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The .44 AMP Auto Mag: initial thoughts and observations

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Dragonfly, Sep 10, 2020.

  1. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    IVRTjca.jpg

    Sweet sister Sadie, where the hell did you get that?” That’s the lined uttered by Horace King when he first spots Harry Callahan’s Auto Mag in the 1983 movie “Sudden Impact.” I must say I’ve been asking myself the same question! I certainly did not expect to ever own one of these pistols—I’ve never even seen one for sale, but when I saw this listed for sale online a couple of weeks ago I was intrigued—it was not cheap, but I did some quick math about what I could sell to come up with the funds, and after some quick research on the pistol I made the leap!

    I was initially apprehensive—I did not know a whole lot about the pistol but did read that early owners sometimes were fond of overly powerful loads that could damage the pistol. The seller, though, was super helpful and sent lots of pictures to ease my concerns, and when it showed up this week it looked even better in person.

    You could write a book about the history of the Auto Mag—literally, since there have been books written about it, so I’ll just give a quick summary. The pistol’s design dates from the late 1960s, when Harry Sanford and Max Gera had the idea to develop a semi-automatic handgun chambered for a round equivalent to the .44 Magnum, using a round based on a cut-down .308 Winchester case, although Gera left the company before the pistol went into production in 1971. The original company went into bankruptcy a year later and over the next 10 years the pistol went under ten more different names before finally ending production in 1982. Mine’s marked as a “High Standard” Model 180 made by TDE, which stands for Trust Deed Estates, one of the other operating companies.

    There’s a new effort underway to resurrect the Auto Mag with some design improvement—it seems to be progressing pretty well (better than the abortive efforts to bring the Bren Ten back!) although pricing announced in 2018 was $3500US, or $4600 Cdn.

    OK—enough history, now onto the pistol itself.

    It’s big—no question, but more manageable than the Desert Eagle, with a grip that’s a bit smaller and a weight that’s about a half pound less. I’ve got small hands and have no problem with the trigger reach. I’ve got no snap caps or fired rounds so I’m reluctant to try the trigger pull—a replacement firing pin would be likely almost impossible to find.

    It’s is a fairly unique design—a recoil-operated action that uses a rotating bolt for lockup using dual recoil springs (like the Desert Eagle, although the Auto Mag has two separate recoil rods instead of the single unit with the Desert Eagle).

    Here’s a (slightly blurry) picture of the bolt.
    bWKikto.jpg

    This is the bolt head, looking not night and day different from an AR15 bolt.
    KLYbXr3.jpg

    The larger lug on the bolt is impinged on by the “accelerator” to give a boost to the bolt when its cycling. You can see the accelerator on the underside of the barrel just in front of the chamber area.
    eVtonql.jpg

    Here’s a better look at it— it’s the piece with the curved left side.
    l6b8FfY.jpg

    The complete upper—barrel and all—moves back a small amount under recoil, and the accelerator impacts the frame and rotates backwards and the top part of the accelerator contacts the bolt lug and gives it a boost.

    Here you can see the dual recoil rods underneath the barrel. The trigger is grooved and adjustable for overtravel, although I’ll be leaving it as is!
    YdvtQSw.jpg

    The recoil rods thread into heli-coils in the cocking piece,
    2z6iEgr.jpg

    and the recesses in cocking piece allow it to interface with lugs at the rear of the bolt:
    eSBlQsj.jpg

    The front sight is plain stainless steel machined into the rib.
    GanZm0j.jpg

    The rear sight is black and serrated, and adjustable for windage and elevation:
    Wknk7HL.jpg

    There is some factory ammunition available in the States but I couldn't find any in Canada so I'm taking this opportunity to finally get into reloading—luckily enough a set of RCBS dies and some Starline cases came with the pistol. I've got everything I need except powder which is slowly making its way from Ontario. I'll update the thread once I've had a chance to take it out.

    1RFugno.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2020
  2. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    My dad had one I liked shooting it a lot.
     
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  3. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

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    That is an interesting gun and a wonderful write up! Thank you for posting it. I hope you will keep the thread updated.

    I admit that I am surprised you can own such a thing in Canada!
     
  4. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Dragonfly

    Another outstanding history lesson and photo essay, all rolled into one!
     
  5. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    Another Canadian owner contacted me and mentioned that he’d heard from a fairly reliable source that there were only 18 in the country.


    Thanks for the kind comment!
     
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  6. barnetmill

    barnetmill Member

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    Yes, quite a piece of engineering. I would not own one myself finding a model 29 more practical, functional, and useful.
     
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  7. barnetmill

    barnetmill Member

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  8. Reinz

    Reinz Member

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    Nice write up Dragonfly! Congrats on a fine looking Pistol.


