The AWS 1911 Machine Pistol Weapon System
By J.M. Ramos

In 1980, the Elisco Tool Company was founded in the province of Bataan to produce the M16 rifle under license from Colt for the Philippine armed forces. The Aquino brothers and Gene Cordero, an engineer, were top civilian employees that worked in the government controlled facility. President Marcos, and his millionaire crony Manuel Elizalde, owned the majority of the shares of the establishment. Both controversial figures fled the country with their accumulated wealth after Cory Aquino and his People’s Power revolution was about to overthrow the dictator who had been in power for over two decades. With Elizalde and Marcos out of the country, the funds that ran the arms plant dried up quickly prompting the closing of the facility in the late 1980’s. Aquino and Cordero remained as overseers of the now vacant facility and were looking for new investors to take over the operation, which was still capable of producing weapons in large scale.

In 1988, there were several parties from the Philippines who contacted this writer through my book publisher, Paladin Press, who had read my “Rim-fire Battle Guns” books published in that same year. One of them was Gene Cordero. Gene expressed his interest in my designs and wanted to produce them in the Philippines if I could find an investor to take over the Bataan facility. A year later, I received a letter from foremost gun designer Gordon Ingram through his close associate Donald Thomas, a noted military arms historian and current Small Arms Review staff archivist, indicating he was looking for offshore vendors to supply parts for his new generation Ingrams - The “Ranchero” rifles. I quickly passed the information on to Cordero. It is my understanding that a brief negotiation took place between Ingram and the Philippine party but nothing came of it. The Bataan facility was offered to manufacture complete weapons but Ingram was only interested for a sub-contractor to make certain components for his guns. To run the massive Elisco complex that originally employed hundreds of workers and operated 24 hours a day in its heyday, was a costly undertaking and something Ingram was not prepared for. Ingram weapons were known to be produced both in the USA and abroad and many were used by police and military forces in South America and the Far East.

I did not hear from the Philippine contact for several years. However, in 1992, a letter from Cordero was received informing me that they had finally sold the Bataan facility, had bought some of Elisco’s machinery and rented a small shop in Blumentritt, a busy business section of Manila and formed a small company called Automatic Weapon System, Inc. The Aquino brothers controlled marketing matters while Cordero supervised shop operations which employed a dozen former Elisco machinists and gunsmiths. AWS’s primary function was geared towards research and development of new weapon concepts for the local police forces that had now been integrated with the military under the new Aquino administration. In addition, the company also produced small quantities of sporting guns and hunting rifles as well as providing gun repairs. Cordero’s letter indicated that AWS was currently looking for a simple double action 9mm semi automatic design which they intended to develop and produce for the local police and security market to compete with Arms Corporation of the Philippines’ Colt style revolvers and 1911 pistol copy. After the fall of Marcos, civilian gun ownership was quickly revived and instantly revitalized both the local manufacture and import market of small arms. Prior to the martial law in 1972, there was only one local manufacturer licensed by the government to produce commercial arms for the local market and export, the Arms Corporation of the Philippines (Armscor). Once the military government was ousted, Armscor was soon joined by smaller companies producing commercial grade imitation revolvers and automatic pistols of various calibers as well as magazine fed pump shotguns and bolt action hunting rifles. Many of these shops were based in Danao, the famous creators of home-made “Paltik” guns. AWS is one of the very few newly founded arms makers to be based in the heart of Manila. I was requested by the company to submit a handgun design along with terms of the contract. A 9mm automatic pistol design meeting AWS specifications was submitted at the end of that year. However, no concrete negotiation took place. The company opted to produce a Colt revolver type and a pump action shotgun instead, which they claimed found more interest in the local police and security market.

In early 1994, another request for a gun design was put forward by AWS. The company indicated that they are working closely with several military and police agencies who expressed interest in a concealable submachine gun smaller than an UZI or an MP5; something that can be employed by undercover operatives and VIP bodyguards. Political warlords maintaining private armies are the biggest clientele of weapon importers in the country. They are equipped with the best assortment of military hardware, made from around the world, which money can buy. AWS’s goal was to tap into this open lucrative market by producing a comparable weapon to the Mini UZI, Beretta 93R and HK VP-70 at a fraction of the cost. The vast availability of the .45 ACP 1911 pistols in the military inventory was considered a viable alternative. It could be redesigned to selective fire to meet the concealability criteria. The original specification called for a simple substitute mechanism that can be readily installed without any modification to the gun so quantities of the military issue 1911 could be instantly transformed to a machine pistol format should a batch urgently be required by a special unit to deal with a specific role. This was a sound idea from an economical stand point, but the 7-shot firepower of the single stack .45 ACP magazine was questionable. AWS came up with a noteworthy “drop in” type mechanism that would permit automatic fire in a 1911. A prototype was build and successfully tested. However, this arm failed to attract any takers due to its very limited firepower and excessive recoil in .45 ACP.

