22 August 2008

Arms and the common man's defense of liberty

This is, perhaps, the best time to be alive in the era of firearms.  While the long tradition of firearms goes back centuries to Chinese hand cannons and rocket launched arrows, the era of more common arms has moved from hand made, hand forged by the village smithy to small companies of the industrial revolution growing large and dominating the market for decades if not a century or more.  There has always been the streak of 'can do' work in US businesses, and the feeling that one man or woman with a vision can achieve their dreams.  If one is looking to purchase a firearm you can go to one of the large outfits and get some customizing done to suit your needs, and many of those companies have large and vocal clientele in support of each of them.  As an individual coming into the market I bring a different outlook on firearms, as witness by my writing, and business.

Supporting Amendment II, for me, requires understanding Article I, Section 10, then seeing how the liberty of the common man as applied to business allows driven individuals and ideas that take hold to give those holding them great value above and beyond money in their lives.  To support that, I then have criteria that are a bit different than most in the realm of arms, and they aren't necessarily technical excellence, although that, too, plays a role.  Let me step you through the 'rough and ready' criteria:

1)  Small Business -  If the heart of the American economy is small businesses, then it is there that I must look to uphold that more common value system of my fellow man.  Small business, to me, means a few things, not necessarily devoted to actual size of the company.  One of those things is size and getting to feel that the business is run due to stated, honest criteria that I agree with in some form.  Family run businesses that remain family run and see more than titular spots for family members is another strong criteria - I don't really care much if the next generation is just pushing papers, but if they are in the design, manufacture and testing part of the business and continuing its tradition, then that is a strong qualifier for this no matter how big the company is.  That man or woman with a dream or vision making good is another part of this, and their sticking to it and their values is extremely important no matter the company size, unless you are Microsoft.  The idea is supporting that American dream and all the Constitution, not just selected portions of it, while keeping it small, directed and personal.

2) Tradition -  The US has a good and strong history of firearms and keeping that tradition alive by ensuring that older weapons are appreciated and brought to the public so that one can get a living feel for our history is a major decider.  Here a minor American movement is seeing not only older styles of arms, going back to the muzzleloaders and percussion cap arms, but the personal touch that many of those arms had.  Be it the Revolution, Civil War or Cowboy era, these arms have a special place in American history, and as the antiques may not be that reliable due to age (or unobtainable) the modern reproduction and faithfulness to design becomes paramount.  Again dedication to mission almost certainly guarantees that this will go into the small business realm, as the strong tradition of firearms manufacturing in the US comes from that small, dedicated vision of what a good weapon is and should be.

3)  Innovation -  Of the area that the US should have under lock and key, it is the plethora of small business startups that fail.  They fail for many reasons, beyond manufacturing capability or how good the design actually is.  That said the 'following the vision' of a more perfect weapon covers a wide swath of things, beyond just good looks and minor changes to arms.  This is the category most overlooked in the US and is one where our true strength is found.  If the Kentucky Long Rifle was key to the Revolution, then it is those dedicated weaponsmiths of that time who made that gun possible and found its niche of ready purchasers that would come to shock the most powerful military of its era.


Those are the three, major criteria and notice that actually executing a good design is necessary, but the technical arguments for/against any particular weapon to me is, well, technical.  And so, let me put up some of the companies of interest, why they are of interest to me, and a signature weapon from each.

L.W. Seecamp and Co. -  How would you like to make a new firing design that is then used by the Big Boys?  The maker of pocket pistols has that distinction and their patented work is used by Glock, Kimber, Cold, Para Ordinance, Kahr, Springfield,Taurus... yes, good old US small business with a dedicated vision making good by having the highest honor paid to them: others wanted their work.  If you want a small weapon that is easy and safe to carry, then why go to a large manufacturer when the original company can still provide you with it?


