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The NEW .44 Auto Mag: Return of the King by JUSTIN OPINION

There are many iconic handguns in the collective consciousness of gun enthusiasts. There are fewer, but still several iconic handguns in global culture. These latter icons tend to be associated with a larger-than-life appearance on the silver screen. But even amongst the most iconic and awe-inspiring handguns ever to make viewers’ eyes widen and chins drop – there is one that sits at the very top. The .44 Auto Mag.

The Dirty Harry movies from the 1970s and early 1980s are required annual viewing for anyone who calls himself a handgun enthusiast. The title character, immortalized by Clint Eastwood is famous for the icon status of the S&W Model 29, .44 Magnum revolver. In fact, that gun is quite possibly deserving of equal top-billing in the film credits. But in 1983’s “Sudden Impact” a new character was introduced that instantly became the “it” gun that everyone had to have. Introduced early in the film as having been a gift to Detective Callahan (Eastwood), it is called upon at the film’s climax shootout scene after Harry’s beloved six-shooter takes a dip in the Pacific. In 1983, guns didn’t look like this. It was ultra-modern and high tech, yet a big-bore powerhouse that could, according to Dirty Harry – “remove the fingerprints” of the perpetrator shot with it. Like every red-blooded male in every theatre seat everywhere in 1983 – I was mesmerized by the gun. Problem was… there were none to be had. The 44 Auto Mag had made its introduction to the market over a decade before the film was made, and after selling roughly 3,000 pistols the company went under and production stopped. In addition to that – those guns that did exist did not have the long 8 1/2″ barrel seen on the big screen – that was a custom piece made for the movie. The resale market for the original Auto Mags skyrocketed. If you could find someone willing to sell one, you were going to pay up for it.

The Auto Mag company, much like a cat, lived many lives and the guns were manufactured in a number of variations and several calibers with roll marks and serial prefixes changing each time. But those original 3,000 Pasadena pistols will forever be the “real” Auto Mag and sit at the top of the collector’s wish list. I am proud to own two of those guns.

Fast forward to the modern era, just a few years ago – when the rumors began to vibrate around the industry that the Auto Mag was going to be re-made. Being an Auto Mag enthusiast, I began a crusade to learn more. This put me in touch with Patrick Henry, who purchased the name, trademark, rights, and all existing assets of the Auto Mag company, and who was on a mission to resurrect this legendary gun and restore it to its original glory – while using modern manufacturing capabilities to improve both the process and the gun. The objective was to remain completely loyal to the original pistol and make true Auto Mags, not replicas – while allowing the technology now available to make them better wherever possible.

Looking through the lens of today, the specifications of the .44 Auto Mag Pistol (AMP) cartridge might not raise many eyebrows – but circa 1970 this was virtually an unheard-of challenge. Semi-autos had not yet reached the mainstream lexicon of handguns, and most of those were either of a Browning design or a derivative thereof, and none approached the firepower of the .44 magnum. This was a new beast altogether – with a locking bolt like the AR-15, but no gas system – and two recoil springs and guide rods to control the timing save the gun and shooter from undue wear and tear. As often happens in innovation and business, the first to market is not always the successful product, or even the best designed – but in its short-lived glory, the Auto Mag inspired not only an industry, but a generation of enthusiasts. The silhouette of the Auto Mag is incredibly distinctive, and to this beholder’s eye, it remains as alluring today as it was 50 years ago.

It is not lost on this writer, nor should it be on the reader, just how big an undertaking Auto Mag Ltd., led by Patrick Henry has been. “If I’d known five years ago how long it would take, and how many millions it would cost, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”, was the sentiment that Patrick expressed during one of our conversations, “but”, he continued, “once you get half-pregnant, you just have to go with it”. Fortunately for us, Patrick is a gun-maker and not an obstetrician. But, if you sit down and talk with Mr. Henry, you will soon realize that he is a passionate enthusiast of the .44 Auto Mag, whose dream is to not just re-make this iconic pistol but to make it what it always should have been. That dream is shared by many lovers of the Auto Mag, because pre-orders for pistols that were still just a glimmer in Patrick’s eye started rolling in from day one.

The new Auto Mag can be ordered in several configurations, starting with the Founder’s Edition, which was a limited run offered to early pre-order customers. The Classic Edition is the version that was sent to me for testing and review, with the optional 8 ½” barrel. The high polished finish is also an option – and is a very labor-intensive process which makes the stainless-steel shine like drag pipes on a new Harley. There are options to choose from when it comes to the grips also – my preference being the beautiful wood stocks, but there are also very nice G10 grips available – both options are made by Hogue. And wonderful news for owners of original Auto Mags – grips, magazines, and other critical internal parts can all be purchased from Auto Mag, Ltd. And because this is “the real thing” and not a tribute gun or reproduction, the parts are nearly all compatible.

So, who exactly is the .44 Auto Mag for? There can be no doubt that the Auto Mag has always been, and continues to be, a boutique gun. Arguably one of the most elite boutique guns ever made, and certainly coveted by collectors. I think the market for this gun is diverse and eclectic, ranging from the man who is regretting he never bought that one he saw 30 years ago… to the young enthusiast who has a keen eye and appreciation for the extraordinary… to the trophy collector who simply wants one because he wants one. And don’t leave out the recoil-junkie – that guy that loves big bore thundersticks and always draws a crowd at the range. In a recent conversation with my friends on Handgun Radio, we were discussing the Auto Mag in contrast to similarly priced high-end 1911s with which we are all familiar. I asked, “but tell me… which of those guns is a .44 Auto Mag?”. And there, I believe, is the answer. The Auto Mag is for the person who wants an Auto Mag. The 44 Auto Mag is the DeLorean of handguns.

