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Industry News: September 2002

By Robert M. Hausman

Gun Manufacturers Develop New Loads

A couple of firearms manufacturers, North American Arms and Taurus International Manufacturing, have developed new handgun rounds worthy of mention.

First, the new .25NAA and .32NAA cartridges developed by North American arms for their Guardian pocket pistol line are the result of a collaborative effort between Peter Pi of Cor-Bon Bullet Co., Hornady Manufacturing, NAA, and others.

In essence, the .25NAA cartridge is a .25 caliber bullet seated in a necked-down .32 cartridge and designed to be fired from a slightly reconfigured .32 ACP Guardian. Similarly, the .32NAA stems from a necked-down .380 ACP cartridge designed to be fired from the .380 ACP Guardian.

The intent of the new cartridges’ development is to deliver greater ballistic results than the original cartridges produce, yet at the same time yield less recoil due to the smaller and lighter projectiles used. Shooters seeking maximum performance from the minimum platform should be ready buyers of the Guardian pistols in the new calibers.

Initial ballistics tests indicate the .32NAA cartridge generates 21,5000 psi of pressure and pushes a 60 gr. Hornady JHP bullet at 1,453 fps from a 4-inch test barrel. The bullet penetrates just under nine-inches of ballistic gelatin. More information on these new cartridges will be presented when it becomes available.

In other North American Arms news, the gunmaker is now offering the Ashley Express Gutter Snipe lowest profile 3-dot night sight system on the .32 and .380 Guardians. The international magazine, Colors, recently featured a $98,000 18-carat gold North American Arms .22-caliber mini-revolver with a diamond studded grip “for people with a lot to protect.” It is produced by Bijan of Beverly Hills.

Firearms manufacturer, Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc., has gone into the ammunition business with a new line of all-copper bullets. The Taurus Copper Bullets design utilizes a new Taurus Hex Bullet with six nose petals developed in collaboration with Randy Brooks of Barnes Bullets, Inc. The bullet has an upset threshold beginning at 650 fps with full expansion occurring at about 850 fps.

The new line, initially offered in .45 ACP, is produced by an alliance of four firms. Taurus is directing the manufacture, marketing and international distribution. Barnes Bullets is utilizing its X-Bullet technology to produce the new projectiles. Hodgdon Powder, Inc. is providing a derivative of its environmentally-friendly TITEGROUP brand propellant. PMC Ammunition is assembling the non-polluting cartridges using brass casings and mercury-free primers.

The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, are spawning greater development of less lethal rounds to be used in sensitive environments. SinterFire, Inc. of Kersey, PA, a manufacturer of frangible bullets, is expanding its research into the needs of the aviation industry.

Olin Corp. has recently been awarded a $9 million, two-year contract by the U.S. Dept. of Defense for the manufacture of heavy machine gun ammunition, with future renewal options. The contract involves a patented .50 caliber round with an armor-penetrating saboted bullet, developed at Olin’s East Alton, IL, plant.

Company officials say the rounds deliver superior and proven performance against lightly armored vehicles and armored attack helicopters at ranges of up to 1,500 meters. The saboted bullet is much lighter in weight and has a greater velocity than regular .50 caliber ball ammunition. The SLAP (saboted light armor penetrating) ammunition saw extensive use during the Persian Gulf conflict. Sales of the new round will be exclusively to the military.

California Handgun Sales Drop Sharply

California consumers purchased fewer handguns in 2001 than in any previous year since the state began keeping records on such sales in 1972, according to the state Attorney General’s office. Handgun sales dropped 23.1%, to a total of 155,203 in 2001 from the 201,865 sold in 2000. The previous record low was recorded in 1998 when just 189,481 handguns were sold. Not surprisingly, the onerous restrictions on handgun purchases imposed by state law led many consumers to opt for long guns instead. As a result, long gun sales increased 7.3% in 2001, from 184,345 in 2000, to 198,999 in 2001. Combined long gun and handgun figures indicate 354,202 total firearms were purchased by Californians in 2001, a number 8.2% below the 386,210 combined purchase total for 2000.

Were it not for the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, that year’s figures would have been even lower. For the first six weeks after Sept. 11th, California’s firearms sales averaged 9,200 per week, compared to about 7,000 per week during the same period the year before. Prior to Sept. 11th, firearms sales averaged about 6,500 per week during 2001. Some 3,607 attempted firearm purchases were denied by the California Dept. of Justice after buyer background checks.

In other California news, a 5-cent tax on every bullet sold in the state has been proposed as a November ballot issue by long-time gun control advocate Don Perata, a Democratic state senator.

“Bullets cause injuries that are expensive to treat and, generally speaking, the public is footing the bill,” Perata explained. He added the idea was intended to raise funds for California trauma centers and predicted the Democratic-controlled state legislature would opt to put the issue before the voters.

The state is facing a $17 billion budget deficit this year. A gubernatorial contest will also be held this fall, which pits incumbent anti-gun Democrat Gray Davis against pro-gun Republican, Bill Simon. The ‘bullet-tax’ measure could become an issue in the race for governor.

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. Visit www.FirearmsGroup.com. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.


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