That is the Seecamp LWS .380, and it has a 6+1 round capacity and is about the size of a deck of standard playing cards.  Here it is the driven vision of making something for a part of the market that didn't have reliable weapons that put this on the charts along with technical innovation.  A vision led company to do one thing and do it well with technical excellence and innovation puts L.W. Seecamp and Co. on the list.  Ludwig (Louis) Wilhelm Seecamp was trained in the tradition of German gunsmithing in pre-WWII Germany and brought that to the US, and his company continues on as he founded it.  His patent has long since expired, but his company hasn't and the best homage to any innovator is to see those innovations copied and used.  If you like the Big Boys and their firing action, then perhaps you just might like the small guns that gave them that reliability.  As they say - "Size Matters".

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 3


Barrett Firearms Company -  I've mentioned Ronnie Barrett a few times as he was one of the first in the large bore revival movement in US firearms.  His dream was to create a .50 cal sniper rifle that would be accepted by the US Army, and when his weapon came up for test it would pass with flying colors, to become the M107 Sniper Rifle.  This puts him in an elite class of gunsmiths who have had total control over their design from start to finish and then would sell that design to the US Army:  Samuel Colt, John Browning,  and Eugene Stoner.  His innovative work came at a perfect time, when needing to reach out and hit someone in Afghanistan would matter a great deal.

With confirmed kills at distances that make your eyes water squinting into the distance, this gun can not only do the job and do it well.  Perhaps the Barrett Company didn't like the Macmillan TAC-50 and the Hornady Round getting the longest confirmed kill in Iraq, so they have designed a new cartridge, the Barrett .416 which will go long with a more stable flight and remain supersonic at well past a mile.  Although the day of needing a computer to hit longer than that in a reliable fashion is dawning, one must give credit to Ronnie Barrett and his dedication to firearms which would drive the competition to compete with an all American one man design.  Tag line - "Dependable. Reliable. Well-designed."

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 5


Kahr Arms - Where Amendment I and Amendment II meet is with Justin Moon, son of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Kahr Arms.  Here there is the simplicity of loving firearms and the frustration of not finding just that one weapon that he wanted, and he would explain it:

I had been licensed to carry in New York State since I was 18 and had looked for an ultra-compact 9mm pistol. However, to my chagrin, I could not find a pistol with the quality of construction and features in design which I felt were appropriate for a carry gun. Therefore, I decided to design an ultra-compact 9-mm. pistol that I could carry. I spent the summer and much of my senior year designing the mechanical layout of the pistol and prototyping various designs concepts. By the time I graduated I had pretty much solved all the conceptual problems that hindered the manufacture of the pistol that I had in mind. From there I partnered with Saeilo to move to prototype the pistol and prepare for production.

Yes, you read that right, he was designing the pistol he wanted as a junior in college.  You really can't deride the Moonies if they can get a young man to do *that*, considering what most young men are doing in college at that age.  While Kahr is part of the Moonie owned Saeilo Group, it is run by Justin Moon and his drive for a weapon that he could use that met his specifications.  Still, Justin goes beyond that to one other aspect here, and that is the historical arms arena which pretty well makes Kahr a unique company even without the Unification Church - I would be citing the company because of vision and tradition.  The tradition?  Why picking up a well known company and then continuing its work with weapons that Americans know almost instinctively at this point.  That company was Auto-Ordinance Corp. and their main claim to fame was this gem:

Thompson 1927-A1

That is the Thompson 1927-A1 sub-machine gun.  The infamous "Tommy Gun" seen in the hands of so many gangsters in Chicago and guys like Winston Churchill that it carves an almost indelible image in the American psyche.  And this is the semi-automatic pistol version:

Thompson 1927-A1 TA5

Yes, it has a 50 round barrel magazine and you can even get a 100 round barrel magazine for it, State Laws permitting, of course.  You can even get a violin case for it!  Beyond that they also do a the M1 .30 cal Carbine, to bring back memories of that weapon.   The tagline from Justin Moon -

When it came to marketing the pistol, I did not feel that Saeilo would be a "catchy" name to put on my gun. I wanted a name that was short, easy to remember, and symbolic of the high quality of manufacture. Given Germany's renown for engineering prowess and quality, I wanted a name that sounded German. That's how I came up with "Kahr."

