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.44 Automag

Thursday, February 24, 2005
.44 Automag
{mosauthorxtd noshow}One of the most enigmatic auto-loading guns of the modern age has to be the .44 Automag pistol. Rarely encountered, this powerful handgun has achieved almost legendary status among large-bore handgun aficionados. (This idea has been fueled through its use by Dirty Harry in the movie "Sudden Impact.")

The reality of the Automag is no less interesting than the legends that surround it. Harry Sanford developed the Automag in Pasadena, California, in the late 60's.

Auto Mag Corp eventually went bankrupt due to the high cost of production. Since then the guns have been produced by 11 different companies over the years.

Automags were produced from 1971 until 2000 under a number of different banners. However, all of the guns were produced under licence from the inventor and his family.

The big stainless steel Automag is approximately the size of a Desert Eagle. It is recoil-operated, unlike the gas-operated Wildey and Desert Eagle that followed. The Automag operates with a multi-lug rotary bolt, to contain the high pressures of large-magnum cartridges, as do the Wildey and Desert Eagle.

Approximately 5000 Automag pistols were produced, making this a rare and collectible gun today.

Automags were produced in two primary calibres, .44 AMP (.308 brass cut down to 1.3") and .357 AMP (44 AMP brass necked down to 357). A number of custom barrels chambered in wildcat cartridges were produced over the years. These barrels were not produced by the factories that made the guns. The wildcat cartridges ranged in calibre from .22 to .45.

The designers experimented with a .300 AMP, but it was never produced commercially. The rarest of the rare were the five experimental Automags were chambered for .45 ACP.

One of the most interesting aspects of these large-magnum, auto-loading pistols was their power. The .44 AMP can push a 240-grain bullet at just over 1500 fps, compared to the .44 Rem Mag's 1400 fps maximum velocity.

The .357 AMP could push a 158-grain bullet at just under 1700 fps while the popular .357 Magnum can only manage 1400 fps with the same bullet.

One of the benefits of the original Automag is that barrels can be easily swapped. The sights remain on the barrel, so there is no need to re-sight after changing barrels. However, that is costly - there is one set of expensive sights for each barrel. Automag owners and collectors tend to have more than one barrel for the gun because it is so easy to change calibres and barrels.

These days prices for original Automag guns run from about $2600 to $4500, depending on the model. Automags are not easy to come by, so if you see one, take the time to look at it closely. It is a piece of auto-loading handgun history you are looking at.

Thanks to Bruce Stark for additional information on the Automag and its history. Mr. Stark has written a comprehensive book on the early history of the Automag pistol. The book is available, along with more information on the Automag pistol, at


Pistol courtesy The Shooting Edge, Toll Free 866-720-4867