- February 16, 2016 at 2:29 pm #24188
True story: the making of the Terminator’s laser-sighted .45 pistol
There are multiple iconic weapons in science fiction history, but few are as …
by Ben Kuchera – Mar 9, 2010 10:30pm MST One of the most striking images from The Terminator was the weapon he carried and used in his first attempt on Sarah Connor’s life: the .45 Longslide, with laser sighting. Who can forget the scene in the gun shop? The gun was likewise such a striking presence on screen it was used on the film’s poster. There are T-shirts dedicated to the gun.
Terminator was released in 1984, and while laser sights on weapons are common now, when the film was first shown the red laser was able to communicate something subtle and powerful to the audience: this is a machine, deadly accurate and futuristic. It made the Terminator seem other-worldly and terrifying. At a party during CES, Deputy Editor Jon Stokes and I bumped into some representatives from SureFire, a company that specializes in tactical flashlights. We talked about some of our favorite moments with technology in cinema, and The Terminator came up.
“We created that laser!” I was told. They told me the gentleman who built the prop was named Ed Reynolds, and he was still with the company. More than a little jazzed about bumping into a fun part of film history, we knew we had to get the full story behind the Terminator’s gun.
What you can get for a T-Shirt
“I’m vice president of the Operations Group. We keep the place running,” Reynolds said when we spoke on the phone. How did he get involved with the Terminator?
“I got a call from one of the prop houses, and they told me what they wanted to do. They came down and met with me, and told me they wanted something to go on the weapon.” What weapon? “AMT Longslide, Hardballer.”
This wasn’t the first time Reynolds had put a laser on a gun. As early as 1978 he designed a laser sight for the Colt Trooper .357 Magnum. “It was a viable product out in the marketplace, primarily law enforcement. They were also very expensive, and we highly modified the weapon. We had to machine the frame and mounts; the sights were taken off the weapon to mount the laser on top. We designed a power supply that was smaller than a small candy bar and had to fit inside the grip, fed by a rechargeable 12 volt battery.”
This was the early days of lasers for commercial use. “At that time we were dealing with helium neon laser. All the newer lasers are solid state, about the size of an aspirin or smaller.” HeNe lasers are much larger than that, he explained, and required about 10,000 volts to get started. Once ignited, they take 1,000 volts to keep them running. That makes the power supply a tricky thing to design.
Reynolds had made a small power supply for the Colt, and also designed power supplies for lasers placed on a shotgun and the Ruger Mini-14. A laser-sighted M-16 was also created. Each of these weapons required a new design, but the prop house asking about the weapon wasn’t willing to… well,pay for anything.
The weapon with the cable shown, leading to the power supply.
“We spent quite a bit of money creating a power supply to fit in the Colt Trooper. These people came to us, and they wanted this for free,” Reynolds explained. “I ended up getting a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and a poster. That’s all the company got, outside of a small credit at the end of the movie.”
There were two props made for the movie: one shell that looked good but was non-functional, and a working model with a laser that actually fired. Since there was no money for a custom power supply, there was a line running from the laser to a cable that connected to an external power supply. To fire the laser, Arnold Schwarzenegger had to reach into his coat pocket with his other hand and flip a switch.
The complete assembly.
After the creation of the gun
The finished gun became a large part of the film, figuring in multiple key scenes and becoming a large element in the poster. “I’ve seen postcards in Europe with the same picture on it,” Reynolds told Ars. “The company doesn’t get a lot of things off it. I got to benefit because I could say, ‘Hey, I did that!’ I don’t know how many people sit in the movie before the date shows and the screen goes blank, and that’s how long you’d have to be there until you know where the laser comes from.” He says it was worth it to look back as an accomplishment, and recently Schwarzenegger sent a signed poster.
“I only watched it one time in the theater, and I wasn’t there trying to gauge response. I was just in awe thinking, this is a weapon I made, up on screen. It was a pretty exciting movie, there were plenty of heart-pounding scenes,” Reynolds said.
Free t-shirts aren’t much in the way of payment for creating an iconic weapon in science fiction history, but the scene speaks for itself. Ed Reynolds was a fascinating man to speak with, and we’d like to thank him for his time.
- February 16, 2016 at 3:53 pm #24200
Actually Art, I believe the pistol used in that movie was an IAI Hardballer, not the AMT. I own the same pistol (IAI) and it shoots quite well.
