LAR Grizzly: A 1911 on .45 Winchester Magnum Steroids

Developed in the early 1980s by Perry Arnett, the LAR Grizzly was manufactured from 1983 until 1998. It was an expensive gun (base price was $675 in 1985), a huge gun (48oz / 1.36kg), and a powerful gun – its .45 Winchester Magnum cartridge throws a 230 grain bullet at 1450 feet/sec (15g @ 450 m/s). What is such a gun good for? Well, three things. Handgun hunting, metallic silhouette competition, and when someone wants the monster truck of the handgun world.

Mechanically, the Grizzly is basically a scaled-up 1911 Government Model – and in a wise production decision, it shares many small parts with the 1911. The Mark I Grizzly was offered in .357 Magnum, .45 ACP, and .45 Winchester Magnum, with conversion kits being offer for easy swapping between those calibers. Additional option were added later on, including 10mm Auto and 9mm Winchester Magnum.

When the Mark IV was introduced it was chambered for the .44 Magnum cartridge, and the Mark V was in .50 Action Express. For the record, the Mark II was simply a parkerized version of the Mark I, and the Mark III apparently was a prototype that never went into production. In total, about 13,500 Grizzlies were manufactured.

Of all the magnum automatics, the Grizzly is one of the less exotic and the more reliable, thanks to its 1911 heritage. While it had a steep price tag, it was a reliable shooter right out of the box and offered a quite good trigger pull, good adjustable sights, and quite good accuracy. Some magnum automatics are best suited to natural tinkerers; the Grizzly was a better choice for someone who just wanted to shoot.

39 Comments

  1. This is basically another form of stopping power pride. Why would you want a revolver in .455 Webley? Because it is guaranteed to make anyone or anything on the receiving end quite miserable! By that logic, a magnum 1911 should be just as good at stopping everything short of a car bomb. I could be wrong but nobody would want to be the recipient of a .45 Winchester Magnum slug.

    • Not necessarily, notice application: metallic silhouette, according to
      http://blog.westernpowders.com/2016/02/looking-at-obscure-cartridges-the-270-r-e-n/
      one of for pistol silhouette shooting is that: bottle-neck cartridge: NO, straight cartridges: OK.
      Revolver cartridges (and cylinders) might easily “stretched out” without hindering grip ergonomics – automatics pistol (if you want to place them in grips) – examples of long revolver cartridges are .357 Remington Maximum and .460 S&W Magnum, try to imagine automatic pistol with box magazine for that cartridge in grip. Cartridges used in silhouette competition need to have certain energy/momentum carried by bullet to reliable activate targets – but if you want to use automatic pistol, you can’t stretch out cartridge as hard as in revolver and also you can’t do fattening of case due to rule, but you can do 2 things: increase bullet diameter or increase pressure, neither can be done infinitely, as at some point it would be make your automatic pistol too heavy to use.

      • FWIW: NRA Hunter Pistol Silhouette tends to favor milder cartridges than IHMSA. That’s why you see folks using short eye relief optics and holding their pistols by the optic with their support hand. They literally call this technique the “Taco hold.” The .357 Maximum and .460 S&W Magnum aren’t even legal to use in NRA Hunter Pistol; the cases are too long.

    • “.45 Winchester Magnum”
      Query in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAACO_Brigadier
      says that NAACO Brigadier (original fire-arm for .45 Winchester Magnum cartridge) was answer to Canadian requirements for a service handgun in the aftermath of World War II. I am wondering how does these requirements looks? Does they explicitly required that cartridge? Who developed that cartridge? What was intent of Canadian forces (maybe the want as powerful as possible cartridge for sub-machine gun, which would still fit (somehow) into automatic pistol)?

      • Eskimos. Same problem, natives have peculiar methods of greeting the great white father from across the Ocean. Flattery is what it is, doubtless someone will say it was actually to do with bears, Polar or otherwise.

      • I kind of doubt the Brigadier was designed to fulfill any spesific requirement, because I find it very hard to believe any army would actually specify or even entertain such an overpowered and overly long (for semiauto) cartridge for a general issue handgun. Perhaps they were looking for an offensive handgun for special forces, which would have made slightly more sense

      • The .45 NAACO cartridge was not the .45 Winchester Magnum although they were very close in dimensions. The 9mm Winchester Magnum and .45 Winchester Magnum were specifically designed in the 1970s for the Wildey.

        While the Brigadier’s slide, barrel, and slide stop resembled the Browning Hi-Power, it was not a scaled up BHP. In fact, it was actually one of the first examples of chassis frame construction, predating the KelTec, Steyr M9/M40, and SIG-Sauer P250 & P320. The hammer, trigger, and other lockwork parts lifted out as a complete assembly attached to the steel frame rails. However, instead of a polymer grip shell, the Brigadier’s grip frame was made from aluminum.

