The Fox TAC-1. The Carbine with a three-wheel combination lock

I stumbled upon this “combination lock rifle” as I was reading some reports on how to prevent people from getting accidentally shot, and in all its simplicity it perplexed me.

The Fox TAC-1 carbine was sold in the 1970s, and had a three-wheel combination lock design to prevent

unauthorized use.


The sales brochure marketed the device with the words: “Accidental and unauthorized firing is prevented by a patented and built-in combination lock safety (which can easily be set by owner to any of 1000 possible combinations)

Back in 1971, Mr. Gerard Jerry Fox patented (US #3735519) a special purpose gun that immediately distinguished itself from the pack of carbines by incorporating a couple of head turning features. Marketed to the law enforcement, security, and corrections community, Fox’s semi-auto carbine was unlike any either before or since.

To keep the community safe in case the gun was captured, lost, or stolen, it had a combination lock that blocked the sear from firing. Yes, that’s right, a three-wheeled combination lock that could be set from 000 (factory default) to 999, like on a bicycle security chain. Additionally, a battery cell could be fit in the buttstock that powered a cattle-prod type riot control baton capable of delivering an electric shock.

Description from the patent, US #3735519.

The buttstock can easily be removed, by the push of a button.


Gerard J. Fox’s drawings.


Looks like Samsonite made a rifle.
Black & White vs. Color. Note different serial number. According to The Fox Carbine homepage, it was easy to change from 9 mm to .45. I guess the lower was the same?
The trigger…looks interesting.
According to DollarTimes, $163.00 in 1971 had the same buying power as $968.68 in 2016.
There was also a Police edition of the Fox carbine, which had a battery cell fitted inside the buttstock. The battery powered an electrically charged riot control baton capable of delivering electric shocks.

The brochure can be downloaded and viewed here (pdf).

The Fox Carbine has a homepage, check it out here: The Fox Carbine.






Eric B

Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with an European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatic firearms, optics and sound suppressors. Owning the night would be nice too.


  • AC97

    If I was going to do something stupid, I would at least do it in style by doing something like making a rifle with a DA/SA trigger and a decocker.

    • Minuteman

      Give SIG a call! 😀 Make sure you record the conversation to secure your patent fees.

    • Joseph Smith

      (raises eyebrow, cuddles P226 next to him)

  • Jake

    All it needs is a button to scramble the combination on one press.
    Seriously though, this is one of those guns that 2as ALWAYS unlocked. By the time you need such a gun, the last thing you need is a combination lock. I can see the cop now, “was it 565 or 656? Let me electrocute him while I think about it.”
    BTW, how do you know you have the right combination? Think about it 🙂

    • John A. Smith

      No young kids in the house, eh?

      • TechnoTriticale

        Relying on this as the only prevention against unauthorized operation would be an error, when the worrying parties have lots of time to count to 999.

        But Jake’s final rhetorical question is a killer for this sear-lock implementation. The only safe way to verify that you know the current combination is to unload the thing and dry fire it. That’s a non-starter for a lot of scenarios, like squads with multiple of these, or where the combi is frequently changed.

        The lock needed to be on the palm safety, which could be operated to verify unlock status without needing to trip the sear.

    • Phil Hsueh

      From what the article says I don’t think that’s the intent of the design. My thinking is that the guns would be stored locked, but when pulled out for use they would be unlocked before hand and not in the field right before they need to pull the trigger.

  • Herp


    I love this old gimmicky stuff.

  • datimes

    It appears rather crude for a $970 carbine.

  • William Nelson

    Aside from the lock and the crude looks of the thing, it would seem that at least the ergonomics of this carbine wouldn’t be half bad – particularly for a right handed shooter.

    Interesting find and thanks!

    • DIR911911 .

      did you even look at that grip/ possible grip safety?

      • William Nelson

        Yeah, but unless its as tough as one of those grip exerciser thingys, that doesn’t seem to be utterly horrible to deal with. After all, you have to put in whatever combination is needed provided you can recall it in order to shoot the stupid thing, so squeezing the pot metal monstrosity should be a cinch!

        For extra safe goodness, they should have put in a magazine combination lock that resets ever time a magazine is removed – put in the right combo to reload…no pressure!

  • They used the same lower for both calibers, but a magazine well sleeve had to be inserted for 9mm. A similar scheme was used in the M3 SMG when converting from .45 ACP to 9mm.

  • Minuteman

    Smart. This would render stolen fire arms useless. Why does my Iphone use my finger print to unlock the device, but is the gun industry not picking up on this concept? Are you listening Geissele? Anybody seen District 9? That’s even better, the whole genetic encoding thing could be applied to guns. Nobody outside my household/family should be able to use my guns. I bet y’all agree. I think in time this tech will eventually become reality.

    • Rick O’Shay

      It only renders it useless long enough for the thief to try out 1,000 possible combinations at their own pace and convenience.

      (edit to add, I realize you’re being sarcastic.)

      • iksnilol

        Or just disabling the lock itself. Take the gun apart, tear out whatever blocks the sear.

