Tag Archives: collectible gun

Not English Make: The Saga of the Lend-Lease M1911s

The British, along with their Australian and Canadian cousins, had at least a passing affinity with the M1911 platform going back to the days of the Great War. Canadian troops carried the hardy John Browning-designed pistols on the Western Front as early as 1914 and the “daring young men and their flying machines” of the RAF often had .455-caliber M1911s along for their fight against the Red Baron and his Flying Circus, ordered on a special contract.

Fast forward to WWII and the M1911 was commonly issued to elite Commando and Parachute units– the product both of early commercial contracts with Colt and wartime Lend-Lease production passed through U.S. Army channels to London.

However, the Brits made sure to double-check these guns through the Birmingham and London proof houses (it’s not like there was a war on or anything), and in the process, these guns often received upwards of a half-dozen post-production proofs and stamps, one of the most glaring was “Not English Make,” just so there wouldn’t be any confusion that it wasn’t a fine Webley or Enfield product.

From left to right, the U.S. Property stamp, Birmingham proof house stamps,” NOT ENGLISH MAKE” under the manufacturer’s (Ithaca) serial, “Released British Govt. 1952” and US ARMY model number– and the gun has numerous other marks on the barrel and left side

I recently had a chance to look at a couple of beautiful circa 1943 Lend-Lease .45s that were passed on to Mr. Churchill and the gang and profiled them over at my column for Guns.com.

It’s Not Steampunk, It’s Savage

A rifle that hit the market the same year the Wright Brothers first took to the air, the Savage Model of 1903 had a lot going for it and is highly collectible.

Rather than a basic bolt-action or a lever gun, the 1903 was pump-action, something that was still pretty novel at the time. As such, it was an answer to the Colt Lightning and Winchester Model 1890, pump-action takedown carbines that had been introduced just a decade prior. However, one-upping Colt and Winchester, which both utilized underbarrel tube-style magazines, Savage’s new gun had a detachable 7-shot box magazine. 

Takedown rimfire rifles and carbines were especially appealing in the 1900s as they made for easy transport on bicycles, which were much more widespread than automobiles, and for easy storage in traveling shooting gallery operations.

More in my column at Guns.com.

The briefly rebooted Walther Taschen Pistole

Walther, originally located in Zella-Mehlis, Germany, was founded in 1886– back when Kaiser Willy was on the throne. After spending the first quarter-century of their existence crafting highly accurate schuetzen competition rifles, Fritz Walther returned to the company from an apprenticeship at DWM, home of the Luger pistol, and, seeing the industry was rapidly moving to produce then-novel semi-auto pistols, urged the older Walther to move in that direction as well.

This led to a flurry of new patents for small, blowback-action semi-autos handguns with fixed barrels and the steady production of little popguns from the Walther Model 1 in 1908 through the Model 9 in 1940. Thus:

Fast forward to the 1960s and Walther, after losing their Zella-Mehlis factory to the Soviets– who transported it to the East to make Walther PPs, err Makarov PMs– set up a new plant in West Germany. Their first German-made product after the move (as the PP/PPK and P-38 were being cranked out in France) was a throwback to Fritz’s little pocket pistols, or taschen pistole.

The Walther TP:

Only produced for about a decade, the Walther TP was “retro” even when it was introduced in the 1960s.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

That sweet .223 AK, 1989 edition

While today the .223/5.56 NATO-caliber AK is a staple product on the U.S. commercial market– and indeed, companies like Kalashnikov in Russia are making them for export elsewhere– back in the 1980s, they were downright unheard of, only floating around in a few high-dollar Valmet M71/S and Hunter models.

Then, China Sports, Inc.– located in Ontario, California of all places– introduced a couple of new Norincos to the market in late 1988, notably chambered in calibers other than the traditional AK 7.62x39mm. This included the 5.45x39mm Type 88 and the Type 84S AKS in .223 Remington.

This. You could pick these up, new in the box with two mags, a bayonet, and accessories, for $275 in 1989.

The thing is, they were only imported for one year.

More in my column at Guns.com.

My thoughts on the New Colt Python

So Colt brought the Python back from retirement after a 15-year hiatus. The old I-frame was a hand-fitted full-lug .357 with a tight lockup and superb finish.

The classic Python…

The new gun is different.