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 3, Trad - 4, Inno - 3


North American Arms - Sandy Chisholm was the man who resurrected Rocky Mountain Arms under a new guise to continue the work started by Dick Casull, and the company was bought traded to other companies until it was going to be chopped by its then owner Teleflex:

I was a 10-year employee of Philadelphia-based Teleflex serving in an M&A role on the corporate staff and had been closely involved in the Talley acquisition. Similarly, after the dust settled, I was charged with the NAA divestiture. It turned out to be a difficult sale; NAA was profitable and not requiring any time, attention or other resources from the parent, who was rather stubborn on both price and terms. During the two-year period I attempted to market this business on behalf of Teleflex, I saw first-hand the capabilities of the management team and the opportunities available to the business, given just a modest investment of time, "love" and money. So, in a "Victor Kiam/Remington moment," I chose to leave the corporate world and become a small business owner, which occurred in November of 1991.

Yes, success can be its own failure and if you don't require any upper management you can often find the company you work for about to go under because its parent just doesn't need it.  Sandy Chisholm would see the same area that L.W. Seecamp and Kahr would be going into, but from a different perspective: that of pure personal protection.  Personal protection would mean something different to him than the pure concealed carry vision of Seecamp or the effective 9mm of Justin Moon:

Another ignorant remark questions the "effectiveness" of such a small weapon/round, to which I reply "I don't care about the frame size or caliber of any gun; if it's pointed at me, it will absolutely change my behavior." There are reams of evidence that show that simply brandishing a gun will avert a potentially threatening situation.

And their arms look it!  At this size of pistol you start to get into the pure limits of what you can put together, and to show how that form factor pushes design similarity, we can look at this:

NAA Guardian 380 

That is the NAA Guardian .380 with 6+1 magazine, and its design similarity to the Seecamp is obvious.  Unlike Seecamp, NAA also goes for the revolver and puts together something very different:

NAA 22 Magnum Mini-Revolver

That is the NAA .22 Magnum Mini-Revolver 5 shot.  Again the concept is small and yet durable, so it can sit in a tackle box, purse, golf bag, or glove compartment with relative safety.  These are not, of necessity, weapons meant for a one shot kill, but to change the equation of an attacker to know that they are no longer in for a zero cost confrontation should they carry it out.  That, as Sandy Chisholm points out, is an effective deterrent in a vast number of situations where no longer being defenseless, even with something like these guns, is effective against the human psyche.  If this is your need and just for yourself, then even something like these guns will change minds and possible save a life.  Yours.

Tagline - "Convenient, Reliable, and very Effective."

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 2


E.M.F. Company Incorporated - From the era of black powder we can get a feeling for how our forefathers made and used weapons, and seek to experience that through modern replicas of those arms.  The Early and Modern Firearms Company in California is just such a company dedicated to bringing those weapons back by using original designs and recrafting those guns of yesteryear.  Their reason for being is clearly stated:

EMF Company is a leading source of historically accurate, collectible quality reproduction firearms of the Old West and Cowboy and Civil War eras, In 1956 EMF (Early & Modern Firearms) was founded to supply the demand for the guns seen in the movies and on television. EMF became a major distributor, and then manufacturer of the Great Western, the first reproduction of the famous Colt Model 1873 SAA.

EMF's mission is to provide quality, authentic, but safe firearms at the best prices. The keystone of EMF's "Cowboy Way" is to provide friendly, personal customer service and stand behind out products.

That dedication to Early/Early Modern firearms is seen up and down their line from black powder revolvers to Sharps rifles.  Not only in outward form, but with the same cosmetic appearance given by early industrial manufacturing these guns look new but to an older way of doing things.  Those eras helped to form the modern arms industry, and the weapons have that look that we have seen from movies, photographs and drawings not only modern but of their time.  So the real introduction to them is in their work:


The 1847 Model Walker Black Powder Revolver, .44 caliber 6 shots.

And on the long gun side:


The 1860 Henry Rifle, .45 caliber 24" blued octagonal barrel.

