1. A.S.P.: The Stuff Legends Are Made Of

    By Guest writer on 2007-01-23

    Fans of the James Bond novels will recognize the A.S.P. 9mm as the handgun of choice in the John Gardner adventures of the 1980s and 90s. First introduced in the 1984 novel, Role Of Honour, the A.S.P. became a mainstay in the Gardner era, appearing in nearly all of the following novels, up to, and including COLD in 1996. Gardner introduces the handgun in chapter 10 of Role Of Honour, writing: ‘The A.S.P. 9mm is a small, very lethal weapon. Essentially a scaled-down version of the Smith & Wesson Model 39, the ASP has been in use with United States Intelligence agencies for more than a decade.’ With that, CBn presents:

    The Stuff Legends Are Made Of

    Written by Lawrence Keller

    Cloak and dagger mysteries have always been a favorite among gun enthusiasts, because of the weapons both real and imagined that the characters use and develop. Today, the general public mostly hears about Glocks, the Walther P99 and the small 45 and 9MM compact pistols. The innovation and development of these pistols had to comefrom somewhere, but where exactly? In my opinion, the person who has been the most innovative in developing such improvements is Paris Theodore. Seldom does the author of these cloak and dagger stories cover the true origins of the weapons used in these books.

    The A.S.P.

    The A.S.P.

    We first examine the Model 39-2 Smith and Wesson double action nine millimeter pistol. This pistol has been altered over 280 ways to be used as a true combat pistol. Over the years, other manufacturers have tried to copy the design, but the true essence was lost as a result.

    When choosing a combat pistol, the buyer should consider several things. First, do you as the buyer want an offensive weapon or one primarily for defensive purposes? The pistol is mainly a defensive tool. There are various weapons such as the shotgun, rifle, and submachine gun, which are superior for more offensive purposes that may be desired among some potential buyers. Negative attributes include the limited range and power as well as the fact that it is the most difficult firearm to learn to use correctly. The primary advantage of the pistol is its size, (fully loaded, the A.S.P. weighs 24 ounces), lightness, portability, and general flatness. Since it is easier to carry, it is always at hand and available to defensive use, should the need arise.

    There are five basic design requirements of any combat weapon which I’ve listed below:

    Reliability – This depends on the throat of the barrel. Fitting the barrel to the frame, fitting of the magazines to the frame, balance of the spring system, design of the extractor and the precision of the workmanship of the pistol all come into play here. Both the finish and the weapon itself must withstand the rough handling that will result from combat encounters. Ancillary to these requirements is the feel of the trigger; it should have a crisp, clean pull and highly visible sights.

    Stopping Power – This requirement is dependent upon the efficiency potential of the cartridge (the 9mm is one of the world’s most efficient), the specific projectile and the placement of the projectile on target by the user (center mass hits).

    Controllability – Balance, stability, ease of handling and fit in the hand are all components of controllability. Design characteristics such as the forefinger pocket, magazine extension and contoured grips which reduce apparent recoil and aid recovery time to target are things to consider.

    Wearability – Comfort, concealment and ease of access must be properly balanced. The weapon should have no projections or sharp edges to wear the lining of clothing or cut the hand during either presentation or clearance. Weight, compactness, safety and the readiness condition of the pistol are other important factors to consider. The A.S.P. is either a condition two or three pistol. Condition two means there is a cartridge in the chamber (hammer up) while the opposite is true for condition three.

    Fire Power – To the connoisseur, magazine capacity is not synonymous with fire power, which is a function of relative incapacitation, controllability and the reloading potential of a design. Double column magazine designs are most appropriate as military pistols–or police weapons–but not as a concealed weapon. If you are considering wearing the A.S.P. under a business suit, then it is recommended that you buy a suit that does not form fit depending on your build of your torso.

    In order for the A.S.P. to give the kick one would receive with a .22 caliber pistol, hand position is key. Based on its design, you would place the left index finger in the forefinger pocket up to the second knuckle. At the same time, place the inside ridge of the knuckle on the left thumb near the slide stop. The right thumb rests over the rear of the left thumb, pulling toward the opposite hand. When employed properly in conjunction with a magazine extension, apparent recoil will decrease by at least 50%, becoming little more than a gentle undulating motion with each shot fired.

    A.S.P. Operation Manual

    A.S.P. Operation Manual

    The pistol with the extension is especially useful during rapid fire mode. The leading edge of the magazine extension described is approximately the size of an average man’s little finger. This allows for a more complete grasp of the pistol and thereby assists the user in controlling recoil and decreasing recovery time between shots. A tight grip on the magazine extension will greatly reduce muzzle climb.

    The A.S.P. was designed for speed on target from a concealed position under the clothing of the user. The smooth Lexan grips forestall hasty commitment to a clumsy grip or trigger position. The pistol is designed in such a way that a panic grip will position the A.S.P. properly in your hand.

    Ergometrics – there is no need for a mid-draw repositioning of the hand to grip or a change in position of the index finger to trigger relation. The user merely needs to grip the weapon tightly to align the forearm to the barrel. Checkering the grips, stippling the front strap, or grooving the trigger would detract from the trust of this philosophy.

    When under stress, you don’t count the rounds when firing and while in practice, the FBI trains their people to throw away the magazine when in doubt. With the A.S.P. grips, you can see how many rounds you have left–effectively eliminating the guessing game. The design features of the A.S.P. include slide cuts that are computer calculated to reduce the weight of the pistol and redistribute the balance of the slide. This helps during recoil so that the slide mass is directly over the center of the hand to improve controllability.

    The A.S.P. also has a spurless hammer to prevent snagging on clothing during presentation. The manufacturer has reduced the butt, slide, slide stop safety and tongue in order to increase the ability to conceal and also to improve handling characteristics. This pistol also sports a throated and fit barrel with polished fed ramp for flawless firing, specially wound springs for improved reliability and a custom barrel and recoil bushings for ease of disassembly. Furthemore, it also features right and left hand trigger guard relief for use with gloved hands as well as a beveled magazine which is beneficial in terms of reloading. Last, but not least, the A.S.P. sports a Teflon-S coating for corrosion resistance, low glare and a non-reflecting surface. This also results in increased durability, self lubrication, nonstick properties in extreme cold, low general maintenance, rapid cleaning and closer tolerances. What else could you expect from a pistol?

    The A.S.P.

    The A.S.P.

    Let’s now talk about how well this pistol is to carry and conceal. I’ve personally carried this pistol for roughly 20 years. I additionally carried the Heckler and Koch P-7 M8 for about six years–another fine pistol, but the key point is that alot of the latter’s characteristics came from the A.S.P.

    Ken Null Holsters. Ltd. now designs several holsters that were allow for easy concealment under one’s clothing–my favourite being the SMZ. This is an inverted shoulder holster made of plastic and is skeletal in design. The pistol hides under the armpit in such a manner that it contours to the frame of one’s body. I wore this rig to a special event in Washington D.C. (yes I know, my permit is not valid in DC, but, it being the high crime area it is, I put the protection of my wife and myself first). This took place in 1997 at an inaugural party where I was within hugging distance of Vice President Al Gore. While the secret service never spotted or felt the holster, with security as it stands today, I wouldn’t try this stunt now.

    Getting back to 007, one really has to wonder why he would carry anything else. The PPK is old hat and really does not have the stopping power as indicated in the novels or films. Bond wouldn’t carry the P-99 either because of the bulky size–leading to concealment issues when on a mission.

    So I leave you with the one true weapon for a spy that would serve him the most: the one and only A.S.P.