At this point, many of you are curious as to the present state of the new AutoMag pistol. In this, the first of a series of communications, we’ll update you as to the status of the gun and the modifications we are making to the design. We will go one step at a time as there are a series of modifications that will push the AutoMag into uncharted territories of reliability and many of you are familiar with the history of the AutoMag pistol so, we’ll keep the introductory portion of this short and to the point. We will address the history from a manufacturing perspective so that you can see how it bears on re-creating and producing the .44 AutoMag from scratch after a nearly 40-year hiatus.
Due to a multitude of issues, the original Auto Mag Company had to file for bankruptcy very shortly after the first AutoMag pistols were produced in 1971. After that, the original manufacturer essentially went from production house to production house being chased by the specter of numerous financial and manufacturing issues, each tied to the other. After the Pasadena and early North Hollywood guns, the AutoMag slowly devolved; suffering from quality and supplier issues until it finally died, gasping, in the very early 1980s.
Even in its very original form, the AutoMag was rushed into production in 1971. Many of the changes that the original design team felt were necessary (many of which had not even been addressed yet) were never able to enjoy a period of discovery by anyone other than later collectors and hobbyists devoted to the AutoMag.
By the beginning of the 21st century most the of the original engineering and design essentials were lost to the sands of time.
With the re-advent of the AutoMag company, the gun as it stands, was developed by bringing together a huge source of knowledge pooled from all over the United States. This was almost as much an archeological expedition as it was an engineering project that brought together numerous resources from various fields in an attempt to recreate the .44 AutoMag pistol. It was very much like trying to rebuild the necropolis at Giza from stones found lying around the Nile.
All of the resources and all of the information gleaned from those resources were combined to create the gun as it exists right now.
Unlike the original AutoMag, there is no specter of bankruptcy chasing manufacturing from city to city across 1970s California. The AutoMag can finally begin true advancement and development for the very first time since its debut.
The new AutoMag has the benefits of Computer Aided Design, CNC manufacturing, mature metallurgy and an ocean of resources to harvest from if need be. Many lessons learned from the early guns were incorporated into the current design. Many critical components are now made from bar stock, superior metals and with technology that was in its infancy in the early 1970s.
After the initial run of new guns, a few of them have been tested to flesh out any issues with both the legacy design, the current design and any manufacturing issues. The guns are strong, accurate and very close to being exactly what the AutoMag has always needed to be. That being said, some issues have cropped up and are being addressed as we speak.
First: The magazines. If there was ever a troublesome component that lay at the root of many of the AutoMag’s issues, it was the magazine. The magazine is the heart of any repeating or autoloading firearm and, unfortunately, this critical component was never developed correctly from its inception. Though mags of high manufacturing quality were produced very early on, they are few and far between, leaving most people tweaking each individual magazine to a particular pistol.
Having largely recreated the original magazine from old drawings, it is more than evident that the original design will not do for our customers. A customer should be able to purchase a magazine at any time and it should work perfectly every time without any need for adjustment no matter which gun it is used in.
We are in the process of creating a “master model” magazine with the appropriate drawings and are sourcing a supplier that can solely focus on the quality of the entire magazine. In the interim we are working on a series of improvements that will ensure you can get the best magazine possible for the pistol until a fully revised and perfected magazine can be brought to the market.
The product improved magazine will have altered seating geometry, better feed lip angles AND the most in line feed presentation possible in order to ensure that your gun feeds as smoothly as possible from first round to the last…. over and over again.
The improved magazine will turn the AutoMag into a much more accessible gun for everyone. Our goal is to do away with having to tune magazines for each specific gun and to give the end users confidence that any magazine they purchase will run right the first time, every time.
The Originals and the Reproduction (current) Magazines
The original magazines suffered from the same issues that the AutoMag pistol was plagued with. There were several vendors and from those vendors came magazines of varying quality. As mentioned, in recreating the pistol we have essentially started the gun from a clean slate, being largely re-created from scratch. The same goes for the magazine.
