Why so long before the tiny .380's?


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19-3Ben
March 6, 2010, 05:10 PM
When I first got into guns about 5 years ago, I was interested in the .380. The only .380 handguns that I knew of were blowback. The NAA guardian, the PPK, Sig P232, etc... all blowbacks. The only recoil operated one was the Kel-tec, and i didn't learn of Kel-Tecs till later.

Anyway, I thought to myself: "Hey self, I understand that .380 doesn't have the power of 9mm, .45acp , etc... so they make it in blowbacks because it doesn't have the force to cycle a full sized slide with recoil operation. But why don't they just scale down a recoil operated gun so that the .380 will cycle the lighter slide?"


It just made sense. Then I learned of the Kel-Tec where they did just that. Then all the recoil operated .380s hit the market a few years later.

My question is, why in the heck did it take all the way until Mr. Kellgren came along to come up with such a common sense idea? As a total neophyte and numb-nuts college kid, I came up with that idea with only a few months of firearms knowledge in the back of my mind. I can't believe that when St. JMB developed the .380acp in 1908 he couldn't have thought of that. Why did it take 90 years some someone to figure out such a basic concept?
Is there some sort of material that is used in the pistols that was not developed until recently? Is there a basic concept of the operation that I don't understand that makes it more difficult that I am imagining?

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outerlimit
March 6, 2010, 05:43 PM
I don't know either. My guess is the same as yours, that machining and materials back then were not up to par. I don't know if a P3AT on a metal frame would have really been feasible back then.

Boats
March 6, 2010, 06:00 PM
Kids. . . .;)

The gun industry is conservative and things change slowly. Here was your concealed carry market less than 25 years ago:

http://www.kc3.com/images/rtc.gif

First, the GCA '68 killed the mouse gun importation market based upon a lack of "sporting purposes import points." That killed off the only innovators in mouseguns until they established factories, (Beretta), or new players came on line, (Seecamp). In the mid-80s there were only nine unrestricted or shall issue states--not a very lucrative concealed handgun market to innovate for. Kel-Tec is HQ'd in Florida, ground zero for the CCW revolution in the 80s. George Kellgren definitely saw the niche a tiny .380 could fill in balmy Florida, but even he started with .32ACP pistols. The rest of the nation caught on as the law was liberalized.

Shrunken 9mm parabellums are likely going to send the .380 down the path that it sent the .32ACP.

hhb
March 6, 2010, 06:11 PM
I think the explosion of small .380's was a result of the concealed carry permit laws that swept the nation. Until then, there wasn't really a market for them.

Girodin
March 6, 2010, 06:13 PM
I agree with Boats the market responds to demand. There are simply way more people with carry permits now and way more people carrying guns. I know 10 if not 20 (or more) times as many people with carry permits than I did say ten years ago. Many of them are people who do not have a broader interest in guns generally.

One can have an idea but it may not be deemed profitable enough to tool up, produce, and market a new design. There is a market now and thus people started tapping into it.

rcmodel
March 6, 2010, 06:31 PM
There actually were several locked-breech or retarded blow-back .380's made in the early 1900's - 1980's such as the Frommer Stop, Savage 1917, Remington 51, CZ-24, Llama IIIA, Colt Mustang, and others.

Unfortunately, with only machined steel available then to make them out of, most of them could be no smaller or lighter then the blow-back operated guns that worked just fine with the .380 anyway.

Only more recent developments in polymer construction methods have made little light .380's like the Kel-Tec and Ruger LCP (Light Copy Pistol) possible.

rc

dogtown tom
March 6, 2010, 06:36 PM
19-3Ben: ...My question is, why in the heck did it take all the way until Mr. Kellgren came along to come up with such a common sense idea?

Kellgren didn't invent jack squat.

(there is a huge reason he didn't sue Ruger for copying his guns- he used Browning designs)

Straight blowback is/was popular because it was much cheaper to produce, and with a less $$$$ price tag for the public.

