ALL NEW from Heizer!! Or Is It?
So, there’s a corner of the first floor display area at SHOT Show where you’re in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Well, not really, but you’re far away from the glitz of the huge displays upstairs, where the big name brands and giant wholesalers hawk their wares in brightly lit pavilions the size of fast food restaurants.
Downstairs the booths are the size of, well, booths. Some companies have multiple contiguous display booths for their wares, but there are several aisles of these smaller firearms and accessories companies, enough that you could burn an afternoon on a detailed perusal of their offerings.
As I got toward the end of one aisle, I noticed the signage in the booth ahead was for Heizer, the company that makes those funky derringers and…hello! What was this? A semiauto pistol? Something about it looked familiar and, as I reached out to examine one of the display guns, a very animated and enthusiastic salesdude launched into his spiel…
“It’s revolutionary! It has a very low bore axis because the recoil spring is above the barrel!”
I started to turn the display gun over in my hand…
“The low bore axis means you don’t get as much muzzle jump! You can shoot faster and more accurately!” He extended the pistol in his hands, miming an isosceles stance and making little upward twitches with the muzzle.
Then, as I looked at the other side of the gun, I noticed…
If this were a video instead of text, here’s where we’d do the jump cut with the sound effect of a needle dragging across the record.
See, way back in the dark ages of the self-loading pistol, when dinosaurs, lungfish, Lugers and such still roamed the earth, there was a pocket pistol from the Pieper company in Belgium called the Bayard 1908. It copied Browning’s very earliest autos in having the recoil spring assembly above the barrel, but unlike the Browning M1899/1900 from FN, the Bayard had an internal hammer, rather than a striker.
It was the mechanical leverage of cocking the hammer that applied a lot of braking force to the slide, allowing this tiny gun to be chambered in not only .25ACP and .32ACP, but also .380. It likely would have remained a Trivial Pursuit answer (“What was the smallest commercially successful .380 auto?”) or outfitted double-naught secret agents in bad James Bond fanfic if the design hadn’t been revived stateside sixty years later.
After the Gun Control Act of 1968 made importing tiny foreign guns verboten, domestic manufacturers scrambled to fill the void. Smith & Wesson produced a little pistol in .22 called the Model 61 Escort that was essentially a new, rimfire version of the Bayard with an aluminum frame.
One common feature of both guns? Takedown was by applying pressure to the recoil spring, either by pushing in on a protruding end of the guide rod (the S&W) or by inserting the bent paper clip you used to get stuck diskettes out of the Mac you were playing Oregon Trail on as a kid into a hole in the front of the slide (Bayard) and then lifting the front sight out. That would release the recoil spring assembly, then you just run the slide to the rear and lift it off the gun.
Now back to the Heizer booth at SHOT Show…
Looking at the other side of the gun, I noticed a key through the front of the slide. “And this is the takedown? Here?” I asked, interrupting the guy’s demonstration. “Could I get a picture with it taken apart?”
The guy happily complied.
Sure enough, it’s basically a giant .45ACP (9mm coming soon!) Bayard 1908/S&W Model 61 manufactured out of aerospace alloys. Which, all claims of new and improved aside, is kind of neat, at least conceptually. One of the other employees in the booth stated that they had some five thousand rounds through at least one of the test guns, which is a small amount for a duty-type gun but seems like a lot for an subcompact alloy blowback .45ACP.
Ten out of ten for novelty, but the proof will have to be in the shooting. Or, we can just look up old reviews of the Bayard 1908. That too.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: Tamara Keel made a living slinging guns across the glass for more than 20 years, so it goes without saying she’s been muzzled more times than just about anyone we know. Tamara has been regularly published in many places such as SWAT Magazine, Concealed Carry Magazine, and is currently the Handgun Editor for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine. But it’s not just on dead trees that she writes–you can catch most of her wit on her blog. She’s into making fun of gun hipsters, shooting bowling pin matches, drinking new craft beers, and collecting old and outdated cameras. You can also catch her on Instagram @tamarakeel