        • DIR911911 .

          THANK YOU

      • Minuteman

        Unless they have nothing better to do I’m pretty darn sure no sane person would even want to go through the hassle.

        • Paul Epstein

          Um, are you aware that the drug of choice for many people breaking into houses, meth, results in long days without sleep and obsessively performing repetitive tasks? It would not be at all strange for a meth addict to literally spend days slowly changing the numbers, pulling the trigger each time.

          • Mystick

            It wouldn’t take days… an hour or two at most. I know this from experience.

          • ostiariusalpha

            So, you’ve solved lock combinations while high on meth? That explains so much. ?

          • Mystick

            It’s called Brute Force. It takes less than a second to test a combination. Let’s round it off to a second. There are 1000 possible combinations. Do the math. Taking your time, really, it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes unless you are extremely unlucky and it’s in the 900’s counting up or the 000’s counting down.

            But, to my experience… some asshat slaps one of these combo bike locks on my bike and I need to be somewhere… yeah. After looking for the bolt cutters, settling on “solving” the lock, it can be done. No drugs involved…. except maybe on the part of the aforementioned asshat.

        • Joseph Smith

          Please don’t be a legitimate poster.

    • Anonymoose

      Coming soon to a Democrat-run area near year!

      • Gary Kirk


    • Andrew Miller

      Your “iGadget” is also a phone, so if your fingerprint doesn’t unlock it immediately within a fraction of a second, no big deal.

      I’d predict muzzle loaders making a comeback before your “fingerprint actuated gun” becomes reliable enough for use.

      • Minuteman

        I beg to differ. That would all depend on the processor speed.

        • Andrew Miller

          As soon as the military and police have tested an electronically activated firearm for a couple decades, I’ll consider it as a choice.

          Oh, wait…
          Both demand exemptions from ever having to adopt this tech.


          • roguetechie

            Further, the first time someone gets killed because their stupid smart gun didn’t function I’ll be donating $1000 to get the funding going and dedicate myself to spreading the word to get them more funding to hire the best lawyer possible so they can sue STUPID SMART GUN INC out of existence!!!

            I expect that I’ll be far from the only one.

        • Gary Kirk

          Ever had to use an electronic device, only to find the batteries are dead?..

        • James

          Unless you wear gloves or your hands are bloody after being attacked… I understand some people’s desire for a “smart” gun but the reality of it is very implausible. If I’m in need of my ccw i need it RIGHT NOW. There shouldn’t be any in the way that can fail that doesn’t absolutely need to be there.

          How about we all just expect personal responsibility out of adults again and teach the kiddos not to be scumbags. Seemed to work well for generations.

    • Anomanom

      I’m one of those gits that’s read enough cyberpunk and sf that i rather like the idea of a personally secured weapon.

      • Minuteman

        So do my sister and I. The idea seriously interests us.

        • Cymond

          Well maybe you and your sister should consider one of the numerous personally secured weapon containers on the market.

          Seriously, I don’t see that a “smart” gun has many advantages over a “smart” lockbox, but has several disadvantages.

        • Swarf

          Sure thing, Ender.

    • Indiana Finney
    • roguetechie

      Actually, no.

      Most of us emphatically disagree.

      Matter of fact a good portion of the gun industry would probably love to strangle every smart gun effort in the crib.

      If you can’t see why this would be the case, I suggest rereading the last 150 years of world history with a self flagellation session between each blurb where you shall repeat “it’s not all about me and my needs. I will take the time to see the forest through the trees” at least 5 times before moving onto the next blurb.

    • M40

      Don’t give New York and California any ideas… they’ll make it mandatory (whether or not it’s actually been invented yet).

  • DIR911911 .

    you mean to tell me these didn’t take over the market?

    • I thought the cattle prod application for police use would have made it popular.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Combination: 1-2-3

    • Mystick

      That combination sounds strangely familiar… perhaps it is what I use for my luggage.

      • Billy Jack

        Shame on you for playing head games with the TSA.

    • Swarf

      Whatever the combination is, the “combination” is going to be clicking one tumbler in one direction, guaranteed, because that is how everybody would leave it so they could quickly access the trigger.

      6 possibilities.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        I hope this is the dumbest thing I see today.

        • TVOrZ6dw

          I suspect there is a “Don’t look in a mirror” joke here somewhere…

        • Don’t go into private security, then; a horrifying number of combination padlocks– especially on gates– are set like that by dopes.

        • Billy Jack

          They should reboot the old That’s Incredible! show from the eighties. Call it That’s Incredibly Stupid!. Never-ending content.

  • Edeco

    Ye aulde smarte gonne.

  • Sam Damiano

    Not all terrible. I’d be interested in giving it a try for fun. Doesn’t take long to figure out the combo but for the market it was designed for it would be reasonable. I see some changes I’d make and improvements that would make it marketable, especially built as a $150 AR lower. Trying to equate current prices to inflation is an inaccurate science. I’d put this in the same price range as an SU-2000 for todays market ($600) maybe a little more. Considering there are people paying more than $968 for 9mm AR’s between $600 and $900 would seem to be a good window for a finished gun.