There have been plenty of .380's that were not straight blowback design.

Among them:
Remington Model 51 (1918)
Star D series (1922?)
Star S series (1948)
Colt Government 380 (1983)
Colt Mustang (1986)
FI Model D

There are others.

Boats
March 6, 2010, 06:48 PM
Even then, the polymer is at best saving about two ounces.

Seecamp LWS .380 (6+1)

Weight w/o mag: 10.5 ounces
Weight loaded: 13.65 ounces

Kel-Tec P3AT .380 (6+1)

Weight w/o mag: 8.3 ounces
Weight loaded: 11.1 ounces

The real revolution is polymer is the lower cost.

Seecamp MSRP: $795.00
P3AT Chrome MSRP: $377.00

And why neither is a great feat any longer:

P3AT

Length: 5.2"
Height: 3.5"
Width: .77"
Barrel L.: 2.7"

250 FPE

Kel-Tec PF9 9mmP (7+1)
Weight unloaded: 12.7 oz.
Weight loaded 13.5 oz.
Length: 5.85"
Height: 4.3"
Width: .88"
Barrel L.: 3.1"

410 FPE

So, for the weight of a Seecamp .380 in a package marginally larger than a P3AT you get a much more effective weapon than either. Better ammo availability too.

IMTHDUKE
March 6, 2010, 07:26 PM
Don't forget these:

http://i700.photobucket.com/albums/ww2/imthduke/GUNS/Seecamp.jpg
http://i700.photobucket.com/albums/ww2/imthduke/GUNS/62520996561662.jpg
http://i700.photobucket.com/albums/ww2/imthduke/GUNS/62520996573188.jpg

9mmepiphany
March 6, 2010, 08:47 PM
Anyway, I thought to myself: "Hey self, I understand that .380 doesn't have the power of 9mm, .45acp , etc... so they make it in blowbacks because it doesn't have the force to cycle a full sized slide with recoil operation. But why don't they just scale down a recoil operated gun so that the .380 will cycle the lighter slide?"

i think the answer you came up with has some flaws to begin with.

it isn't that the .380 was not powerful enough, it was a matter of the larger cartidges being too powerful to be contained by a blowback action without going to outrageous mass (like a Hi-Point) or a super heavy recoil spring (like the Astra 600)

all pistols that you are referring to use "recoil operation", whether they use a blowback or locked breech action.

the locked breech action locks the barrel and slide together in recoil until the bullet leaves the barrel and pressure drops low enough for it to function as a blowback action (which is what it is, once the barrel and slide unlock)

when you downsize the slide and barrel of a .380, you start running into the problem of the slide traveling too quickly, either backwards (slide mass) or forwards (heavy recoil spring and/or short spring tunnel), to insure reliable feeding of rounds from the magazine

19-3Ben
March 7, 2010, 01:26 AM
Thanks for all the replies guys!!!

Boats- There must have been a market for concealed carry. I can't believe that concealed carry legislation is the only thing that fuels the need for small pistols. Otherwise, there would not have been the .25acp baby browning, all the little pocket .38S&W top break revolvers, and of course the Chief Special snubbies all these years!!!
If JMB could come up with (and someone produced) the .25 pocket auto, there was obviously a market for a pocket pistol.

rcmodel- Very very interesting. I didn't know about those other pistols! As I mentioned above, there were some very small and light pistols available (ie, the baby browning). They had the technology to make guns very small and as boats points out, the polymer doesn't save THAT much weight.

Dog Town- Thanks for showing how many other pistols existed. Truly fascinating. I think you may be on to something with the economic argument.

9mmepiphany- I meant locked breech when I referred to it as recoil operation. Sorry, I was being sloppy. I can understand that you start to run into problems of trying to balance slide and spring weight so as to keep the slide from outrunning the round coming up into the chamber from the mag. It would be tricky. But at the same time, if some guy can figure it out now, I'm sure it's not so complicated that someone couldn't have figured it out in 1910. I mean, look at something like the Maxim-gun, airplane, submarines, etc... that they had around the time of WW1. You think they couldn't figure out how to balance the weight of the slide and spring?