These are weapons that speak to the dedication of the manufacturer to their work.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 1


Kel-Tec CNC Industries - Kel-Tec originally started off as Interdynamic USA which was part of Interdynamic AB of Sweden.  It introduced the KG-9 to the US market and became Intratec, and the weapon designed by George Kellgren would become the Tec-9 as Carlos Garcia took the company over and George Kellgren left it.  Under a flurry of anti-gun lawsuits because the semi-automatic Tec-9 could be converted to a full automatic weapon, Intratec went under in 2001.  George Kellgren went on to start his own, privately owned business and called it Kel-Tec and he was the chief engineer as well as owner.  Thus the strange history of Interdynamic USA from Sweden to Intratec to Kel-Tec follows the path of companies and one man who made a gun to fit a part of the market that no one else was addressing: making the lightest, flattest semi-automatic 9mm on the market.  From there Kel-Tec would also address the concealed carry market for the plainclothes police needs and continue work into the rifle market.  Thus the old Tec-9 would disappear, but find some lineage in some of the other pistols designed at Kel-Tec:


That is the PLR-16 Pistol, 5.56 NATO, 10 round or M-16 compatible magazine.  These are not weapons designed for their good looks, but for use, emphasizing function above all and breaking into the top 10 of handgun sales in the US by doing that.  Here the work of one man to just make good weapons that function as necessary shines through the spartan finish, and even such a spare outlook can have a beauty all of its own.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 2, Inno - 3


Magnum Research Inc. - Jim Skildum and John Risdall are the majority owners of a company that has helped change the landscape of large bore pistols to the American mainstream.  They started, however, as contract designers for the Israeli military that would become the Desert Eagle pistol.  While others would make those under contract, all the design work, patents and copyrights were with Magnum Research.  From there they would produce rifles and single action magnum revolvers as well as a new line of Desert Eagle pistols:


That is the Mark XIX Desert Eagle Pistol in Black Oxide 10" barrel, which can be done in .357 magnum, .44 magnum or .50AE.  Also available in 6" barrel models with a variety of finishes, including the famous Tiger Stripe:


That .50AE is not something one comes to expect from a pistol, really, but the work and care taken on these pistols has won a small but devoted group of fans who swear by them.  Depending on a whole bunch of factors, I can see the use of these guns on the big game hunting scene.  If you need to stop a suddenly appearing bull Moose who has taken a disfavor to you, this is what you want as your feet are unlikely to be a rescue.  Or a sentient Mack Truck that has suddenly decided it doesn't like humanity... and even with limited defense needs, they would still be a hoot to shoot is my bet.   That and their Biggest Finest Revolver group, also show this same dedication to getting the most and most accurate handgun firepower in the hands of the common man, and for that there must be due consideration and thanks.  And it just might start a new renaissance in the American desire for the very large bore pistol.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 4


Navy Arms Company - Our past is never far from us and Navy Arms seeks to ensure that history is not forgotten in the realm of firearms.  Started by Val Forgett Sr. who was dubbed the Father of the Modern Replica Firearms Industry, he worked to ensure that the skills and craft of previous eras was not to be forgotten, going so far as helping to form the US International Muzzloading Team in 1976.  Val Forgett III continues on that family tradition of replicas that do more than just replicate function, but require the knowledge and wisdom of the era to back them.  Their work starts in the Flintlock era and moves forward through percussion and black powder through to the late 19th century.  On each of their pages they give some of the background to the gun, who made it and why it was important to preserve as an active gun into the modern era.  Thus we can see this from the Flintlock era:


The 1763 Charleville Musket, .69 cal which the Marquis de Lafayette brought a personal delivery of 25,000 with him to the colonies during the Revolutionary war.  Beyond that they also sought out designs to some of the guns that may not have been so famous, but still played a role in our history, like this sidearm used by General J. E. B. Stuart:


The Cavalry Model Le Mat with a ball diameter of .451, 9 shot.  These were first made in Philadelphia by John Krider, but then were made in France during the Civil War and then exported through the UK where it gained British markings as it went through Bermuda to run the blockade of the South.

Navy Arms shows more than just replica care for their traditional arms, but the desire to popularize them so that we can understand how our liberty and freedom was secured by such weapons.  Their tagline: "First with the finest in quality replica firearms"

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 5, Inno - 2


Charter Arms - The concealed and inconspicuous gun market has a number of companies in it that have each taken a different approach as to why they make the guns they do.  Douglas McClennahan started Charter Arms in New England came to it with his own set of reasons:

To produce a high-quality, reliable handgun that was also highly affordable.