I handed several models both on the floor at SHOT Show and at the range on media day and I have to admit: the new gun looks like a Python and shoots like a Python but it just isn’t. Arguably, it is better, with modern CNC techniques producing a wheel gun reportedly stronger, more durable and made to tighter tolerances than the Python of old.

Changes that came as part of the reboot included re-designing the internals to trim the number of parts (14 less to be exact), thus streamlining the trigger group, while improvements were made to reinforce the new Python through the use of stronger stainless steel alloys. The results say Colt, is that the upcoming Python has a smooth-as-butter trigger, and is more reliable, easier to maintain, and more robust.

The “semi-bright” stainless finish on the new Colt Python after running hundreds of rounds on Industry Day. Colt tells us they fed the two shooting models on hand Monday over 4,000 rounds with no issues. (Photos: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

More in my column at Guns.com

Paging hand cannons, paging hand cannons

Recently I’ve been fooling about with some rarely-encountered but nonetheless very cool guns:

The Auto Mag .44AMP of Mack Bolan fame… 

…and a Wildey gas-operated .45 Win Mag of Charles Bronson vintage 

Both are aristocratic hand cannons from a different era. We call it the 1970s and 80s.

With that in mind, I’ll be in Las Vegas for SHOT Show all week, so stay tuned for updates on cool guy stuff.

Colt Coughs Up an *Updated* Python

Colt first introduced the full-lug six-shot heavy target style revolver in 1955 as something akin to the Cadillac of wheelguns. The big “I” frame .357 Magnum (although some .38 Special target models were made) was king of the block when it came to wheelguns for generations, which caused prices on used snake guns to skyrocket when the Python was put to pasture in 2005.

Now, after a 15-year hiatus, the Python is back in a 4.25-inch and 6-inch variant.

Importantly, the new Python has a lot of changes, which Colt says gives the revolver a smooth-as-butter trigger, as well as being more reliable, easier to maintain, and more robust.

Well, it sure looks like a stainless Python from the outside, anyway.

More in my column at Guns.com.

John Browning’s Swan Song

As a guy who has a few FN/Browning Hi-Powers, ranging from a circa 1943 Pistole 640b to a downright wonky circa 2005 SFS, I had fun examining a wide range of BHPs recently.

Browning’s original 1923 concept, as patented in 1927.

This rare late 1940s-produced Hi-Power is a very early model featuring the “dimple” on the right side of the slide to help with take down for maintenance and the “thumbprint” style internal extractor. Marked “LGK OO”: Landes Gendarmerie Kommando für Oberösterreich (Provincial Gendarmerie Command for Upper Austria), it is a former Austrian police-issue handgun.

This circa-1969 commercial Browning Hi-Power still features the original wooden grips that the model first entered production with but shows the updated external extractor. Also gone is the slide/frame dimple.

More detail in my column at Guns.com.

P-38 101

I’ve always had a soft spot for P-38s (the guns, not the can openers, as I find the longer P-51 type a much better form of the latter and don’t even get me into the P-38 Lightning) since I was a kid.

With that, I had the great opportunity recently while in the GDC Vault to find examples made by all three WWII makers– Walther, Spreewerk, and Mauser– as well as some Cold War-era West German Ulm-marked guns.

There you go…

For insights into how to tell them apart and what to look for, check out my column at Guns.com. https://www.guns.com/news/2019/12/04/the-world-of-german-p-38s-walther-mauser-spreewerk-and-otherwise

Meet The ‘Captain

In their upcoming April Premier event, Rock Island Auction is set to offer a trio of desirable Colt wheel guns including a “Fluck” Dragoon, a military-marked Eli Whitney Walker and a civilian model fit for a Scandinavian skipper.

The rarest of the three, the only known original cased civilian Walker in circulation, is referred to by collectors as the “Danish Sea Captain” due to its first owner, Captain Niels Hanson, who purchased the massive gun in New York while in port and brought it back to Europe with him where it was passed down through his family and collectors in Denmark for over a century.

The ‘Captain. (Photos: RIA)

The ‘Captain. (Photos: RIA)

According to lore, the gun even survived being buried in a garden by its then-owner during the Nazi occupation of that Baltic country during WWII.

The estimated price for this rare .44-caliber bird, which has been extensively documented over the past 80 years? How about somewhere between $800,000 and $1.3 million.

More on the big Dane and the other Colts in my column at Guns.com.

« Older Entries