The AMT BackUp Returns… On Steroids

With some improvements already made and more to come, its newest in a long line of makers is no stranger to maintaining quality.

by Chick Blood

The yarn-spinning potential wrapped around this handgun and its genesis could use up an hour of gun gabbing. For starters, AMT (Arcadia Machine and Tool) was merely one in the lengthy list of acquirees of AMC (AutoMag Corporation.) The latter was established in 1970 by Harry Sanford with a factory opening in Pasadena, CA. His goal, bring forth a semi auto able to deliver the velocity and stopping power of a .44 Magnum revolver. The debate still continues whether it was Sanford who designed the AutoMag initially or Max Gera, head of the AMC design team. I’ve seen an impressive list of patents awarded to Sanford but they were for handguns later produced by AMT. These included the Hardballer, Lightning, 10mm Javelin and some AMT shoulder arms. At any rate, the debate will probably continue.

Suffice it to say the AutoMag was eagerly awaited for by the shooting public but the design team warned it couldn’t be made and marketed at a profit. They were right. They were also ignored by AMC investors. After a production run of less than 3000, the AutoMag Corporation went bust. No surprise there. Consider these factors. The pistol was complex in the making. The desire to rush it out the door created quality problems. The ammunition for which most purchasers yearned, a wildcat magnum .44 caliber 240 grain slug loaded in a cut down .308 rifle case called the .44AMP, was not commercially made. Which brings me to the bottom line. At the original MSRP of $217.50, $1000 was lost on every AutoMag sold!

Even the most fanatic of hardline ”Share the Wealth” politicians would have to admit no business could survive such a combination of horrors. The buzzards circled. The first of them to swoop and acquire a portion of the AMC remains was OMC (Ordnance Marketing Corporation.) This, eager readers, was where the OMC .380 BackUp pistol was born. When AMT came on the scene to purchase tooling and rights, it became and has remained the AMT BackUp. That it still exists, through the reports of poor quality and frequent mishaps created by being tossed about from maker to maker, I find find amazing.

Fortunately, extinction was staved off when Hi Standard of Hamden, CT, a company known world-wide for the quality and accuracy of their .22 target pistols, entered the ownership parade. At the time the BackUp was a single action plagued with safety problems. To overcome those problems it was converted to DAO. With the conversion came a truly terrible trigger pull. That reputation of Hi Standard continues with a new High Standard of Houston, TX, who revived the gun valley company by taking over manufacturing of the Hamden pistols and bringing back aboard the same tooling, component suppliers and a fair sample of the master gunsmiths that had made them legends.

Read more in our August 2013 issue. Back issues are available.

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