Marushin Auto Mag

And now, as they say, for something completely different – a review of the only 8mm replica I have owned. And it’s a replica of no ordinary handgun; There are big guns, there are stupidly big guns and then there’s the Auto Mag, for people who think the Desert Eagle is a bit small…

Ah, the 70s. The decade that taste forgot. Big hair, big cars, big movies and really, really big guns. In many ways the Auto Mag pistol typifies the excess of the early 1970s. It was bigger and more powerful than just about any other semi-automatic handgun before or since. It was also almost completely pointless. It certainly produced the power of a .44 Magnum revolver with a little less recoil, but generally, the only time a gun this big makes a useful weapon is when it’s fitted with wheels and towed behind a team of horses.

Somehow, this seemed cool in the 1970s. And no, that isn’t me. My hair was way longer than that back then…

The production history of the real steel Auto Mag was relatively brief and these exist now only as historical oddities and collector’s items. So, it’s perhaps surprising that in 2003 Japanese company Marushin introduced a gas powered, blowback replica of the Auto Mag. But I’m glad they did. Just like the original, production of this replica was brief and you can now find these only on the used market. But it’s worth seeking one out if you can – if you have any interest in handguns and replicas, I defy you to pick one of these up and not have a smile on your face.

Real Steel Background

The idea which became the Auto Mag pistol came from Harry Sanford, a US businessman, in the late 1960s. Sanford wanted to produce a semi-automatic pistol which was capable of shooting the powerful .44” Magnum round, but with less recoil and a larger ammunition capacity than the Smith & Wesson revolvers for which the round was originally designed. Because of the power of the round for which this pistol was designed, a conventional moving slide was rejected in favour of a cylindrical bolt with eight radial locking lugs (similar to the bolt used on the M16/AR15 rifle) and a cocking knob with grip serrations that projects from the back of the main body of the pistol. The final design was complex and required extensive manual input during manufacturing to ensure that the stainless-steel elements operated correctly together.

The Auto Mag was offered in two versions. One was chambered for the mighty .44 AMP round which propelled a 15.5 gram projectile at up to 1,650fps (that’s around 2,000 Joules of muzzle energy folks!). The other was the .347 AMP version which used a necked-down version of the same casing to fire a .357” round at over 1,700fps. The only difference between the two versions was the barrel (which was interchangeable). Barrels were available in 6½” and 8½” and with or without vent ribs. Magazine capacity was 7 rounds and all versions featured adjustable sights.

Early Auto Mag Model 180 in .44 AMP and with a 6½” barrel.

But just who were the customers that the Auto Mag was intended to appeal to? Its sheer size and weight ruled it out as a military or police sidearm and (outside Hollywood) for the same reason it was never going to be a viable concealed carry weapon. You can shoot targets and tin cans just as effectively with much cheaper .22” rounds (a .22LR round is less than one tenth the cost of a .44AMP round) and those don’t generate wrist-snapping recoil and blinding muzzle flash. There are certainly people who hunt using large calibre pistols, but their numbers are relatively low and anyway, the Auto Mag doesn’t provide a massive advantage over a revolver as a hunting weapon. I suppose there will always be people who feel a pressing need to win any “my gun is bigger than your gun” argument, but again, the numbers involved are presumably fairly small. In most ways, the Auto Mag was the answer to a question no-one was asking.

Don’t you love Hollywood? Only there would a police officer choose a 14” long pistol weighing four pounds as a concealed carry weapon. In Sudden Impact (1983), the fourth of five films featuring Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan, the main character briefly swapped his iconic S&W revolver for a .44AMP  Auto Mag.

In mid-1971, production of the Auto Mag pistol started but the business model adopted was, well, let’s be charitable here and call it “quirky.” It has been estimated that each Auto Mag pistol cost around $1,200 to manufacture in 1971 (and remember that the purchase price of something like the reliable and well-regarded Colt Python revolver was just over $200 at that time). To overcome this major problem, the company decided to sell each Auto Mag at a price of just $247.50. This meant that they would lose almost $1,000 on every Auto Mag sold, but the idea was that this would generate such massive demand for this pistol that subsequent volume production would reduce manufacturing costs and investors would queue up to pour money into the company. This was a brave (or possibly misguided) approach and in the event, very few people bought Auto Mags. It was therefore no great surprise when on May 3rd 1972, after producing less than 3,000 pistols, the Auto Mag Corporation of Pasdena declared bankruptcy.

