The story of one of the most prolific gun makers in American history begins, ironically enough, in Washington D.C..
Leftist lawmakers, anxious to use the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy to their benefit, proposed legislation to restrict the God given, Constitutionally protected rights of Americans.
Their legislation was called the Gun Control Act of 1968. It was passed by the Democrats who held a majority in the House and Senate and it was signed into law by Democrat President Lyndon Johnson.
Among the things now prohibited by the GCA of '68 was the importation of small handguns.
While the importation was made illegal, the domestic production of the same small handguns remained completely legal.
Little did these leftists know, the closing of one door opened another one.
When the 1968 Gun Control Act put a kibosh on the importation of small pistols , it left a rather large void in the marketplace. People of lesser means found these little imported guns to be just what they needed to protect their places and persons.
These guns were given the nick name "Saturday Night Specials" by the leftist media (see my write up here).
Meanwhile in Los Angeles a gun dealer was complaining to his friend, a Mr. George Jennings, about the lack of sales since the GCA of '68 was passed. Before the law the dealer was selling close to 500 of these small guns per month.
George, who was a machinist by trade, making parts for the aerospace industry in Southern California, had an idea. What if he could replicate one of those formerly imported guns? Using his skills he could fill the vacuum created by the leftist lawmakers and get rich while doing it.
George needed a design, and since the concept was to replace a gun no longer imported, he used one or more of them for inspiration. Rumor has it the gun that inspired his design was the Reck P8.
In 1955 West German Karl Arndt Reck began making an affordable little pocket pistol in .25 ACP (6.35mm).
The company was called Karl Arndt Reck Sportwaffenfabrik (German for sporting weapons maker). The gun was sold throughout Europe and imported into the U.S. under the trade names "LA Fury" and "Chicago Cub" (I wonder where those names come from?). The grips would feature an "LA" or a "CC" monogram.
The Reck was not the only gun with this design that was a popular import. The Wischo-KG Erlangen model 11 is a good example, it is also closer to what Jennings came up with.
Many of the pocket pistols made in West Germany, Italy and Spain that were destined for U.S. buyers were copies of each other. I could be that the Wischo was a copy of the Reck, or it may have even been built by Reck and brand-labeled.
In 1970 George started the Raven Arms Co., building a simplified copy of the Reck using parts cast from a zinc alloy, called Zamak (or Zamac).
Zamak, which gets its name from the alloy Zinc, Aluminum, Magnesium and Copper (Kupfer in German), is not your typical pot metal. The alloy is mostly zinc (99+%), which is similar to magnesium and slightly less dense than iron.
Zamak is actually very well suited to this type of manufacturing. One notable advantage of zinc construction: no rust.
He called his .25 ACP pistol the "P-25".
The design was pretty straight forward, using a fixed barrel, a blow back operation and a striker released by a stiff single action trigger. Very little machining was needed to complete the pistols, which helped keep the price low and the profits high.
The Raven MP-25 started a revolution of sorts. The guns were selling so fast and that he needed more help.
In 1972 his son Bruce began working at the company, learning all the aspects of producing the firearm. His sister Gail also went to work at Raven as did some friends and other family members.
Bruce left Raven Arms in 1978 to start his own operation: Jennings Arms Co. Bruce used the same production techniques but copied the look and some features of the Walther PPK.
Bruce was also responsible (at least in part) for the Calwestco brand name and Bryco Arms (named for Bruce's son Bryan).
In 1982 George Jennings' daughter Gail and son-in-law, Jim Davis left Raven to start Davis Industries, just like Bruce they tweaked the design of the pistol but kept the same construction techniques and business model.
In 1989 George Jennings' nephew, Steven Jennings, started Sundance Industries. That same year a friend of Bruce Jennings started his own operation to produce pocket pistols called Lorcin Engineering.
In 1991 The Raven Arms factory burned to the ground. As a result George retired and sold the rights and designs to a new start-up company called Phoenix Arms (appropriate name don't ya think?).
Phoenix Arms is owned by decedents of George, former employees of George and George's ex-wife.
By 1993 these companies were responsible for nearly half of the handgun production in the U.S. (more than 900,000 in 1993 alone).
The term "Ring of Fire", was originally applied to the volcanic subduction zone surrounding the Pacific Ocean.
The term was appropriated by a Hoplophobic Doctor from California to describe the multitude of firearms makers within one hour of downtown Los Angeles. It seems this Doctor thought the small, affordable guns were the source of violence in his home town and he wanted to end sales of these "evil" weapons.
Some of these companies have gone out of business, some were sued into bankruptcy, some were forced to move by leftist civic leaders and others collapsed from within.
Here are the gun companies tied to George Jennings:
Raven Arms: 1970 to 1991 - George Jennings
The Raven MP-25
Jennings Firearms: 1978 to 1985 - Bruce Jennings
Calwestco: 1985 to 1991
The Jennings J-22
Davis Industries: 1982 to 1999 - Gail (Jennings) & husband Jim Davis
The Davis P-32
Sedco Industries: 1987 to 1989 - John Davis (brother of Jim Davis)
The Sedco SP-22
Lorcin Engineering: 1989 to 1999 - Jim Waldorf, friend of Bruce Jennings
The Lorcin L25
Sundance Industries: 1989 to 2002 - Steven Jennings (George Jennings' Nephew)
The Sundance Boa
Bryco Arms: 1991 to 2003 - Janice Jennings (wife/ex-wife of Bruce Jennings)
The Bryco 38
Phoenix Arms: 1992 to current - successor to Raven Arms, owned by Jennings and Davis family members.
The Phoenix Arms Raven model
Republic Arms: 1998 - Jim Davis, after the closing of Davis Industries
The Patriot 45
Standard Arms: 1999 - Jim Waldorf (Lorcin Eng.)
The SA 9
Talon Industries: 2000 to 2001 - Jim Waldorf (Lorcin Eng.)
Cobra Firearms: 2001 to current - successor to Davis Industries
The Cobra CA-380
Jimenez Arms: 2004 to current - successor to Bryco/Calwestco/Jennings
Of the companies above only Phoenix, Jimenez and Cobra still exist.
There were other companies that were made within an hour of LA, but may not included in the "Ring of Fire", maybe because of their price point or maybe because their production numbers were low enough to keep them "under the radar", these include Arcadia Machine & Tool (AMT), Accu-Tek, Weatherby and others
Ring of Fire Saturday Night Special