Hello and welcome to Handgun Radio! I’m your host Ryan Michad from the wild woods of Central Maine, and this is your home for all the news, information and discussion in the handgunning world.
This week, Daniel Watters discusses the history of Detonics!
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Week in Review:
Ryan: - Mossberg CAC
-Listener Email: Dear Ryan,
Love the show. My Dad has a S&W Bodyguard in 380, and we took it to
the range. We couldn't hit anything with it; I think maybe that double
action trigger on that tiny gun--should he just practice more with it?
Or I considered suggesting the Rock Island Baby Rock in 380. I know
you have some reservations about shrunken down 1911 designs. Have you
shot a Baby Rock? What do you think?
Drink Segment: Disney Cocktails
Daniel, what have you been researching lately?
Main Topic: The Detonics Saga
1960 - A group of former Boeing engineers form the Rocket Research Corp. At one point, it becomes the largest employer in Redmond, WA prior to Microsoft. (It has passed through many hands since then, becoming Olin Aerospace (1985-1997), Primex Technologies (1997-2001), General Dynamics (2001-2002), and finally Aerojet (2002). It is currently part of Aerojet Rocketdyne.)
1963 - In May, research aimed at developing a new rocket fuel shows more promise as an explosive. This is ultimately named Astrolite.
Mid-1960s - Patrick A. Yates begins paper designs for a compact M1911-type pistol. At the time, he is an mechanical engineering student at the University of Florida.
1966 - Rocket Research Corp. decides to start its own explosives subsidiary - the Explosives Corporation of America (EXCOA). RRC’s Director of Advanced Projects Michel E. Maes is chosen as president of the new firm. Later, Maes will also serve as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for another RRC subsidiary - the Petroleum Technology Corporation.
Early 1970s – While employed by EXCOA, Yates meets fellow engineer and gun enthusiast Ken Leggett. Inspired by gun magazine articles about Armand Swenson's “Bobcat” conversions, Yates and Leggett start swapping their own ideas about compact M1911 conversions, leading to a bit of friendly competition. Leggett starts the ball rolling by producing his first compact prototype, but it proves to be extremely unreliable in live-fire testing. To improve the compact prototype, Yates and Leggett ponder schemes to improve the recoil system.
Yates now goes full-in, buying three M1911 pistols to sacrifice for his own compact prototypes. Yates initially tries converting to a linkless barrel scheme, which vaguely sounds like the S&W Model 39 pattern. This does not work as Yates did not account for the torque of the barrel binding the lower lugs against the frame. Yates tries to center the linkless barrel by adding an underlug at the front of the barrel over the recoil spring plug.
In the next round of testing, Leggett improves his personal prototype with a new spring system, which allows for slightly-more reliable function. At least, it performed better than Yates’ linkless design. Yates decides to abandon the linkless model, and starts work on his second prototype. Yates concentrates on the recoil system, developing a full-length guide rod with reverse spring plug. Yates' new guide rod holds three concentric springs and butts up against the slide stop, instead of the shoulder of the frame rails. This gives a bit more room for slide travel. With quality springs, Yates' prototype functions well enough to consider the issue settled.
1972-1973 - Former EXCOA President Michel E. Maes starts his own explosives company - Energy Sciences Corporation (ESC). ESC begins snatching up current and former EXCOA staff, including the Director of Special Projects Sidney H. Woodcock, and later in 1973, the former Director of International Operations James R. Steffey. Steffey is ultimately tapped to serve as President of ESC with Maes serving as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Meanwhile, Yates concentrates upon cleaning up the ergonomics of his compact prototype. The grip safety is deactivated, and the thumb safety is completely eliminated, replaced by a cross pin. The thumb safety is eliminated as Yates intends to carry it with the hammer lowered. To accommodate thumb cocking, the top rear of the slide was relieved. To prevent hammer bite, the hammer spur is severely bobbed to a nearly vertical parallel shape. The remaining top surface of the hammer is serrated for thumb-cocking. Thin wood stocks were epoxied to the frame with Acraglas bedding compound. The profile of the slide stop pad and the magazine release were significantly reduced. The front tab of the magazine floorplate was slightly bent down to give a tiny increase in grippable surface for the frontstrap.
1973-1974 - Having followed the progress of Yates and Leggett's friendly competition for some time, Woodcock expresses interest in seeing Yates' prototype transitioned into a commercial production pistol. Yates resists the idea for a time, but relents after he loses his own job at EXCOA. For an upfront fee and distribution rights, Yates sells the rights to his design to Maes and Woodcock and agrees to help in the preparation of engineering drawings and patents.
1974 - Jeff Cooper mentions the Detonics pistol prototype in the December 1974 issue of Guns & Ammo.
