An aristocrat from Pasadena. Variations on Auto Mag
Auto Mag first editions manufactured at the Pasadena plant. The so-called Original Pasadena. Characteristic differences: the grip cheeks are completely corrugated, on the front sight from the side of the sight there is a cutout for a colored insert
(photo by veryimportantlot.com)
What's in your variety ... or Auto Mag options
The first two Auto Mag prototypes were manufactured in 1970. At the same time, Harry Sanford founded Auto Mag Corporation and opened a plant in Pasadena, California. The first serial pistol was sold on August 8, 1971. Powerful cartridge and formidable appearance weapons immediately made him popular in films and novels.
But the corporation worked for only about two years. And on May 3, 1972, with fewer than 3 units built, Auto Mag Corporation filed for bankruptcy.
This was not due to a problem with the weapon. The company simply couldn't produce it at an affordable cost. In 1971, the pistols were actually selling at a dumping price of $ 247,5 ($ 1 in today's prices), which was well below its cost. The company lost almost a thousand dollars from each unit sold, which soon led to bankruptcy.
In addition, component suppliers chronically disrupted delivery times, and AMC simply physically did not have time to deliver already paid pistols to its customers on time. That also affected the company's reputation not in the best way.
Soon the patent and all the equipment were bought by the Thomas Oil Company.
For the production of the pistol, "TDI Corporation" was specially created and a small factory was opened, the chief engineer of which was Harry Sanford, one of the founders of Auto Mag.
After the resumption of production, two modifications of this pistol appeared: the "Model 180" in .44 AMP and the "Model 160" in .357 AMP. Later, the High Standard Company joined the project, which took over the marketing issues.
Lee Jurras made a great contribution to the promotion of the new pistol, developing a hunting cartridge and various tuning options for it. Potential buyers were offered barrels with a wide variety of calibers, as well as removable stocks, exotic grips, stocks and sets of interchangeable barrels. This had slightly more success, especially when selling tuned pistols to firearms collectors. Although the price of such copies reached $ 3250.
In addition, Lee Jurras even founded an international club of fans of Auto Mag ("Club de Auto Mag Internationale"), so that the owners of the most powerful pistol could gather for regular meetings with like-minded owners of "hand artillery". But this, alas, was not enough. In 1977, High Standard withdrew from its agreement with TDE, and pistol production stopped again. By this time, all rights to Auto Mag had returned to its progenitor, Harry Sanford.
In 1979, he announced the final release of a series of 500 Auto Mag Model B pistols with a heavy-duty bolt action. In fact, less than 100 units were assembled before weapons production stopped again in 1980. The price of $ 1000 apiece in 1979 was too high for the pistol to be in widespread demand, especially when you consider the cost of cartridges, or rather the lack of them in finished form.
In the early 1980s, AMT produced about a hundred Auto Mag Model C pistols. During this entire period, since 1972, about 6 pistols were produced and sold. Auto Mag production finally stopped in 000.
Later, attempts to resume the production of pistols using old drawings were made by individual companies, but, alas, without much success.
Harry Sanford sold spare parts for these pistols until his death in 1996. His son Walter Sanford continued to sell the remaining parts through automagparts.com until 2015, when he transferred all rights (including name, trademark and manufacturing rights) to Auto Mag Ltd Co.
There are quite a few variants of the Auto Mag pistol, differing in minor changes and markings in accordance with the manufacturer or the author's tuning. And it is very difficult to understand this issue.
But let's try to do it.
1. Auto Mag Pasadena
Initially, Auto Mag Corp produced only one .44 AMP pistol with a 6,5-inch barrel. A distinctive inscription was applied to the receiver on the left side:
Auto Mag .44 Amp Model 180 Pasadena California Pat Pending and AM in a circle.
This is the so-called early Auto Mag Pasadena or Original Pasadena. Barrel with ventilated rib.
Only these pistols were equipped with fully grooved cheeks, and on the front sight on the side of the sight they had a cutout with a colored insert (serial numbers in the range A0001 – A3300).