IAI was sold and renamed AMT, but subtle changes were made to the grips etc etc.
If you push in on the first picture, you can clearly see the iAi logo on the left side of the frame.
My pistol is serial number M000375
- February 16, 2016 at 4:20 pm #24201
Backward there Tim
Arcadia Machine & Tool, commonly abbreviated to AMT, was a firearms manufacturer from Irwindale, California. The company produced several weapons, primarily clones of existing firearms, but made from stainless steel rather than the traditional steel used for most firearms of the time.
AMT was described by the U.S. BATF as one of the “Ring of Fire companies”, known for their large-scale manufacture of Saturday night specials. The company filed for bankruptcy after their products were plagued with quality and reliability problems, and the assets and trademark were acquired by IAI (Irwindale Arms Incorporated). Later, in 1998, Galena Industries of Sturgis, South Dakota purchased the company and produced firearms in the style of AMT’s until 2001 when Crusader Gun Co. (now High Standard) of Houston, Texas purchased it.
more stuff here
Maynard Arms Company was established in 1987 by Mr. Brian Maynard. He was born and raised in a small New England town, Lebanon, NH. As a child, Maynard enjoyed, among other things, hunting and fishing with his father Gordon and his older brother Bruce. Maynard had a fascination with firearms and enjoyed shooting .22 caliber semi-auto rifles more than anything. He would be the first to admit that he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if it were ten feet in front of him. But he sure did have a lot of fun trying.
Eventually he would carry his dad’s 20 gauge bolt action rifle on hunts with his father and his brother and experienced his dad’s first kill of a deer at age 9. Unfortunately, Maynard’s world came to an abrupt halt at the age of 10 when his witnessed his father suffer a massive heart attack right before his eyes. This was clearly the most devastating thing that could have happened to Maynard and, suffice it to say, changed his life forever.
1976: At the age of 19, Maynard moved to Southern California where he started developing his career in the machinist trade. Serving his apprenticeship under Mr. Andy Marhefka at a die making company in Commerce, Ca, Maynard’s career path was quite unique. Due to the companies immediate need for a precision die finisher, Mr. Marhefka took Maynard under his wing and commenced to teach him everything he knew about the fine art of precision machining, grinding and lapping of carbide tooling for the Aerospace industry.
Unlike most other apprentices of his time, Maynard was allowed the inimitable experience of acquiring some of the most complex knowledge of geometry, trigonometry and geometric tolerances necessary for precision applications that would otherwise take years to acquire. In essence, Maynard was given the rare opportunity to develop his skills in reverse. Starting with the most difficult of procedures, the rest was gravy.
From there Maynard proceeded to develop a variety of skills by being very aggressive in his desire to learn all he could learn in the trade. Moving on from job to job and taking positions that would expand his horizons even further, allowed Maynard the benefit of becoming very marketable in the trade. By the age of 21, Maynard had already held a position as Tool Room Manager, solely responsible for repair and modification to all in-house deep draw dies for a large stainless steel food handling manufacturing firm in Santa Fe Springs, CA.
1984: Maynard got his start in the firearms trade at AMT (Arcadia Machine and Tool, Inc.), a firearms manufacturing company located in Covina, California. He was responding to a local newspaper ad for a Tool Room Machinist position. He had no idea that he was about to venture into the world of gun making and that this new position would be the beginning of what he himself terms as a “nitch beyond comparison.” The ad did not state the name of the company. Nor was there a sign on the building when he arrived for the interview. This, he learned in the interview, was a security decision for obvious reasons.
During the interview process, Brian looked around and noticed numerous pictures of a man wielding a gun and having bagged some pretty impressive trophy’s. Cape Buffalo, Elk, Grizzly Bear, Antelope and even a catfish that was almost as long as the man holding it, was tall. Greg Market, the General Manager for AMT that interviewed Maynard for the job asked if he had any idea what it was the company manufactured. Maynard answered in a questioning tone, guns? Of course the reply was yes. The man in the pictures turned out to be none other than Harry Sanford himself.
