Handgunners: The Auto Mag Returns


Sometimes you feel like popping the cork on a fresh bottle of cheap champagne, while letting Duke Ellington and his orchestra supply some Mood Indigo. Other times you feel like falling out of your chair. And then there are those times you have to do both. That’s what happened recently when I learned that AMT had announced it had begun production of the .44 Auto Mag Model 180, only in a new incarnation called the AMT .44 Kodiak. For a handgunner, this is really big news.

As an admirer of the original Auto Mag — the illustrious semi-automatics that were designed for big and dangerous game hunting, the precursors to the Desert Eagle and LAR Grizzly — and as one truly baffled by how the concept never caught on, I have to say this seems like a golden opportunity. It’s like getting a chance to step back in time and shake Teddy Roosevelt’s hand. Or take a ride with Donald Douglas in the first commercial flight of a twin-engine DC-3. It puts a person in a sentimental mood, and makes you want to do something spontaneous, like drop $5600 on a new firearm.

There are plenty of things that make the Auto Mag a dreamy proposition for handgunners. The powerful magnum is like a cross between a Colt Python — with its 70s era vented rib, and a Luger – with its deeply-angled handle, which I’d hazard a guess makes it very comfortable to shoot. Its lines are sleek, even by contemporary standards.

It seems there are 400 castings left over from the by-gone days of the AMT Auto Mag Model 180 (were these all stored in someone’s closet all these years?). The company will use 50 of them for R&D, they say, and the rest will be manufactured as new firearms, renamed the .44 AMP Kodiak. There are two versions slated for manufacture: The stainless version with a price tag of $5600 and a parkerized one going for the low, low price of $3100, available fall of 2010 according to the website. I know what you’re thinking: That’s a lot of model 870s. Of course it is, but as one ages, the tool becomes just as important to the overall experience as the final downed game. Besides, you could wear a pinstriped suit to your deer stand, and as long as you have this pistol with you it will make perfect sense.


  1. I just remembered that the AutoMag had a starring role in a 1980s Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movie, “Sudden Impact.” In that movie, Dirty Harry graduated from his S&W M29 to the AutoMag, with satisfying mayhem as the result. As the old Lev Gleason comic books told us, “Crime does not pay!”

    I remember that back in 1971 when the original “Dirty Harry” flick debuted, there was a run on the M29. Everybody wanted one, and S&W — then owned by Bangor-Punta — just couldn’t keep up. The M29 was backordered almost overnight, and street prices soared well beyond MSRP. I dimly recall that the AutoMag enjoyed a similar sort of cinema-induced popularity but, since its maker was chronically undercapitalized, production could never meet that initial burst of demand and the public turned its attention elsewhere.

    Come to think of it, pretty much the same thing happened with the AMT 1911 Longslide when “The Terminator” came out. . . .

    Crime does not pay.

  2. I think the original version failed because of its extremely spotty production and lack of distribution. Most rep groups wouldn’t take on a small manufacturer unless deliveries were guaranteed, which they never were in the case of the original AutoMag. In those pre-internet days, there was no effective model for direct-to-consumer sales. Finally, big-bore handgun hunting back then didn’t exactly favor the semi-auto. (It still doesn’t.)

    Of course, the AutoMag was also competing with the various Rugers, S&Ws, and Dan Wessons, all of which were safe bets in comparison. Even today, the price of one .44 AutoMag will get you two Freedom Arms M83s.

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