This model is considered the highest quality, since all parts are milled from Carpenter 455 stainless steel.
2. TDE North Hollywood
Then Trust Deed Estates (TDE) took over the production of Auto Mag.
TDE produced pistols in two calibers - .44 AMP with a 6,5-inch barrel with a vented bar and .357 AMP with 6,5 or 8,5-inch barrels without a vented bar.
Initially, TDE's manufacturing facility was located in North Hollywood. Actually, the pistols were collected by Bob Barbasievic in the garage in the backyard of his house (Bob Barbasievicz Hause, 9503 Guess Street, Rosemead). Robert Barbasevich at that time was the head of the production and technical departments of TDE. Prior to that, he was one of three employees Harry Sanford hired to work at Auto Mag Corp.'s Pasadena factory.
Part of the assembled and fully complete Pasadena pistols were later sold under the North Hollywood brand. Accordingly, the inscription on the left side of the receiver has also changed:
Auto Mag .44 Amp Model 180 North Hollywood Calif. Pat Pending and "TDE in a Circle"
.357 AMP Model 160 North Hollywood Calif. and "TDE in a circle".
This is the so called model TDE North Hollywood... Serial numbers in the range A3400 – A05015.
Initially, .44 AMP pistols were assembled from previously made Pasadena parts, and the missing parts were manufactured on the side.
The quality of this model is reduced in later editions (some small parts were not made of stainless steel). Because of this, pistols with higher serial numbers in this model are less desirable for collectors. Black plastic cheeks with incomplete corrugation.
Auto Mag in .357 AMP Model 160 with 10,5 '' barrel manufactured by TDE North Hollywood
It was TDE who launched the Auto Mag in caliber .357 AMP.
Pistols of this model are distinguished by a shorter two-line lettering (in contrast to the four-line lettering on pistols in .4 AMP caliber). Most of them were assembled with replaceable barrels. All pistols of this model were sold through B&B Sale in North Hollywood.
3. TDE El Monte
Over time, the stock of barrels, parts and parts of Auto Mag Pasadena left after the bankruptcy of Auto Mag Corporation ran out, and the question arose about a full-scale resumption of the production of pistols.
Therefore, on August 2, 1972, Harry Sanford leases a factory in El Monte, California (11658 McBean Drive El Monte Calif.). Accordingly, the inscription on the left side of the receiver changed for the pistols produced at this factory:
Auto Mag. 44 Amp Model 180 El Monte Calif. Patented, with "TDE in a circle" logo
Auto Mag. 357 Amp Model 160 El Monte Calif. Patented, with the "TDE in a circle" logo.
Auto Mag marking in caliber .357 AMP Model 160 from Tde El Monte
This is the so called model TDE El Monte.
The pistols were assembled entirely from new parts and assemblies manufactured by TDE. Serial numbers are in the range A05016 – A08300. The pistols were available in .44 AMP and .357 AMP calibers with 6,5 "vented barrels and 8,5" or 10,5 "tapered barrels without a vented bar.
Auto Mag in .357 AMP Model 160 from TDE El Monte, complete with exchangeable barrel in .44 AMP
Don Mithell, President of High Standard, became interested in Auto Mag. He visited Harry Sanford at the TDE office and arranged to purchase pistols for High Standard that would bear his company name and logo.
In April 1974 they ordered 135 pistols. All 135s were to be produced with a 6,5-inch .44 AMP barrel and standard trim. According to Don Mitchell, he did not order any other calibers or barrel lengths.
In the end, 134 (according to other sources - 132) pistols were produced with the prefix "H" in the serial number. Of these, 108 units in .44 AMP caliber and 26 units in .357 AMP caliber. Accordingly, such models received the conditional name High Standard.
A distinctive inscription was applied to the receiver on the left side:
High Standard Auto Mag. 44 Amp Model 180 El Monte Calif. Pat Pending,
High Standard logo and on the right side of the receiver "TDE in a circle" logo
High Standard Auto Mag. 357 Amp Model 160 El Monte Calif. Pat Pending,
High Standard logo and “TDE in a circle” logo on the right side of the receiver.