    I have two Auto Mags, one is an unfired High Standard, and I believe the other is a TDE El Monte model. I haven’t fired the TDE in about 15 years.

    I had two others that I shot a lot., one being a 357 Auto Mag, which is a 44 necked down to 357. I sold them to my brother when I lost my job 30 years ago. He got it all, dies, reamers, and 1000 rounds of ammo that I made. Starline brass was not around back then.

    There were 2 different bolts over the years. A slotted bolt and a solid one. I believe the slotted bolt was on the guns with an “A” in the serial number and solid came in the “B” models. I could have those mixed up, it’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with them.

    Also, the resurrection of the Auto Mag appeared to have similar problems like the Bren 10. One company has already failed in bringing it back. Hopefully the current company will succeed.

    For parts, the go to guy has been Brian Maynard. He used to work for Auto Mag at one time. About 10 years or so ago, he had a lot of parts. He was/is very proud of them though. Last time I checked on parts on Gunbroker a few years ago, he was still selling them.

    Keep an eye on that accelerator if you shoot any hot loads, cracking is not uncommon.
     
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  9. Tommygunn

    Tommygunn Member

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    You don't have to wonder about "feeling lucky." :D You ARE lucky!!! Nice gun --- and thanks for the pix and write-up!!
     
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  10. Patocazador

    Patocazador Member

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    I've got one before High Standard took it over along with a 10" .357 AMP barrel. Killed a hog with the .44 but never went hunting with the .357.

    Making cases for them is a PIA. I still have some new Norma cases but can't get myself to load them. I might when I run out of the Mexican (CDM) cases.

    Thanks for the write up.
     
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  11. kBob

    kBob Member

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    I always thought they were neat, but have only fired a couple of rounds through one, as a reward.

    I was in a friend's shop sitting on a bar stool in the corner sucking down a Doctor Pepper and chewing up semi stale cheese crackers and being that know it all ******* that hangs around gun shops to correct folks that are getting stuff "wrong".

    Three young Braves walk in after suspiciously driving through the gated parking lot twice, spread out and checked out the owner, his wife, and I. Two looked meaner than snakes and had hands in jacket pockets and things were starting to look bad. The owner smiled and placed his left hand on the counter and stood right up against the center portion of the counter, the portion with no display that had a plate of steel behind the paneling. His right elbow indicated his hand was resting on something on his right side at belt level, where I happened to know a M 1911A1 lived. The wife leaned onto the cash register with her left forearm and her right hand went under the register.

    Everyone on both sides of the counter except the one sweaty scared guy looked like carved stone figures of deadly serious folks.

    I dropped my crackers, stood up from the bar stool, shoved my now free right hand into my coat pocket and quietly said, "Y'all need to think this over and maybe leave quietly."

    Amazingly they did. They got in the car and drove to the abandoned shop across the street and through that gate into the fenced lot and parked.

    The owner thanked me for the assist and asked what was in my pocket. "My finger."

    He and his wife stood like gob smacked and asked what possessed me to involve my self in a possible shooting with an unloaded finger.

    "Why Buff, you and your .45 had a good angle, but Lucia was facing right towards me and unless I am wrong she intended to unlimber that .44 Auto Mag under the register and I suspected those 240 grain JHPs were not gonna slow down much passing through those youngsters and I had to do something to stop being amongst all that fast moving lead."

    Lucia called the Sheriff and two cars came out and one blocked the gate of the abandoned shop and the other approached the car. There were three handguns in the car, one under a seat and the other two shoved between the seats and seat back, there was an open container and strange plant matter in a baggy with rolling papers, and two guys had warrents and the other was a convicted felon (armed robbery) and they all got a ride downtown.

    Meanwhile the owner and his wife insisteted I watch her shoot her .44AMP to demonstrate I was in little danger and then let me shoot it a few times. Although the action was quick it seemed you could feel every bit of the start, stop, twist, shuck, stop, feed from mag, stop, twist and stop with each shot. It was a unique experience.

    That was a good day. Bad guys thwarted, arrested, and a fun time shooting and especially kBob not shot by friendly fire.

    -kBob
     
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  12. Gladius

    Gladius Member

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    Congratulations!!! The Auto Mag was one of my "grail guns" that I once thought unattainable; however a "windfall of awesome" earlier this year afforded me the opportunity to purchase one. It is less than pristine (rust pitting on stainless steel? The last owner really used it!), but that made the price more manageable. I still have not shot it (and I don't handload, so it's going to an expensive proposition). However, the awesomeness of owning one, and the bragging rights, made this purchase well worth it. 98605372_10220169729331312_251167711785123840_o copy.jpg
     
  13. DM~

    DM~ Member

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    I've had two of them, shot them quite a bit and glad to have sent them down the road!!

