As I said in one of our previous articles dedicated to the new AutoMag pistol, I really like the way Auto Mag Ltd. Corp. keeps us posted about the development of their ambitious project of reviving the pistol. They tell us the full story including the failures and issues they had during this journey of bringing the legendary hand cannon back. Moreover, not only they are bringing it back but they are improving the design to have a perfectly functioning firearm without any of the issues the original AutoMag had.
Recently, the company published another news release telling about the current status and progress of this project. I also talked to Patrick Henry III, President & CEO of Auto Mag Ltd Corp, who kindly explained the details of the progress described in the newsletter and told me more about the project which I’ll introduce to our readers in this article.
In order to remind you the story of new Auto Mag company and the project of reintroducing the pistol, let me quote Patrick Henry III, who said the following in the company’s latest newsletter:
It was in August of 2015 that I bought the assets of Auto Mag from the Sandford family. At the time I thought that we would take the 500 or so frames and leftover parts and build them into 4-500 Auto Mags and that would be the end of this project. Obviously, over time the original plan has greatly evolved to making a new and improved Auto Mag from new parts, using improved materials and manufacturing processes that mostly were not available back in the day of the original production. We also wanted to address some of the engineering issues that plagued the original Auto Mag while maintaining the original look and feel. I did not have a clue at the time what it would take in terms of time, resources and personal. If you would have told me I would have never even started but now that we have done it I could not be happier.
Now let’s see what are the latest design improvements in the new AutoMag.
After coming up with a new and refined magazine design, they had some issues with outsourcing the production of the magazine to a company that could timely deliver the magazines of required quality and specs. As we discussed in our article dedicated to the new AutoMag pistol magazine improvements, it is absolutely crucial to have a properly designed and manufactured magazine. Otherwise, you can turn a mechanically perfect firearm into a single-shot gun at best.
To eliminate the difficulties and delays associated with outsourcing the production of magazines, the company acquired a Bliss C-70 press and hired a tool and die maker to set up the magazine manufacturing process in-house. They have also purchased many other new pieces of equipment (CNC machines, an optical comparator for QC, etc.) which will allow them to have more manufacturing processes done in-house thus making it possible to completely control the quality and make new parts faster. For us, the customers, this should be beneficial in that it will probably result in a steady supply of high-quality magazines and spare parts.
The company has also improved the bolt design. Namely, they improved the bolt rotation pin design which used to cause an issue called frame ring bend which is shown in the image below.
Another improvement incorporated into the bolt design was done to prevent the bolt bounce which they discovered in the following high-speed footage.
The bolt geometry has also been reworked. As Patrick told me, the original AutoMag pistol had an issue of the top cartridge (in the fully loaded magazine) applying an excessive amount of pressure to the bottom of the bolt which sometimes could result in the bolt not fully going into battery or not cycling properly due to the overly high friction with the cartridges in the magazine. They solved this issue by redesigning the bolt geometry. Moreover, they made the cartridge stack pressure to help forcing the bolt into battery.
Another bolt design improvement was the change of manufacturing method itself. The original AutoMag bolts were machined from a casting. Patrick showed me an image of at least a dozen of old bolts with sheared lugs. The inconsistency and porosity of cast parts made the bolts quite fragile. The new bolts are CNC machined out of a solid block of steel. Many other parts that used to be cast in the old guns (such as the accelerator) are milled in the new AutoMag, too.
They also slightly redesigned the shape of the locking lugs by rounding their edges. This improvement is done to make the bolt lock and unlock much more reliably compared to what was with the original bolts that had completely square locking lugs.
The company has also been experimenting with a fluted bolt body designed to reduce the contact area between the upper receiver and the bolt. It should result in less friction and smoother operation of the action as well as provide room for dirt and debris thus possibly also increasing the reliability of the system. They may introduce a fluted bolt in the future as an upgrade part.
There were some issues with the frames, too. Apparently, the company could not use the old frames due to warpage issues. So they had to add some material to reinforce the areas that were prone to warpage. They also had to modify the frame molds (increasing the frame boss sizes) to make it possible to do further machining on the CNC machines. The heat treatment process was also changed/improved by switching to vacuum heat treatment.
Compared to the old AutoMag, the new one also has upper receivers machined out of steel. Even the vent rib on the front half of the upper receiver is a single piece with the receiver as opposed to the soldered rib that is seen on the early guns.
Another design improvement of the new AutoMag is the use of titanium as a firing pin material. In some circumstances, the original AutoMag pistols could fire out of battery. The reason for that was the increase of the firing pin weight from 65 to 75 grains done in an attempt of solving a reliability issue. The consequence of having a heavy firing pin was that due to the inertia it could hit the primer and set off the cartridge when the bolt was closed on a live round without the magazine in. The designers of the new AutoMag found out that heavy firing pin was not solving any reliability issues. So its mass had to be decreased which they achieved by using a titanium firing pin. After some experiments with the weight of the new firing pin, they found out that a 55-grain titanium firing pin allows for reliable primer detonation and eliminates the primer denting or unintentional discharge caused by the inertia. In the below-embedded video, you can see how deeply the old heavy firing pin dents the primer upon merely releasing the bolt.
And in the next video, you can see that the issue is solved by the use of a titanium firing pin.
The company teamed up with Wolf Springs who will make all the springs for the new AutoMag pistol. The recoil spring design has been improved, too. They are now flat ground close ended springs which compared to the previously used open end springs, will function much better and prevent issues such as unscrewing the guide rods over time. Here is another video showing how the open end spring rotates the weight put over it.
Now compare it to a closed end flat ground spring which doesn’t cause rotation of the guide rod or the weight.
These were the main design improvements and the current status report of the AutoMag pistol revival story. As Patrick told me, when they initially bought the company, they were not anticipating that the design will need so many changes and improvements. As he pointed out, despite knowing that there are several design elements that must be improved, you can’t do it all at once. You have to fix one issue at a time to be able to record its result and track the possible changes caused by redesigning a single element of the system. That’s why it takes so long to reintroduce the new version of the pistol. However, they are determined to deliver a 100% reliable gun. So until all the hiccups are fixed and the new AutoMag performs flawlessly, they won’t release it.
Here is also what the company had to say about the availability and confirming the preordered purchases:
Once we complete the first 50 we will start offering the opportunity to purchase guns in order that you have signed up. Initially we will probably only sell them in batches of 100. You will be allowed 24 hours to order if you don’t respond we will assume that you are passing.
Once the new pistol is released, we may also start seeing upgrade parts offered by the company. For example, they have been experimenting with a new hammer spring and hammer geometry that resulted in a 1911-like smooth hammer operation in the initial testing. However, such improvements are a matter of long time testing and they will be offered later.
Lastly, here is another pair of short videos showing the function of the action …
… and a mag dump!
Following this story gives us an insight and allows to understand what it takes to “simply” restart the manufacturing of an existing firearm with some improvements to its design. As you can see, it is not as simple as it may sound. We’ll keep following this story and presenting its development to our readers. Stay tuned!
Many thanks to Patrick Henry III for the provided information.