His first gun was one for undercover police officers in a .38 special, so that they would have at least one weapon that was reliable for their work that was also safe to carry.  Charter Arms would suffer from small business buyouts, mis-understandings and stock deals that were pretty complex for the size of the company.  Doug McClenehan and his life long friend, David Ecker, owned the company and David Ecker eventually bought the place and after the stock deals and such Nick Ecker, David's son, would finally end up with sole ownership of it with a temporary name change to Charter 2000 just before the millenia and then back to Charter Arms afterwards.  The company, however, prospered due to good quality manufacturing and a lifetime warranty on all their guns, which has made them a go-to for those in need of this type of gun.  Still their original Undercover line has prospered with many variations on the theme:


That is the Charter Undercover #13820, 5-shot, .38 special +P.  They also have a very similar looking one in a .44 special, and they also do a derringer:


Which covers their Dixie Derringer .22 in LR and Mag, 5 shot.  Throughout it all Charter Arms has remained dedicated to producing high quality, low cost personal defense guns for both police and civilian use.  Tagline: "Personal protection is your responsibility"

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 2


East Ridge Gun Company Inc. - Can't afford a Barrett and yet still want the .50 BMG rifle?  Then ERG is your best bet to look for in the competition rifle arena, and they have rifles from the very spare benchrest to their high end competition series.  As Barrett may have signaled a new beginning to the large bore target rifle skill in the US, folks like ERG are necessary to popularize the fact that a more everyday crowd can enjoy the use of such guns and still have them not cost a few major limbs.  What is interesting is that the more spare the design, the more engineering that goes into giving the shooter a stable and accurate gun, so that one at the high end is a rifle that uses a sandbag and not a bipod:


That is the ERG Lightweight Competitor 2000 and it does set one back, although only about 2/3 cost of a Barrett while this model:


the ERG Shorty in black (also has a nice walnut version) is only about 1/3 the Barrett.  Extras not included.  For Larry Lyle this must be a passion that puts him into the area of seeking to share his enjoyment of this type of rifle with more people and it is a great encouragement to the sport of precision long-range shooting.  Apparently that is what it takes to get this sort of thing going, and I do hope they succeed in that as the solo, unaided shooter at long range is an exacting test of skill and patience rarely seen in other sports.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 3


Para-Ordnance - Ted Szabo and Thanos Polyzos were two boyhood friends who shared a deep passion for guns.  They started out making not a regular firearm, but an autofire paintball gun!  You have to love how some of these companies start, really.  Ted had a problem with the 1911 gun platform: it didn't carry enough rounds.  He wanted to fix that.  There were some other problems with the 1911, as he saw it, but he recognized that John Browning had known what he was doing and respected that throughout his design re-work.  He took care that his improvements were those of modern understanding of guns and manufacturing that John Browning didn't have, so that each would be incorporated into the re-design and yet still retain the original look and feel of Brownings work.  A major case was the cartridge extractor, which had proven not only troublesome but actually dangerous in the original design and that attempts to shift the extractor to outside the housing actually made problems worse, not better.  Their site tells this part and it is telling:

Szabo reasoned that Browning had used an internal extractor to avoid both the dirt and containment problems but, not having 21st Century technology, he had done the best he could with his extractor design. Using the latest CAD/CAM design computers, Szabo studied the function of the extractor and looked at what areas could be improved.

The most obvious challenge was to maintain constant extractor tension on the rim of the cartridge case. This is important because, in addition to extracting an empty case, the extractor is also vital in feeding a fresh cartridge into the chamber. By giving the extractor a greater range of movement, Szabo created not only a better extractor, but also a controlled feed capability that would improve both feeding and extracting reliability.

The other area of improvement was in the size of the claw on the extractor that comes into contact with the rim of the cartridge case. With twice the surface area on the claw, twice the surface area contacts the case for positive feeding and extraction.

