The Auto Mag pistol (AMP) is a large caliber semi-automatic pistol. It was designed between 1966 and 1971 by the Auto Mag Corporation to make a semi-automatic pistol chambered in .44 AMP.
The pistol’s reputation and looks have made it popular in cinema and novels and several versions are listed as “Curios and Relics” by the ATF.
The short-recoil-operated Auto Mag pistol featured a rotary bolt with locking lugs located at the front similar to the M16/AR-15 rifle. The Auto Mag is a modest weight pistol designed to give handgun owners .44 Magnum power in a semi-automatic pistol. The Auto Mag was designed to shoot .429-inch, 240-grain bullets at about the same velocity as the .44 Magnum revolver.
In 1970, Auto Mag Corporation president Harry Sanford opened a factory in Pasadena, California. The first pistol was shipped on August 8, 1971, and the factory declared bankruptcy on May 3, 1972, after making fewer than 3,000 pistols. The company opened and closed several times from 1973 through 1982 under several different names: TDE (Trade Deed Estates), OMC, Thomas Oil Company, High Standard, and AMT (Arcadia Machine & Tool).
An additional 6,000 pistols were produced and sold during this period for a total of about 9,000. Sanford continued to sell spare parts until his death in 1996. His son Walter continued to sell the remaining parts online through automagparts.com. Production guns were made in .44 AMP. Experimental pistols were made in .45 ACP, .30 AMP, .357 AMP, and .41 JMP. Changing calibers usually required only exchanging the barrel – the frame, magazine, and bolt could be used with all calibers except .45 ACP.
Auto Mag Corporation was short-lived for several reasons. The design team, headed by Mark Lovendale, took the AutoMag pistol from a fully functional machined chrome-moly steel prototype designed by Harry Sanford & Max Gera and created a more complicated and less reliable cast stainless steel version. The new design team was convinced the Auto Mag pistol was not ready for production and could not be produced at a profit. The design team believed that even with the correct finished design, the wholesale price of the pistol had to be greatly increased or the company would go bankrupt. The design team was unable to convince Sanford, and they all resigned. The pistol was then refined by the remaining staff and put into production. Unfortunately, the expensive manufacturing processes and materials, and the need for many parts to be produced by sub-contractors made the gun unprofitable resulting in the bankruptcy of the original company.
Under-pricing of the Auto Mag pistol made ultimate success impossible. One analysis claimed that the Auto Mag Corporation lost more than $1,000 on each pistol; each pistol sold wholesale for around $170. The pistols originally retailed for $217.50 in the 1970s. Used Auto Mag pistols now sell for much more.
In August 2015 Walter Sanford sold all the assets of the company including the name, trademark, and all rights to AutoMag Ltd. Corp., a South Carolina-based corporation. Auto Mag is currently producing the first 77 Founders’ Edition pistols with an 8.5″ barrel, selling for $3,995 each. Classic Edition pistols with a 6.5″ barrel are planned to sell for $3,495 each.
The .44 Auto Mag Pistol cartridge was introduced in 1971. Its rimless, straight wall case was originally formed by trimming the .308 Winchester or .30-06 case to 1.30 inches (33 mm). Loaded ammunition was once available from the Mexican firm of Cartuchos Deportivos Mexico and from Norma (a Swedish firm), which produced empty cases.
The .357 AMP round went into production in 1972 with the North Hollywood guns. It is similar to the .44 AMP but is necked down to accept the smaller diameter bullet. The same is true for the .41JMP, .30, .25 and .22LMP.
Presently, loaded ammunition is available from Cor-Bon as well as SBR Ammunition, and new.44 AMP brass is available from Starline Brass. The dedicated handloader can form AMP cases from .30-06 or .308 Winchester brass, using a series of forming dies and an inside neck reamer.
The Auto Mag design gave birth to three new cartridges: the .44 AutoMag (.44 AMP), .357 AutoMag (.357 AMP), and the lesser-known .41 JMP. There were barrels made to shoot other cartridges: