A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pawn Shop Circuit: Bad Guns

It has been said that there are no "bad" guns. I would disagree with that. A bad gun is one that is unreliable. A bad gun is one that goes snap when it should go bang. Bad guns are the ones that don't do their job.

Today, I swung into Kenny's Pawn Shop to see what was on the shelves. He had a Smith & Wesson M&P (the new plasticky kind) a couple of Glocks, and a Springfield XD compact. Among his little guns was an Iver Johnson 25 caliber pistol that resembled a Walther PPK, and a well worn Charter Arms Undercover for $129. What grabbed my interest though was a stainless AMT pocket pistol, the AMT Back-Up. I remember years ago when these were a staple among the police. I looked it over and asked Kenny if it came with an extra magazine. It did not. One mag only.

I'm not too interested in shooting another caliber, and the pistol would not carry any easier than a J frame in my pocket, or my Colt Defender on my hip. Three-eighty is some expensive ammunition to practice with too. I got rid of my .380 pistols years ago. I am not that familiar with AMT, but I have not heard a lot of good things about them. In fact, the usual range cussing would be the opposite. Still, it was a classic back-up gun. Kenny was wanting $239 for the flat little pistol, but I decided I should do a bit of research first.

When I got home, a quick Google search revealed my suspicions. Here is a sampling from The High Road, from people I correspond with and respect:
The early guns had SERIOUS safety flaws, in that the safety was "off" after the lever had moved less than 10% of its entire length of travel.
As far as AMT goes, let me just say that during the last 40 years well over 300 guns of various makes and models have passed through my collection. Only two stand out in my mind as truly BAD guns. One was the original 380 Backup (SA) and the other was the 45 Backup (DAO). Both were such total POS that throwing them into the Atlantic Ocean could be considered environmental pollution.
If it says AMT on the slide, there's a 50/50 chance that the gun will be either trouble-free or not run at all. The AMT Backup seems to be the worst offender of the line.
At $169, that AMT 380 is about $170 over priced! If it was thrown in with a trade or came along w/ some cash, maybe! It would depend on the main gun in the trade, what I was giving up & how much cash!
Sorry Kenny, I won't be back after that one. Maybe the Undercover...... If the price drops.



Anonymous TJP said...

I concur.

The single-action AMT backup is the worst, most punishing gun I've ever shot. It was so small in my hands, that it was impossible to grip it well enough for reliable operation.

The machine work was rough, too.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same here, 2 broken trigger return springs and the pivot on the safety broke. Boat anchor is too good for it.
Tom O'B

4:18 PM  
Blogger The Fishing Musician said...

We say in Texas that it wouldn't even make a good trot line weight.

I shot a nice AMT .22 once that a friend owned. Nice gun. Shot very well.

The AMT Backups have been cussed all over this state by LE friends of mine who bought them "back in the day" for ankle or pocket backup use.

No one kept one for long.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father was foreman of the machine shop that made the AMT Automag, then supervisor of the shops that made the Automag,Backup, and 45 ACP Hardballer. He left working for Harry Sanders when Harry quit making quality and started going for quantity. The stories he told did not make Harry a shining example of buisness ethics.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Back in the '90s, I bought two guns for a couple sisters. One was sharing her husbands carry piece, the AMT .380 II(?) single action. Very small, very heavy. Found a dealer at a show with one, and a new Mustang Pocketlite. Opened the barrel ramps and did a cleanup and polish, and went thru the guts to smooth up moving parts. At the range, I fired the AMT first. 100% reliable with the most aggressive hollowpoints (Golden Sabre?) I could find. Beat the hell out of my hand! I was cringing as I fired the Colt, since it weighed a lot less. Pop. Uh oh, that didn't feel right. Unload, check the barrel. Nothing, hmm. Fire it again. Pop. Recheck it. A-ok. Wow, this thing is a pussycat to shoot! The Colt was a locked breach, with much less felt recoil.