However, that wasn’t quite the end of the Auto Mag story. After AMC went bust, several other companies were granted licenses to manufacture the Auto Mag. Some of the best known include TDE Corporation, OMC Corporation and High Standard Corporation. Altogether, around 9,500 Auto Mag pistols were produced between 1971 and 1982. These were sold at prices of up to $3,250, much more realistic in terms of manufacturing costs but hardly likely to encourage large numbers of sales.

This is one of the later Auto Mag pistols produced by AMT. It doesn’t look anything like the original version but, is it just me or does it look a whole lot like the pistol from the original Robocop movie?

The Auto Mag name was also revived by the Arcadia Machine and Tool Company of Covina, California who produced both copies of the original pistol and a series called the AMT AutoMag II, III, IV and V in the 1980s and 1990s. However these latter pistols were actually of a completely different design and had nothing to do with the original Auto Mag. There are still people who buy and collect Auto Mags in the US, but with ammunition becoming difficult to find (and costing anything up to $8 per round if you can find it!) these aren’t particularly popular shooters.

The Marushin Auto Mag      

This replica is manufactured by Japanese company Marushin and is a replica of the first version of the .44 AMP Auto Mag Model 280 manufactured by the Arcadia Machine and Tool Company of Covina, California. Most parts of this replica are made of high-density plastic, though the hammer, trigger, bolt, magazine and some internal parts are metal. It’s a blowback replica where gas is stored in the full-size drop-out magazine but it’s designed for 8mm BBs rather than the more common 6mm variety. The Marushin Auto Mag was available only with an 8½” barrel and in black finish with black grips or silver polished finish with brown wood effect or black grips. The one that I owned had a very glossy and rather attractive black finish though I have also seen examples with a more matt finish. As far as I am aware, this replica was introduced in 2003 but is no longer available new though used examples do occasionally turn up for sale.

This was often (though not always) sold by Marushin as the “44 Auto Mag CLINT1”. The “CLINT1” refers to the use of the Auto Mag by Clint Eastwood in the movie Sudden Impact. This movie was made in 1983 after production of the Auto Mag had ended. However, two pistols were built specially for use as props in the movie and these were given the serial numbers “CLINT1” and “CLINT2”. Despite this, the Marushin Auto Mag doesn’t feature a serial number.

I believe that Marushin also produced a very similar non-blowback version of this replica. However, I know nothing at all about the non-blowback Auto Mag other than that it is also now out of production.

Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)

The Marushin Auto Mag usually comes in a monster card box with a polystyrene insert though I have seen silver finish versions which were supplied in a light alloy case. This replica comes with a small bag of 8mm BBs, a couple of hex keys for adjusting the hop-up and a manual.

This is the box for the silver finish version which also came with a light alloy case.

Visual accuracy 9/10

As far as I can tell given that I have never actually seen a real steel Auto Mag, this Marushin replica is completely accurate in terms of size, placement and shape of controls and markings. The only visual difference is that on the right side of the upper receiver (in the position where the serial number is stamped on the original) this has the text “MFG.MARUSHIN.”

Markings are moulded deeply into the high-density ABS receiver and look much, much better than the more usual painted or laser etched markings.

Functional accuracy 14/15

Just like visual accuracy, the functional accuracy of this replica is pretty close to 100%. All controls are present and operational as per the original. The bolt must be pulled back and released to cock the pistol for the first shot and the bolt locks back when the last shot is fired. Like the original, this is single action only. The takedown lever on the left side of the frame is operational and takedown allows the upper receiver and barrel to be removed leaving the bolt and bolt carrier mechanism in-situ.

Shooting 32/40

Preparing the Marushin Auto Mag for shooting is no different to any other blowback 6mm airsoft replica. Put up to 10, 8mm BBs in the magazine, fill the magazine with green gas through the valve in the base, insert the magazine then pull back the bolt and release and you’re ready to shoot.