But what about shooting the Auto Mag? After all, this is a gun review – and in gun reviews we talk about shooting and performance. As a legacy .44 Auto Mag owner, I am familiar with firing this handgun and so I had expectations and questions as I headed to the range with the brand-spanking-new version. The first thing you’ll likely notice is the size and weight of the gun. As tested, this pistol weighs 4 lbs. and is 14-1/8” in overall length. The grip portion of the frame is large and hand-filling, even for those with large hands. And yet, despite those dimensions, it is remarkably ergonomic and comfortable to grip – this was my thought the first time I held an Auto Mag. And as for the weight – you’ll be glad of it when you touch off that first round.

The sights on the Auto Mag were always of high quality. The front sight is a permanent machined fixture that ramps up from the vented rib that runs atop the barrel. It is serrated for reduced glare, but otherwise unadorned. Auto Mag Ltd. has not modernized this by adding any visibility enhancements – which this enthusiast appreciates. The blade of the new front sight looked a bit thinner to me in back-to-back shooting, so I measured them and found that the front blade is 0.010” thinner and the rear notch is also 0.015” wider on the new gun versus the old. That twenty-five-thousandths is enough to notice. The rear sight is of similar design to the original, but changes have been made to the mount to accommodate the modern Kensight. It is fully adjustable and is a flat black with anti-glare serrations. In an era before video games and sights that light up and flash and holler “he went that way”, these were top of the line – and suit this gun just fine. The front sight looks identical to the original Pasadena gun, but is in fact a more modern sight that could be replaced if needed. A look at the muzzle end of both guns also demonstrates one of the opportunities that Auto Mag Ltd. has taken to improve the gun in a subtle way. The old gun looks much like someone trimmed the end of the barrel with a band saw and knocked off the burrs before shipping it out. The new Auto Mag has a nicely rounded and crowned tip, offering the same head-on look but in a more refined way.

As far as accuracy goes, I have to admit that because I have owned original Auto Mags for years, I already had a hunch that it would “put ‘em where you point it”, and indeed it does. Unfortunately, there is not a variety of .44 AMP ammo from which to select a sample for testing – and this writer is aware of only one company making commercial ammunition – SBR. So, I reversified the logic of the standard test and used one load from two different guns – the new Auto Mag, and a 50-year-old original. “Age before Beauty”, as they say – so the little old lady from Pasadena was up first and put five shots into a very respectable group from a rest at 20 yards. Up next, the shiny new gun made an even tighter group. Given the addition of more than 2” of barrel, I was not surprised. I found the sights on the new Auto Mag to be a bit nicer and I felt it was easier to hold finer aim with the new gun.

Recoil is what you might expect from the .44 Auto Mag, and if you’re not sure what that even means – let me put it this way – it kicks like a mule. Don’t watch “Sudden Impact” and get the idea that the recoil you see Clint Eastwood experience with movie blanks is how it will be for you. I was given some good advice years ago that the Auto Mag likes loads just hot enough to reliably cycle the action. This was in reference to the old guns of course, but I suspect the same advice might be prudent today. While I have no doubt that this new gun is built stronger and could handle the occasional hunting load – for the long-term well being of gun and shooter, I would stick to a 240-grain bullet moving at about 1250 fps, and not much more. Even so, when fired with one hand the Auto Mag will unleash a sharp recoil energy that will soon have you back in a two-handed grip. That said, this 4 lb. mass of stainless steel does do a good job of smoothing out the otherwise hellish .44 magnum rimless cartridge.

Range work with the Auto Mag was not without some challenges and a few malfunctions. Intermittent feeding stoppages became less random and seemed to have a common source. Once I examined and eliminated a magazine that seemed to be the culprit – it was smooth sailing for the remainder of the day. Loose tolerances of today’s polymer-framed guns have greatly reduced the likelihood of this problem, but 1911 lovers will tell you that the first place you look to resolve many common errors is the magazine. The magazines for the Auto Mag are made of stainless steel with polymer followers. They are capable of holding 7 rounds. When loaded full, the spring is nearly at full compression – those last couple rounds go in tight. I found myself sticking to five most of the time, it made it easier on my thumbs, and helped me ration my ammo better. And while I’m giving advice, another very important discovery people make when they handle an Auto Mag for the first time is just how hard it is to pull that bolt back. And with the length of travel, the largeness of the grip frame, and difficulty fighting the strong springs – working a thumb into place to push up the bolt-stop is a feat for orangutans. It can be done – but you don’t want to be on candid camera when you try it. Solution – insert an empty magazine and seat it properly, then pull back on the cocking ears while pushing forward on the grip frame. You’ll thank me.


It is important to evaluate the Auto Mag in the proper context, as a historically significant gun that had a very limited original production, achieved notoriety – even iconic status, and is now being manufactured anew with full respect to the original design. To try and judge the gun by either the standards of a newly designed firearm or by the vintage classification of a relic, is to miss the point – in this writer’s opinion. It would be a similar discussion if someone were to re-make the broom handle Mauser in strict accordance to the original design, with all of its inherent positive and negative qualities – but as a newly manufactured functioning handgun. And because I am a collector of the Auto Mag and know a bit about the gun and its history, I had expectations based on that philosophy.

First and foremost – high marks indeed for remaining faithful to the original design of the gun, and avoiding the temptation to modernize the look or even improve on the cast-frame cosmetics. The patina of the Auto Mag is perfectly true to the original gun. The polish on the upper is optional – and while I am not usually one for the BBQ gun bling, I have to say that having seen it like this – that’s how I would want it. The only downside is that the cocking ‘ears’ also have the high polish which makes them very difficult to grasp. The Auto Mag is a son of a *** to cock under the best circumstances and that didn’t help. But I would suffer the difficulty during the occasional range trip to have it look the way it does. Besides, it is really the rear sight that prevents one from getting a manly grip on the bolt cocking piece without ripping out hunks of flesh. A perfect example of a design that could have been better in 1970, but if it were changed now, it would change the gun.