When you have to change the design, recognize the original intent and don't go beyond that - take the innovative path of conservative redesign.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and if it is broke, make sure the fix makes it work like its supposed to. 

Para Ordnance is dedicated to the highest quality, highest precision and most durable weapons that can be made on the 1911A1 platform as a start, and they are setting out to demonstrate that the old fashioned way:  by torturing their guns.  The poor things!  The premier gun for this torture test is the Para PXT 1911 and they were not kidding when they said they were going to torture it


And they set out one major question:  how fast 1,000 rounds of .45 ACP could be poured non-stop through a Para PXT 1911?  The day before the test they got the gun 'warmed up' by just firing 1,000 rounds through it and cleaning it overnight.  Have to make sure everything works, right?  Then they got World Speed Shooting Champion Todd Jarrett to use his pick of ammo and a couple of folks madly refilling the magazines and the result was: 10 minutes and 44 seconds.  Which was a new world's record... and the barrel was a 'deep golden color' which probably isn't the thing you like to see in a barrel of a pistol, I would gather.  They let it cool off and then did some performance target shooting.  And then more shooting all day, until 5,000 rounds went through it of various types.  In two days it had taken 5,000 rounds, with a single cleaning between the first 1,000 and the next 4,000.   I hope they used the 14+1 mag, but then they didn't say if the reloaders were on the torture line, too.

Para-Ordnance does the 1911 and they do it well, which marks high up in the dedication line.  Plus they respect the tradition started by John Browning on the 1911A1 and stick to that as best they can.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 4, Inno - 4


Henry Repeating Rifles - When the Henry Rifle Co. was bought out by Winchester, way back when, a gap has been left in the hearts of many who adored the Henry Rifles and wished to bring them back.  Many replica companies offer them, but few get the inspiration to see if the ability to do the fine quality craftsmanship at an affordable price and then continue on in that spirit of the original company could be done if it were still around.  So, while Henry Repeating Rifles is in no way related to the original company, they are working to do what the original Henry:

Today, the Henry Repeating Arms Company, a descendant of the venerable gunmaker, makes its home in a historic industrial area in Brooklyn, New York. From our inception our goal has been to manufacture a line of classic, well-crafted firearms that every enthusiast would find readily affordable. Every single part in each Henry rifle is made in America, and engineered with features that other gun makers often charge twice the price for. For that reason, our corporate motto is “Made in America and Priced Right”.

Hey, if a descendent of Sam Adams can dig up the original recipe to make beer, then a descendent from the original can rediscover that part of history and start from scratch but with the same outlook of their ancestor.  Today Anthony Imperato runs the family business of Henry Repeating Rifles with a dedication to high quality reproduction, craftsmanship and innovation so that modern designs in the same spirit of the original Henry Rifles can stand next to their predecessors and be compared to them for those areas of quality, craftsmanship and design outlook.  Are they replicas?  No.  These are newly designed guns made to have the look and feel of the original guns, even while being thoroughly modern in their capabilities:


That is their Big Boy Lever Action octagonal barrel, .44 Mag/.44 special, 10 rounds.  Seeing that and you understand how look and feel matters, even when it has thoroughly modern mechanisms in it.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 3


Shiloh Sharps Rifles - There is a difference between replica and hand made to specifications, and that latter is where Shiloh Sharps Rifles comes in.  Many other companies offer replicas, but few offer the depth of customization and original action and work that Shiloh Sharps does.  Their webpage clearly states it right up front that this is not your normal replica company:

As you look around the pages of this site, you will discover that, as with the original Sharps, our rifles are not intended for the mass market. They are for the shooter, hunter, competitor and collector who wants something special. Therefore, we will NEVER SACRIFICE quality for higher production figures. To do so would compromise the "soul" of this product, and disappoint those wishing today for the quality that was the norm in the 19th Century American firearms. We feel that Shiloh Sharps Rifles reflect the extra time and effort that go into their manufacture.

