JoLoAr at the Range

I had the chance to take a .380 caliber JoLoAr pistol out to the range recently, and took the video camera along:

The JoLoAr pistol was a combination of a poor-selling and unremarkable Spanish blowback semiauto pistol called the Sharpshooter and an idea by a man named Jose Lopez Arnaiz (whose name is the source of the pistol’s name). Arnaiz conceived the idea of mounting a lever (palanca in Spanish) onto a pistol slide, to allow the pistol to be charged one-handed. There is a rumor (unsubstantiated) that he was inspired by the one-armed commander of the Spanish Foreign Legion, Colonel José Millán-Astray. But whatever the inspiration, Arnaiz patented his idea, and went looking for a manufacturer.

The company he found was Hijos de Calixto Arrizabalaga, who were making the rather mundane Sharpshooter. This was a blowback pistol, which was designed without an extractor. Instead, it was equipped with a tip-up barrel for clearing malfunctions and unloading the chamber. This feature carried over to the JoLoAr, although an extractor had also been added to the design by that time. Wanting to maintain control over his idea, Arnaiz opened his own small shop where his employees would add his patented palanca to otherwise-complete JoLoAr pistols made by Arrizabalaga.

Arrizabalaga’s experiment with the Arnaiz idea worked out fairly well, really. About 30,000 JoLoAr pistols were made between the mid 1920s and early 1930s, which is probably a lot more than would have been sold as plain Sharpshooters. They were made in five calibers – .25ACP, .32ACP, .380ACP, 9mm Largo, and .45ACP. The main large buyer was the Peruvian mounted police, which bought them in 9mm Largo for issue and in .380 for officers. These make up the vast majority of JoLoArs available in the US today, as they were imported here when the Peruvian police replaced them. Confusingly, they are both marked 9mm, but can be distinguished by barrel length, magazine size, and the rear sight location (in .380 it’s a groove in the slide; in Largo it’s a sight milled into the rear end of the barrel).

The mounted police presumably purchased them for the utility of being able to use one-handed, while controlling a horse with the second hand. This is a bit awkward until you really have practiced it, but definitely works. Since the guns have no half-cock notch, manual safety, or hammer block, the only safe way to carry one is with a loaded magazine and empty chamber. This fits well with the palanca, as the gun can be (again, with practice) charged while being drawn.

Beyond this, the guns are fairly typical in operation. Both the .380 and 9mm Largo versions are relatively large and heavy for their caliber, which makes them comfortable and easy to shoot. The grip is pretty decent, and the fixed barrel design allows them to be surprisingly accurate – as long as you can work with the small sights (particularly on the .380). While I don’t think I would choose to carry one myself, they would actually make a very practical option for a person with only one hand or arm. And, of course, they make a great addition to any collection of unusual handguns.


  1. “I used to only want; but now I NEED!” That is awesome! Very fascinating and informative, muchísimas gracias!–Again!

    Personally, I love the tipping barrel. I really wish that the Beretta Model 86 .380 was still available. Of course, with the price for used examples, I might as well keep an eye out for the Jo-Ló-Ar! Those Basque names in Eibar are difficult: Hermanos Arrizabalaga as a prime example!

  2. As a cavalry gun, that’s a great idea.

    That tip up lark is interesting, thinking blow forward action, barrel forward, tips up ejects, back down again, barrel back over a cartridge wee SMG like.

  3. The Norinco 77B 9mm is the same basic idea in 9×19 and has been made and exported (it’s not PLA issue, I believe) for at least 20 years, except it uses the front of the trigger guard instead of a lever to rack the slide. Have no idea how well the idea works – I’ve read a couple of comments that you have to have some serious trigger-finger muscles to work it – but I can see an application where bureaucratic regulations mandate empty-chamber carry. (I’ve always carried .22 autos chamber-empty, figuring that getting into a quick-draw-McGraw situation while fishing or doing chores were pretty slim compared to my chances of managing stupidly shooting myself in the foot.)

    Be interesting to see what the production figures and destination were on the .45. A surprising number of European 9s were made in some quantity in .45 for the South American market during the 1930s, including a small run of MP-34s with vertical foregrips. See your 1928 Thompson and raise you an Austrian .45 buzz gun….

    • The Norinco 77B seems to have inherited its cocking system from the Lignose Einhand pistol;

      Which was basically a Bergmann pocket automatic with the addition of a cast-bronze “hook” sliding triggerguard setup. The idea being that it could be used just like the JoLoAr’s “bar”, to carry the weapon in Condition Three (loaded magazine, empty chamber), and quietly cycle it when needed, even in the pocket.

      Bergmann/Lignose pistols were made in .25 ACP and .32 ACP. Some may have been made in .380 ACP as well, although this is debatable.

