There was a time in the not so distant past when the world was a smaller place. The Cold War was hot, the threat was real, and the battles were fought on a daily basis from New York to Moscow. There was no internet or blogs, and those who were in the know didn’t share their knowledge with those who weren’t. The term “dangerous men” was a compliment to those who lived and fought in the shadows. These men roamed the world, armed with exotic weapons that were only discussed in closed circles. It was the time of the modern gunfighter and the birth of the ASP.

The story of the ASP reads like a Ludlum or Flynn novel. In 1966, a young Paris Theodore founded custom-holster company Seventrees Ltd. Located in New York City on West 39th Street, Seventrees designed and produced “modern” concealment holsters for professionals. The company’s clientele ranged from NYPD detectives to “spooks” from many countries. Documents show that Seventrees was awarded several contracts from a variety of U.S. agencies, including an order for handcuff cases from the U.S. Secret Service.

The holster business, while both legitimate and profitable, was only part of the story. Located in the backroom behind a vault door, Seventrees’ sister company, Armament Systems and Procedures (ASP), was a clandestine laboratory that worked with various government organizations to design and produce specialized weapons. Company archives show that, in May of 1971, Theodore delivered a “special experimental submachine gun” to the U.S. Army’s Frankfort Arsenal with a “special sight,” shoulder holster and belt holster. However, the most lasting project was the ASP pistol.

According to Theodore, the ASP was developed on behalf of a government agency that needed a concealable handgun chambered in a “major caliber.” During the early development, various 1911s and Browning Hi-Powers were cut down and reconfigured. But in each case, the end result was lacking.

Revamped M39

For the ASP’s base platform, Theodore finally settled on the Smith & Wesson Model 39, which was introduced in 1954 to compete in the U.S. Army service-pistol trials and offered to the commercial market in 1955. The M39 featured an aluminum frame, a 4-inch barrel and a Walther-style, double-action fire control system. The weapon was chambered in 9mm Parabellum and had an eight-round magazine capacity. The M39’s most notable feature was the one-piece, deeply curved backstrap. To this day, the M39 fits my hand better than any pistol I’ve ever owned.

The ASP was the result of some 212 modifications to the stock M39. The most dramatic modifications were the reductions in the slide and frame. The slide and barrel were shortened by 0.75 inches, while the butt of the frame was reduced by 0.56 inches. These changes in turn required extensive internal modifications to the barrel bushing, recoil spring and guide, as well as the mainspring and backstrap assembly. To lighten the slide, the muzzle end was tapered and the rear cocking serrations were removed. To further reduce the size, the hammer spur was removed and the thumb safety was shaved. Each pistol came with three shortened magazines that featured a patented finger-rest baseplate.

Pages: 1 2
Show Comments