In addition to feed lip formation, feed angle and varying manufacturing issues, there were and are issues with the mag body material both in thickness, material hardness and overall formation. There are also issues with the locations of other key features such as the magazine lock cutout, presentation height, nose diving and uncontrolled feeding.
All of these issues combined together have forced us to look at a full redesign of the magazine to address both past AND current issues.
Many of the shooter/collector persons in the AutoMag realm are very familiar with having to “tweak” various magazines to run in their individual guns. As magazines have been out of production for so long, most collectors snap up any magazine that they find and then tune it to their specific gun.
Our current reproduction magazines have suffered those same issues, largely being developed by reverse engineering. We do not feel that our customers should be forced to tune any magazine to any gun and since we are performing another ground up redesign of the magazine, we figured we had might as well address ALL of the issues both old and new.
First and foremost, we have noticed that the presentation of the cartridge to the bolt face is very minimal in all guns.
Note in Figure 1 the small amount of contact that the bolt face ring has against the cartridge case. The AutoMag is an aggressive gun with a very fast feed cycle. Cartridge presentation and feed lip formation are very critical to reliable feeding in the AutoMag.
After testing several guns, we have found that the bolt ring will not always engage the cartridge ideally. Part of this is due to varying feed lip geometry but also due to the seating depth of the magazine.
Our goal will be to address these issues FIRST as we can correct some legacy issues very effectively while we are also correcting some of our current issues such as metallurgy.
In addressing the seating depth and feed lip geometry we can create a magazine that will deliver perfect feeding for any AutoMag pistol.
The next issue we have noticed is a tendency for rounds to nosedive into the bottom of the feed ramp during cycling. This has been an issue with our first and our second series magazines. The AutoMag cartridge is a slightly tapered cartridge and, when a magazine is loaded with a full seven rounds, there is a stacking of the tapered dimensions that leads to a large amount of “slop” in the top two rounds of the magazine. When the bolt cycles forward after firing the front of the cartridge is driven downward very forcefully into the lower portion of the feed ramp leading to a nosedive malfunction or very hard feeding.
In figure two you can see a nosedive malfunction in action. This occurred on the first two rounds of this particular magazine.
Figure 2: Nosedive Malfunction
This issue can be partially addressed by better geometric formation of the feed lips on the magazines. This issue was not nearly as prevalent on the older AutoMag magazines because it was often impossible to get more than five rounds in a magazine. Often, you were lucky to get six rounds in a magazine. When creating our new magazines, we wanted the owners to be able to reliably and predictably get seven rounds in every magazine. Not only, however, do we want to have our shooters be able to load seven rounds into their magazines, we want them to function flawlessly. We INSIST that they function flawlessly.
We can also mitigate nosediving by seating the magazine higher. We can then direct the driving force to the cartridge more efficiently and place the nose of the cartridge at a more advantageous position on the feed ramp.
The next issue we have had is with the material our vendor used for the magazines. This material, while very clean and easy to form, is jut not strong enough for the rapid cycling forces of the AutoMag. Dynamically, to the shooter, the AutoMag is an incredible joy to shoot because it is very good about transitioning all of the various cycling forces into running the gun, leaving the shooter the freedom to enjoy extremely high power handgun shooting without being punished.
In the case of our current magazine, those forces can cause the feed lips to open up slightly during cycling and that can induce a number of “early release” issues that are exactly the opposite of nosediving. We call them “standups”. In Figure Three you will see an example of a standup in which the cartridge popped free of the feed lips early and then was driven forward creating a rather difficult to clear malfunction.
Figure 3: "Stand Up" Malfunction
Speaking of “difficult to clear” malfunctions; another problem with our current material is the fact that it deforms too easily and can render the magazines very, very difficult to remove from the gun. There are magazines from our vendor that have been difficult to remove straight from the box. We do not find this acceptable for our customers and are remedying that issue also by addressing the material directly.