Having failed to gain interest among the local government agencies to adopt their big-bore machine pistol invention, AWS was forced to look for another alternative solution. The major stumbling block was the weapon’s limited firepower and excessive recoil in .45 ACP. The sensational Canadian made Para-Ordnance hi-capacity 1911 pistols were taken into consideration as a primary candidate for the Model-2 machine pistol project. Its 15-shot firepower in .45 ACP and 20-shot capacity in 9mm/.38 Super was ideal along with its all steel construction. This writer was again consulted in this project and was requested to submit a design that would allow a selective fire for a 1911 type pistol that would also function with the new hi-capacity models. The select fire hi-capacity version was designated AWS Model-2. The author’s design only required a single hole to be drilled above and between the sear and hammer pins to the right side of the frame to assemble the fire selector lever pin, which was the same diameter as the sear pin. The selector is retained in position by the slide. A captive 1/8 diameter spring loaded index ball locks the position of the selector to the desired setting. The rest of the required components simply replaced the regular parts such as the hammer, sear and disconnector. In addition to mechanical simplicity requirements, AWS also specified compensators and heavy duty spring actuated buffers for caliber the .45 ACP and .40 S&W versions to counter recoil and muzzle rise in full auto. The buffer system must also prevent slide battering that can result in frame cracks; something experienced with the earlier “full auto only” Model-1. In addition, a detachable folding stock was added for long range application as well as a folding front grip positioned near the muzzle for a more natural two hand hold that would allow maximum control of the weapon in automatic fire with the powerful .45 ACP and .40 S&W calibers.

In December 1995, I submitted a new design to AWS. The company built several prototypes based upon this design using imported Para-Ordnance frame kits, and an assortment of military and commercial slides and small parts. The final prototypes used many after market custom parts and accessories including several types of compensators that were readily available from mail order sources. The final configuration resulted in extraordinary custom 1911 machine pistol fit for the 21st century. According to Cordero, the test guns proved extremely reliable, were controllable with compensators and very accurate with custom grade barrels. The experimental guns were built in various calibers (.45 ACP, .38 Super and 9mm) and were tested by various local agencies in 1997 with favorable result. All weapons functioned extremely well with 1,000 rounds fired on each prototype with very few malfunctions, and those were attributed to locally manufactured ammunition utilizing lead bullets and not the full metal jacket type. The rate of fire was considered too fast in full auto with the .45 ACP in excess of 1,000 rpm; the .38 Super at 1,200+ rpm and the 9mm close to 1,300 rpm. The evaluators were quite impressed with the weapon’s overall configuration and handling characteristics especially with the .38 Super with virtually no felt recoil and minimal muzzle rise in automatic fire. The Super also produced the best in overall accuracy. Interest in the weapon was indicated but wanted a slower rate of fire or a burst limiting device like those employed in the VP-70 or 93R to conserve ammo - something an agency can not overlook when a single .45 ACP round can cost as much as $1 for an imported brand. Locally manufactured ammunition for big-bore autoloaders, such as those made by Armscor, are not reliable when used in automatic pistols because of their soft lubricated lead bullets.

The result of the evaluation test was forwarded to me by AWS requested that a burst limiting device be added to the design feature to make it competitive with other modern machine pistols being offered by Heckler & Koch and Beretta. I briefly went to work on a revised trigger mechanism design but abandoned the idea after AWS failed to keep their part of the bargain. Later, it became apparent that AWS was experiencing financial difficulties during the last stage of the machine pistol project; something not indicated to this writer. The company eventually failed to compete in the local market with their existing products that ultimately led to its final demise in 1997. According to Cordero, whose last contact with me was in 1998, the working specimens were sold to the highest bidder among the political warlords to recoup the cost of the development and prototyping expenses.

1911 type machine pistols were commercially offered in the past such as those produced by the Spanish firm STAR in the 1930’s but failed to gain commercial success due primarily to its lack of compact firepower. There were 15, 25 and 30-shot stick type magazines offered for these early generation service class machine pistols but they are a foot long being of a single stack format. These magazines made the weapon bulky and unwieldy defeating its primary design objective - concealability. Despite the addition of some very clever cyclic rate reducers in the later Star machine pistol models, the company failed to incorporate a muzzle brake device and front grip to aid in control and prevent muzzle rise. Colt also experimented with 1911 machine pistols during World War II to evaluate its military potential. The US military did primary testing for these prototype guns but found them less effective and more expensive to manufacture than a conventional submachine gun like the M3 Grease gun and Sten. Although AWS is now history, its machine pistol program is not considered a total failure. It was in the right direction all along. They had the perfect weapon that is ideally suited to fill special roles with the modern military and law enforcement, not to mention VIP protection. This evidence is even clearer today with the introduction of ultra-modern miniaturized assault weapons such as the FN P-90, H&K PDW and others. The small hi-intensity ammunition used in these new breed of mini-assault weapons, when utilized in a state-of-the art 1911 machine pistol, will certainly find takers among military specialists from around the world. Equipped with a light ultra-compact folding stock (doubles as a holster), front grip and a competition proven compensator, a modern polymer high capacity 1911 machine pistol would finally come to age. It is an old friend in a new guise, trusted in many wars, and given a new image to fill an even greater role for America’s fighting men in the new millennium. The AWS 1911 machine pistol system is the shape of things to come.