The bottom line on the new .44 Auto Mag is that it is almost exactly what I had hoped it would be – the next best thing to a time machine and access to Dirty Harry’s nightstand drawer. This gun is for people who want a .44 Auto Mag. The great news is that it truly is art you can shoot. It’s a stronger gun than the original. It cycles better. Its accuracy and power make it an interesting option for the handgun hunter (I happen to know that several hogs have already been taken with it). More than fifty years since its introduction to the market – the Auto Mag is now ready for the range as well as the display case.

Again, I am not an expert on the Auto Mag, but I have been fortunate to have learned from many over the years whom I consider to be experts. I’d like to thank Patrick Henry, Jeffrey Kelley, Brian Maynard, and Bruce Stark for their contributions to my knowledge.

Watch the full video review of this gun, with lots of shooting, here:

I will leave you with a quote that I really like about the original Auto Mag, from Bruce Stark’s book, “Auto Mag, The Pasadena Days – The Years 1966-1972” – “The scope of the efforts and the accomplishments that took place in such a very short amount of time are staggering. For an inexperienced company to design and manufacture a completely new semi-automatic handgun, made of exotic metals to shoot non-existent ammo to be sold to a non-existent market seems ill-advised to say the least. The end result was the most beautiful handgun ever to be made. The Auto Mag is an American classic.” Stark’s book is a must-have for all Auto Mag enthusiasts and is still available. In fact, you can even get a signed copy at a cost of just $45. If interested, contact Stark at [email protected].

If you are interested in the history of the Auto Mag company and Harry Sanford, I highly recommend a video on the YouTube channel of Jeffrey Kelley – do a search for that.

Learn more about the new Auto Mag pistols and company, here: Auto Mag Ltd.


Ammo California

Bismuth 12 Ga. Slug by E.M.Smith

Bismuth 12 Ga. Slug by E.M.Smith

For those who do not know, California has banned the use of Lead in ammunition used for hunting. Why? Supposedly to reduce toxicity in birds eating lead lumps and shot. In reality, more likely IMHO is that the goal was to make it harder to get any ammo to shoot and raise prices.

The result has been a lot of use of Bismuth in shot as the weight is about the same as lead and it is non-toxic. Also it isn’t that expensive. For hunting rounds in rifles, the use of solid copper and related alloys has been common.

Copper is much harder than lead, so many of those hunting rounds now penetrate more soft body armor than the prior rounds. (Note: NO soft body armor is “bullet proof”, each is only rated to stop certain classes of rounds. There is no “bullet proof vest”. There is no “cop killer bullet”, only a necessary energy and hardness to penetrate any given level of vest.)

But what happens with a Bismuth slug?

Well, the Taofledermause folks tested it. Results are fascinating to say the least. Due to increased brittleness, the slug tends to disintegrate on hard targets. BUT it also tends to make a few larger chunks in the process on softer targets. As a result, it penetrated a Level 3 soft body armor test panel that will stop a Foster Slug of lead.

In a block of ballistic gel, it was an amazing effect. Shedding some fragments that stopped in a few inches, while some large chunks traveled the whole length, and the rest formed an expanding cone of destruction in between.

I would not want to be on the wrong end of one of those slugs.

Now, this was an alloy of mostly Bismuth, a bit of Antimony, and some tin (12%) so as to stop the tendency of Bismuth to expand on cooling. That let them use a regular lead casting mold to get a proper sized bullet / slug. I have no idea how much of this peculiar performance comes from that particular alloy, but it will matter to some degree.

Bismuth  - 87.25%
Antimony -  0.75%
Tin      - 12%

An interesting result, to say the least. Attempting to make it a pain to go shooting your shotgun resulting in a spectacular increase in lethality. Leftists – Accidentally increasing lethality for 53 years… (Banning “Saturday Night Specials” moved uninformed shoots / buyers up caliber and up quality into more lethal guns and calibers…)

I’m no longer concerned about the effectiveness of Bismuth in shotgun rounds 😉


Some Eye Candy for my Great Readers NFSW


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A Colt Model 1-22 Colteer .22 LR Single Shot Bolt Action Rifle, 1960-1966











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A 1st Year Winchester model1886 Lever Action Rifle in caliber .40-82 WCF with a 26″ Barrel

Now this is what I call one classy looking rifle to these tired old eyes! Especially with the octagon barrel. Grumpy




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A CZ 550 (6.5x55mm Swede), topped with a Meopta 6-24x56mm scope:

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A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout by Luke C

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout
On Friday, February 28th, 1997 the Los Angeles Police Department would face one of the most dangerous criminal acts in its history – The North Hollywood Bank Shootout. On that Friday morning, after months of planning two armed bank robbers entered and robbed the North Hollywood Bank of America branch in California. The ensuing shootout between the heavily armed bank robbers and LAPD would go down in history as one of the largest gun battles in United States history. Today we’ll breakdown the facts leading up to and throughout the infamous North Hollywood Bank Shootout.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to sit in judgment of any party that was involved in this incident. The purpose of this article is to take the facts which have been presented to the public to show readers a clinical, unbiased and truthful look at an unfortunate chain of events.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout


The robbers – Larry Eugene Phillips Jr. and Decebal Ștefan Emilian Mătăsăreanu – were familiar with firearms and prepared for the bank robbery by heavily arming and armoring themselves. Included in their arsenal were illegally modified rifles including two Norinco Type 56 S rifles, one Norinco Type 56 S-1 rifle and a Bushmaster XM15-ES2 Dissipator all of which were modified to be able to fire fully automatic. The robbers were also armed with an H&K Model 91 .308 rifle.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

The HK-91 Rifle used by Phillips during the robbery (note the destroyed lower receiver and magazine)

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

An illegally modified XM15 used by the robbers to fire fully-automatic – Beta mag attached

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Norinco Type-56 Sporter modified to fire full-auto by the robbers – an attached Romanian 75 round drum magazine.