The Path to the Perfect Magazine:
Let’s move on to the changes that we are making. We want our present and future customers to know we are very serious and active in fixing this issue as quickly as possible…but we are going to fix it correctly. We do have an interim plan in place that will hopefully get a fairly serviceable magazine to our customers so that they can go out and enjoy their AutoMag as they rightly deserve to do; but beyond that, we are working with a vendor that specializes and focuses on magazines ONLY so that we can get the absolute best to you. This part is going to take about six months and we don’t want you to wait that long to go out and have some fun so, here is our interim plan which also falls right in line with our long-term goal of developing the best magazine you can get.
In addressing our issues, we’ve literally been burning the midnight oil to come up with a perfect and permanent fix for the AutoMag magazine that will address every issue both legacy and new.
Our first change is redesigning certain fitment features so that the rounds can seat “higher” in the gun. Effectively, what we are doing is getting that cartridge as far up in front of the bolt ring as possible. We will also be addressing the feed lip geometry to provide the most ”straight in” feed that we can muster.
If you remember figure one, you can see how precious little contact there can been between the cartridge base and the bolt face ring. Now, not all AutoMags or their magazines suffer from that low of a presentation but on the whole, the presentation could be better. Here is a current example of how much we have improved the presentation of the round to the bolt face:
Figure 4: Raised Presentation to Bolt
This is a much more “firm” presentation. Not how close the upper circumference of the cartridge base in Figure 4 is to the ejector as compared to Figure 5 which is actually shown partially though a simulated feed cycle. You can see that the magazine itself sits about .100 of an inch higher than figure 5 and the feed cycle has not even begun.
Figure 5: Old Feed Presentation in Partial Feed
This revised design presents a cartridge just to the top of the feed ramp and even with the downward force produced during the feed cycle, the round is still presented at an optimal and much smoother feed angle than has ever been done with regular Auto Mag magazines.
Let’s look at the frame from the point of view of the frame feed ramp in order to give you a better indication of the end result of our efforts. On the left side of Figure 6 you will see marks cause by bullets impacting the in the low center of the frame feed ramp when fed from a “legacy type” magazine. On the right you see impact marks cause by feeding from an improved, “elevated” magazine with an improved follower.
Figure 6: Change in Feed Impact Points
This illustrates the difference between “worst case scenario” impact points on the frame ramp. In the left picture, the lowest wear point on the frame ramp is when a cartridge nosedives with our old magazine. This causes a very harsh feed cycle at best, if not causing outright malfunctions. That is a “worst case” scenario…but the worst case seems to happen often. On the right side, again, you are also seeing a” worst case” scenario but feeding from the NEW magazine with the improved cartridge elevation and an improved magazine follower. Note that even in the worst possible condition, the round strikes at a gentle angle in relation to the feed ramp and will still feed incredibly smoothly onto the barrel feed ramp.
So, as of this time, there is a lot going on at once. There are other, critical but very subtle changes being made to the AutoMag that we will soon communicate to you. This, however is the most critical.
…going on right now in our quest to give you the best magazine possible.
To re-iterate, our current plan is to work with our current vendor on all of these fronts as quickly as possible to get a “decent” magazine that will allow you to shoot your gun with a minimum of fuss. Our future state is working with a vendor that manufactures magazines SOLELY so that they can join forces with us to create the ultimate AutoMag magazine. The penultimate handgun deserves no less and the same goes for our customers.
In our next communication we will fill you in on some of the more subtle but important changes that will push the AutoMag into uncharted realms of reliability, accuracy and durability. We can’t express to you all how much we appreciate your patience and patronage. Our goal is to reward you with a firearm that you will be in love with not only from the visual and aesthetic perspective but from the unbridled comfortability and sheer performance that the AutoMag will deliver.
Your wait will not be in vain.
The AutoMag Company