The 44 AutoMag

The 44 AutoMag

This gun was made famous by Clint Eastwood’s character of Harry Callahan in the 1983 Dirty Harry movie, Sudden Impact. The weapon featured as his backup gun after he lost his Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. The AMP Auto Mag Model 180 pistol in .44 AMP is coming back to the market after its production was stopped 30 years ago.

The Auto Mag was revered to have been the most powerful handgun after it was released on the market in 1969. According to reports, a production model of the AMP is going to be produced by the refreshed Auto Mag and Excel Arms, and it is expected to be chambered in .44 AMP and have barrel lengths of 6.5-inch and 8.5-inch, with additional calibers to be released in the future.

The Origin

AutoMag 44

The auto mag’s design was created by Harry Sanford, one of the best minds in the firearm industry, in 1958. In developing the gun, over a decade was spent by Harry Sanford and Max Gera on R&D before it was finally perfected and passed for low rate initial production in 1969.

The auto mag is a short-recoil operated pistol which features a rotary bolt with locking lugs that bear similarities with the ones in AR-15 and M16 rifles and the Desert Eagle pistol. The pistol’s performance levels can be compared to that of a .44 Mag. revolver with .429 caliber, 240-gr. bullets fired from the .44 AMP cartridge.

The Auto Mag’s grip and ergonomics were designed according to the High Standard HD and has the same control surfaces and take down method as the Walther P38. Due to its complex design and over-engineering, it was necessary for systematic attention to be paid to details and the pistol craftsmanship in every aspect of the manufacturing process.

The widespread amount of stainless steel (the chamber was about 3/16-inch thick) and machining used during production led to a gun with a solid build. The Auto Mag weighs 57-ounce (3-pound 9-ounce), a barrel length of 6.5-inch in addition with the span from the hammer to muzzle crown gives the gun an overall length of 11.5-inch.

When compared to the .44 Magnum wheel gun, the Auto Mag is slightly shorter and almost two-ounces heavier. In addition, the pistol offered a longer sight radius, improved recoil and an option of two additional shots and better handling.

In testing the early prototypes of the .44 auto mag, Jeff Cooper discovered that the gun was capable of being controlled. A picture was taken showing him firing shots from the pistol using only one hand with full power loads. As evidence of its animal hunting prowess, Lee Jurras carried an early production version of the Auto Mag pistol across the world, from Alaska to Africa, and he was able to take down over 125 large and medium-sized game.

Production Follies

AutoMag 44 and Ammo

It didn’t take more than two years for the Auto Mag Corporation to announce bankruptcy and close its shop, ending the production of the Auto Mag pistol. The gun played a minor role in this. In fact, so much detail and resources went into manufacturing the gun that the company could not sustain the cost of production. In the end, the guns which were originally sold at a retail price of $217.50 in 1970, was later sold at a wholesale price of about $170 with the company losing over $1,000 on each .44 Auto Mag that was sold. The pistols were deliberately sold at a price lower than their value to show potential investors that there was a market demand for the guns, but this plan failed, and the company had no choice but to declare bankruptcy.

In 1974, the production of the Auto Mag was restarted by Lee Jurras and Trade Deed Estates, with Harry Sanford as head of the production, they made another bid at selling the pistols on the gun market. The company was able to achieve more success by increasing the gun price up to 3250 MSRP and selling other ranges of the Auto Mag, switchable barrels, including exotic pistol grips to gun collectors. To further bolster this, Jurras went on to form an international Auto Mag club which provides an avenue for guns collectors to relate with hand cannon owners that share the same views as them.

Despite all these attempts by Jurras, they were not enough to keep the company afloat, consequently causing the ownership of the company to change hands several times before it eventually shut down in 1982. During this period, a line of the Auto Mag pistol was sold under different companies and underwent multiple reverse engineering with the aid of outdated design plans and invalid patents.

Harry Sanford decided to start up a company called Arcadia Machine and Tool (AMT) to keep his creation alive, selling a new line of pistols widely advertised as Auto Mags. Walter Sanford, his son, took over in 1996 after his death and continued the gun sales.

The Revival

A company based in South Carolina, named Auto Mag LTD. Corp. took a step to buy the Auto Mag from Walter Sanford, and in partnership with Excel Arms, announced that they will be launching a line of the original Auto Mag pistols before the spring of 2018. As stated by, Excel said it was able to improve the original Auto Mag design, due to advancements in CNC technology and materials.

In addition to a set of adjustable target sights and travel trigger and seven-round single-stack magazines, the new Auto Mag will also have an option of 6.5-inch and 8.5-inch barrels.

According to the initial partnership terms between Auto Mag Corporation and Excel Arms, it was agreed that the Excel factory will oversee the production of the Auto Mag magazines and frames, but Excel Arms later decided to handle every aspect of the pistol production which will be overseen by Larry Grossman (former head of production).

It was announced that the first line of new Auto Mag that will be released, will be a limited Founders Edition model which is about 77 units and has a barrel length of 8.5-inch. As mentioned earlier, the pistols will be shipped before the spring of 2018, and they will be sold at a retail price that will begin from $3,499.

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