    • The only problem with that was that with its low muzzle velocity of 600 to 700 F/s, the big 265-grain .455 bullet only delivered about 220 to 290 foot-pounds of energy. That makes it about equal to the 0.380in revolver (.38 S&W) round that replaced it.

      Similarly, the .45 ACP (230 grain at 855 for 405) duplicates the energy of the 9 x 19mm in the standard German military loading (124 gr at 1,250 for 430).

      In terms of real-world physics, as opposed to “stopping power theories”, you don’t gain anything with the big bores unless they go a lot faster.

      As with auto safety, the rule for firearms power is; Speed Kills.

      I think that was the main point of “monster automatics” like the Grizzly, the Desert Eagle, the Wildey, and etc. To use large-bore cartridges with high velocity to bring an autoloader up to the power level of a Magnum revolver.

      The designers of the Desert Eagle got smart in one way, by starting with the Magnum revolver cartridges that already existed and designing their Ljungman AG42-inspired pistol mechanism around them, instead of coming up with a “proprietary” cartridge right from the start.

      Having owned one, I can attest that it’s actually quite reliable, if a bit of a PITA to carry. (I ended up swapping it for a 6″ S&W M-27-3 and $100 boot. Wish I still had that Smith.)

      Fun fact; The guns used by Alec Baldwin in The Shadow (1994) were actually specially-modified Grizzlys;

      http://www.imfdb.org/images/thumb/e/e1/ShadowLARSilverLongSlide.jpg/800px-ShadowLARSilverLongSlide.jpg

      As IMFD says;

      LAR Grizzly Pistol .45 Win Mag

      The pistols used by the Shadow (Alec Baldwin) were highly customized .45 Win Mag LAR Grizzly Pistols. The pistols, named Silver Heat, were custom built by L.A.R. Manufacturing Inc., who built four pistols for the film, backdating their Grizzly to look like an over-sized M1911 by extending the slide and frame.

      http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Shadow,_The

      I sort of wonder exactly how they’d work with live rounds instead of blanks and a bore restrictor. (I’m sure they were modified to straight blowback instead of locked breech.)

      Still, if the Grizzly had looked like that and been available in 9mm Winchester Magnum right at the start, I’d have probably bought it instead of a Desert Eagle.

      cheers

      eon

      • “The designers of the Desert Eagle got smart in one way, by starting with the Magnum revolver cartridges that already existed and designing their Ljungman AG42-inspired pistol mechanism around them, instead of coming up with a “proprietary” cartridge right from the start.”
        Proprietary or not, main problem with “over-sized” automatic pistol is that no way possible to stuff much more cartridges than in revolver for same/similar cartridge – in case of 9×19 pistol magazines have often capacity of 15…18 rounds, in comparison to 6, sometime 8, in revolvers, that is anyway 2 times, if not more, less capacity. In case of .44 or similar size, even +50% capacity seems to be impossible with retaining (more or less) acceptable mass/size.

        • There are double stack magazines for .45 ACP, so .45 Super would be a good candidate for a “high capacity” big bore automatic pistol with more power than .45 ACP. The problem with longer cartridges than .45 ACP is that the grip simply becomes too big with a double stack magazine. .45 Super is not up to .44 Magnum levels in muzzle energy, however. It’s closer to 10mm Auto, but with a heavier (and slower) bullet.

  2. I had a Colt Double Eagle in 10MM here the UK until handgun ownership here was banned. The cartridge was great. The Pistol was not.

    Out of the box I found the hold open on last shot didn’t work nearly every time. I tried all sorts of things, various ammunition, factory and home loaded, from hot to very mild. I tried varying the mainspring strength and putting shock buffs of various thicknesses on the mainspring guide. I polished the mag release in case it was fouling but no good. In the end it was only when I tried a Wilson Mag rather than the Colt mags supplied that the problem ceased, so I ordered 12 from the US. With painful irony they arrived about a week before the handgun ban here was announced.

    • “10MM”
      It seems that when this cartridge was introduced, automatic pistol makers wanted to offer 10 mm as soon as possible, this hurry seems to be so big than 10 mm automatic pistols were released before perfected.

      • About the only one hat ever worked correctly was the Glock 20. I believe it’s also the only 10mm auto still in production.

        I’ll believe a .40 S&W that works right when I see it. The S&W Sigma was a low point in the company’s history. (Had one, got rid of it, have never regretted doing so.)

        cheers

        eon

  3. “Of all the magnum automatics, the Grizzly is one of the less exotic and the more reliable”
    Modern Firearms: http://modernfirearms.net/handguns/hg/usa/lar-grizzly-e.html
    says that
    these pistols required replacement of return springs quite often, about every 1000 rounds or so (in more common calibers return springs can serve ten or twenty times more with not a single problem).
    Is that true? Does it apply to all version (independently from cartridge use)? What material is used for said spring – steel or something other? If 1st it is rather common or rather exotic type?