The Marushin Auto Mag is fairly loud, certainly louder than most 6mm replicas I have owned, and the felt recoil from the moving bolt is strong. The 8mm BBs hit the target with notably more authority than 6mm BBs. The very long stretch from the front to the rear sight gives the Auto Mag an exceptional sight radius and the fact that the rear sight is fully adjustable means that you can get the point of aim and the point of impact to coincide precisely.

Oddly, given its size, I didn’t find the Marushin Auto Mag at all clumsy to shoot. The grip is reasonably sized and the balance is good and I found this less of a stretch than, for example, several Beretta 92 replicas I have owned. The reach to the single action only trigger is also reasonable and the trigger is very light and with a precise and consistent break. I found accuracy to be reasonable, with groupings of 1” – 1½” at 6m. I ran six shots from my Marushin Auto Mag over a chronograph on a fairly chilly day in Scotland and I got a low of 240fps and a high of 260fps. Let’s call it an average of 250fps, though I have seen claims of anything up to 400 fps for this replica. I generally got about two full magazines plus a few extra shots for each fill of green gas.

4.5mm steel BB (left), 6mm alloy BB (middle), 8mm plastic BB (right)

This is the only 8mm replica I have owned, and I have to say I enjoyed shooting these larger BBs a lot. They may be only 2mm larger in diameter than the more usual 6mm BBs, but they feel notably bigger, they’re less fiddly to pick up and load and they smack into the target a lot harder than smaller BBs. I have a feeling that they’d also probably be better at longer range than 6mm BBs as well, though I never did get the opportunity to try this out. The Marushin Auto Mag does have adjustable hop-up though I never tried it – mine shot just fine as it was and the adjustable rear sight has a good range of adjustment.

Generally, I enjoy shooting smaller replicas. I have no idea why – I don’t have especially small hands, but for some reason I find the grip on things like Desert Eagle and Beretta 92 to be just too big to get a comfortable hold. However, I didn’t have any problem with this replica. And this is so ridiculously big that it’s just fun to shoot. Look at the picture below of my Auto Mag next to one of my Umarex Walther CP88s. The CP88 isn’t particularly small, but next to the Auto Mag it looks like a pocket pistol! But look at the grips – if anything, the Auto Mag has a smaller grip and a shorter reach to the trigger than the CP88 which is why it’s comfortable to hold and shoot.

Quality and reliability 12/15

I’m afraid that the mainly plastic Marushin Auto Mag does feel rather light when you pick it up. Its sheer size makes you expect something very heavy indeed, but although it weighs over 2 pounds, it doesn’t weigh as much as it looks as if it should. In some ways that’s good – I imagine shooting the four-pound real steel version would get tiring very quickly, but that isn’t a problem here. But I can’t help that wish that more metal had been used in the construction of this replica. The most striking thing about the Auto Mag is its size, and if this replica had the weight to match, it would really stand out in any collection.

I did have a few minor issues while shooting my Marushin Auto Mag. The bolt would occasionally fail to lock back on empty and sometimes a BB would not feed into the magazine, leaving me shooting just green gas. However, in general this was fairly reliable considering that I bought it as a well-used example. The fact that most of the external parts are made of plastic means that you won’t have to worry about the finish chipping off (on the black version at least, I don’t know how the silver version is finished). However, on some of the painted metal parts including the bolt and trigger, there was some paint wear on mine.

Overall impression 11/15

The Auto Mag pistol is bigger than a very big thing and that bigness is first and main thing that strikes you about this Marushin replica. The second thing that strikes you when you pick it up is that it feels rather light and a little toy-like (especially with the metal magazine removed). That’s a pity because Marushin also make an all-metal, shell ejecting PFC version of the Auto Mag and there seems no reason (other than cost) that they couldn’t have used more metal here.

However, if you ignore the lack of weight, this is a sturdy, well-made replica which shoots reasonably well. I also found that, despite its size, it was easy to find a comfortable grip, something I haven’t found with all large replicas.

