Review: The AMT Baby Automag


Lee’s note: This is the first of what I hope will be many posts from Justin Opinion, the nom de guerre of a firearms aficionado from the northeast.

A journey of 1,000 guns begins with a single idea: The story of the AMT Baby Automag

By Justin Opinion

The author’s copy of this rare and beautiful tribute gun. Photo courtesy Justin Opinion

The author’s copy of this rare and beautiful tribute gun.  Photo courtesy Justin Opinion

The year was 1984. A new movie hit the big screen, just in time for summer audiences, and exciting enough to interrupt the Orwellian conversations and focus everyone’s attention on a new star.

The movie was “Sudden Impact”.  The newest offering in the highly popular Dirty Harry

“Sudden Impact” movie poster

“Sudden Impact” movie poster

franchise – starring of course, Clint Eastwood.  This is the film that gave us the phrase, “Go ahead. Make my day.”   But the dazzling new co-star was getting as much, if not more, attention and buzz as Clint.  That’s right – I’m talking about the stunning  .44 Automag – complete with 8 ½ inch vent-ribbed barrel.   Who doesn’t remember, when Harry Callahan, dispossessed of his beloved Smith & Wesson Model 29,  reached into his jacket and heaved out the beautiful .44 Automag? It was like watching a magician pull the never-ending handkerchief from his coat. That barrel just kept going and going.  If you saw that, and didn’t want one – you were obviously more interested in playing with dolls.

There was one big problem.  The .44 Automag was already out of production before the movie was filmed.  And the popularity of “Sudden Impact” didn’t exactly drive down the price of the ones that were out there.  In my early 20’s at the time, I might as well have contemplated buying a new yacht.

At this same time, a young man named Brian Maynard started his new job at AMT.  Brian was a machinist and was going to work on a new AMT product line, the .22 LR pistol called the “Lightning” – a variant of the popular Ruger Mark II.  Brian was also captivated by the .44 Automag, and was disappointed that even to an employee of AMT, the gun was not available.

Then Brian had an idea.  The sort of idea that one gets when he’s been told “no” and doesn’t want to take “no” for an answer. Brian recalls in his story, “This was discouraging to say the least. However, after I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to get my hands on an original .44 Auto Mag pistol without it costing me an arm and a leg, my wheels started turning and my imagination started kicking in.”

Why not make a replica of the original Automag in .22 LR, using the Lightning platform as a jumping off point?  Crazy talk?  Brian Maynard didn’t think so.  And neither did his employer, AMT.  Brian was given the green light to work up a prototype of the pistol that so far, existed only in his mind.

Fast forward a year. It’s 1985. It’s very likely that many reading this weren’t even born yet, or were too young to remember 1985.

The big movies at the box office were “Back To The Future”, and “Rambo: First Blood Part II”

Duran Duran was the pop group playing on all the girls’ radios, but the guys were more into Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” – from the first album recorded entirely digitally for the new media – the Compact Disc.

Microsoft released Windows – version 1.0, and the very first .com domain name was registered.

MacGyver and Knight Rider were trying hard to keep everyone interested enough to tune into them on TV instead of Baywatch.

Big hair and pushed-up jacket sleeves were everywhere.  It was 1985.

Unknown to me or the rest of the world, Brian Maynard has been hard at work on his project gun, which he has named “Baby Automag” (BAM), and it is ready to be seen.

Brian invites Roger Renner, staff writer and feature editor for Guns & Ammo to come take a look at it. He does, and he loves it.  Soon thereafter, it is announced that the Baby Auto Mag will grace the cover of the June 1985 issue of Guns & Ammo, along with a two-page spread inside.

I had a subscription to Guns & Ammo back in those days, of course.  The image of the BAM on the cover and the story inside reminded me again of the gun-lust for the Dirty Harry pistol that was constructed of that rare alloy, unobtainium.

June 1985 Guns & Ammo

June 1985 Guns & Ammo

But alas, this was just another tease.  It appeared that the gun in the magazine was a one of a kind, not a production gun.

But not for long!

A large firearms distributor also saw the appeal, and contacted AMT with a request that they produce a limited run of only 1,000 BAMs – for which they would be the sole distributor.  AMT agreed.  Word got out.  And the line started forming quickly.

Now, 1,000 copies of Brian Maynard’s dream project were going to become reality.  This would never have happened if Brian hadn’t pushed his vision to AMT; if AMT hadn’t allowed the project; and if Roger Renner hadn’t swum against the current to publish the story of it.  It is not a common practice, placing a ‘concept gun’ on the coveted cover of a major magazine.  As Roger put it to me, “The rule is that you publish what will translate into advertising. The BAM was a dead issue in that department. But I had a personal interest in making it happen. So, we made it happen and advertising be damned.”

So, the very existence of the BAM is owed to a couple of guys with a “just do it” attitude.

One of two pages featuring BAM, with gun creator Brian Maynard shown firing the gun.