They offer exactly two rifles, at present, the Sharps 1863 and 1874, custom made.  As is the case with the variations on original manufacture, so they replicate those as best they can.  Luckily, those arms had a large number of variants, so the customer gets those to choose from, like this:


That is the 1874 Military Carbine, base, which you can then go through the drop-downs to customize against original types.  Because these are custom made and to the exacting standards both of the original guns, the customer and their own craftsmanship, these are not cheap rifles.  They also have warnings about using modern smokeless in these rifles, as its pressures are far higher than the original powder, so the customer must be skilled in the use of the traditional powder.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 5, Inno - 2


Rohrbaugh Firearms - The concealed carry area of arms has, apparently, grown like gangbusters and yet the problems of finding a good and reliable firearm that can actually do some damage while being small has continually driven on gun makers to try yet another caliber and see if they can create that perfect concealed carry weapon.  Here I will let the company speak for itself as to why it came about:

Like all great inventions, the Rohrbaugh 9mm was born of necessity. Over a 20-year career as a firearms instructor and handgun trainer, Karl Rohrbaugh long recognized the need for a truly effective self-defensive pistol. Time and again, his clients had complained that currently available handguns were too big and bulky to carry and conceal comfortably, and to use effectively.

Mr. Rohrbaugh also noticed that the trend among manufacturers toward making their products smaller has not produced high-quality firearms. With millions invested in their current products, manufacturers have chosen to cut corners by simply cutting back on barrels and grips to give their guns a smaller look and feel. No major manufacturer has committed to invest in the considerable new design work, R&D and retooling required to produce a truly effective smaller pistol.

So, Mr. Rohrbaugh is hitting this from the R&D and stopping power side of things, which is track that some other companies haven't taken.  To that end the company concentrates on exactly two models:

R9 and R9s weighin

The R9 on the left is the .380 ACP while the R9s is on the right in 9mm, both carry 6 rounds.  There is lots of room at the bottom, as Mr. Feynman said about machining, and that appears to be very true in handguns.  Yet a company willing to invest in research to look for new ways to save space, weight and yet not sacrifice safety will push this market and require everyone to step up their performance to cut those things while not cutting quality.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 4


Freedom Arms Inc. -  From the fine state of Wyoming comes Freedom Arms, specializing in revolvers.  These are not replicas, although many are made in an old west style, but modern revolvers made to custom specifications.  In the arms market there will always be a place for those specialists who keep to traditional forms of manufacturing and craftsmanship and Freedom Arms brings that to their revolvers.  Thus their work not only looks to the past but to the present and they have also joined that arena of large bore handguns with the Model 83 5-shot revolver Premium Grade:

Freedom Arms Model 83 Premium adj sights

Available in 4.75", 6", 7.5" and 10" barrels, the gun can be made to handle .357 Mag, .41 Remington Mag, .44 Remington Mag, 454 Casull, .457 Linebaugh and .500 Wyoming Express.

By stressing accuracy, ballistics and the craftsmanship necessary to ensure the ballistics is used to its greatest potential, Freedom Arms represents the old school of making guns that fit the needs of the customer to the highest possible standards.  As these are not mass produced arms, the cost is commensurate with the work necessary to create them by hand.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 4, Inno - 4


Hi-Point Firearms - It is hard to say exactly what part of the market Hi-Point hits save that it is the low cost, lifetime guarantee end of it.  And that is 'no-questions asked' on the warranty, too, so that even if you are the third, fourth or millionth owner of the gun, if it fails, they will repair it for free.  That said, it is difficult to describe a first reaction to seeing one:


That is the 45ACP, 9 shot magazine pistol.  Combine low cost and guaranteed free repairs and no matter how it looks there will always be a ready market for anything with that, save, possibly, Yugos.  Still there is a thriving business and fans and simple design is often a reward on its own as far less can go wrong  with it.  Simple, easy to use, low cost, and guaranteed repairs for free means value, and most likely decent profits.  You can't knock that and I can personally see where a gun that *just works* has a very, very high value.  And since it doesn't look like a 1911, that means that the basics of innovation and trying to capture a different market are in place, and obviously working as there are many people who don't like the style of gun and would prefer something different in weight, grasp (not grip) and balance.