1976 – Detonics .45 Associates begins serial production of the CombatMaster.
Semi-automatic firearm - Patrick Yates, Sydney H. Woodcock, and Jeffrey R. Beals
1977 - Semi-automatic firearm - Patrick Yates, Sydney H. Woodcock, and Jeffrey R. Beals
1978 – Detonics introduces the satin nickel-plated CombatMaster Mark II. The original matte blued CombatMaster is now dubbed the Mark I.
1979 – Detonics unveils the hard chromed Mark III and the high-polish blue Mark IV CombatMaster variants.
Late in the year, Detonics introduces their first stainless steel CombatMasters – the matte-finish Mark V and the polished finish Mark VI.
Semi-automatic firearm - Patrick Yates, Sydney H. Woodcock, and Jeffrey R. Beals
1981 - Detonics introduces the CombatMaster Mark VII, a sight-less variant of the Mark V. They also begin offering Mark V, VI, and VII pistols chambered in 9x19mm. The plated Mark II and III are dropped.
Detonics begins advertising the 8-round .45 “Super Combat” magazine for full-size M1911 pistols.
Maes and Woodcock form the partnership Detonics Small Arms Ltd. It licenses the manufacturing and sale of its designs to Detonics Manufacturing Corp., which operates as a subsidiary of Energy Sciences Corp.
Patent applications are filed for two other accessories:
“Combat Selector Sight”
Adjustable sight for firearms - Michel E. Maes
“Competition Recoil System”
Shock-absorbing recoil mechanism - Sidney H. Woodcock, Michel E. Maes, and Ronald W. Steimel
1982 – Detonics introduces the .451 Detonics Magnum, credited with launching a 185gr projectile at 1,240 fps from a CombatMaster.
Late in the year, Detonics begins teasing three new prototype handguns:
7-Shot Top-Break .357 Magnum/.41 Magnum/.44 Magnum/.45 Colt Revolver with the option for a single-shot barrel assembly
Handgun of the revolver type - Nehemia Sirkis
Pocket 9 double-action pistol - Nehemia Sirkis
Large frame, double-action .45 semi-auto pistol – Ray Herriott (?)
1983 - Detonics introduces the full-size, adjustable sight ScoreMaster. Raoul Bloom is credited with the designation, inspired by the Remington rifle of the same name. (Note that Remington’s trademark had expired. The same was not true of the trademark for the SpeedMaster, which Bloom applied to an unofficial model, which mated a compact CombatMaster slide assembly to a ScoreMaster frame.)
Detonics also begins offering Mark V, VI, and VII pistols chambered in .38 Super.
The non-glare stainless Military Combat-series (MC1 and MC2) are introduced in all four calibers.
Detonics introduces .451 Detonics Magnum kits for the Colt Government and Commander models. The kit comes with a replacement barrel and link, a redesigned extractor, a Detonics Competition Recoil System guide rod, and a heavy duty firing pin spring. As no factory ammunition was available, the kit also included a box of 50 .451 Detonics Magnum brass made by Winchester as well as a Forester reamer for converting cases from .308 Winchester brass.
1984 – Detonics begins running print advertisements for the Pocket 9.
Detonics introduces the OM3 variant of the CombatMaster featuring a non-glare finish, except on the slide flats, which were polished. The Mark I and IV are dropped.
1985 - Detonics begins offering the System One Barrel System, a replacement bull-barrel kit for Government and Commander model pistol. As the conventional barrel bushing is eliminated, the kit includes a captured full-length guide rod assembly with reverse spring plug and recoil spring.
1986 - Detonics introduces the Commander-sized ServiceMaster and ServiceMaster II. The later variant has polished slide-flats.
The long-slide Pocket 9LS is introduced.
A variant of the Pocket 9 with polished-slide flats is offered as the Power 9.
The Pocket 380 is also introduced.
The .451 Detonics Magnum is dropped from all models except the ScoreMaster.
In late April, Detonics Small Arms Ltd., Detonics Manufacturing Corp., and Energy Sciences Corp. file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
In June, the US District Court for the District of Columbia permanently enjoins Maes and James R. Steffey from assisting in filing SEC reports. The Security and Exchange Commission accused Maes and Steffey of failing to file, filing late, and filing incomplete 71 annual and quarterly reports on behalf of Detonics Small Arms Ltd., Energy Sciences Corp., and Tasa Products, Ltd.
In December, Maes resigns as the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Detonics Manufacturing Corp. and Energy Sciences Corp. Under the name of American Sporting Arms Industries (ASAI), Diane McCarthy (Detonics’ General Manager) and Ed “Tim” Lasater (Sales Manager) take control of Energy Sciences Corp.'s assets, including the Detonics handgun line.
