle energy of almost 2,000 J (1,455 ft pounds). The recoil energy was approximately 15.86 J (11.7 ft-lb), which made the creation of a self-loading pistol for such a cartridge is not an easy task.For comparison: the recoil energy of a.44 Magnum revolver reaches 24.41 J, and a.45 ACP pistol reaches 6.5 J.

The new cartridge, designed specifically for hunting, was capable of hitting almost any game at close and medium distances. At 100 yards (91.44 m), the bullet flew at over 400 m / s, providing 1,262 Joules of energy. Lee Jurras, the creator of Super-Vel ammunition and the father of modern expansive bullets, was a big fan of the.44 AMP.


The.44 AMP cartridge was almost the same size as the.44 Magnum Remington revolving cartridge. If you put two cartridges side by side, they will look almost the same, except that the Auto Mag does not have a flange, which makes it much easier to use in an automatic weapon. Therefore, the idea to create a pistol for a new powerful cartridge was quite natural.

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