Phillips and Mătăsăreanu also armored themselves with varying degrees of body armor. Mătăsăreanu wore a Type IIIA bulletproof vest with a trauma plate to protect vital organs while Phillips was found to have worn more than 40 lbs of equipment including his armor. Phillips wore a Type IIIA vest which included a groin guard and he supplemented this with several pieces of homebrewed body armor salvaged from pieces of other vests. All together Phillips was nearly covered from head to toe in body armor.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout: Recreation of Phillips (left) and Mătăsăreanu on the day of the robbery

In addition to their armament, both robbers made an extensive reconnaissance of the Bank located at 6600 Laurel Canyon Boulevard – this reconnaissance included finding the exact person they needed to gain access to the bank’s vault which was their main target. The robbers also made use of police scanners to determine the estimated response time and included watches sewn onto the back of their gloves to monitor their timing.


At 9:17am the two robbers arrived at the bank and set their watch alarms for 8 minutes. As the two made their way into the bank they were spotted by two patrolling officers. Loren Farrel and Martin Perello were on patrol and driving down Laurel Canyon when they spotted the robbers. Perello immediately called in the possible 211 – the code for robbery.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

After entering the bank the robbers proceeded to harass both customers and bank employees. Mătăsăreanu opened fire into the bank’s ceiling declaring “This is a F*cking holdup!” As Phillips secured the main bank lobby Mătăsăreanu proceeded to track down the bank’s assistant manager John Viligrana.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

The metal door jam was shot along with the bullet-resistant glass leading to the tellers and bank vault.

Viligrana was located inside the tellers where the vault door was. To gain access to this area, Mătăsăreanu shot through the 1/4″ thick bullet-resistant polycarbonate and acrylic composite panels with his converted Norinco Type 56 Sporter rifle. The short burst destroyed the panels and riddled the striker plate with bullet holes.
John Villigrana encountered Phillips after he blasted the door open and was immediately met with demands to “Get the money or we kill you.” Even though Villigrana immediately complied with the demands he was still struck in the back of the head with the wire-frame stock of Phillip’s rifle.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Upon entering the vault Villigrana began filling Mătăsăreanu’s bags with cash. However, due to a recent change in delivery times and practices, the bank had not yet received its bulk delivery and the amount of cash inside was not what the robbers had expected (roughly $750,000). Assistant Manager Villigrana recalls that Mătăsăreanu became visibly and audibly upset with this revelation. In a display of rage, Mătăsăreanu unloaded a full 75-round drum into one of the vault’s cash lockers (Burgher Box).

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

After this incident, Villigrana had finished loading up the robber’s bag with a total of $303,305 which included 3 dye packs that would all detonate as the robbers were leaving the building. With their 8 minutes up the robbers marshaled the terrified customers into the bank vault and at that point, Phillips exited the Northwest door of the building while Mătăsăreanu remained inside for another 4 minutes – it is still unknown what he did inside the bank during this time.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout


During the bank robbery, LAPD officers had managed to surround the building setting up patrol cars along Laurel Canyon Boulevard as well as the intersecting streets surrounding the bank. Officers began to arrive only minutes after the initial two-eleven call was made by Officer Perello.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Phillips as he opened up with his initial barrage of fire at the LAPD

As Phillips exited the building he immediately encountered LAPD officers. Phillips opened fire with the first of what would eventually be 1,100 rounds reportedly fired by the robbers during the ongoing battle. LAPD Sgt. Haynes along with 3 other officers were the first targets of Phillips and the first barrage of full-auto fire riddled the police cruiser with bullet holes as the officers took cover. Phillips continued to pursue the officers and present civilians and even fired on the police helicopter AIR-8 which had arrived just seconds before Phillips exited the bank.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Although it may not seem like it the distances that the gunmen were engaging the officers at put officers armed with pistols at a significant disadvantage.

Phillips continued to fire till he emptied his 75-round drum and then proceeded to retreat to where he had exited the bank. Officers used this opportunity to return fire with their Beretta 92F 9mm pistols. Some other officers had S&W Model 15 revolvers and others brought Ithaca Model 37 shotguns to combat the robbers. Shortly after reloading, Phillips stepped out again and in a single 128-degree arc of fire, he wounded three police officers and one civilian.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Phillips was initially shot by officer James Zboravan. Zboravan used his Ithica Model 37 and two blasts of buckshot to hit Phillips from the rear with 9 total projectiles but only one managed to injure Phillips by striking his right buttock which was unprotected by armor. Phillips turned to engage the officer and those around him and eventually wounded officer Zboravan with one round striking his lower back and other striking his hip and exiting through his thigh.
A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout
A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout


This portion of the battle would go on between officers and Phillips until he decided to return to the bank Phillips may have been struck several times by both LAPD officers and detectives with 9mm rounds as several officers engaged him from multiple angles. After discarding several empty ammunition drums Phillips and Mătăsăreanu exited the bank both carrying the large money bag.
A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout
LAPD SWAT arrived 18 minutes after the shooting had begun and were much better armed than the patrol officers. LAPD SWAT brought AR-15 rifles to bear and commandeered a nearby armored truck to extract the wounded civilians and officers from the area.