1987 – The prototype of the Janus ScoreMaster is displayed at SHOT Show. Designed by Richard Niemer, the Janus allows for the conversion of the ScoreMaster from the standard 5” barrel to an extended barrel with a full-profile compensator. This alone would not be significant except for the fact that the front sight was easily removed from the slide so that a front sight attached to the compensator's body could be used instead. (As discussed in the HGR Custom Pistol episode, it is easier to track the front sight during recoil when it is attached to the barrel, instead of the slide.)
All of the non-.45 models are dropped.
In March, ASAI defaults on their buyout plan. The Bankruptcy Court appoints a trustee for Detonics Small Arms Ltd., Detonics Manufacturing Corp., and Energy Sciences Corp.
In May, the trustee orders the removal of all management personal associated with ASAI and appoints a new manager.
In August, the Bankruptcy Court approves the purchase of Detonics Manufacturing Corp.'s assets by a group of investors including Chuck Lyford and Bruce R. McCaw of McCaw Cellular. The new owners group is named the New Detonics Manufacturing Corporation.
1988 - New Detonics displays at SHOT Show with McCaw acting as president. (McCaw will be later replaced by Chuck Lyford.)
In May, Energy Sciences Corp.'s bankruptcy is dismissed. All remaining assets are repossessed by the sole secured creditor, the law firm of Murphy & Elgot (Thomas A. Murphy and Mark S. Elgot).
1989 – New Detonics displays their prototype Series II models with forward cocking serrations, beavertails, extended safeties, and other premium features. The company claims that they will offer certain models in 9x19mm and .38 Super on special order.
In July, New Detonics hires Robbie Barkman (ROBAR) as operations manager.
In October, the Bankruptcy Court orders the filing of Detonics Small Arms Ltd. to be converted from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7.
1990 - New Detonics resumes production in Phoenix, AZ. New pistols include the CompMaster and the Ladies Escort limited-series slim-line CombatMaster variant. The latter are finished in different color schemes featuring ROBAR's surface coatings. For instance, the Royal Escort has an iridescent purple slide and stocks on a blackened stainless frame with a gold-plated trigger and hammer. The Jade Escort has a jade-color slide on a satin stainless frame fitted with jade stocks. The Midnight Escort is the simplest with just a two-tone finish, featuring a blackened slide on a stainless frame with Onyx stocks.
In June, Detonics Small Arms Ltd.'s bankruptcy is dismissed.
1991 – New Detonics introduces the CompMaster TF (Torque Free) with a two-port compensator. A modernized Mark VII returns as the O.S. Backup. (Chuck Lyford claims responsibility for the latter designation, short for a common scatological exclamation.)
By late in the year, New Detonics production is suspended, just before they are due to pay licensing royalties.
1992 – New Detonics' assets are auctioned off.
In September, Murphy & Elgot, along with Richard Moore, repossess the rights to the name Detonics as well as the rights to manufacture the pistols.
1997 - Detonics Small Arms Ltd. engages in negotiations to license its pistols to another potential manufacturer.
2004 - After roughly three years of trying to assemble investors, Detonics USA, LLC. is formed by gunwriter Jerry Ahern. Operations are moved to Pendergrass, GA. Woodcock is hired as Vice President of Research & Development, and Peter Dunn is hired as head gunsmith and operations manager. As part of their licensing deal with Detonics Small Arms Ltd., Detonics USA will pay royalties of 4.95% of gross sales of each of the products manufactured and sold. Detonics Small Arms, Ltd. is to receive 65% of the royalties while the surviving creditors Elgot and Moore are to receive 35% of the royalties. (Thomas A. Murphy had passed away in 1997.)
2005 – Detonics USA begins shipping production pistols, starting with the CombatMaster.
The new Model 9-11-01 is introduced as a fixed-sight alternative to the yet to be reintroduced ScoreMaster.
The StreetMaster combines the full-length slide of the 9-11-01 with the short frame of the CombatMaster. (The StreetMaster configuration had been unofficially produced in small numbers back in the 1980s.)
2006 – Detonics USA announces two new versions of the ScoreMaster: the ScoreMaster Target and the ScoreMaster Tactical. Both feature MMC's Novak-profile adjustable rear sights versus the Bo-Mar BMCS and Millett Sights of the original WA production models. The primary differences between the two new variants are the accessory rail and reduced size controls of the ScoreMaster Tactical.
Detonics USA also teases a new version of the ServiceMaster – the ServiceMaster Compact. This model mates the mid-size ServiceMaster slide with an Officers ACP height frame.