Conclusion

This is a good replica of a relatively little-known pistol. I particularly enjoyed shooting with 8mm BBs instead of the more usual 6mm versions and I’d like to see more replicas in this calibre. These larger BBs probably make this replica too powerful for skirmishing, but they are ideal for the kind of target shooting that I do.

This is the more common matt black finish

Do you really need a replica this big? Of course not! On the original, the size is justified because the Auto Mag shoots a massively powerful round capable stopping a charging T-rex. However, this replica isn’t any more powerful than most 6mm replicas and is less powerful than some. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. If you do want one, your biggest problem will be finding a used example as these aren’t made any more. The polished silver version with wood effect grips and which came with an alloy case looks particularly good, if you can find one. So, go ahead, make your day – get yourself one of these.

Total score 80.5/100

Pros

Handles and shoots well

Great visual and functional replica of an unusual handgun

Fun

Cons

Mainly plastic and fairly light

Not especially powerful

Hard to find nowadays

Umarex Walther PPQ M2 update

ppqqu1

I promised at the end of the Umarex Walther PPQ M2 review that I’d post an update, and here it is. Has my opinion of this replica changed since the first review? Well, let’s have a look…

Reading back over the original review, it’s interesting to see how my initial reaction has modified after around four months of ownership and after having had a chance to compare the PPQ M2 to other 6mm replicas such as the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c and the KSC H&K P10.

However, before I talk about what the Walther PPQ M2 does, it may be worth mentioning something it doesn’t do. After the initial review was posted, a couple of people have asked why I didn’t mention that the PPQ M2 can be set to fire in full-auto mode. The reason is that it can’t – the Umarex PPQ M2 is semi-auto only. If you look at the rear underside of the slide, the PPQ M2 appears to have the same switch that is used on the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c to swap between semi and full auto modes. However, the switch is non-functional on the PPQ M2. Good thing too if you ask me. Full auto on a short-barrelled pistol is fairly pointless for target shooting and accelerates wear on all components. It may be useful if you want to use it for CQB skirmishing, but otherwise I can’t see much point.

ppqu4

Cybergun S&W M&P 9c (left) with fire mode selector switch (arrowed). The Umarex Walther PPQ M2 (right) appears to have a similar switch, but it is non-functional. You can also see the adjustment screw for the PPQ rear sight.

Quality and Reliability

Build and finish quality on the PPQ M2 seem very good indeed. Other than the issue with the slide failing to lock back (now fixed thanks to the Umarex repair service), I haven’t had any issues with this replica. There are no obvious signs of wear on any internal components and only slight wear to the paint on the top of the inner barrel. Otherwise the finish is holding up well. Looking at the PPQ M2 next to, for example, another VFC replica, the Cybergun S&W M&P 9c, the PPQ seems to be better made. Internal parts like the trigger system and the slide release are more robust on the PPQ and work more precisely. I also note that I failed to mention in the original review that the PPQ has a metal outer barrel and a brass inner barrel, both of which seem to very precisely made with good fit and movement. The slide and magazine releases are also metal, but the trigger is plastic, though robust and heavy-duty plastic.

ppqu6

Good fit of inner barrel/outer barrel/slide probably contributes to accuracy

Since posting the initial review, I have read a couple of other on-line pieces suggesting that the PPQ M2 has reliability issues. In particular, it has been suggested that the metal slide can split at the front edge of the ejection port. The alloy is certainly thin in this area, but so far, mine has not shown any tendency to split. My example is still fairly new (I have fired somewhere under 1000 BBs with the PPQ M2 to date), so I suppose this could be an issue which only affects well-used versions. However, I am aware of a knowledgeable and experienced owner who has fired more than 12,000 BBs with his PPQ M2 with only minor issues (a small internal spring came loose and the slide occasionally fails to lock back on empty). So, overall, I see no reason to change my initial claim that the PPQ M2 seems to be well made and finished and reliable.

Ambidextrousness (is that a word?)