Later, several hundred more pistols (according to some sources - just over 900) were produced with the High Standard marking on the receiver, but with the usual serial numbers for Auto Mag, starting with the prefix "A0".
And here a certain intrigue arises.
Need to say, these High Standard pistols were never officially ordered.
Prevailed story that there are many sets of barrels with High Standard receivers left in TDE warehouses. And they were used to assemble pistols on frames with serial numbers prefixed with "A0". Despite the fact that these are factory-made weapons and were indeed released at the TDE factory in El Monte, but by and large these pistols have a barrel mismatch with a frame.
James Spacek's book Hi-Standard Pistols & Revolvers 1951-1984, published in 1998, indicated that several thousand serial numbers with the prefix “A0” were reserved in the High Standard books for assigning serial numbers to Auto Mag pistols.
A close examination of these records shows that in 1974 High Standard sold exactly 134 Auto Mag with the "H" prefix. Records also show that another 911 Auto Mag pistols with serial numbers prefixed with “A0” went through the High Standard books in 1974 and 1975. Why this happened is anyone's guess.
I must say that the exclusive distributor of Auto Mag at that time (from 1974 to 1976) was LE Jurras & Assotiates. This may be why High Standard sold weapons unofficially, so to speak, from the back door, in order to bypass Lee Jurras' exclusive rights to sell Auto Mag.
Be that as it may, these pistols also belong to the model under the conditional name High standard.
5.LE Jurras Standard Model
The standard Auto Mag by Lee Jurras. The weapon, manufactured by TDE in 1974-1976 and refined and tuned by Lee Jurras, the exclusive distributor of Auto Mag pistols, featured the lion's head logo.
The polishing of the frame and / or the barrel with the receiver was varied at the presentation level, the cheeks of the grips were made of exotic wood or bone. Caliber .357 AMP or .44 AMP. 6,5-inch barrel with vented rib; 8,5-inch or 10,5-inch - tapered, no vented bar. TDE brand and lion head logo. Made 1100-1200 pcs.
On the left side of the receiver there was an inscription:
Auto Mag. 44 Amp Model 180 El Monte, Calif. Patented, "TDE in a circle", "lion's head" in a circle.
Auto Mag. 357 Amp Model 160 El Monte, Calif. Patented, "TDE in a circle", "lion's head" in a circle.
Marking of the standard Auto Mag from Lee Jurras MODEL 160 in caliber .357 AMP
In addition, Lee Jurras released a whole line of non-standard modifications of Auto Mag, specially "sharpened" for hunting a wide variety of game. Their variety, exclusivity and features are such that they deserve a separate discussion.
Some of these modifications are so rare that even their photographs are rare. There are such "pearls" in private collections, and it is almost impossible to see them "live".
6. Kent Lomont Custom Models
Kent Lomont has made an invaluable contribution to the development of the Auto Mag design. He was instrumental in providing development work for Harry Sanford, creator of the original Auto Mag pistol.
Kent worked alongside Lee Jurras, founder of Super Vel ammunition. These two were Auto Mag's most established experts. Kent fired thousands of Auto Mag rounds, made hundreds of measurements, and compiled dozens of tables for cartridges of various calibers and types of bullets.
He compiled a huge number of reports on ballistics and reliability, with recommendations for the operation, maintenance and repair of pistols, equipping cartridges with optimal parameters and the most effective shooting methods, the use of various accessories, pouches, holsters and weapon care products.
Auto Mag Lomont Custom in .357 AMP Model 160.
Only 4 of these pistols were fired by Ken Lomont.
In addition, Kent Lomont has produced a series of barrels to order in a wide variety of exotic calibers. Developed several options for mounts for telescopic sights for installation on Auto Mag.
And this topic also deserves special attention.
7. Auto Mag TDE / OMC B-series (TDE / OMC B-series)
Model "B", released by Harry Sanford in 1979, differed from the pistol of the first releases with a reinforced monolithic bolt. 6,5-inch barrel with vented rib; 8,5- or 10,5-inch heavy target barrel without ventilated bar.