    • The Desert Eagle came with a similar advisory, and a spare set of recoil springs. This was typical of most of the “monster autos”, other than the gas-operated Wildey, which of course had an adjustable system similar to the FAL rifle. It was apparently kinder to its springs than the non-adjustable direct-gas Eagle.

      cheers

      eon

    • Yes, that makes perfect sense.

      Why would something like these NOT require far more frequent spring changes?

      You have very similar space in which to do things but much more energy to dissipate etc.

      On top of this your slide etc must still be operable by human muscle power.

      These are mutually exclusive and contradictory requirements.

      Essentially, the only way to make everything work is accepting far shorter spring life by pushing materials harder.

    • Grizzly’s 45 Win Mag and 50AE springs are shorter and thicker in diamaeter than regular 1911 springs. So they compress and lose their “springiness” much faster.

  4. Actually reading my own link they actually built custom guns for the movie.Really cool,maybe Ian can get a hold of them one day.

  5. Lots of reference is made of the size of the grip. What is the outside circumstance of the grip and what is the length of the grip? Thanks

  6. After I purchased my Grizzly, I needed a holster. Oddly, one I already owned fit it very well. A Milt Sparks belt slide style holster for the SIG P226 will serve to carry the Grizzly reasonably well.

    It is a very accurate, very reliable, very powerful pistol. I wish it was back in production.

    • Had a friend who carried a .44 AutoMag as a Sheriff’s Deputy, in the 70’s when the gun was first available. One of his patrol areas was the infamous East Palo Alto, in California. He stated that the sound of him racking the slide was enough to persuade recalcitrant lurkers to abandon their hiding positions in alleyways and present themselves for questioning.

  7. Somehow related, to the extent of uniqueness and quality is Delta AR Top gun:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spYbOks31OU

    This is an Italian product patterned after vz.52 pistol. It kind of surprised me when I came to know about it – I guess the starting point for accuracy is there in form of linearly moving barrel.

    As I understand, only about 15 hundred were made, mostly in .45ACP. It is extremely well made with strangely shaped trigger guard.

  8. Good points Daewoo – since I have medium sized hands, the ergonomics of a 1911 with a long cartridge (and especially a hard kicking one) are problematic for me. The gun feels like it wants to jump out of my hand if the grip is too long (front to back) or too fat (side to side). While I liked the magazine capacity of the late ’80s ParaOrdenance 1911 clones, in the long run I preferred the slimmer grip of the original 1911/1911A1.

    So, what to do? Elmer Keith would have said, “Get a revolver and make your shots count, Sonny”.

  9. I had the dubious pleasure of being in a pistol course with another student who had a LAR in .45 WinMag. He was about 10 yards to my left. After we got into the live fire portion of the class, I started getting whapped on the side of the head by these large casings. When we got to a cease fire point, I picked up a couple of the casings that had bounced off by head, and saw “.45 WinMag.” My reaction was “Huh? WTF?” I went down the firing line with the few cases of .45 WinMag brass in my hand, looking for someone who might be shooting a pistol that matched the brass. Most everyone was shooing S&W police-issue pistols, Glocks or Sigs. Then there was the one deputy sheriff from a rural Arizona county with the LAR. He was about 10 yards away from my shooting position. Upon giving him back his brass, he apologized profusely, and then moved down to be next to me, so his brass would go over my head, off the right side of the firing line.

    It was an impressive piece of work. Got to shoot it for a magazine’s worth. If you want a hand cannon without the wheels, this was the way to go.

  10. Great post! These guns are becoming increasingly collectible and demand seems to be on the rise. I own one of these, identical to the one in the review minus the muzzle brake. Such an awesome gun, althought if you gonna shoot it, you better make your own ammo since IF it’s available it will cost a fortune. I think it’s the best magnum auto, period! They say it has THE most severe recoil out of all big bore auto’s…i haven’t fired Desert eagle 50 AE, but 45 Win Mag has only about 10% less energy than 50AE and shot from a gun over half pounds lighter than Deagle 50AE, that might very well be the case… 🙂

      • Hi Daweo! If you do little research, you’ll notice that conversion kits are rare and expensive. They DO pop up for sale from time to time, though at the usual price tag of a approx. 500USD, 10mm AUTO and 357/45 GWM cost considerably more, let alone 9mm Win Mag(these are super rare). The gun is originally designed around the 45 Win Mag, actually by request from ammo company Winchester-Olin, who at some time early eighties had 1 million 45 Win Mag cartridges in their inventory and there were no other guns except few odd Wildey pistols(which had very limited production numbers) chambered for the cartridge. There are semiauto handguns chambered for “lesser” magnum cartridges on the market, ie. Coonan 357 or Desert Eagle 357, 10mm Auto is also widely available in different formats. For non-handloaders, those are if not better, certainly more economical choices if you plan to shoot your gun regurarly.

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