Boats
March 7, 2010, 01:53 AM
Well you asked why no one had yet come up with a tiny locked breech and history tells the tale.

At the dawn of auto pistols, blowback and delayed blowback were the kings of small caliber guns because the system worked. There also weren't many concealed carry laws until the advent of organized crime during Prohibition. Additionally, at this time no types of small autos were as popular in this country as small revolvers were and are. That issue still runs hot today.

The "anti-carry" laws essentially froze the development of mouse guns in amber. There was no larger market for them between the 1930s and the 1980s so no need to innovate. Cops being discrete used the Colt Detective Special, and later the Smith J-Frame. There was no real importation of any small autos during WW2 and then between 1968 and the present, so no need to innovate as almost no other country has concealed carry in any numbers at all. The mousers Beretta does today are made in Maryland to get around the GCA. Glock cannot import their .380.

The timing of the founding of Seecamp and Kel-Tec rather seals the case for me. They both started up to seize upon the burgeoning concealed carry market of the mid-to-late 80s, a market which is five times larger today than it was when they started.

9mmepiphany
March 7, 2010, 02:16 AM
You think they couldn't figure out how to balance the weight of the slide and spring?
you would think that, wouldn't you

i'll give you an example: why back in the 50s and 60s the determined the shortest length that you could make a 1911 barrel/slide and have it function reliably over thousands of rounds...we're talking major research and major companies...but companies continue to make short versions and folks continue to buy them, because they want to believe

the new Sig 238 is a rehash of an old Colt, which was a relabeled spanish pistol...it didn't work well during any of the other versions because the slide lacks mass and the recoil spring tunnel is too short. it not the engineering, it's physics

i'm not saying they can't figure it out, just that buyers aren't willing to do what it takes to keep them running, because they think small guns are like toyotas or hondas...if you change the springs after each range session, you can make little guns run reliably too

FenderTK421
March 7, 2010, 05:12 AM
Boats - That may have been the coolest Flash file I have ever seen. I think i watched it for 5 minutes... thanks!

Maia007
March 7, 2010, 11:43 AM
Boats summarizes the answer to the question quite well.

19-3Ben
March 7, 2010, 12:50 PM
WOW I've learned a lot in this thread!!!!!!
Thank you so much guys!

MedWheeler
March 7, 2010, 02:36 PM
Don't forget about Kelgren's first attempt at a light carry pistol in .380. This was the Grendel P-10, introduced around 1989, I think. The idea was unique for its time: make a ten-round pistol chambered for a "workable" self-defense cartridge, and try to reduce weight by using a polymer frame. Oh, and make it super-easy to conceal. This was done by building the magazine into the little grip, instead of using a removable one. The pistol is loaded through the ejection port, and standard M-1 stripper clips can be used to do so. The gun came with three of them, and a grip extender that is all but crucial to avoiding limp-wristing malfunctions. The materials available at that time did not allow for the gun to be nearly as small as its grandchildren are today; it looks small, like a little Glock, when viewed alone, but easily dwarfs the "keychain" guns out now.
These were not very successful, and were only offered for three years. The company marketed also to LE agencies briefly, and several cops on mine decided to give it a try. PD p.o. price was 125 bucks for us (an error, was supposed to be 175, and 225 for the general public.)
The guns were not reliable with the available ammo at the time, though some work on the feed ramp achieved significant improvement. Now, some twenty years later, mine works pretty good with Remington UMC FNEBs.. it did sit unfired for most of that 20-year period, though, before I got it back out and got it shooting again.
Shortly after the release of the P-10, Grendel added the P-12, which was virtual identical except that it used a traditional removable magazine..

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