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AMT Backup .45 Semiauto Pistol: Its History

The AMT Backup is about as small as a conventional semiautomatic pistol can be made is .45 ACP. Here's its history.

AMT Backup .45 Semiauto Pistol: Its History

The AMT Backup was a small pistol and quite a handful in .45—although it was commonly chambered in .380 Auto as well. Many people were put off by the exposed parts in the right side.

At 24 ounces, 0.967 inch wide, less than four inches high and just under six inches long, the five-shot stainless steel AMT Backup .45 is about as small as a conventional semiautomatic pistol can be made in this caliber. As the name suggests, it’s intended as a backup to a full-size service pistol, and the little gun has no safety—relying on its double-action-only trigger for that.

The gun has a checkered history in terms of ownership, and it’s kind of tough to sort out. It was originally manufactured by Ordnance Manufacturing Corporation out of California and then Arcadia Machine & Tool (the AMT part), which was later acquired by Irwindale Arms.

Galena Industries purchased that company in 1988 and produced AMT models for a number of years. According to the Blue Book of Gun Values, Galena phased out the AMT name. Blue Book indicates AMT tooling was purchased by Crusader Gun Company in 2004, which reintroduced the Backup in both .380 and .45 ACP. Somewhere in there, Crusader was acquired by High Standard Manufacturing, and AMT pistols are associated with this brand as well.

Over its life, the Backup was produced in small- and large-frame sizes. Chamberings included such cartridges as .22 Long Rifle (a limited run discontinued in 1987), .38 Super, 9x19mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W—and even novel rounds like .400 Cor-Bon.

Due to the long, heavy double-action trigger pull combined with an exceptionally light gun and minimal sights—only a groove in the slide—the little pistol is truly a short-range affair. These characteristics, along with the substantial recoil in .45, worked against this gun’s popularity. The exposure of working parts on the right side also put a lot of people off.

The worst problem was the exceptionally heavy trigger pull. When I first got the gun shown here, my wife could hardly pull the trigger. I sent it back to the factory to be lightened so she could use it. However, as a carry gun it rides unnoticed in a pancake holster, and I had a G.I. .45 web magazine pouch shortened to fit its two spare magazines. My sample has always been totally reliable, and it was one of the earlier ones made, so it has had plenty of time to demonstrate that reliability.

As mentioned, AMT was eventually acquired by High Standard Firearms and as ownership changed hands the AMT .45 Backup was dropped from production. A search on gunbroker.com turned up zero in .45 for sale, but .380s are available—with prices generally in the $300 to $400 range.


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