The Keefe Report: The Mossberg That Never Was

posted on April 4, 2019

“Not since its very first firearm, the 1919 Brownie rimfire, has O.F. Mossberg & Sons offered consumers a handgun.” So we wrote in the March issue. Not so fast. We immediately heard from two NRA Life members, Lewis Doney and Peter Albrecht. That is part of the beauty of working on American Rifleman. Because if you make a mistake, you’re going to hear about it.

Words matter. In the case of the new Mossberg MC1sc, the difference between “introduced” and “manufactured” is pretty important. Because of my language, in the subhead on p. 49, we were wrong. This was not the first Mossberg pistol introduced since the Brownie, but it is likely the only one actually manufactured. And I can assure you the MC1sc is rolling off Mossberg assembly lines.

Ever heard of the Mossberg Military .45 ACP Combat Model? In the interest of full disclosure, I hadn’t either. 

The gun appears in none of our indexes; there’s nothing on it in our trade files except a few pieces of correspondence. Someone filched our 1980 Mossberg catalog. (Be warned, we’re coming for you, whoever you are.) And it is not listed in what is usually a good place to start the search for information on any gun—the Blue Book of Gun Values. And it seems not to have appeared in Gun Digest

But there it was on the cover of the 1979 Guns & Ammo Annual. And there was, plain as day, an advertisement from Mossberg as on the back cover. Executive Editor Joe Kurtenbach and I rooted around the NRA National Firearms Museum library, and even dragged Senior Curator Doug Wicklund down the rabbit hole with us, until we found it. 

Sure enough, there it was—an article entitled “Mighty New .45” by Dr. Ralph C. Glaze. In it, he wrote: “The latest addition to the stainless steel line-up is the Military Combat .45 semi-automatic pistol from Mossberg and the A.I.G. Corporation of North Haven, Connecticut. The short-barrel pistol is not truly a new design. It is an improved version of a gun made a few years ago by C.A.C. Corp. Originally designed by Bo Clerke, this pistol features a ramp, or slotted cam to actuate the locking system rather than the swinging link method as is used in the Colt Model 1911. Mossberg distributes the gun. A.I.G. Is the manufacturer.”

The article continued: “The gun sent to G&A for evaluation is a prototype—serial number 1—and several changes already planned for the production models.” This was followed by assurances from A.I.G. Corp. marketing director, Ron Fine, that production models will have fully adjustable sights. Ron Fine, who passed not long ago, will come up again. But I will come back to that.

Dr. Glaze did a very fine job in describing the design and features of the gun. But then he had this to say toward the end of the article. “Our sample gun, being a tool room sample prototype, was not suitable, since parts had not been properly fitted or heat treated. We have been promised to use of one of these first production models for complete testing in a valuation as soon as they are released, sometime late in 1978.” 

According to Mossberg More Gun for the Money: The History of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. by a Victor and Sheryl Havlin, a couple from the Mossberg Collectors Ass’n—and a very fine and highly recommended reference on all things Mossberg—the guns were sold by subsidiary A.I.C. It is not entirely clear how many of the guns were actually sold. We know at least one—serial No. 1—was sent to the offices of Guns & Ammo in Los Angeles. But were they ever offered commercially for sale as manufactured by Mossberg? Again, according to More Gun for the Money, longtime Mossberg employee Georgia Nicholls recalled to the Havlins “only one or two prototypes of each model were developed.”

The only mention I could find in what we regard as the magazine of record when it comes to firearms, The American Rifleman, was from the June 1978 issue, as part of a report of what the exhibitors had on display at the NRA Annual Meetings in Salt Lake City. There was no review. No ads. Just this: 

O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc., North Haven, Conn.

They have taken over the manufacture of the revolvers previously made by Security Industries. This small stainless steel .38 Spl. caused lots of comment as Mossberg has avoided handgun production since the discontinuance of the Brownie pistol in 1932. Instead of being marked Mossberg, the revolver will be marked AIG, though it will be sold through normal Mossberg channels. Also marked AIG is a new Mossberg developed .45 double action, stainless steel pistol which was shown in prototype form only.