      As for the Sharpshooter/JoLoAr, while most pistols of the Eibar ttpe were based on the Browning 1903 “Baby” and later 1910 types, the Arrizabalaga gun seems to have followed the design concept of the World War One era Berettas, notably the 1915 and the 1923, the latter being the first Beretta with an exposed hammer. The barrel-popup feature was used on the Manufrance DA-only blowbacks about the same time.

      Strictly speaking, the Sharpshooter didn’t need the cocking bar anymore than a Manufrance would, even being a single-action. Just pop the barrel up, insert a round, close it, cock the hammer with your thumb, and you’re ready to go. As stated, however, it made quite a bit of sense for a man on horseback; in fact, one contestant in the U.S. Army 1907 pistol trials, the White-Merrill .45, had a similarly-reasoned but more complicated gadget to accomplish the same purpose for precisely that reason;

      Ole H. Krag came up with one a few years later, as well. (Click the right button on the White-Merrill page to see it.) His looks remarkably like the Lignose and modern Norinco.

      The one drawback to the self-loading pistol has always been what to do with a dud in the IA. In a revolver, DA or even SA, you just recock (by trigger or thumb), and you’ve automatically bypassed the problem. With the self-loader, it’s time for the Tap-Rack-BANG dance.

      Myself, having used both most of my life, I’ve always found a good DA revolver in a serious caliber (.357 Magnum, for instance) carried as a backup to be the most all-around sensible answer to the problem.



        • Ian – the Norinco 77 is a basic boring .32 ACP pocket pistol, except not quite. A 77B is a pretty interesting locked-breech 9 x 19 you can cock by yanking on the trigger guard if you have a trigger finger like a Hebrew National quarter-pounder with bones in the hot dog. The interesting thing about the original 77 (which is completely different from a 77B, for reasons that make sense if you are a Chinese communist) is that it is chambered for an odd 7.63 mm cartridge that is almost, but not quite the same thing, as a .32 ACP and was originally developed for the Type 64 silenced special-operations pistol. The only reason I know about the Type 64 is that it (or a variant thereof) showed up in the sequel to “Darkness Under Heaven” (a great and highly recommended read about China, especially if you are going to read the sequel) by “F. J. Chase” which are a couple of totally fun reads by a Marine officer named Bill Christie. The guy knows his obscure guns and writes a fun novel that will make you think about global issues. Oil is money, money is power, life is cheap.

    • Jim, the 77B functions by way of a little-known cocking action first demonstrated in the Lignose “Einhand.” Try searching that, and you may find the operating principle.

  4. Simple blowback from.32″ACP to .45″. There should be something not discovered on
    autoloading principles, or in other case shell blown out should not be considered
    as a trouble, or should it be said; unsufficiently supported firing is only a
    problem for precisely thought firearms and others are not aware of this happening.

  5. Hmm. 9mm Largo and 45ACP and still blowback! Kind like Astra 400, just little (visually) smaller. That leads to inevitable thought: why we bother with locking if not necessary?

    If I remember right, something like 350gr (can be easily verified from momentum formula) of weight on slide being about minimum for 9mm Para plus heftier spring should suffice. Sure, you end up with heavier package. In more conventional case you have lighter gun and – heavier recoil.

    In some of previous techno discussions someone brought up argument that things can be done as well with simple blowback (I feel it was “strongarm”). Well, here is the case in favour.

      • Theoretically, with enough mass in the recoiling bolt/slide/etc., you can build a reasonably safe and effective blowback in almost any caliber. For instance, most SMGs, and even some automatic cannon, the Oerlikon/Buhrle aka Hispano 20mm used by all sides during WW2, and German MK 108 30mm used on the Me 262a being examples.

        That said, what goes in a weapon fired from a mount or with a shoulder stock and both hands, may not work as well with one intended at least mostly to be fired with only one. The problems being recoil and possible overstressing of the machinery. The Kimball retarded-blowback autopistol in .30 Carbine being a good example;

        Contrary to what the article says, BTW, most Kimballs did not have an “annular ring” in the center of the chamber. Rather, they had a series of annular grooves running nearly the full length of the chamber walls, with the “peak” of the groove facing forward like the slide-retraction grooves on most autopistols. The idea being that the case walls would expand into these grooves, which would grip the case firmly until breech pressure had dropped to a level safe enough for extraction to commence. Basically the H&K “fluted chamber” idea turned 90 degrees for the exact opposite purpose.

        It didn’t work. Kimballs were noted for breaking the slide stop lugs at the rear of the frame, which was the only thing preventing the slide from coming off the frame in the shooter’s face. There’s a reason only about 300 were ever made, possibly including a least a couple of toolroom jobs in .221 Remington, the cartridge designed for the XP-100 bolt-action single-shot pistol on the Remington 600 action.

        I think an attempt to fire a Kimball in .221 Fireball would be something to see. Assuming you fired it from a machine rest, by remote control, and watched from behind armored glass at a position off to one side. And about 50 yards away, just to be safe.

        I suspect it would look a lot like the Ross rifle in the new video opener. (BTW, very nice job on that.)