In addition, model B can have both High Standar and TDE hallmarks. This is explained by the fact that after the final closure of Auto Mag production in 1982, Harry Sanford collected part of the products from the stock of ready-made components and parts of the pistol. The model number has been changed from 180 to 280 and from 160 to 260. The serial number is in the range B00001 – B00370.
Accordingly, the inscription on the receiver has also changed:
Auto Mag. 44 Amp Model 280 El Monte, Calif. Patented, "TDE in a circle" and "OMC in a circle".
Auto Mag. 357 Amp Model 260 El Monte, Calif. Patented, "TDE in a circle" and "OMC in a circle".
Marking of Auto Mag in caliber .44 AMP Model 280 manufactured by TDE EL / OMC "B" series.
(photo by Gunsinternational.com)
Auto Mag in .44 AMP Model 280 manufactured by TDE / OMC, B series. Non-standard handle cheeks, made of laminated wood
8. Auto Mag AMT C-series (AMT C-series)
Model "C" (C) with 6,5 "barrel with vented bar or 10,5" barrel without vented bar. Model number changed from 180 to 280 and from 160 to 260. Serial number in the range C00001 – C00050.
The pistols were supplied in carrying cases (plastic attaché style) with accessories. Models produced by AMT have typical markings, but with the logo “AMT in a circle” and the Latin letter “C” in the prefix of the serial number:
Auto Mag. 44 Amp Model 280 El Monte, Calif. Patented, with the AMT in a circle logo.
Auto Mag. 357 Amp Model 260 El Monte, Calif. Patented, with the AMT in a circle logo.
Auto Mag marking in .44 AMP Model 280 from AMT, Series C
(photo by i.pinimg.com)
Auto Mag in .44 AMP Model 280 from AMT, Series C
(photo by i.pinimg.com)
9. Auto Mag Bicentennial
Separately, it is worth mentioning the pistols of the Auto Mag Bicentennial anniversary series, dedicated to the bicentennial of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776).
In 1976, Harry Sanford was awarded a contract with B&B for the manufacture of a limited edition of 100 pistols, dedicated to the 8,5th anniversary of the United States' independence. For this, the factory produced one hundred 357-inch barrels with a ventilated bar in caliber .1776AMP. Larry Grossman then handcrafted four polished pistols at the factory to Harry Sanford's specifications. These were examples with serial numbers USA1777, USA1975, USA1976, and USAXNUMX.
Perhaps due to the fact that the production of the anniversary series pistols was very labor intensive, these were the only four pistols produced in 1976. In 1977, Harry Sanford had an outside contractor, Ed O'Neill, who produced six more commemorative pistols. They had serial numbers USA100 and up. Bruce Stark did not find a complete record of the serial numbers used. The pistols of the anniversary series were engraved with special symbols, including the so-called bell of freedom - this bell summoned the inhabitants of Philadelphia to announce the Declaration of Independence in 1776:
Auto Mag .357 Amp Model 160 Bicentennial, TDE in a circle logo and Liberty Bell.
Marking Auto Mag Bicentennial caliber .357 AMP Model 160, right - "Liberty Bell"
The rest of the custom barrels were TDE or TDE / OMC markings and were sold in normal condition. B&B Sales never received a single Bicentennial and threatened to sue the factory.
Luxurious Auto Mag Bicentennial. A real aristocrat among pistols!
Auto Mag models produced after 1982
By 1982, after the company changed logos and owners several times, the Auto Mag line was closed.
Since then, several more attempts have been made to resume the production of pistols using the original drawings and expired patents, as well as to sell them under different names.
10. AMC model
Model with 6,5 '' or 8,5 '' barrel with vented rib. Produced in calibers .44 AMP and .357 AMP. Model number changed from 180 to 280 and from 160 to 260. This is the so-called Auto Mag AMC model.