LAPD officers and SWAT team members use a commandeered armored transport to rescue a wounded man, under fire from a robber at the Bank of America across the street. (Gene Blevins/Los Angeles Daily News)

As Mătăsăreanu and Phillips exited the bank and began to flee, Mătăsăreanu was shot twice in the right buttock and once in the left forearm which forced him to drop the bag of money which had been ruined by the detonation of the dye packs.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

The glove from the right hand of Phillips

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Autopsy report showing Phillips right hand which was shot

Mătăsăreanu then proceeded to enter their getaway vehicle and start the engine while Phillips retrieved the HK-91 from the trunk and continued firing at officers by walking along with the car as it moved. The HK-91 was struck on the receiver and magazine forcing Phillips to abandon the rifle. Phillips was simultaneously struck in the shoulder by officers.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Phillips quickly picked up a second Type 56 rifle and exited the parking lot and onto the street where Mătăsăreanu had driven the getaway vehicle. It is at this point that he continued to fire at police until his rifle jammed at which point he drew his Beretta 92FS and continued firing at police. Phillips was shot in the right hand which caused him to drop his pistol. After retrieving the pistol, Phillips chose to end his life with it while officers simultaneously shot him several times while the pistol was under his chin.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Phillips firing his Beretta 92FS at police shortly before his death.


A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout
Mătăsăreanu continued down the street until the original getaway car was disabled by having two of its tires shot out. He attempted to steal a Jeep Gladiator by shooting at its driver. The driver ran away but not before activating the electrical kill switch which disabled the vehicle. As this was happening SWAT arrived and engaged Mătăsăreanu who had taken cover behind the original getaway car.
A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout
For almost the next two and a half minutes, there was a stream of near uninterrupted gunfire between the officers and Mătăsăreanu. The bank robber survived a direct “double-tap” to his vest and continued to fire at officers after catching his breath. Eventually, a swat officer chose to fire underneath the vehicles at Mătăsăreanu’s unprotected lower body which eventually wounded the bank robber and caused him to surrender, Mătăsăreanu put his hands up to indicate this.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

Just seconds after his surrender, police officers rushed to pin the man down and cuff him. Officers questioned him about his own name and if there were any other suspects and Mătăsăreanu reportedly retorted with a vulgar “F*ck you! Shoot me in the head!”

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A photo of the “double-tap” shot sustained to Mătăsăreanu’s vest during the final exchange of gunfire.

Ambulance personnel, following standard procedure, refused to enter “the hot zone” where Mătăsăreanu was as he was still considered dangerous and there were reports that a third gunman might be on the loose. EMTs were not allowed to reach the scene until almost 70 minutes later after police radioed for an ambulance and Mătăsăreanu died at the scene from excessive blood loss. In total, he was shot over 20 times in the legs although the two fatal shots were from his left thigh.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout


In just under 45 minutes, over 300 law enforcement officers had responded to the city-wide TAC alert. At that same time, over 1,100 rounds of various ammunition had been fired by just the robbers with an additional estimated 650 rounds fired by police. Miraculously the only two deaths were those of the two perpetrators. In total 11 police officers were wounded and 6 civilians were wounded during the 44-minute robbery.

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout

This single incident in which two heavily armed and highly motivated men chose to rob a bank at high risk proved to be one of the motivating factors to standard patrol officers being armed with more lethal weapons. If anything this incident proves just how ineffective standard patrol weapons (pistols and shotguns) can be against those with heavier firepower.
This thought process led to the Department of Defense giving 600 surplus M-16 rifles to the LAPD which were then issued to each patrol sergeant. Today weapons like these can be considered “standard issue” by many police departments.
A Breakdown of the Infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout
I hope that this brief breakdown of the facts has been informative and enjoyable to read. The story of the North Hollywood Bank shootout has many complex and intricate details, many of which I was not able to include for brevity’s sake. If you have questions many of the links in the article have a bounty of information that I was unable to include in the article. As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment down below.
Photo Credits: CNN, National Geographic, Adrian Martinez, L. Mindham, LAPD Crime Scene Photos

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Lancaster Four-Barrel Shotgun With Double-Action Trigger

Soldiering The Green Machine Useful Shit Well I thought it was neat!

It’s Time for Another Louisiana Maneuvers

Back in 1941, the Army did something extreme: it tested its doctrine. Not on tabletop wargames, not in a computer simulation, not with an invasion of a small Latin American country. No, the Army mobilized over 400,000 Regular and National Guard troops, spent a year training them up, and then let them fight each other across 30,000 square miles of Louisiana and Texas in an exercise that would make Jade Helm conspiracy theorists slaver with delight.
Why? Well, it was no secret that World War II would not remain a European affair much longer. The Germans had demonstrated that they had a pretty decent war machine, the likes of which the threadbare U.S. Army could only stare at longingly. The Army had been cut pretty badly after World War I. Pretty badly is an understatement. The Army had been gutted. From a wartime strength of several million men, it was reduced down below 80,000 by 1921. However, Army leaders had been smart; they knew that the next time war came, they would need adaptive and educated leaders. So the officers and non-commissioned officers that they could not retain were shifted over into the National Guard where they helped train up the nation’s reserve. The Army began service schools and professional development courses, open to both Regular and National Guard leaders. Although the Army would not be right-sized for the next conflict, or properly equipped with modern equipment at the outset, it would have a ready cadre of trained and adaptive leaders.
In 1940, the Army began preparing for possible entrance into World War II. Chief of Staff George C. Marshall – arguably one of the smartest men to ever wear pinks and greens – wanted to try something new: to take the latest doctrine and technology and actually try it out in force-on-force maneuvers between field armies of U.S. troops. He wanted to try it all, from armored tactics to air strikes to mechanized infantry. In essence, he wanted the largest NTC rotation the world had ever seen. And since this was back in the day when the Army still owned air power, it didn’t even need to be a joint operation.