    I still own the RCBS dies to make the cases, if anyone is interested in buying a set.

    DM
     
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  14. Reloadron
    • Contributing Member

    Reloadron Contributing Member

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    Congratulations on getting yourself a really cool gun. The 44 AMP is one of those guns which always had my fascination. The one you have looks great so may you enjoy it.

    Ron
     
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  15. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    Factory ammo is not available as far as I can tell in Canada so I’ve started reloading for the first time in the 36 years I’ve been a gun owner. I borrowed a single stage press and picked up the other bits-n-pieces...it’s actually more fun than I would’ve guessed, and I’m not loading up hundreds of rounds so it’s not that bad.
     
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  16. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    That is one very nice looking Auto Mag :thumbup:. Years ago I had a single fired .44 AMP cartridge case I found amongst the fired cases on a public range. That was my cartridge collection crown jewel for many years...until I lost it during one or more moves after college :(.

    I’ve never seen or held an Auto Mag, I’ve only seen and held one of the sorta-similar looking Wildey pistols...it was a .475 Wildey Mag version. (Tragic story behind that one, better for some other thread.)

    Those big stainless autos were pretty darn powerful guns suitable for hunting just about anything on the continent. Once you obtain all of the components to load up some rounds and get a chance to take it out, post some pictures and your impressions on how it shoots. That way we can all live vicariously through you for a little while as you shoot that fine piece of firearms history :)

    Stay safe.
     
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  17. Patocazador

    Patocazador Member

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    Contrary to the hype concerning the .44 AMP, especially after the Dirty Harry movie, the cartridge is really no more powerful than a .44 magnum. The aura of the gun, however, transcends the hype. They really are nice guns but reaming cut-off .308 cases is a real chore.
     
  18. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    When I was a kid, I would read the Mack Bolan executioner books. Bolan carried a 44 automag. I remember seeing a write up about it in an old guns and ammo magazine back then too. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. My automag was a Crossman CO2 powered semi auto bb pistol that sort of looked like a real automag. During this time period that Dirty Harry movie came out too. I never got to handle or fire one, though. The owner of Mid South Guns (the most amazing, diverse, and well-stocked gun shop I have ever been in) in the tiny town of Wagram, NC has about 6 or 8 of them in his personal collection cased on the wall. Reading the posts on this thread, I am surprised that there are so many in the possession of THR members. Very cool.
     
  19. Hookeye

    Hookeye Member

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    Stainless comes in various types and for some folks...........learning that it is rust resistant instead of rust proof, can be costly.
    Dads buddy bought a Mini 14 for a trunk gun and pulled it out after a while.........new 78 Cutlass.........dunno how long the Mini was in there.
    It rusted.

    Automag.............cool rig. Haven't shot one for so long I can't even remember what it was like (dad's bud had a couple).
    Coworker also had a couple Jurras ones, but house caught fire and took those out with a bunch of other collectibles.

    They are neat and I wondered if the new version was taking off, read a waiting list for complete guns, uppers sold for a bit.
    Didn't keep up on the news.

    Beater Automag showed up 2 yrs ago at LGS, went for 700.
    Dunno if that was good or not, gun was rough.

    Have not seen one at my LGS since.
    Some at nearby gunshows. Did not even check price.

    Ive not shot a deer w an auto pistol.................Automag, long slide 1911, or Desert Eagle..........Id use any of those :)
     
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  20. Hookeye

    Hookeye Member

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    I've also seen a Baby Automag in the flesh ;)
     
  21. Tommygunn

    Tommygunn Member

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    So .... it's victims get to keep their fingerprints??? ??:evil::scrutiny:........:D
     
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  22. armoredman

    armoredman Member

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    I lusted after one after that movie...found one it Tucson...and when I picked it up I knew it was a no go. Everyone's hand is different, and mine rejected the grip like it was a brick wrapped in flaming barbed wire. Bummer.
     
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  23. Monac

    Monac Member

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    I am the proud owner of one Mexican factory-made 44 Auto Mag cartridge! It is a hollow point. The "hollow" is about the diameter of an ordinary wooden toothpick. I thought that was odd, even at the time.
     
  24. Patocazador

    Patocazador Member

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    CDM bullets are only good for plinking. Never trust your life to the efficiency of this ammo. It is good for acquiring cases to reload ... nothing more.
     
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  25. Reinz

    Reinz Member

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    I never had any issues with the CDM Ammo. But I seem to recall that it was dirty.

    I didn’t get my first AM till 1990, so Ammo was scarce, thus I made my own. But I did jump on any box of that stuff I came across so I didn’t have to make any more cases.

    Now if you happen to find some it is insanely priced. I think the last box I saw was $100 or more.
     
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