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Massad Ayoob on Guns

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Archive for June 26th, 2011

Massad Ayoob


Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Once considered the world’s richest man – and perhaps its most eccentric – Howard Hughes left a large footprint in American culture.  Now, we see that a Luger pistol he once owned is on the auction block:


Apparently this gun was used as a prop in the classic Hughes film “Hell’s Angels.” Distinctive in appearance, the Luger was one of the most iconic pistols of the 20th Century.  Needing powerful ammo to reliably work its odd toggle mechanism, the Luger was nonetheless a sleek design, even by today’s standards. Introduced in 1902, its rakish and ergonomic grip shape was virtually copied by Bill Ruger in his first firearm, the .22 auto pistol that became the most popular of the century, introduced in 1949.  You see a similar grip to barrel angle (though not really a similar shape) on today’s hugely popular Glock.


The Luger was the pistol for which today’s ubiquitous 9mm Luger cartridge was created and named, circa 1908.  Remarkably accurate due to its barrel being fixed to the frame, the Luger pistol was difficult to shoot to its potential because its trigger had a complicated linkage that made it hard for the shooter to pull smoothly without deviating the muzzle off target.


The auction comes on the heels of Al Capone’s gun fetching $110,000 on the block.  That one is a nickel-plated Colt Police Positive .38 Special, with four inch barrel and checkered walnut stocks.  Judging by the photos, it didn’t see much use. Ironically, the man who sent Capone to prison carried an almost identical gun with a shorter barrel, a snub-nosed .38 Colt Detective Special.


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