General McNair dares you to call him Lesley (U.S.Army photo)

General Lesley – yes, Lesley – McNair was chosen to be the Chief of Staff for General Headquarters (GHQ), U.S. Army. McNair formulated the training plan that is basically still used to this day: individual soldier tasks are trained first, then small unit training, and lastly a combined arms exercise to validate a unit’s proficiency. Soldiers first learned their basic tasks: land navigation, first aid, physical conditioning, and rifle marksmanship. Officers attended branch service schools. Then the soldiers went to work honing their small unit tasks, before graduating to combined arms field exercises with infantry, field artillery, and engineers. Once this was complete, regiments and brigades took part in four weeks of division training. The grand culmination was the GHQ Maneuvers in Louisiana, with divisions forming corps, and corps, field armies. Which then slugged it out in the woods and swamps with freedom of maneuver.
So what was this new doctrine and technology? Well, there was the tank, for one thing. Sure, it had been around since World War I, but Army doctrine maintained that tanks were there to support the infantry. Tanks would advance behind a rolling artillery barrage and allow the infantry to break through linear enemy defensive positions; shades of Verdun here. The Nazis had demonstrated that tanks could pretty much out-fight any infantry or artillery unit out there, and that, combined with close air support and mechanized infantry, they pretty much dominated the battlefield. There was no independent tank corps in the U.S. Army in 1940. Well, there wasn’t until Colonel George Patton, General Adna Chaffee, and General Bruce Magruder met together in a basement – I kid you not – and decided that America really needed its own armor corps. So they sent their proposal to Marshall, who liked the idea, and ordered the infantry and cavalry to turn over all their tanks to the Armored Force on July 10, 1940. Just like that, the armor branch was born, and with it came a new doctrine that needed to be tested.
And what of the cavalry, those Stetson-wearing sons of a whatnot? Well, one would like to think that they embraced mechanization gracefully. They did not. The cavalry arm was still a primarily horse-fighting organization in 1940, with limited jeeps and motorcycles for reconnaissance. Marshall urged full mechanization, which was strongly resisted by die-hard cavalrymen.

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The cavalry’s compromise: armored cars integrated with horse patrols (U.S. Army Photo)

Another group that was proving irascible to doctrinal change was the Army Air Force. Rather than conforming to Marshall’s view that fighter-bombers should support combined arms operations, the Air Force had embraced strategic bombing with a myopia that was alarming, especially given that there was daily evidence from the Luftwaffe that air-to-ground close air support was a stunning success. The Army Air Force was also being recalcitrant to provide aircraft for the Army’s new 501st Parachute Battalion. Still, the airmen had modernized readily and were at least developing new doctrine, albeit focused on high-altitude bombing. It remained to be seen how this could mesh with ground operations.

Combined arms in action, Louisiana Maneuvers (U.S. Army Photo)

All of this new training, new doctrine, and new technology would be tested in 1941. GHQ devised whole booklets of complicated rules on how the maneuvers would be run and how casualties would be assessed. Thousands of umpires traveled with units to assess their performance. All units were armed with blanks. Bombs were simulated with bags of flour. There were obvious flaws in the system. For example, any infantry within the vicinity of an enemy tank were ruled to have been wiped out. Conversely, light tanks could be destroyed by a .50 caliber machine gun at a range of 1,000 yards. Still, the maneuvers offered more benefits than drawbacks. Army, corps, division, brigade, and regimental commanders would be moving their forces in real time, experiencing the stress of command and control. Units would get used to the daily routines of combat: supply, movement, patrolling, offense, and defense.
Perhaps the greatest coup that the Army pulled off was to get state and local governments to buy into their plan. The Army leased and obtained trespass rights to 30,000 square miles of land from Shreveport to Lake Charles, and from Jasper, Texas to the Mississippi River. Bolstered by a Congress that finally placed defense spending as a priority, the Army had the land and the money to pull off the largest maneuvers – still the largest to this day – ever conducted in North America. Eighteen Army divisions and ten Air groups – combined Army and Navy – would face off against each other.

Motor convoy on the way to Louisiana, 1941 (U.S. Army Photo)

In the late summer of 1941, the long motor columns of troops and equipment swarmed into Louisiana. It was no small feat to organize supply networks for 400,000 men, but Army engineers built roads, railheads, depots, and barracks to accommodate the armies. Massive amounts of military brass and Army civilian leadership arrived as well, all wanting a look at how the modern U.S. Army was going to fight and win. Interestingly, the Harvard Business School even sent observers to see how the Army did logistics.
So what happened? Well, answers to that question varied by who you might ask. To the average grunt, the Louisiana Maneuvers meant more weeks of slogging through swamps and thickets with little to no sleep. To officers, it meant a chance to show their worth. And to senior leadership, it meant confirming or denying doctrinal assumptions. To advocates of armor or anti-tank units, it meant a time to show the worth of their new combat arm. Marshall was succinct: “I want the mistake [made] down in Louisiana, not over in Europe, and the only way to do this thing is to try it out, and if it doesn’t work, find out what we need to make it work.”
Everything kicked off on September 15. The Red Army received orders to invade the Blue Army’s territory. The orders were concise and basic: invade, seize key territory, and destroy the enemy. It was left up to army and corps commanders to devise the plan, and to division and brigade commanders to execute the plan. The Red Army had a secret weapon: George Patton and his tanks. But the Blue Army had a secret weapon of their own: their chief of staff was Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Baby-faced Ike, third from left, 1941 (U.S. Army Photo)