Custom versions could have a different caliber. In particular, the .45 Win Mag, which was reflected in the inscription on the left side of the receiver:
Auto Mag. 44 Amp Model 280 Covina Calif. Patented, AMC in a circle logo.
Auto Mag. 45 Win Model 280 Covina Calif. Patented, AMC in a circle logo.
Auto Mag marking in caliber .357 AMP from AMC
One of the very interesting marketing moves that AMC made was the production of the Last sets.
These were "C" series pistols with a monolithic reinforced breech, produced under the special serial number Last, with a standard 8,5-inch tapered barrel without a vented bar chambered for 44 AMP.
Owners of this "latest" Auto Mag were offered a limited edition set of four additional 10,5-inch barrels in four different calibers: .357 AMP, .41 JMP, .44 AMP and .45 Win Mag. It was planned to make only 50 sets. But they did not sell well because of the cost, and as a result, fewer than 50 units were produced.
All barrels were standardly marked "AMC" and "Covina" with the appropriate caliber, for example:
Auto Mag. 41 Amp Model 280 Covina Calif. Patented, AMC in a circle logo.
Marking of the additional barrel in .41 JMP caliber from the Last set. Pay attention to the designation of the caliber - .41АМР
Set of four interchangeable Last series barrels
You can see that the .41 is marked as AMP instead of JMP. According to some reports, this was an elementary mistake made when marking. According to others, this was done on purpose, since by that time Lee Jurras was no longer an exclusive dealer of Auto Mag pistols.
At the bottom of the protrusions of the receiver boxes was put a serial number corresponding to the set to which they belonged.
11. Commemorative series Auto Mag, released in honor of Harry Sanford
After Harry Sanford's death, a commemorative .44 AMP Auto Mag pistol was produced in a limited edition, equipped with a 6,5-inch barrel with a vented bar. The so-called classic Pasadena model.
It was originally planned to release 1000 pistols. As reported by the flyer of AM, Irwindale, California (Irwindale, California). But according to Bruce Stark, "biographer" of Auto Mag, only 30 units were produced. The pistols featured a high quality finish and designer grip cheeks. Supplied in walnut presentation cases. A commemorative inscription was applied to the receiver on the left:
Auto Mag .44 Amp Model 180 Pasadena California Patented and AM in a circle.
Facsimile signature "Harry Sanford"
Harry W Sanford
Pioneer of Stainless Steel Firearms.
The series was specifically targeted at firearms collectors and was marketed as a special collectible version of the classic American weaponry.
Auto Mag marking commemorative series dedicated to Harry Sanford, the pioneer of stainless steel firearms.
Another memorable series of Auto Mag pistols can be found in the Blue Book of Gun Value for 2021. This is also a commemorative Auto Mag in .44 AMP with a 6,5-inch barrel with a vented bar. The receiver has the inscription Sturgis, SD. The facsimile signature of Harry Sanford is on the left rear of the receiver. Supplied in a presentation case.
It was planned to produce 1000 pistols, but Galena Industries actually made less than 1999 units in 2000-300. Bruce Stark gives even more modest numbers on this matter - only 36 pistols were produced with the Sturgis, SD marking. Of these, 30 Auto Mag were made in Hesperia, CA and the remaining 6 were made in Sturgis, SD (Sturgis, South Dakota).
All of these pistols belong to the Harry Sanford Memorial Series. The unofficial name of such Auto Mag among collectors and specialists is Signature Series Auto Mag, given the facsimile signature of Harry Sanford on the receiver on the left. Often to designate these pistols, connoisseurs and collectors of weapons use the abbreviation - HSSS Auto Mag (Harry Senford Signature Series).
The data published by Lee Jurras more or less accurately reflects the situation on the manufacturers, markings and models of Auto Mag for the period from 1971 to 1982. Because he was the exclusive distributor of Auto Mag from 1974 to 1976 and had very close contacts with the pistol manufacturers. Although his data sometimes differ from data from other sources.
