.32 Pocket Pistol Update: Buy the Autauga Mark II
This gun is a good pocket blaster.
In the January 1999 issue of Gun Tests, we gave you an evaluation of three .32 ACP pocket pistols made by Seecamp, Beretta, and North American Arms. Recently Autauga Arms, Inc., entered the pocket .32 pistol market with a bang, and we think the company’s 32 Mark II is a winner.
This Prattville, AL-based company offers a stainless-steel, double-action-only semiautomatic with no bells and whistles. You chamber a round and that’s it. The gun is all ready to go. Simply pull the trigger, which requires about 8 pounds of pressure, and the little gun fires each of its six-plus-one shots reliably, and with all the accuracy anyone would want.
Autauga is no newcomer to guns, having made precision rifles to customer specifications for more than five years. The company also makes custom hunting and competition rifles, plus .308 rifles for tactical, law enforcement and military purposes. The 32 Mark II pistol is a complete rework of an earlier handgun design. We thought the overall quality of fit and finish of our test gun were quite high.
The gun looked businesslike with a modestly bright polish to the sides of the slide and frame, and a matte-gray finish on the top, front, rear, and bottom surfaces. The left side is marked with a logo and “AUTAUGA MKII.” The slide had grooves deep enough to make chambering a round very easy and comfortable. There was a single spring-loaded extractor mounted on the right side. Operation was simple blowback. The sights were not bad at all. However, the sight picture could be improved if the front sight were black instead of stainless steel.
Superficially, the Autauga 32 Mark II resembles the Seecamp LWS-32, but with several very important differences. The Autauga has decent sights (the Seecamp has none at all) and a better-shaped grip. And the Autauga will fire with the magazine removed, which we applaud. We conclude this gun was apparently designed by someone with a working knowledge of self-defense gun handling.
A technological breakthrough by Autauga bears special mention. The rifling is cast in place. It resembles polygonal rifling in that it doesn’t have sharp edges. When the gun is new it looks rough, but it polishes with shooting. It is easy to clean and offers exceptional accuracy, no matter what you may think it looks like. Don’t worry about the rifling. It works to perfection.
However, you’re not allowed to use hardball (full-metal-jacket) ammunition in the Autauga. The box it came in clearly states, “Use hollowpoint ammunition only! The firing of FMJ/ball ammunition in this pistol will void the warranty.” We wondered why, and asked the Autauga company. Rusty Rossey, technical representative for Autauga, told us that the 32 Mark II is a self-defense pistol, not a plinker. It is made to function with Winchester Silvertip and similar hollowpoint self-defense type ammunition. To keep the gun as small as possible, the company limited the overall length of the magazine. Hardball ammunition is longer than hollowpoints, and could cause jams. The path up the feed ramp and into the chamber was also affected, and in Autauga’s extensive testing they found that hollowpoints work best. Also, the company wanted to ensure the owner of the gun stoked it with the most effective ammunition possible, hence the more-than-strong recommendation to use only hollowpoints.
Instructions clearly indicate it will be necessary for the new owner to put 100 rounds through the little autoloader before it can be considered to be broken in. We proceeded to do so and, as the instructions hinted, there were a couple of failures to feed within the first few magazines-full. In fact, the last shot out of the first magazine of cartridges was a stovepipe, with the head of the empty caught by the right side of the ejection port.
However, as our test firing wore on the gun not only ceased malfunctioning, it got more accurate. After about 80 shots of Federal Hydra-Shok and Winchester Silvertip ammunition, mixed thoroughly, we had no more problems with the gun. It fed and functioned perfectly.
The bottom edge of the trigger was a bit sharp for comfort, so we taped it. A few second’s work with a scraper or small file would fix the problem permanently. Autauga representatives told us we were not the first to complain about the sharp edge there, and they intend to do something about it. They indicated they may also darken the front sight.
Only one finger could grasp the gun, but that was enough to control the recoil of the piece. We could rapid-fire the 32 Mark II as quickly as we could work our fingers, so recoil was not a problem at all. We thought the shape of the grip was superior to that of any of the three .32 autoloaders we tested previously. The back strap was concave and the front strap was curved forward at its bottom. The synthetic grip material was just sticky enough to aid control while not sticking to your pants pocket. The grip panels were recessed on each side in line with trigger finger and thumb. All together, the grip permitted a very good grasp on the gun and gave all the needed control.
Accuracy was all that could be expected for a gun with a non-target type trigger and fixed sights. It shot only an inch to the right of point of aim at 7 yards, which is more than acceptable. A left-handed shooter was not able to get his shots to print quite as close to the point of aim, but they were still close enough. Smallest group was 1.3 inches at that range, and we achieved that twice, and with both types of ammunition. Empties were pitched everywhere. They landed to the right and left of the gun, behind it and in front of it, but they all left the gun completely. The next round was all ready to go after every shot, and that’s all that counts.
With this design the slide does not stay open after the last shot, but we did not find that to be a problem. This, however, is not a gun designed for speed reloading. The small magazine release requires the fingernail of the left hand to release while the gun is held securely by the right hand. The magazine catch is designed to totally avoid accidental releasing, and that’s another strong plus for the 32 Mark II. Inserting and releasing the magazine is easy enough, and it seats positively and securely. Two magazines come with the gun. They are well made and may be easily disassembled for cleaning.
Disassembling the Autauga for cleaning was a bit of a chore. One blocks the slide partly open with the magazine and then punches out a transverse pin from the slide. The slide can then be pulled rearward, lifted, and eased forward off the gun. That’s as much takedown as is needed for cleaning. Autauga recommends a paste-type lubrication rather than a liquid. This gun has stainless parts rubbing against other stainless parts, and the makers are aware of the potential for galling. They suggest Brownells’ Action-Lube Plus or another paste-type lubrication. That type of lube also tends to pick up less dust while the gun rattles around in your pocket or purse. The company especially suggests keeping the breech face clean, where a buildup of carbon can decrease reliability.
We’d buy this gun in a trice if we needed a minimal-size pocket pistol. With a suggested retail price of $399, it’s less costly than comparable handguns, and performed with the best of them. This one is so small and may be carried so easily that it stands a very good chance of being where it’s needed. It’s a real, live, made-in-the-U.S.A. winner.
Contact- Autauga Arms, Inc., 740 E. Main St., Suite 13, Prattville, AL 36067, telephone (334) 361-2950, fax (334) 361-2961.