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AJ Ordnance “Thomas” – A .45 Locked by Grip Alone

AJ Ordnance “Thomas” – A .45 Locked by Grip Alone

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Designed by one Frank Thomas Jr. in the 1970s, this pistol was produced by the AJ Ordnance company of Covina California, and named after its creator. It was designed to be a concealed carry pistol chambered for .45 ACP ammunition without needing a manual safety. Thomas wanted to avoid exposed hammers and manual safeties, which he saw as being potential failure points and potential places for a pistol to snag on the draw. So, he created a single-stack .45 with a long DA-like trigger and an internal striker instead of a hammer. What makes the pistol truly unique is its locking system. It is delayed blowback, using a pair of wedges that the slide must push down before it can open. These wedges engage the slide only when the shooter grips the gun, by way of a grip safety type lever in the backstrap.

This results in a gun that is rather unpleasant to shoot, as the action of cycling slaps the grip lever back into the hand with each shot. Only about 600 of the guns were made, although I was unable to determine exactly why production ended so quickly. It’s not so much a surprise that it didn’t see greater success, but rather a question of which potential problem caused it to fail commercially (or if it was all of them acting together…).

NOTE: I mixed up a piece of footage, and put the wrong sight picture clip in at 1:44. Sorry! That sight picture is a WALAM 48, not the Thomas.

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