AMT was looking for a Tool Room machinist that would help in the design and development of tooling required for their new product line, the .22LR caliber Lightning pistol and rifle. Maynard, of course, took the position and in 3 months time, had proven his capabilities so well that he was promoted to a newly developed position as AMT’s Tool Room Supervisor. This put Maynard directly in the driver’s seat where he would be able to learn the new products inside and out as well as give him the opportunity to show the company what he was made of. With the help of Greg Market, his supervisor and Larry Grossman, AMT’s engineer, Maynard learned all about semi-automatic firearms and how they work. He was fascinated mostly with the disconnector systems and how they function.
Maynard learned that semi-automatic firearms are simply nothing more than a machine or mechanism that operates just like any other machine or mechanism does. Action causing reaction. This was captivating material to Maynard and he enjoyed every bit of information he was receiving. With this newly acquired information accompanied with his experience as a machinist, Maynard was now able to take things a step further.
1985: When Sudden Impact, Clint Eastwood’s then latest movie in the Dirty Harry series came out, it starred Clint and one of the most beautiful .44 Auto Mag pistols ever produced. Maynard, being an Eastwood fan and now an AMT employee, went to see the movie. This inspired Maynard to design and build the “Baby Automag”. Because he couldn’t afford an original Auto Mag, what better idea than to make a .22 version using the parts and tooling he had at his disposal.
After months of painstakingly designing and redesigning, Maynard finally turned out a scaled down version Auto Mag pistol in .22LR. Hence the name “Baby Automag”. He eventually would make ten of these prototypes and the company would produce 1000 production pieces. The original “XP-02” appeared as the cover story in the June ’85 issue of Guns & Ammo magazine as well as the ’96 annual edition of the same magazine.
1987 – Maynard Arms Co is reborn: Maynard was approached by a local businessman who knew of Maynard’s talents and wanted asked him to help replicate the .500 Linebaugh. This is a conversion of the famous Ruger .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk wheel gun to a .50 caliber powerhouse, using the .348 Winchester brass for the case. Maynard took the man up on the offer, tooled up and built 10 of these guns using 17-4 stainless steel for the cylinders.
Most of the money was used to purchase the machinery necessary to produce the conversion. Thus, Maynard Arms was reborn. Maynard gave notice at AMT and soon found himself owner/operator of his own company. His little machine shop was operating from his own one car garage starting with nothing more than a Bridgeport knee mill. Maynard eventually bought a lathe and all other machinery he needed to successfully operate his new business. He was now a full fledged job shop machine shop bidding on anything he could to bring the money in to feed his family. Maynard stayed in touch with AMT and felt he owed it all to Greg Market and Harry Sanford.
1989: Maynard moved his shop from Whittier, Ca, a suburb fifteen miles east of Los Angeles, to a little tourist town in the San Gabriel mountains called Big Bear Lake. He had been there many times and wanted very much for his family to have more of a small town atmosphere in a mountainous setting. This was a good move due to the fact that the air was much cleaner and healthier for his second son who had an asthma condition.
Maynard was still very much in contact with Roger Renner since the Baby Automag story and was actually doing business with Renner from time to time since Renner was now working for Supreme Grip, a rubber and wooden grip manufacturing company located near Pasadena, CA. When Maynard told Renner of his new “wheel gun” project, Renner advised Maynard he should take the project a step further.
He went on to explain to Maynard a concept he had of incorporating a triangular shaped shroud with a port system for the single action he was already in the middle of converting. Renner drew up a sketch and Maynard immediately went to work on the project. This system was very unique in that it allowed the user to adjust the barrel to cylinder gap to a very close measure. It also completely housed the ejector rod which, as wheel gun owner’s know, can and will fall off under recoil. There is a gas port at the end of the shroud/barrel assembly with a conical shaped chamber which allows the gases to be vented in an upward direction and takes the muzzle jump to an almost non-existent level. The front sight bridges the gas port, completing the concept. This project has been on hold for some time now but Maynard plans on introducing it as early as the middle of next year.
1990: AMT was suddenly in need of a Service Manager when their current Service Manager had been accepted into the California Highway Patrol academy and would be leaving shortly. AMT called and offered Maynard the job and due to the fact that business just wasn’t what he needed to support his family, he accepted the job and moved back to the San Gabriel valley.
After three months, Maynard was able to reduce the current six month backlog of guns needing repair, to a mere two day turn around. He received many calls requesting repair of original Auto Mag pistols and because AMT would no longer service the original Auto Mag pistols, Maynard started repairing them on his own time and produced quite a following since, quite literally, he was the only one doing the work.
