This past month has been one of the most hectic we have had in a good long
while. Normally June is a sluggish month with kids getting out of school and
lots of families going on vacation. This past 4 weeks has been anything but
sluggish. We designed and introduced a couple of new limited issue
revolvers, our El Diablo on a stainless full engraved Vaquero, the new
version of the Texas Ranger Classic also on the Vaquero, and the Red, White
& Blue Classic also built on a stainless full engraved Vaquero. We figured
we would take orders for a couple of each, but we were way off. The
stainless El Diablo has sold like the proverbial hotcakes and kept me busy
engraving into the wee hours of the night almost every night for the last
month. The Texas Ranger has almost done the same. I am in the middle of
changing the Red, White & Blue Classic and we will be coming out with a
whole new version of that within the next week to 10 days. It will again be
built on the stainless Vaquero but more special features included, including
a new name. We are waiting on the registration of the new name and logo and
hopefully will have that in a week or so.
It is sort of ironic in that the very special guns we come up with that I
absolutely know for sure will be great sellers, never are. I donít know why
but they just never do. I have heard it said that a manufacturer has to have
his finger on the pulse of the buying and shooting public to be successful.
In that case I canít even find the pulse. Thank the Lord there havenít been
too many of these but there have been a few. This is why the SHOT SHOW is
around. Gun manufacturers come up with a new whizz bang idea, build a
prototype and bring it to the show. Sort of like a concept car show. They
show very special cars that may someday be added to their line up, or if the
concept isnít popular at the show, they quietly destroy it and never admit
to ever building it in the first place.
Firearms companies are known to do the same, although some just go under so
there is no one to deny they ever built a certain gun. Here are just a few
that just couldnít make it. Maybe not enough working capital, maybe not
enough interested customers, maybe...well, you know the rest. Back in the
mid to late Ď80s it was a good time to come out with handguns. Ronald Reagan
was in office so the chances of any anti gun bills being passed was slim to
none. American Arms had a nice little stainless steel double action 380. The
feel was very similar to the Walther PPK/S. It was chambered in 380 and was
a slick little gun at a decent price. It didnít make it.
American Derringer is known for their nice little 2 shot stainless
derringers from 22 up to 45-70, yep, a derringer in 45-70. A quick story
here. At our shop in Florida we had a very large black friend who hung out
at the shop. He was a former professional football player. He did a lot of
work with young black kids who had run afoul of the law, trying to get them
heading in the right direction. He bought one of the Model 4 American
Derringers from us in 45-70 (I told you he was a big guy). He rode all over
town in his bright red Corvette, a lot of times at night. Apparently his
wife thought some of these nightly excursions werenít on the up and up, so
one night he started to leave and she told him no he wasnít going. he told
her to sit down and shut up. She then grabbed his 45-70 derringer and shot
him in the ass with it. He was standing broadside to her when she pulled the
trigger. The slug hit him in the right cheek of his ass, went all the way
thru and came out the left cheek of his ass. He then walked over to her,
took the gun away from her and told her he would be back in a little while
(I did mention he was a big guy, didnít I?) He then got in his Corvette and
drove to the hospital. He told me the only time it really hurt was when they
ran an alcohol swab all the way thru side to side. If memory serves me he
told the cops he had the gun in his back pocket and his wife threw the TV
remote at him and it hit the hammer of the gun causing it to fire. Sounds
plausible, doesnít it?
Anyway, back to American Derringer. They also came out with a little semi
auto in 25 auto and in their proprietary 250 Magnum. I never saw the 250
Magnum so I am assuming it was just a slightly longer 25 ACP. In their
literature they show the gun lasting a few years but I think it was actually
a few weeks. It is now history.
There was a company called Arminex who had a semi auto called the Trifire.
It looked like a modified 1911 that would shoot 9mm, 38 Super and 45 ACP by
changing the barrel and magazine. The gun reminded me of the Coonan, but it
bit the dust too. Another company that had no luck was a company called
Auto-Nine. They had a tiny little pistol out that looked very much like the
Baby Browning, and was chambered in 22 LR. Adios Auto-Nine. A company that
went by the name of F.I.E. brought in a large amount of little inexpensive
guns from Europe. Their line up was too numerous to mention and a lot of
them came into the states. They didnít last too long. Rumor was they were in
some nasty lawsuits and are now long gone. One of the better ones they
brought in from Italy was their TZ-75, pretty much an exact copy of the
famous Czechoslovakian CZ-75. It was made by Tanfoglio in Italy, who still
make that same gun for several companies. It was a fine 9mm but the
importing company folded.
I mentioned the Baby Browning a moment ago. There were several companies
that made copies of it, including Bauer and Fraser. The Bauer was a fine
little gun, small enough to put in your watch pocket and not be noticed and
was a stainless version of the Baby Browning, but it didnít last long. And
if you know what the watch pocket is, you are showing your age. The Fraser
for some reason just didnít make it. The action just never was quite right.
I saw a couple and then they went by the wayside. Iver Johnson was another
that came out with several new guns that just didnít make it. One was the
Pony, a little 380 that was a miniature 1911. Colt ventured into the Pony
game for a short time, then it disappeared. Word in the business was that
Star made it for Colt. But Iver Johnson had a vague copy of the Colt
Woodsmen out called the Trailsman. I think I saw one before it bit the dust.
They also had a nice little 22 LR and 25 ACP that were pretty close to the
Walther in design. It was the TP22 and the 25TB. We sold a few of these in
our shop, then they were no more.