2007 - In November, Detonics USA is purchased by Double Nickel LLC, owned by Bruce Siddle and Dr. Steve Stahle. Operations are relocated to Belleville, IL. Both Sid Woodcock and Jerry Ahern stay on briefly as a design consultant and media director, respectively. Detonics Small Arms, Ltd. is to receive a flat royalty fee of $25 per Detonics/M1911-type pistol sold and $5 per other firearms sold. As with Detonics USA, the royalties are to be split on the 65/35 ratio. The business is ultimately renamed to Detonics Defense Technologies, LLC.
2008 – Detonics teases the CPX, DNX, and DTX models. The CPX and DNX-series are variants of their legacy model pistols with new cosmetics. The DNX (Detonics/Novak) are premium variants of the CPX assembled by Charlie Pulit, the head pistolsmith for Wayne Novak. They feature Novak Lo-Mount sights and well as the Novak Answer one-piece backstrap.
The DTX is a brand new high-capacity design featuring a polymer frame.
Ergonomic grip and trigger for fire arm - Bruce K. Siddle, Sidney H. Woodcock, Daniel E. Kenney, and Steven D. Stahle
Ergonomic grip for a fire arm - Bruce K. Siddle, Sidney H. Woodcock, Daniel E. Kenney, and Steven D. Stahle
Fire arm with ergonomic grip - Bruce K. Siddle, Sidney H. Woodcock, Daniel E. Kenney, and Steven D. Stahle
Lt. Col. David Grossman (US Army - Ret.) is appointed to Detonics Defense’s Board of Directors.
2009 - Detonics teases the CombatMaster Evolution and the Nemesis featuring the Octagonal Sighting System (OSS). As the name implies, the OSS barrels are machined with an octagonal profile. However, the barrel also features a Wil Schuemann-style Hybrid/Sight Tracker rib for mounting the front sight directly to the barrel.
The mid-size Nemesis features a new modular frame designed around the STI 2011 magazine.
Recoil operating pistol with nestable barrel and slide - Bruce K. Siddle and Kevin Siddle
2010 – Double Nickel Holding LLC signs a promissory note for $627,304.29, secured by a Commercial Security Agreement. (Note that this is extremely close to the same figure still owed by Detonics Small Arms Ltd. to its creditors and original investors.)
Firearm slide - Bruce K. Siddle and Kevin Siddle
Firearm barrel - Bruce K. Siddle and Kevin Siddle
Hand grip for a firearm - Bruce K. Siddle and Kevin Siddle
2012 - The CombatMaster Evolution is revamped to the CombatMaster HT, with a new hammer and sights.
Detonics introduces the MTX-series, a more conventional variant of the previous Nemesis model.
The Nemesis name is then applied to a full-size single-stack model - the Nemesis HT, which shares features with the CombatMaster HT.
Hammerless, striker fired model 1911 handgun and associated methods - Kevin Siddle
Hand grip for a firearm - Bruce K. Siddle and Kevin Siddle
2014 – Detonics introduces the STX-series, a striker-fired variant of the MTX.
Body for a firearm - Bruce K. Siddle and Kevin Siddle
Sear assembly for a striker fired handgun - Kevin Siddle
2015 - In June, STI International, Inc. and Detonics announce the formation of a strategic partnership. The primary goal is to make the MTX and STX pistols viable competitors for the US Army’s Modular Handgun System program. By November, STI will hire Owen Cramer as Program Manager. Cramer’s previous position was at the Naval Surface Warfare Center - Crane, and he had previously worked for FN Manufacturing and Smith & Wesson.
Sear assembly for hammerless, striker fired handgun - Kevin Siddle
2016 - In late January, STI files suit in Texas against Double Nickel. A few week later in February, Double Nickel files suit against STI in Illinois alleging a breach of contract, and requests a restraining order to prevent STI from using its intellectual property.
In early May, both cases are dismissed. Roughly two weeks later, Double Nickel Holdings LLC announces that it is outsourcing its sales, marketing, IP licensing, public relations, and investor relations to HFX Holding, LLC. Double Nickel also appoints Major General Robert Newman Jr. (USAF, Ret) as its new CEO.
Extractor for firearms - Jessie Carr (STI Firearms)
Striker system for firearms - Jessie Carr (STI Firearms)
Extractor for firearms - Jessie Carr (STI Firearms)
2018 - Double Nickel Holding LLC defaults on payment of the $627,304.29 promissory note. In September, the secured creditor Agile Systems LLC forces a public foreclosure sale. They acquire the rights to all of Double Nickel’s Detonics Defense patents. (Curiously, Agile Systems LLC was incorporated in Missouri in April, on nearly the eight year anniversary of the original promissory note. The only known officer is a local attorney. However, there is an Agile Systems LLC headquartered in Bellevue, WA. The company’s president, Allan Beals, shares the same last name as one of the three original patent holders for the CombatMaster - Jeffrey Beals. A relative perhaps, or just a coincidence?)
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Daniel, where can people find you?