        • Kimbal .30cal is something I did not know – kind of desperate in a way. Certainly worth of try.
          I have appreciation for solutions which are simple. There is a breakpoint however at which disadvantages overcome advantages a there you are wise to stop.

          Ultimately, what is my teaser for many years is full utilisation of moving mass dynamics; such as in advanced priming. Dead sitting mass is not my “true walnut” as some euros say. Would it be applicable for pistols?

          • I’m not aware of any advanced-primer ignition (slamfire) blowback pistols, but there was at least one such blow-forward pistol prototype, the Hino-Komuro .32 ACP of 1904. You can find the U.S. patent here;


            Basically, the barrel was all the way forward at “full cock”; when the sear released, it was slammed backward by its spring, scooped a cartridge from the top of the magazine, and rammed it against the fixed firing pin in the (immobile)standing breech. It then fired and ejected much like any “normal” selfloader, except that the barrel was technically the only major moving assembly. As the patent shows, it tripped the ejector when it reached its forward-most point.

            In the 1950s, Rafael Mendoza, the Mexican arms designer responsible for the Mexican C-1934, Model 45, and RM2 LMGs (well-thought out and reliable guns), made his first entry into SMG design with a weapon that looked very much like an enlarged Hino-Komuro pistol. I’m inclined to believe it worked on the same principle, but of course the only “odd” thing about it as a non-locked breech, fixed-firing pin SMG was that it was a blow-forward rather than a blow-back.

            That one apparently didn’t get past the prototype stage, and his later SMGs were more orthodox third generation types with overhung bolts like the Cz family and the Uzi. The HM-3 is still used by the Mexican Army and police today;




          • True approach may come from return spring shape and location. Everybody
            knows that, at instant of firing, the effect of that so called recoil
            spring is limited only with its mass since its coils join like an accordion
            at forward through inertia as leaving little or no compression from the back.
            Its real exerting effect comes after the highest pressure within the chamber

            The thing to be thought over should be; what it could be made about this
            spring’s unaffected stage to turn on as effected.

          • @Denny: .30 Carbine is probably worst-shaped* case to accommodate in automatic-pistol with magazine inside grip. If you want .30 Carbine handgun I think revolver is better choice – for example Taurus Raging Thirty or .30 Blackhawk. If I would have .30 Carbine ballistic in automatic-pistol I would search for more suitable cartridge (i.e. shorter) or crafted it when not available – say .357 SIG necked down to accept bullet from .30 Carbine.
            *when considering cartridges with similar ballistic.

          • Thank you ‘eon’ for your exhaustive answers and for contributing to my knowledge. This is a fantastic team we have here!

          • Yes Daweo, I agree with you; who needs 400m range with pistol anyway. What you say somehow rings back to 7.62 Tokarev, although even that one is kind of ‘long-legged’ for practical purposes. 357SIG is of course very well thought out already.

        • There was a version of the Makarov PM, called the Makarov PMM which also used the grooved chamber as a form of delayed blow-back together with a more powerful version of 9x18mm ammunition. It was intended to provide the ability to fire ammunition that would pierce many types of body armour (although not the heaviest ones). It could also fire the existing stocks of standard PM ammunition.

          It apparently worked fine, but didn’t go into standard service because it occurred to someone at the last minute that if the new pistols could fire the old ammunition, then the old pistols could also fire the new more powerful ammunition, and that wouldn’t be safe because they weren’t built to handle it.

          The new ammunition was recalled and the Russians went to different designs of 9x19mm and 9x21mm instead. The new armour piercing ammunition they developed for them may not be safe in all 9x19mm (and 9x21mm) pistols. While that may be a problem for someone else, it isn’t a problem for the Russians as they didn’t use those calibres themselves.

          • Interesting information. It was bit of surprise first when they introduced new service sidearms for 9×19. do you think that the issue with Makarov was the reason? In their videos I have heard of necessity to pierce body armour as being first predicament.

  6. Looking at the video, the charging lever is thrashing around when you’re firing, can it hit your knuckles? Or, is it mounted far enough forward to clear them?

      • May be it depends on which hand to be used. Left handers should be luckier than

        If thought through inertia, backward thrust will force the palanca forward away
        of the knuckles and then, forward will exert it rearward rolling especially on
        slide strike to the barrel stance. This opposite side rolling motion also will
        loosen and tighten the palanca retaining screw on equal amounts precluding the
        necessity of caring about it every now and then with a screwdriver on hand. The
        balance of using physical realities is amazing.

  7. Spanish pistols go cheap in my area, and this just landed on my wish list, Santa!
    The Ross rifle fail in the new opening made me jump! Jeeezzzz!

  8. As usual, a good video with a comprehensive yet easily-understood explanation and demonstration of the mechanical aspects of the gun — and never a dull moment to boot. Thank you.

    Many thanks, too, to my fellow readers and contributors ; I learned a lot from their commentary and observations.

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