In the original review, I praised the PPQ M2 because it can be configured for left-hand operation. This involves swapping the magazine release from the left to the right side. Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that the photographs here show the pistol with the mag release back on the left. I’m embarrassed to admit that I found it hard to deal with a left-hand mag release. Although I soot mainly with my left hand, I guess that I’m so conditioned to swapping pistols to my right hand to drop out the magazine, that I can’t get used to doing it with my left. Time after time with the PPQ I’d automatically swap the pistol to my right hand to release the mag, only to realise that I needed to swap it back to my left hand. Finally, I gave up and reverted to a left hand mag release. If the PPQ was my only pistol, I’d probably get used to it in time. As it is, most other replicas need to be swapped to my right hand to release the mag, and I just can’t seem to get used to doing it the other way round on the PPQ. So, full marks to Umarex and VFC for providing a fully ambidextrous replica, and zero marks to me for failing to re-learn my pistol handling to take advantage of this.

Shooting

I gave the PPQ M2 reasonable marks for its accuracy at 6 yards in the original review, but I don’t think I emphasised enough that it shoots to the point of aim out of the box. This is so uncommon with replicas that it bears repeating. Fine-tuning with the hop-up (which incorporates a “v-notch” nub, claimed to give more stable spin to the BB) means that I can reliably place 0.2g and 0.25g BBs precisely where I’m aiming. This is very satisfying and is a massive help in any kind of action shooting. The fit of the brass inner barrel within the metal barrel and the fit of the outer barrel in the slide are very good indeed, which probably helps here. On many replicas, the opening in the front of the slide is oval, allowing the outer barrel to droop and the inner barrel can be a loose fit within the outer barrel, both of which can cause a replica to shoot low. Neither apply to the PPQ.

ppqu2

The only slight issue with shooting is that the notch in the rear sight is rather wide. The foreshortening effect of a photograph doesn’t show this clearly, but with the PPQ held at arm’s length, the front post looks rather small within the wide rear notch. It’s not a major issue: the sight picture is still clear in all conditions and this does accurately replica the sights on the original.

Blowback is notably strong and snappy (see the video review below). Shooting the PPQ M2 side-by-side with a KSC System 7 equipped H&K P10 (System 7 is claimed to have enhanced blowback), the PPQ seems to have the stronger blowback and the slide on the PPQ appears to move faster and more freely than on the KSC replica. The trigger on the PPQ is very good indeed when compared to other replicas. The single action only trigger pull is short, light, consistent and with no discernible creep. I’m still not entirely comfortable with the fact that I can’t de-cock this replica, nor apply a manual safety before storing it. Putting it in its box cocked and ready to fire feels wrong somehow, and there isn’t room in the box to store it with the magazine removed. But that’s how the original works, and it would be possible to de-cock by pulling the trigger with the magazine removed.

Accuracy seems to have improved with use. There are now fewer flyers and these are generally closer to the main grouping. At six yards, freestanding, it’s possible to consistently put 90% of shots in or touching the 1½” centre circle on the target. Best accuracy and consistency seem to be achieved when using 0.25g BBs. Gas consumption is good with 50+ shots from a single fill and I have experienced no leaks or loss of gas when filling.

ppqu5

The ergonomics of the Walther PPQ M2 are excellent. The grip has a pronounced hump at the rear, which looks a little odd, but this locks in to the base of the thumb, providing a comfortable, precise and firm grip. The slide and magazine releases are easily operated while gripping the pistol and the slide incorporates both front and rear cocking serrations.

Conclusion

ppqu3

So, four months on, how do I feel about the Umarex Walther PPQ M2? I still think it’s an absolute cracker. A combination of good ergonomics, good build quality and finish and excellent shooting ability at a reasonable price make this a winner. There aren’t many Walther replicas available (Umarex and Walther belong to the same group of companies and so Umarex has an exclusive license to produce Walther replicas) and it also makes a nice change to shoot something other than the ubiquitous 1911/Sig/Beretta 92 clones. Overall, the Umarex Walther PPQ M2 is as good as any 6mm replica I have tried and better than most. You really need to try one of these.

Video update

Related pages

Umarex Walther PPQ M2 original review

Cybergun S&W M&P 9c review

KSC H&K P10 review

Buy

You can buy the Umarex Walther PPQ M2 at Pyramid Air here.