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 2, Inno - 2


Bond Arms - The Double Barrel Derringer is a classic gun and Bond Arms continues that history to the modern era as the original concealed carry gun is an active concept with them.  Because of its simplicity of action the Derringer continues to be the ready alternative to the modern semi-automatics and revolvers as the moving parts are trimmed down even more: there is less to go wrong:

Bond Arms Ranger

That is the Bond Arms Ranger with 4.25" barrels.  What Bond Arms has done is made an interchangeable barrel system so that a customer need only buy the barrels they need to the caliber they want and they can swap out barrels on-the-fly.  This allows for a form of reload in which pre-loaded barrels are kept secure until they are needed and swapped in.  For a modern Derringer that is, actually, a very, very good piece of work and innovative.  Other manufacturers may make Derringers, but by specializing Bond Arms can ensure that its market segment is well cared for and maintained and since it is a niche market, by retaining innovation it is very difficult for other manufacturers to get a significant portion of it.  And as the entire line of Derringers has interchangeable barrels for their frame it then allows the customer to decide exactly what they will need and still get variety of performance, all the way up to .410 shot shells.  And that would be some 'ace in the hole' when everything else runs out.  Tagline - "The finest in double barrel protection"

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 4, Inno - 3


Calico Light Weapon System - There are guns and then there is Calico.  This firm started out in the petroleum industry making specialized equipment.  They then had this strange idea that turns the idea of how to get ammunition into a firing chamber on its head... if you want innovation of a gun from top to bottom, inside and out, then what you want to look at is a Calico.  Their revolution was a feeding system called the Helical Feed Magazine and I can't recall ever having seen anything like it and yet it is so intuitively obvious that one wonders why it hasn't been done before:


That is the Calico Liberty III, 9mm.  What is that thing on top of it?  The 50 round magazine.  They also have a 100 round magazine available. 

Calico feed

Calico also has a speed loader, so that the 50 round magazine can be loaded in 15 seconds and the 100 in 30 seconds.  Due to the design of the magazine, there is not spring tension problems or wear if you keep it constantly loaded as the spring relies on torsion, not compression.  By redesigning the gun the spent chambers eject down, thus reducing muzzle climb.  The redesign also allows for a 5 second tool-less weapon strip.  The sights are on the magazine and adjustable so that you can adjust for distance and the offset between barrel and sight.  So that means you can have magazines of high capacity, always loaded, ready to go and an easy gun to maintain, to boot.  And the cost is very, very reasonable, to boot.  Available currently in .22LR and 9mm, soon in the 40 cal.  Tagline: "Running out of ammunition is a malfunction"

Personal rating on 5 stars: SB - 5, Trad - 3, Inno - 5


There are, of course, many others that I am leaving off, including LAR Manufacturing Grizzly and their .50 caliber work, Les Baer custom 1911's, Cimarron Firearms (although its hard to tell the natives from the imports), O. F. Mossberg & Sons Firearms, Wilson Combat Arms, and Nighthawk Custom arms.  But learning about the firearms market by scratching its surface in the US has given me a far greater appreciation for its scope and depth, from the custom traditional to the truly innovative.

We are truly blessed with having such capability and respect for tradition in our country.

And I can say that even restricting myself to just these businesses would still leave me with far more in the way of choices than I can readily conceive.  Because supporting liberty through small businesses doesn't mean getting short-changed.  Not by a long shot.


Beto_Ochoa said...

I have a concealed carry permit and the weapon I prefer for firstline of defense is the North American Arms mini-revolver in .22 magnum with the Black Widow configuration.
I tested the energy transfer against a .38+p and they were so close to identical as to be a negative for the .38 in ease of handling and accuracy at 50'.
My Black Widow is easier to conceal and with a recoil that is half of my .38 it was a no brainer to buy and carry two.
I have ten rounds of devastating firepower on my hip and the smallest weapon profile to ability available.

A Jacksonian said...

The NAA .22 MAG does look good and the reliability of a revolver is something in its favor. As it is I will still be going through learning and spin-up time for awhile, and may be moving, so CCW application will wait until I have that actual 'where will I live' part of things nailed down.

As it is my Ruger .22 LR Competition model showed up, and will serve for patience and stamina for me. After that other factors apply for home and personal defense.