They were loading his AMT with ball, since it wouldn't feed anything else. I glass-beaded hers to a matte finish all over, so they could tell the difference. They're on the opposite coast, so I couldn't rework his. That stainless was soft. The hammer was beating dents inside the gun. They liked it because of the grip safety, for pocket or purse carry. Frankly, I preferred the Colt.

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lady friend purchased one,it never did work.
I told her that if attacked throw the gun and hope that the bad guy goes after it, then RUN!!

8:48 AM  
Blogger Tam said...

The best AMT products are only mediocre. The worst redefine the term "sucks".

9:18 AM  
Blogger Ross said...

Smart move, Xavier. I'll NEVER own an AMT ever again after the {expletive deleted} that I went through with an AMT Hardballer. Worst POS that I ever had the misfortune to own.

Unless I can get my hands on an Automag II, that is.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Crucis said...

For a period of time, one of the indoor ranges/gun shop had an AMT backup on display. It had kaBoomed! The slide was cracked and jammed enough to expose the shattered remains of a cartridge. An accompanying sign said the ammo was standard Winchester Whitebox practice ammo. The kaBoom blew out the magazine, cracked the slide and further damage to the extractor. The kaBoom happened at the range and the range owner bought it for $5. He displays it as a warning. I was surprised a .380 could do so much damage.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Blackwing1 said...

I once bought an AMT 1911-style .45 for about $230, thinking that (because it was stainless) it might make a good keep-in-the-truck-safe gun. Okay, the trigger pull was pretty bad, but I thought I could get that lightened.

One of the worst POS' I've ever owned. Failures to feed, failures to extract, and none of the gunsmiths in the area would even think about touching the trigger (I was also told that AMT's selection of stainless materials in some components left a lot to be desired).

I got about $200 out of it, selling it despite the fact that I warned the buyer of it's shortcomings. I was happy that I wasn't burned any more badly than that.

11:32 AM  
Blogger todd said...

Ok, I'm the exception. I've had that exact gun for nearly twenty years. Mine doesn't have any kind of safety, though. I have carried it one way or another for years and years. Sometimes in my boot or in my pocket. Initially, I had some ftf problems but it seems to be well broken-in now and the only problem I have is (like you said) paying for ammo. Very easily concealed and doesn't snag. Not a target pistol but it works. And it still looks brand new.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Wally said...

The single action AMT BU ranks as hazardous.

The later DAO version is improved to failure prone. It will not injure the shooter, but there is a high likelihood that it will not work if you need it.

I have a DAO, early SN 101x, and occasionally it would make it through a magazine of S&B FMJ. Typically would fail to feed - round driven straight into the feedramp. Never fed a HP, always ejected the empties. Would cycle three rounds in a row perhaps one out of twenty times.

But the DAO is really outstanding as a single shot pistol.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Dan Active said...

I have the same Iver Johnson in .22 I bought it new in '86 as my first gun. Its not bad, but I I could see it would wear out if shot a lot.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Beaumont said...

I had a DAO Backup in .45. Functioned perfectly and was fairly controllable, but it shot out a foot-long tongue of flame with Hydra-Shoks. I found it too heavy for pocket or ankle carry, though, and for belt carry, I might as well use a 1911. Traded it off at a local gunshop. The last I heard, it had become a working girl's sidearm. I pity the customer who messed with her....

wv: gaeciver. Practitioners of the Gaia Deceit.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Glenn B said...

Gun-tets magazine tested the AMT .380 back-up and said it had about 20 jams in only 300 rounds fired for the test.

"For example, our report on the AMT .380 Back Up complained of the pistol’s lack of any visual means to determine whether or not it’s cocked, and we revealed that it jammed 20 times during our 300-round test."

All the best,
Glenn B

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Scott J said...

I looked at the AMT .45 Backup when shopping for a pocket pistol a bit lighter and thinner than my SP101.

The poor fit and finish wound up pusing me to look at pocket .380s.

I settled on the NAA Guardian since the Seecamp was simply out of reach.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

That seems like a really good price on the Charter Arms, or is it that well-worn? I'm thinking of getting one for pocket carry as my 1911 is a little big for it.

8:19 AM  

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