American Rifleman | The LAR Grizzly: Magnum Power in an Upsized 1911
There was a lot going on in the world of handguns in the 1970s and 1980s. Many new models became available as the proverbial envelope was pushed in all directions– –bigger, smaller, longer and so on. It stands out in my memories when the semiautomatic pistol concept was explored more aggressively than ever before.
Since it was also a time when the Americans were demanding ever more powerful handguns, we saw some interesting and powerful half-cars. In this quick piece, we’re going to take a look at one of my personal favorites, but we just have to take a quick look at what must happen when you make a semi-automatic pistol more powerful.
Since there were already a number of powerful revolvers from S&W, Ruger, Colt, and others, we already had a standard for handgun cartridges performance. Since the mid-1950s, the .44 Magnum had been the most widely used large pistol cartridge. There’s a lot of power in this aging racket, so much so that if a large semi-car had been chambered for it, it might have received a lot more attention than it did. The great old .44 is a cartridge configured with an edge that has head clearances against the back of the barrel of a large revolver. It is very difficult to route this cartridge through a typical magazine and feed ramp. The answer is a new rimless cartridge.
There were four different semi-automatic magnum power pistols. They were the AutoMag, Wildey, Desert Eagle, and Grizzly. Another model called the Coonan was a good weapon, but it never exceeded the strength of the .357 Magnum. Both the AutoMag and the Wildey use special rimless cartridges. For Automag it was the .44 Automag– –usually wildly made from .308 Winchester brass.
Wildey promoters were able to convince Winchester to build special 9mm Winchester Magnum and .45 Winchester Magnum ammunition. Wildey pistols were never produced in economically viable quantities. Thanks to clever technology, the desert eagle could use normal Magnum ammunition: .357, .41 and .44 Magnum. That may have something to do with the fact that they are the only survivors in the quartet. Even so, the weapons are both reliable and accurate.
This leaves behind the grizzly that tied me up for various reasons. I had several reviews of this interesting weapon and shot it extensively. They turned out to be near-interference-free weapons that did what they were supposed to do with rare malfunctions. Grizzlies were chambered for several long cartridges, but the main round associated with the gun was the .45 Winchester Magnum. This round was roughly the same length as the .44 Magnum (or .45 Long Colt) and essentially an elongated and reinforced .45 ACP. Additional casing capacity meant more propellant and speed. Winchester was pleased with the launch of the weapon, as it had produced quantities of .45 Win. Mag. Ammunition for use in the Wildey, which refueled immediately.
Approximately 15,000 grizzlies were made and the majority were .45s. Several sources have identified the grizzly as “enlarged” in 1911. The plan was heavily influenced by the great old gun, but the grizzly is best described as an extended 1911. With a cartridge as long as a .44 magnum, you must have a 1911 magazine quite a bit longer. LAR’s designers came up with a seven-rounder that filled the bill. Of course, the magazine was longer than a 1911 in longitudinal section. It went into a correspondingly enlarged magazine slot of the longer receiver.
The grizzly had a longer slide and a 5.4-inch barrel. Many versions of the gun had barrels that protruded beyond the front of the slide. Probably the most common was the 6.5-inch version. While each part of the 1911 Grizzly had the same function as its counterpart, almost all are longer and very few are interchangeable. The main point is that the shooter armed with the 1911 gun will have no problem managing the grizzly. Same properly placed thumb safety, crisp 4 pound trigger, drip-free magazine– –everything exactly as he is used to. The grizzly came with a nice visor that can be adjusted for drag and height.
The lengthening process did nothing to improve the ergonomics of the gun. This was a large pistol, and many shooters simply couldn’t control the bulk of the arm. Firing heavy bullets at high speed also causes recoil. The grizzly kicks– –hard. But there is nothing you can do about it. You just have to overcome the blow that comes with every shot. It’s a little less than any other Magnum half-car, by the way.
Over the course of these long stories, I’ve fired the grizzly in .45 win. Mag. More than any other caliber. It was very accurate, especially with specialty ammunition from Pro Load Ammunition. Later in the Grizzly’s production life they were able to perfect a (rimmed) .44 magnum, and I worked with one of them. The grizzly in this caliber was as accurate as all but a small percentage of the revolvers. I’ve also worked with a wild cat named .357 / .45 Win. Mag. It was a .45 Winchester Magnum case shortened to .357 caliber. Bullets. It was an excellent performer, especially in terms of accuracy.
For a couple of years there was great interest in the large .45. I only had fond memories of range sessions that went smoothly. That’s more than I can say about the other Magnum half-cars, although the desert eagle is apparently fine. I speculate that some of the Grizzly’s good performances are due to the gun’s operating system– –just like the 1911.