1991: Maynard received a call from Eric Kincel, a writer for Gun World magazine, who was looking for someone to do some custom modifications to one of his Auto Mags. The two soon became very good friends and worked on many projects together. One of which was the .40 KMP. This was one of Eric’s ideas that consisted of taking a .45 Win Mag cartridge case and necking it down to accept a .400″ bullet. The geometric configuration took some ingenuity on Maynard’s part but when the project was completed, the end product was a complete success and debuted in the Sept 1991 issue of Gun World magazine as a wildcat round.
1995: Maynard left AMT to go to work for Claridge Hi-Tech in Northridge, Ca. as general manager and to design and implement a full-auto disconnect system for their popular 9mm Hi-Tech carbine rifle. However, as much as he enjoyed venturing into the world of full-automatic firearms for high end law enforcement applications, Maynard found the company to be very unstable.
Joe Claridge was originally the investor for the gun which was designed and manufactured by Gontz, Inc. However, Gontz mismanaged the funds and Claridge was forced to take the company over with little to no money left. Maynard soon thereafter resigned from the company and decided to move his family to Oregon.
1995: Maynard was now making reproduction Auto Mag barrels with his own logo and name, as well as custom modification to original barrels such as taking 10 ½” silhouette barrels, shortening them to 8 1/2″ and installing full length vent ribs. He was also performing repair work and tuning up of the guns as well.
1996: Being a career machinist, Maynard was always fascinated with titanium. He had experience with the material, and found it had some very unique qualities that could be incorporated into the fabrication of gun barrels. Most of which is the fact that the material disperses heat very quickly, thus allowing the barrel to stay quite cool. With this, Maynard decided to build four proto-type barrels in .22LR caliber.
Two were for the AMT Lightning/Ruger Mark II pistol application and the remaining two for the AMT Lightning/Ruger 10/22 rifle application. The project was a complete success and the four barrels were soon shipped to Chuck Karwan, a freelance writer for numerous gun magazines.
Maynard placed an ad in Gun List magazine to see what the response would be. However, the response he received was not the response he had anticipated. Much to his surprise, Maynard received a letter via certified mail from Stephen Sanetti, Vice President and General Council for Sturm, Ruger and Co. The letter was ordering Maynard to cease and desist immediately on the barrels. A copy of their lawsuit of AMT which was settled for $2.8 million dollars was attached. Maynard called Mr Sanetti and tried to engender an agreement between their two companies to allow Maynard to continue operations on the barrels with a nominal amount of the profits to be paid to Ruger. Maynard referenced an agreement that was reached between Ruger and AMT to allow AMT to continue production of their Lightning rifles. A second letter was received stating that no agreement would be considered. Maynard discontinued immediately and requested the barrels returned from Karwan.
A little insider info is always fun
- February 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm #24206
That’s strange. IAI stands for Irwindale Arms Inc. I thought they went tits up in the 70s (like, right after Terminator was released) while AMT continued to produce firearms into the 80s?
I’m not sure I believe Wikipedia on this one.
Regardless, the pistol in the OP is not AMT, but rather IAI.
- February 17, 2016 at 1:04 am #24263
I couldn’t tell from the first picture on the post so I looked for another
This clearly shows AMT for me.
- February 17, 2016 at 12:19 pm #24319
No doubt about it Art.
Here’s a picture of my IAI you can see the difference in the logo.
After comparing carefully, I’m inclined to slap the mat on this one. The A is in the middle of the target on the IAI and the AMT, but the AMT is distinctly larger.
I think you got it right on this one. Sorry for the confusion.
- February 21, 2016 at 3:15 am #24596
That’s a great story! Almost as amusing is that if they had decided to use something that didn’t exist in 1984 (a solid state laser diode small enough to fit in the grip panel of the pistol) it would have been laughable.
- February 21, 2016 at 3:26 am #24597
- February 21, 2016 at 3:40 am #24599
Did they have a big flyback power supply to power that thing? Kinda cool though.
- February 21, 2016 at 3:43 am #24600
If I remember right it was Ni-Cad’s – the state of the technology in the 70’s 😉
- February 21, 2016 at 3:50 am #24601
Oh, NiCads…how we used to love thee. Only good news, is low internal resistance.
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