The Rimfire Report: The Hilariously Huge AMT Automag II .22 Magnum

Luke C.
by Luke C.
Photo: FirearmLand

Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its many different types of guns, ammo, and history. Last time we talked about the concept of a gas-operated 22LR rifle or pistol. While the concept is a neat exercise in “can we do it” the reality of the situation is that the 22LR cartridge is not meant for nor would it be suitable for anything other than a manual or standard blowback semi-automatic action. This week I want to talk a bit about an obscure pistol I’ve been trying to get my hands on for years – the elusive and massive AMT Automag II .22 Magnum rimfire pistol. Born out of the technological revolution of the 80s, the Automag II is equal parts hand cannon and target pistol. This is one rimfire gun I’d love to see make a comeback and hopefully today I can show you why.

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Photo: FirearmLand

The Rimfire Report: The Hilariously Huge AMT Automag II .22 Magnum

AMT is probably more well known for an equally large gun, the Auto Mag chambered in .44 Auto Magnum Pistol (.44 AMP or .44 AutoMag). I guess if you’re a fan of fiddling around with numbers then it was only a matter of time before AMT came out with the Automag II in .22 Magnum. The .22 Mag version of the pistol was originally produced from 1987 until 1999 at which point manufacturing was handed over to High Standard and produced up until they went defunct in 2018. The Automag II was one of the very first semi-auto pistols to be built around the 22WMR cartridge.

  • Cartridge: .22 WMR
  • Action: Single Action Blowback
  • Barrel: .22 Caliber Sleeve with gas relief holes cut into the chamber
  • Available in 6″, 4.5″, and 3.378″ lengths
  • Size: W: 1.18″ L:
  • Weight: 32 ounces
  • Magazine Capacity: 7 Rounds
  • Sights: Adjustable Millett rear sight with orange fixed front sight


What’s probably most notable about the Automag II besides its weight and size is its unique ported chamber. The 22 Magnum cartridge is already pushing the limits of what’s possible with a rimfire case. Because of this, the AMT Automag II had to be built around the cartridges available at the time specifically Winchester 40-grain Super-X 22WMR – it’s even mentioned in the manual. It was believed that this specific loading would be the only one that the pistol would work reliably when combined with the ported chamber design.

Photo: http://dave2.freeshell.org/

These gas relief ports were drilled 90 degrees into the chamber and were intended to aid in extraction. It was found that earlier prototypes of the Automag II were having extraction problems due to the late peak pressure of the cartridge and its relatively slow-burning rifle powder. This late peak pressure would cause the case mouth to expand and jam in the chamber when fired from such a short barrel. AMT’s solution was to add a bunch of holes with a sleeve welded around the chamber which allowed the gas to escape from the first set of holes and on the back which would relieve the gas pressure enough to keep the carriage from sticking.

Shootablity and Collectablity

The AMT Automag II was highly polarizing in terms of its reliability. On one side of the camp, you had those who said that the pistol was completely unreliable having everything from stove pipes to out-of-battery detonations leading many to return or just sell their pistols out of frustration. Others have much more positive things to say about the pistol mentioning it was particularly accurate, and quite reliable when used with the pistol’s preferred ammunition and level of cleanliness and lubrication.

To me, it seems like a lot of the problems that people had were due to either running their guns dry or dirty. AMT was well known for using cast stainless steel for their handguns and this meant that their pistols tended to be a bit more sensitive when it came to proper lubrication – too little and the pistol wouldn’t eject or cycle properly. On the converse side, the novel gas relief ports in the chamber could often become fouled with powder and fouling and if not cleaned out regularly, would lead to the same type of issues along with extraction issues. Users reported that a properly maintained Automag was also capable of running everything from 30-grain V-MAX and Remington 33-grain ammo.

While the 22 Mag cartridge is often a hunting and pest control cartridge, it seems like most people used the pistol just for fun, nodding to the entertainingly obnoxious amount of concussion and fire that came out of the muzzle end. So if nothing else, it seemed like even if your pistol didn’t run too reliably, you’d at least get a good show with each round fired.


Collecting


The AMT Automag II can be broken down into two categories: pre-High Standard and post-High Standard. Original AMT Automag IIs feature a black magazine follower and modern ones made by High Standard feature an orange one. Other than that, the manufacturing practices and design of the Automag II remain unchanged and this is reflected in the continued mixed reviews the pistol gets from those who have purchased them. The originals are obviously the far more collectible ones and will naturally fetch a higher asking price.

Although these handguns aren’t quite as rare as other obscure rimfire pistols, they still demand quite a bit on the open market, probably because of the novelty. Typical prices for any of the models of the Automag typically range from $500-$900 depending on condition, manufacturing company, and the person who is selling it. Some people can’t get rid of these guns fast enough but others are collectors and will pay a high premium for a sample that’s in particularly good condition and originally from AMT.

The First of Many

If nothing else, I suppose we have the AMT Automag II to thank for all of the other cool .22 Magnum rimfire pistols we have today. Companies like Umarex and Walther have teamed up to give us the Walther WMP which features an optics-ready slide, modern ambidextrous features, and a much more generous magazine capacity. Other examples like the KelTec PMR30 are a natural evolution of the pistol’s futuristic yet retro design from the 80s.

This is one pistol I’d love to see make a comeback in its original form, but perhaps with a few bits and pieces changed to make it safer, more reliable, and with a greater magazine capacity. Something about stainless steel alongside a .22 WMR pistol just seems fun and I bet it’d make a fun plinker for a shooter looking to put on a show. Of course, your comments and stories about your experiences with the AMT Automag II are welcome below! Thanks as always for reading The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you all again next week!


I would like to extend a huge personal thank you to FirearmLand for providing most of the photos used in this article. FirearmLand frequently comes across antique and obscure firearms like the AMT Automag II which you can find on their GunBroker account here.

Luke C.
Luke C.

Reloader SCSA Competitor Certified Pilot Currently able to pass himself off as the second cousin twice removed of Joe Flanigan. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ballisticaviation/

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  • Patrick Patrick on Jun 04, 2024

    I owned one when I was a kid in the mid 80's. The grip was uncomfortably big for me at the time. Threw some impressive fireballs and was fun. Reliablity was just horrible. Ended up selling it and getting a Ruger MKII. I could shoot a lot more on my teenage budget with 22LR.

  • B Snappy B Snappy on Jun 04, 2024

    I have one of the earlier variants still in the box with all the original paperwork. I still have my notepad in there that shows detailed information on the functional effectiveness of about 5 or 6 different types of ammo, taking note of reliability (whether it would make it through a full magazine) and what (if any) type of failure was caused. Although I can’t remember the details, I do know that each type of ammo/manufacturer was consistent in its performance (or lack thereof). Biggest thing to remember about the Automag II is to keep the dimples clean and the gun lubricated, otherwise you’d do more damage to a perp with it as a hammer. I love mine. Fireballs are awesome.

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