Korth is a big German company that makes some of the finest guns ever,
although they are extremely ugly. The Germans donít go out of their way to
make anything pretty. They kept bring more and more guns into the U.S all
thru the 80s and none were what could be called a success. Their 357 Magnum
revolver looked like someone who had a Colt Python fetish designed it while
on cocaine and Thunderbird wine. It was undeniably one of the finest made
revolvers ever but it was ugly, and ugly doesnít sell well here in the
states. Even in the 80s when a S&W M-27 in 357 sold for $350 all decked out,
the Korth was priced at $1100 to $3000. Did I mention it was ugly? Germans
also have no imagination as far as nice appealing names for their guns. It
was called the 357 Magnum. Catchy name, huh? Korth also has a semi auto 9mm
out that was also eat up with the uglies. It also had a catchy name. It was
called the Semi Automatic Pistol. Just talking about it gets me all hot to
run out and buy one. It was priced at only $2500. By the way, it was ugly
too. And like the revolver, flopped here in the states. In Germany I heard
they sold them to large breasted 300 lb women who were never known to smile.
Speaking of ugly, Steyr, a very well known company, came out with a 19 shot
9mm called the GB. We had a couple of them in my shop and there was no way
possible to make the gun function. We had a priest come in and sprinkle holy
water on it hoping that would cure itís ills. But that didnít work either. A
couple of companies bought the patent later and they were also never able to
make it work. Flop. flop, flop.
Betcha never heard of the Steel City Double Deuce. It was a little semi auto
made in England but brought into the states by a company in
Pennsylvania.There were big write ups about it in all the magazines touting
itís helical, self cleaning bolt, two stage recoil assembly that allow you
to throw any 9mm ammo in it and it worked perfectly. That was great, except
it didnít work. It was a pistol the size of the Walther PPK/S but came with
a 10 shot and a 34 round magazine. Bet that was hard to shove down the front
of your pants. Flop Flop.
Another German revolver was the Arminius, which was actually several
revolvers chambered in 22, 32, 38 and 357. Like the Korth, they were ugly.
Also like the Korth, the Germans had a gift for cute little names for their
guns. They called this one the Revolver. Damn, wish I had thought of that
name. It was cheap, unlike the Korth, running well under$250, and did I
mention that it was ugly. Flop.
There was an effort to make the 1911 double action. The design was by
Seecamp if I remember right. It was brought out by a company called. O.D.I.
It was called the Viking. My gunsmith in Florida bought one and never could
get it to function. He also thought it was a fluke, so he bought one of the
conversion kits to go on his Colt Combat Commander. The last I saw of that
conversion it was in the air heading toward a dumpster behind our shop. Flop
Another one that was touted by all the gun magazines was the Semmerling. It
was a tiny little gun that came in 9mm and 45 ACP. It was supposedly all
hand made and the gun rags went on and on about how it was the new thing in
pocket pistols. Now here is the feature that they crowed about constantly.
It was a little 7 shot semi auto, except it wasnít semi auto. After each
shot you had to reach up and pull the slide forward manually to eject the
spent case. There were no serrations on the back of the slide because the
slide didnít go backwards. The serrations were on the front of the slide
because the slide went forward. Now what mental midget would come up with an
idea like that? And to make things even sillier, they had a year or more
wait. Finally they went under and American Derringer bought out the patent
and it also went under with them. Flop flop.
Another one that the gun rags fawned over was the Sokolovsky 45 Automaster.
This very expensive space age looking pistol touted it being hand made and
having no screws in the gun at all. It had a trigger inside the trigger. A
weird set up that was supposed to be the new high tech in safeties. The gun
had a waiting list as long as your arm and started at $3000. It, like the
Semmerling, was the ďin thingĒ to have in the 80s. They were all over the
gun magazines for a year or so and then disappeared.
Left handed pistols were big for a brief time in the 80s. The Randall 1911
was probably the first. and had moderate success with it. Then a company
brought out a pistol called the Falcon Portsider. It was sort of a rip off
of the Randall but didnít last long at all. Another flop. A company that was
known for very well made revolvers in the moderate price range was Charter
Arms. But they had their flops too. They came out with a semi auto called
the 79K. The pistol was chambered in 32 ACP and 380. They also had big
dreams with another in 22 LR called the 40K. To give Charter Arms a bit of
credit they actually imported them from Germany under their name.
Nevertheless, they flopped.
One of my favorite pistols was also a flop, although there were probably
circumstances beyond their control that brought itís demise. This was the
Bren Ten. A great gun, designed partly by Jeff Cooper, and sort of a half
breed CZ-75, that Cooper thought of as the finest 9mm ever made. The company
had money problems from the start and the company that was to make their
magazines for them folded leaving them with pistols but no mags. They
delivered some guns without magazines and a few with magazines. Later they
came into some magazines and tried to bring life back into the company but
it was too late and the Bren Ten became history.
There are dozens of guns, probably hundreds of them that had great
expectations but for one reason or another flopped. We can all have lemons.
I know I have had a couple thru the years. We just keep on trucking and if
someone brings it up, we tell them it was another company that brought out
that dog, wasnít me.
Our next HHC is now 3 months away, October 2 thru Oct 5th. We already have
almost 30 people on the list signed up. If you need more info on it, feel
free to give me a call at 928-526-3313 and consider this my invitation to
you to join us. It is a great weekend in Monterey Tennessee. Join us.
Til next time, take a youngster or a lady shooting. They are our future.