  • Interesting its an open bolt semi auto rifle. You cannot make those anymore. I wonder how easy it would be to convert to full auto and if any of them when they were being sold were converted. Any would be certain to be a collector’s item due to uniqueness.

    • Cynic

      Two posts above you the guy knows of an auto one for cheap

  • Andrew Miller

    Saw one of these in “auto” at a local FunStore gathering dust.
    It make a MAC look refined, and even “priced to move”, it wasn’t.
    I could see that lock being as reliable as the one my brother used for his bike after a few “lock then unlock” sessions.

    • Cynic

      Hell for 1000$ inc the stamp id take it any more and its getting close to several better options.

      It’s a cool piece

  • .45

    Electric baton? Oooooo… Cattle prod as bayonet. The cops need that for sheer awesome. (Of course, there would be a huge controversy after one guy has a heart attack from being jabbed forty times and people want them banned even though the obvious alternative would probably be blowing the crook away.)

  • Cm

    some readers seem not to be reading. for the 1970’s, this is forward looking. in actual execution? meh. also, it was being marketed towards the police, correctional industry. at that time, immediate response was not 1st on the agenda, unauthorized use. so what if a person today, that has studied lock defeating on the web. this was the 70’s! man, what is up with trolls that only want to brag on their ninja skills and not look at the implications of the design? shock baton not withstanding. stun gun on muzzle= bayonet mentality.

  • William Johnson

    I remember these when it was the Wasp carbine after Fox left the company.

  • Bill

    People who constantly harp on integral locks on guns seem to forget that most LE long guns are mounted in racks that have integral locks, that are even frequently electronically controlled *gasp,* and the gutters aren’t running with the blood of cops who couldn’t get guns out of the racks. The rest of us even risk storing guns in “vaults” with mechanical or electronic locks.

    I wonder if anyone has ever tried designing a detachable manual safety lever as a de facto “lock.”

  • SirOliverHumperdink

    How about a receiver that you have to blow into to make sure you are sober? Or a handgun with a life alert built into the trigger? ‘Help, I shot someone and they can’t get up’.

    • Billy Jack

      “Hello this is Life Alert Tactical what’s your emergency?”
      “Hey there fella where do I put the bullets? Hurry up. Those kids are on my lawn again.”

  • Ranger Rick

    I remember when this came out, someone thinking “outside the box”. Understanding that this was the technology available will put it in a better perspective. When Mr. Fox designed this the AR 15 existed, but none of the after market parts thst make it the MSR.

  • JT303

    By the looks of things, smart gun technology hasn’t really evolved much, and neither has its reception by prospective users.

  • atfsux

    I owned one of these back in the 90s. It was fun. The lock never was an issue and was capable of being rendered unable to interfere. These were all open-bolt guns, so they ceased production in late 1981, just like all others. Most were altered into machineguns and very few semi-autos survive intact. Occasionally you will see parts sets of these for sale, missing the bolt, obviously because it was altered to make the gun run fully auto. But with absolutely NO supply of spare parts for these, neither bolts or anything else is in stock anywhere. One cool feature;…when the rear stock was detached, the mounting hardware was designed to also be the magazine loader. Very handy, so you never lost it.
    A more modern version, with plastic furniture and folding stock was made under the name DEMRO and called the WASP. DEMRO made a true smg version with short bbl.

  • Billy Jack

    You guys should do an article on my deadbolt .38 special or my padlock 12 gauge. Nothing says security like guns and locks! I still have all the pictures of both of them. Unfortunately they were stolen during a home invasion but local law enforcement have assured me they are still on the case. I’ll give it one more year before I report the loss to my insurance company.

  • ozzallos .

    The only thing I can think of when I see that is how many times I’ve bumped the tumbler just slightly off on something like a briefcase, rendering it unopenable… or in this case, unfireable.

  • aevangel1

    Don’t let the anti’s see this they might get some more ideas for another “smart” gun.

  • AK

    In practice, this is about as useful as the “Hillary hole” on S&W revolvers… It looks like the safeties (both combo lock and the typical lever safety) are connected to the grip safety, preventing the safety lever from rotating rearward inside the receiver. I bet it would take about a half minute to completely disable this lock. Just part the lower and upper and proceed to decouple joint #38 on the schematic drawing.
    To make this sort of simple mechanism harder to *f* with, the combo lock lever should interact in at least two ways with the rest of the mechanism, where disabling it from one part would make the whole system inoperable. From a design perspective, this looks like a pure marketing gimmick, even for 1971.

  • Lhong Dicc

    >when you reach autism levels you have never seen before

  • Lance Shoemaker

    It also had a quick detach stock. They’re very easy to convert from 9 to 45. The main market was prison guards and maybe police.

  • will_ford

    IMO best way to make a weapon a club?

  • Richard Lutz

    It can be accidentally engaged, while trying to activate it during a high stress emergency could be a tad difficult to say the least even if you remembered what the combination was and your fingers were not injured or numb from cold weather.