It should be noted that similar in name pistols of the Automag line (from Automag II to Automag V), produced by AMT (Arcadia Machine & Tools), chambered for .22 WMR, 9 mm WinMag, .30 Carbine, .45 WinMag and .50 Action Express, are a completely different weapon, differing both externally and structurally.
I must say, the culprit in this confusion was the very progenitor of Auto Mag - Harry Sanford.
After the bankruptcy of Auto Mag Corp in 1972, Harry Sanford continued to develop new stainless steel semi-automatic pistols. For this weapon, he changed the name of Auto Mag to Automag. In addition to the above, Harry Sanford developed other pistols and rifles that did not have the names of Automag or Auto Mag in the name.
After the 1983 film Surprise Impact, collectors wanted an 8,5-inch barrel with a vented .44 AMP bar, similar to the one equipped with Harry Callahan's Auto Mag.
But it was a custom-made blank barrel for filming. In addition, at that time, the production of Auto Mag was phased out. There was no tooling or any other production equipment to expand the production of such kits (barrel with receiver).
Brian Maynard, then AMT manager, developed Baby Auto Mag based on the AMT Lightning pistol. It was only a .22 LR. But outwardly, it almost completely corresponded to the cinematic weapon. As usual, Harry Sanford has reserved a hundred serial numbers for personal use. These pistols have special markings on the receiver. The pistol could be labeled "Make my day" or "Feel like a happy punk," etc.
The younger Auto Mag only outwardly looked like his older "brother". But the marketing ploy turned out to be quite successful. The pistol was in demand. The Israeli "IMI" did a similar way, releasing its Jeriho-941 under the name Baby Eagle. Although he had nothing to do with the older Desert Eagle.
Manufacturers Auto Mag
Between 1971 and 2000, the Auto Mag was produced by eleven companies, as evidenced by the corresponding markings on the receiver on the left side.
1. AM (Auto Mag Corp.), Pasadena, California (manufactured in Pasadena, California).
2. TDE, North Hollywood, California (produced in Rosemid, California).
3. TDE, El Monte, California (manufactured in El Monte, California).
4. TDE, El Monte, California, High Standard (produced in El Monte, California).
5. TDE, El Monte, California, Lee Jurras (produced in El Monte, California, tuned by Lee Jurras).
6. TDE, El Monte, California, Kent Lomont (produced in El Monte, CA, tuned by Kent Lomont).
7. TDE / OMC, El Monte, California (manufactured in El Monte, California).
8. AMT, Covina, California (receiver was made in Covina, California, pistols were assembled in Irwindale, California).
9. AMC, Covina, California (receiver was made in Covina, California, pistols were assembled in Irwindale, California).
10. AM, Irwindale, California (produced in Irwindale, California).
11. AM, Sturgis, South Dakota (some were produced in Hesperia, California, and some were produced in Sturgis, South Dakota).
The first nine companies produced Auto Mag under the direction or permission of Harry Sanford himself. The pistols with the latter two names were produced under license from Harry's widow and son, Nadine and Walt Sanford.
It is difficult to say exactly how many models / variants of Auto Mag and in what quantity were produced by this or that manufacturer. Auto Mag's serial number ranges are not entirely reliable in determining whether the markings on the receiver match the frame number. Because these numbers were not always set by them sequentially. Large groups of numbers have been omitted to give the impression that production has progressed further than it actually was.
Personalized numbers could be purchased from the factory and could only contain the owner's initials. For example, the luxurious engraved Auto Mag, rightly called the most beautiful pistol, was numbered WGC-3. That does not fit into the framework of the standard sequential numbering in any way.
Typically, Pasadena pistol serial numbers go up to three thousand, North Hollywood pistol serial numbers go up to five thousand, and TDE El Monte pistol serial numbers go up to eight thousand. Distributors, dealers and collectors have changed barrels and frames for a variety of reasons. A five thousand-unit frame with a Pasadena barrel can be considered a non-matching barrel to the frame. This is especially true if the breech did not match the Pasadena breech, etc.
Therefore, various sources indicate the total number of issued pistols in different ways - from 9,5 to 10 thousand units.
To be continued ...
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