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Calico M100: The .22 LR Gun That Holds 100 Rounds

Calico M100
Calico M100. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Calico M100 Packed in a Lot of Ammunition: The .22 LR remains a favorite caliber of target shooters and because of its low weight and small size, it is easy for many firearms to hold 50 or more rounds. Then there is the Calico M100, which could hold 100 rounds in its horizontal drum magazine mounted to the top of the firearm. The result is a futuristic looking rifle that has made the rounds in popular culture.

Calico M100: Origin Story 

The origin of this unique weapon goes back nearly 40 years, when Calico Light Weapons Systems, Inc. (CLWS) was first established in 1982 in Bakersfield, California. Perhaps seeing that the days of friendly gun laws were coming to an end in the state, the company picked up stakes and moved to Sparks, Nevada for a time. It was later sold and moved to Hillsboro, Oregon and today is headquartered in Elgin, Oregon.

While Calico hasn’t become a firearms giant, the Pacific Northwest-based company continues to produce the M100, a blowback-operated semi-automatic rifle developed in the early 1980s. At the time, Calico was actually the California Instrument Company, which designed and built specialized instrumentation for the petroleum industry – and with a background in tooling and engineering the team of designers took an odd turn, much like its 100-round “Helical” magazine.

The designers considered a way that the magazine and feed system could be employed in modern firearms. The concept of a Helical magazine dates back even longer, to the middle of the 19th century when it was first employed in the Evans Repeating Rifle, which was patented in the early 1860s.

Helical Magazine

The Helical magazine essentially features a large octagonal spring-powered “clockwork-like” device that is wound by hand and contained within a box magazine drum mounted horizontally along the top of the receiver, feeding towards the front. Each round in the magazine follows the spiral path around an auger-shaped rotating follower or drive member. This allows for both a compact design, and increased the ammunition capacity.

In addition, there is no need for a spring or follower in smaller calibers, which can often take up about 20 to 25 percent of the overall length of a traditional magazine. This is also quite different from the top-mounted magazine of the FN P90 that was also developed in the 1980s. Whereas the P90 actually uses a rather traditional magazine, and a unique horizontally mounting system, which rotates each round, the M100 is actually fed from a horizontal drum.

Yet, despite its potential benefits, Helical magazines have only been used in handful of weapons including the Russian-designed PP-19 Bizon, a 9x19mm Markarov submachine gun and the North Korean Type 88, a variant of the AK-74.

Calico’s Line of Guns

Beginning with the first working 100 round Helical feed .22 LR carbine, Calico has produced an entire family of firearms that utilized the unique design. This has included the Calico M900 series, which were chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum.

As with the original M100, the M900 series also featured the high-capacity, cylindrical, helical-feed magazine – and had a magazine capacity of 50- or 100-rounds. Yet, as with other Calico 9mm variants, this line of firearms also utilized a roller-delayed blowback that is similar to the action of the Heckler & Koch MP5, as well as a downward-pointed ejection port that is forward of the trigger – and which resembles the magazine well of a conventional submachine gun or rifle.

Even those who may not know of the Calico brand likely have seen the firearm a lot. Calico’s futuristic firearms first stood in for laser weapons in the Mel Brooks’ sci-fi parody Space Balls, and later appeared in such films as The Running Man, Robocop 2, Total Recall and Star Trek: First Contact, while it was a mainstay in the TV series seaQuest DSV.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes Magazine. 

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.