The Two-Stage cocking system

The AWS 1911 machine pistol trigger mechanism has been kept to outmost simplicity. There were dozens of patents relating to full auto modifications for this famous combat handgun since the 1920’s but none will come any simpler to this design requiring only a small hole to the right side of the frame to accommodate the fire selector pin. The illustration shows how the two-stage cocking system works during manual loading. (Note: trigger not pulled). The fire selector is set for semi-automatic fire.

The Select Fire Mechanism

The original trigger mechanism employed in the AWS 1911 machine pistol features a simple “drop in” type full auto converter kit. This was designed by Gene Cordero of AWS. The system was later refined by the author in a select fire format to meet the company’s formal request for the improved Model-2 that can be adapted to a high capacity 1911 pistol. In order to assure reliable functioning of the weapon, the required modification to the original mechanism was kept to bare minimum. To complement the simplicity of the design, a simple fire selector mechanism was incorporated to the right side of the frame where the usual right side paddle of an ambi-safety would seat.

Semi Automatic Functioning

To fire the weapon in semi automatic, rotate the selector lever towards the rear in a horizontal position. The notch of the lever pin will face the hammer mounted auto sear. When the trigger is pulled on a cocked hammer, the front end of the auto sear will pass the notch of the selector pin after the regular sear is tripped camming the disconnector downward to separate the connection between the trigger and disconnector in the usual manner. (Note: The top end of the original disconnector was cut off to prevent it from being actuated by the action of the slide.) The sear will bounce back to its normal position under spring tension. During rearward recoil of the slide, the hammer is first held in fully cocked position at the rear shoulder of the frame by the auto sear. As the slide reaches its last 1/8 inch forward closing, the trip will depress the top shoulder of the auto sear, releasing the cocked hammer from its connection with the frame. As the hammer is tripped, the regular sear will intercept the hammer and will hold it in cocked position ready to fire the next round after the trigger pull is released. This sequence of operation is repeated as fast as the operator can pull and release the trigger until the magazine is empty.

Full Auto Functioning

To fire the gun in full auto, rotate the fire selector downward to a vertical position until it rests against the grip. The solid portion of the selector pin will now face the auto sear. Assuming that the weapon is loaded and the hammer is cocked, pulling the trigger will trip the regular sear to fire the gun. On its downward motion, the hammer mounted auto sear’s front end will be deflected away from the disconnector by the solid portion of the selector pin, precluding the usual disconnecting process as described in semi-auto functioning. With the disconnector not being cammed downward as the hammer hits the firing pin, the trigger retained its connection with the regular sear. Maintaining the pull on the trigger in this mode will prevent the regular sear from re-engaging the hammer. During the firing cycle, the auto sear takes over the cocking and firing of the weapon mechanically. This sequence is repeated automatically until there are no more cartridges in the magazine or the operator releases pressure on the trigger. The slide will be held open after the last round is fired.

The Dual Action Spring Actuated Recoil Buffer System

Primary tests conducted by AWS with their Model-1 “full auto” only 1911 machine pistol in .45 ACP resulted with the gun being uncontrollable in automatic fire due to excessive recoil and muzzle rise. The high rate of fire also resulted in frame cracks and heavy peening of slide as a result of metal-to-metal battering during recoil. To solve this serious problem, the writer designed a heavy duty buffer system incorporating dual action springs, which are mounted on both ends of the full length guide rod. The rear mounted spring buffer is actuated at the last 3/4 inch of slide closing. As the slide reaches its last 1/4 inch of forward recoil, the second buffer is brought into action combining the power of the dual springs together to block the remaining impulse of the recoil, which cushions the metal-to-metal contact between the slide and the frame. This part also prevented damage to major components while providing neglible felt recoil with full power .45 ACP and .40 S&W cartridges. The triple-chamber compensator has effectively minimized muzzle rise and is further aided by the use of a front grip. Utilizing the heavy duty buffer system to .38 Super and 9mm has virtually eliminated felt recoil on long burst even without the aid of a compensator device. This advantage provided the operator maximum control of the weapon in any mode of fire being selected.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V9N4 (January 2006)
and was posted online on March 22, 2013


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