One of two pages featuring BAM, with gun creator Brian Maynard shown firing the gun.

I sent the distributor a copy of my FFL, along with a $50 deposit – and said “this one is for me!”  And in September of 1985, I paid the balance of the $398.00 price and received copy number 121 of 1000 Baby Automag.

I can remember practically tackling the UPS driver and rushing inside with the box.  There are few things as effective at firing the endorphins as opening the box that contains a precious new toy or treasure.  The Baby Automag was supplied in a custom-made wood box with a brass latch and hinges and lined with smooth grey foam.  In that soft bed of foam lay the pistol, shiny and stunning.

I was almost afraid to pick it up, for fear of getting fingerprints on it.  That fear quickly passed.

Considering the length and thickness of the barrel of the BAM, it has a surprisingly balanced feel – something that Mark II heavy-barrel shooters will understand.  The stainless steel barrel and upper receiver of the pistol were highly polished, while the frame had more a satin finish.  The grips were a medium colored wood that contrasted nicely with metal.  Here it was – my new baby.  Now the big question: To shoot it, or not to shoot it!

I shot it. Not much, but I put a couple of magazines worth of CCI Mini-Mag through it, just to feel it shoot, see how accurate it was, and to feel like I bought a real gun, not just a display-case trophy. I’ve recently shot it again, while working on this story and my planned companion video version of it.  But all told, I doubt I have put more than 100 rounds through it in almost 3 decades.  Let me say, it shoots nice.  Real nice.  The Baby Auto Mag came equipped with Millet adjustable rear sights, but I have never tried to get a zero with them.  I just don’t intend to shoot it that much.

My search for history and background on the BAM led me to Maynard Arms, Inc. which is owned by, you guessed it, Brian Maynard.  I contacted Brian, who was pleased to hear of my interest in the history and offered to help in any way.  Brian had already written and published his story of Baby Automag, and the quotation and much of the history I have paraphrased above is a direct recollection of having read that.  The complete story, in Brian’s own words can be found here.

I feel lucky and very proud to own this gun, and to have owned it all its life.  I couldn’t help but wonder how Brian felt about it, and what lasting affect it has had.  So, I asked him.

Justin Opinion:  “It’s coming up on 30 years since Baby Automag was produced as a special limited run.  I’m assuming that you’re proud, as you should be, but beyond that – how did this achievement affect you in terms of career and passion, if at all?”

Brian Maynard:  “It’s funny that you use the terms career and passion in the same sentence,

How she looked on arrival, and is still stored today. Photo courtesy Justin Opinion

How she looked on arrival, and is still stored today. Photo courtesy Justin Opinion

because the BAM sling-shotted my career to a whole new playing field and with a newfound passion for firearms. It is in essence my 15 minutes of fame, and looks so good on the resume’.  I’ve never had a problem landing a job because funny as it may sound; most in the manufacturing industry are gun nuts. As I look back, I still can’t believe the BAM has become what it has. It really is a dream come true and will always be the project that changed my life and my career.” 

I hope to pass mine on someday in the same condition it’s in now.  But I can’t promise that I won’t sneak it out to the range every decade or so, and put a few rounds through it.

I am grateful to both Brian and Roger for their kind cooperation and interaction with me.  Brian’s company, Maynard Arms specializes in limited edition barrels and parts for the original .44 Automag, as well as customization and repair.  For anyone lucky enough to own an Automag, I recommend bookmarking his website.

I have seen Baby Automag prices at auction and Internet sale go over $2,000. Mine is not for sale.

Justin Opinion is a life-long firearms enthusiast and NRA Life Member.  Justin loves to use and review new guns and gear, and uses his YouTube channel as a primary outlet.  Justin Opinion is not a professional in the firearms or related industry, just a regular enthusiast like you.  But he would someday like to give back to the community as an instructor.  Justin also loves the shooting sports and belongs to IDPA and GSSF.

You can also follow him on YouTube,  Twitter,  Facebook, or reach him via email.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


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  3. Justin Opinion on

    It was brought to my attention that I mistakenly indicated that “Sudden Impact” was a 1984 release, when it seems it was actually a December 1983 release. The error was unintentional. The film certainly retained its box office popularity through much of 1984, which was how I remembered it.
    -Justin Opinion

  4. Lee and Justin:

    Thanks for sharing that, talk about a flashback… That was the year I joined the Marine Corps, and the last movie I saw before heading off to bootcamp with my buddy Jr. Vasquez was Back to the Future.

    I even remember the article you have the photo of, boy, do I (now) remember wanting that BAM.

    Good stuff brothers, thanks a bunch.

    – Silent Bob

  5. Pingback: VIDEO: The AMT Baby Automag - The Gun Writer

  6. Have a BAM and love it. Have not been shy about putting lots of rounds thru it and letting friends do the same. His big brother is the only .44 I’ve ever had on my wish list. Here is another one that’s not for sale.

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