Things kicked off with predictable uncertainty. Commanders struggled with fording rivers and gaining air superiority. Rates of march by supposedly “slow” infantry units were accelerated when they were loaded into the trucks from the artillery and quartermaster corps. Eisenhower’s planning abilities showed as he fought a fluid and developing battle, while his opposite number tried to stick with the original plan for the Red Army. Adding to the chaos was a live airdrop of Company A, 502nd Parachute Battalion, which went on a daylong rampage, even raiding the Red Army’s headquarters before they were all “killed.” Red tanks fell victim to Blue anti-tank units at every turn, as they failed to support their armor with infantry. The “battle” ended on September 18, with a Blue Army victory. Both sides learned valuable lessons: battle was fluid and plans had to change as the situation did; air superiority was more valuable than anyone could have ever expected; armor had to have infantry support; and mobile anti-tank units were a must in every division. With these lessons in hand, Phase 2 of the Louisiana Maneuvers began.
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The whole battle opened with one of the most ridiculous and fantastic episodes of combat engineering ever. With the Blue Army attacking, the Red Army’s engineers “blew up” every single bridge on their front. They even sent suicide squads to float down rivers inside the Blue Army’s lines and blow up bridges behind Blue forces. They placed over 900 obstacles in the Blue Army’s path, slowing their advance. When Blue engineers went out to repair bridges, special strike groups from the Red Army would hit them, force Blue troops to deploy for battle, and then retreat. Still, Blue Army, which greatly outnumbered the Reds, slowly advanced. Red Army pulled back again, creating a distance of forty-five miles – forty-five miles of blown bridges, cratered roads, and hundreds of more obstacles. The Red Army eventually halted to fight a defense. This was a mistake; when the maneuver had reset, Blue Army had gained Patton and his armor. Eisenhower planned a daring combined arms assault, sending Patton on an end run through Texas. Patton’s relatively small force drove twenty-four hours straight – Patton purchased fuel from local sources when he outran his supply lines – and appeared unexpectedly on the Red flank. For the duration of the battle, Patton’s force ran roughshod over Blue forces. However, the maneuvers ended before history would ever find out if Patton’s small force could have succeeded or if he would have been wiped out. One thing is sure: the partnership of Eisenhower and Patton made for a deadly combination.

Armor crossing a river in Louisiana,  over an engineer pontoon bridge (U.S. Army Photo)

The GHQ Maneuvers of 1941 would continue into the fall, now in the Carolinas. In the interim, the Army began removing or replacing commanders who were either too old or too ineffectual for wartime service. The maneuvers gave concrete evidence for the need for innovative, adaptive, and thinking leaders. Younger officers who showed promise were given more responsibility. The Army was setting the cast of characters who would run the show in World War II.
There were many takeaways. The Maneuvers warmed the Army Air Force to the idea of air-to-ground integration. And ground commanders became acutely aware of what could happen if they persisted in moving in thick columns along the roads in the daytime. The Army learned that infantry and armor units needed to work together, but also that “end runs” of fast moving armor could pay off in huge dividends. The horse arm of the cavalry was deemed to be inferior to mechanized troops, something that had been true since 1918, but that the cavalry refused to acknowledge. Division force structure was rearranged to create more combined arms units. Deficiencies in small-unit training and execution were discovered, and remedial programs for retraining developed. The Army implemented infantry and artillery platoon, company/battery, and battalion tests, to ensure proficiency. The focus became a “back to basic” approach, and at not a moment too soon: four days after McNair and Marshall delivered the Army’s assessment of the GHQ Maneuvers to Congress, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered World War II. It is no exaggeration to say that the GHQ Maneuvers of 1941 built the Army’s doctrine and force structure for World War II.

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Cities and towns in the south became battlegrounds in 1941. Surprisingly few residents issued claims for damaged property after the Maneuvers (U.S. Army Photo)

Fast forward to today. The Army is emerging from two low-intensity wars fought against unconventional forces and is refocusing to be able to counter a conventional threat. New technology, from unmanned vehicles to weapons to targeting systems, is rife across the Army. A new “battlefield” has emerged in the cyber realm. Doctrine has just been updated and new training doctrine is on the way. New relationships between Active, National Guard, and Reserve units are in the works, with a return to the “Roundout Brigade” concept. Combat units are now open to women. In short, the Army is undergoing dramatic changes as it shifts to meet conventional aggressors.
It is time for another GHQ Maneuvers.
As Marshall pointed out, it is better to see deficiencies in training than it is to see dead soldiers in combat. Have current corps and division commanders have ever led their forces as part of a conventional force-on-force engagement? Have brigade combat team commanders maneuvered their elements alongside like-sized brigades? Can the Army show that it is prepared to fight on land, air, and in cyberspace against a near-peer force? The answer to all of this is, “no.” Sure, combined arms exercises at NTC and JRTC serve to validate units’ readiness at lower levels, but moving beyond more than one or two brigades brings a complexity the type of which we have not seen in decades. Our leaders and soldiers are proficient at low-intensity warfare, from experience, but we lack the depth that comes from a massive exercise or actual conflict.
The time to do this is now.

Dear Grumpy Advice on Teaching in Today's Classroom Interesting stuff War

Fort de la Cité d’Alet, St Malo – Roman to WW2 German fortifications

A really interesting historical site in Saint Malo (Saint Servan), France dating from the Roman period, although the most obvious relics of its past are the extensive WW2 German fortifications making it one of the most significant elements in Festung St Malo.