So was this the Military .45 Combat Model? I don’t know as I wasn’t there, but it could have been, despite the gun appearing in Guns & Ammo being a single-actionone with a funky protuberance on the trigger guard. What was shown was the Pro-38, a five-shot double-action, stainless steel .38 Spl. that was shown in Mossberg’s 1980 catalog, which contained these words at the bottom of the page. “Handguns produced by the U.S. ARMS DIV. Of A.I.G. Inc.” 

Located in Riverhead, N.Y., U.S. Arms Co. was started by Harvey Kahn and made a big, single-action revolver called the Abilene that looked like a cross between a Blackhawk and a Colt Single Action Army. They were made in .357 Mag. or in .44 Mag. The guns were made from 1976 until 1983, but in 1979, A.I.G. of 7 Grasso Ave., North Haven, Conn.—that’s the same address as O.F. Mossberg & Sons even today—purchased U.S. Arms as a way to increases the manufacturing and, in particular, the distribution of the guns. In case you hadn’t noticed, A.I.G. was set up as a subsidiary for the manufacture and distribution of handguns. 

In a news release from Jan. 15, 1980, it mentioned “a line of single-action handguns we will be marketing for the U.S. Arms Division of A.I.G., Inc.” It continued “According to Ron Fine, V.P. Marketing/Sales for O.F. MOSSBERG & Sons, Inc. ‘We are fortunate to have acquired the agreement with A.I.G., Inc., to market the handguns their U.S. ARMS Division is manufacturing. … It is certainly going to be a pleasure to have this group of handguns to sell.’” Indeed it was for the Abilenes, at least until 1983, but so far as I can tell neither a Pro-38 nor a .45 ACP Military-Combat were ever sold. 

On Ian McCullum, whom I respect greatly and who has even written for American Rifleman, does a fine job describing the Mossberg/CAC .45 and even produced an original brochure on the CAC 45-1 Combat Model semi-automatic.” The gun was made by CAC Corporation of Carson, Calif. It is the gun the Mossberg was based on, but it was not made by Mossberg. It was made by CAC, which may stand for Carson Arms Corp., but even that is speculation. 

This put me on the scent of the CAC 45-1 Combat Model. Frankly, there is not a lot out there on them as to who actually made them at 1112 Dominguez Street, Carson., Calif., but there are good descriptions of them in English, French and German, the foremost being Ian’s, even though there is an August 1984 Deutsche Waffen Journal article I have been unable to locate. 

Through various auction sites, blogs and chat rooms, I was able to identify serial numbers 1025, 1024, 1045, 1074, 1105, 1127 and 1155. Serial numbers are on the slide in front of the ejection port. 

All the guns were marked on the slide’s left:

CAC 45-1 
Combat Model

On the frame above the trigger they were marked:


No mention of A.I.G. or Mossberg on any of them. 

The gun in the 1979 G&A article was marked:


Note the guns are similar, but not marked the same. So CAC was the original maker, one that apparently didn’t last long, but some guns are out there. But there are no Mossberg or A.I.G.-marked guns beside the one in the article, or maybe in a vault in North Haven. Mossberg is not talking. But in our files I found this to my old boss, Technical Editor Pete Dickey:


So, there it is. Despite the advertisements, the positive press coverage and inclusion in the catalog, the gun was never for sale commercially. Rumor has it Mossberg wanted to submit a version for the U.S. military pistol trials that ended up with the M9 being selected in 1985, but no mention of a Mossberg being tested has turned up. As Fine wrote, “[W]e will not be prepared to undertake full scale production until late this year and probably not deliver the product until January 1980.” Turns out it didn’t happen even after January 1980. According to Mossberg More Gun For The Money, “The decision to consolidate with shotgun production kept the two new handguns [Pro-38 and Military Combat .45] out of the line, although advertised in Mossberg’s 1980 catalog.” And there you have it, the story of the Mossberg that never was … manufactured.

Mossberg has made all sorts of things, including bicycles, canoes, sailboats and even travel trailers. But when it comes to production pistols, so far there are still two—the Brownie and MC1sc.

As an ignominious footnote, I asked Field Editor Wiley Clapp about the CAC guns—when it comes to pistols, there isn’t much he doesn’t know. He told me that he remembered them indeed. The last time he saw one was “Martin Redding was selling them as paperweights or decorations for about $100 as they were unsound firearms.” His favorite clerk at the landmark gun store told him: “I’ll sell you one, but not as a gun.” Implied was, for Pete’s sake, don’t try and shoot it.





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