Having a couple of hours to spare in St Malo before catching the ferry or the train, the Fort de la Cité d’Alet, St Malo is well worth a visit. For those who have an interest in the international boundary and front line which existed in the area around the Channel Islands between warring England / Britain and France over the seven and a half centuries, it’s a reminder of the defences the French put up to repel frequent English raids.
For those with an interest in twentieth century history, it’s a massive German fortified position to defend St Malo, the Germans’ main gateway from occupied France to the occupied Channel Islands, from Allied attack.
The area of la Cité d’Alet dates back to the Roman period when the promontory was topped by a fortified town, of which little remains except a few small sections of “Roman” walls. By the end of the seventeenth century, it was known as “la Cité d’Alet” and was fortified by a gun battery to protect the entrance to the Rance river.

Cité d’Alet, Roman walls

Vaubin, the well-known French Inspecteur Général of Fortifications from 1678, was, however, not satisfied by the defences of la Cité d’Alet, and he advised that additional mortars to be mounted. Apparently, this advice was not followed.
It was not until the next century when in 1759, during the Seven Years War, after numerous English incursions into the bay of St Malo, the decision was taken to build a very large artillery fort at the Cité d’Alet, capable of defending not only the bay, but also the town, the port, the Rance estuary as well as the area to the rear. That fort built by Mazin, the Chief Engineer of St Malo is still very much in evidence today, albeit that it now has some significant twentieth century additions.

Cité d’Alet, 18th century fort

Those additions, built by the Germans after June 1940 and the fall of France, dwarf the original fort in scale. St Malo, quickly appropriated by the Kriegsmarine as the primary port for the supply of the occupied British Channel Islands, saw extensive fortification from 1941 onwards as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall to become “Forteresse St Malo” or “Festung St Malo”.

Cite D'Alet with WW2 German additions

Cité d’Alet with WW2 German additions

By that time, the German occupied Channel Islands had become an obsession of Hitler, with him vowing that they were never to be returned to Britain when final German victory came, and destined to become part of the German Thousand Year Reich forever.  As a result of that obsession, a staggering one twelfth of all the cost and materials expended in building the whole of the Atlantic Wall (i.e. from the Artic in Norway all the way down to the French/Spanish border) was ploughed in the Islands! It is therefore hardly surprising that the French port which served those islands was also destined to have more than its fair share of fortifications.
Around St Malo, La Varde, Saint-Ideuc, la Montagne Saint-Joseph, la Garde Guérin were all fortified, as were the islands of Grand-Bé and Cézembre (more of the latter later). But probably the most important element of the fortress was the Cité d’Alet.
From 1942 to 1944, the promontory became a huge building site into which tonnes of reinforced concrete were poured. Incorporated into la Cité was an artillery battery with a range-finding position, a fortress PC, extensive defensive positions, 1350 metres of underground tunnels and shelters for about 200 men.
All in all, there were a total of 32 bunkers built and 8 heavy machine gun turrets (Sechsschartentürms) installed. The latter 50-ton 6 port armoured steel cupolas, mounted with MG 34s, were reserved for those places deemed by the Germans to be at most risk from Allied group attack.
The Cité d’Alet saw severe bombardment in August 1944 at the hands of the American forces who had entered Brittany from Normandy on 31 July. By the 4th August, the Americans headed by the 83rd Infantry Division had reached St Malo and by the 9th August, the city and the Germans in it, were encircled. It took two murderous infantry assaults by the Americans, as well as blanket bombing which left the fabulous old walled city of St Malo in ruins, before the German defenders surrendered on 17th August. The last remaining Germans of the Fortresse St Malo, held out on the island of Cézembre until early September, partially supplied from Jersey, until ground and aerial bombardment, including the first use of Napalm, forced their surrender.

Cité d’Alet, St Malo. The heavy machine gun turrets are peppered with shell hits.

The most striking things that you will see at the Cité d’Alet are the armoured steel turrets along what is a very picturesque walk around the promontory. They are literally peppered by shell fire. But the vast majority of the shell fire is not as a result of the battle which raged around St Malo for nearly two weeks.

Cité d’Alet- German heavy machine gun turret after US attempt (post battle) to destroy them

No it’s a demonstration of the strength of these turrets, as after the battle, the Americans brought up various tanks and other anti-tank weapons into range and fired at them to see how much punishment they would take. It is incredible to see that virtually all the hits show shells bouncing off or merely embedding themselves into the armoured steel without penetrating it. I found only one shell hole which had penetrated the cupola straight through, whilst one other shell appears to have found a way in at the point where the moveable gun port shield slots into the turret.
An interesting thing also seems apparent when you compare the direction from which the US shots have been fired at the first two turrets as you come to along the path at la Cité d’Alet . Whoever was firing at each of these two turrets was doing so from different positions – my guess is one was below the old city walls and the other, several hundred metres away, was on the beach at St Servan, the adjacent area next to St Malo. Were the two different sets of gunners having a competition perhaps? I don’t know but perhaps somebody else does know?

One of the likely firing positions of US forces below old city walls of St Malo


Second of the likely firing positions of US forces on the beach at St Servan


Memorial 39-45 Museum, la Cité d’Alet, St Malo

Finally, in the interior of the old fort of la Cité d’Alet, you can clamber around different battle-scarred bunkers and gun positions, as well as visiting the “Memorial 39-45” housed in the bunkers which have been built into the ancient walls. Unfortunately, on the day of my “spare time” visit, the museum was only open in the afternoon. Open regularly everyday only in July and August, it’s generally afternoons only in the shoulder months of April, May and October (closed Mondays) and the same afternoons and Sunday mornings in June and September. November to March, it is closed.
For further information, contact Jersey Military Tours