L.A.R. Grizzly .45 Win Mag: A detailed analysis by Christian D. Orr, a firearms expert with decades of experience – Thus proclaimeth the L.A.R. Manufacturing, Inc. catalog back in the early 1990s, in reference to its then-flagship product, the Grizzly Mark 1 semiauto pistol chambered for the .45 Winchester Magnum (.45 Win Mag for brevity) cartridge. For those of you who don’t remember the combo, just picture both the M1911 pistol and the .45 ACP round on steroids. I’m not sure why the fine folks in L.A.R’s advertising department chose the word “Everything” as opposed to “Everybody,” but perhaps it was to be inclusive of wild critters in addition to humanoids. In any event, this was one shining example of Truth In Advertising … as I could attest from personal experience (more on this in a bit)!
L.A.R. Grizzly .45 Win Mag: Brief History of Gun, Manufacturer, and Cartridge
L.A.R. Mfg. Inc. was founded in 1968 in West Jordan, Utah, and started by making M16 upper receivers for the Rock Island U.S. Armament Command as well as bolt-action rifles. Then in 1983, they decided to produce a handgun in 1983, that being the good ol’ Grizzly. The pistol was designed by L.A.R. owners Heinz Augat and Perry Arnett, who held accurizing patents for M1911 style handguns. Besides the .45 Win Mag chambering, the gun was also offered in .45 ACP, 10mm, .357 Magnum, and the obscure 357/45 Grizzly Win Mag wildcat cartridge. Then, when the Desert Eagle was released in the .50 Action Express (AE) caliber, L.A.R, not wanting to be one-up in any pistol power pissing contests (so to speak), made a .50 AE chambering for the Grizzly as well.
Sadly, the Grizzly was discontinued in 1999, so if you want to buy one on the used gun market, it’ll easily cost you $2K and up. But the gun damn sure made quite an impact – both literally and figuratively – during her 16 years of production. As for L.A.R. Mfg, it still exists, though the company was acquired by Remington in 2012.
Regarding the history of the .45 Win Mag cartridge, the American Gun Facts website provides this:
“Apparently developed as part of a trend for pistols suited for big game hunting or for survival weapons for military pilots who might get shot down somewhere where there are bears, Winchester began developing the .45 Win Mag in or around 1977… a 230gr projectile moving at 1600 feet per second should dissuade anyone from doing ill to you …The .45 Win Mag is based on a lengthened .45 ACP case that has a lot more powder added, as well as a larger projectile, meaning that velocity, accuracy, and kinetic energy on target are all dramatically increased from the .45ACP. Of course, so is the recoil.”
L.A.R. Grizzly .45 Win Mag: Personal Shooting Impressions/Memories
My first time shooting the Grizzly Win Mag is undoubtedly the single most fondly memorable handgun shooting experience in my 33 years of engaging in the hobby. Picture it: ‘twas December 1990, I was 15 years old at the time, 5’6” in height and weighing in at maybe 120 pounds soaking wet. At that point in my young life, I had 15 months of shooting experience under my belt. I was at the Los Angeles Gun Club in Downtown L.A, and I was there with two adult friends, one of whom was home on leave after having just graduated from U.S. Army Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS).
I decided to give the Grizzly a try after one of the LAGC staffers recommended it to me: “We don’t have the Desert Eagle anymore because it’s a $900 piece of junk. Now those L.A.R. Grizzlies, they last!” I plunked down 10 bucks to rent the gun plus $12.98 for 25 rounds of range reloaded ammo, equating to 52 cents a pop … which is pretty much what you have to shell out (bad pun intended) for mainstream handgun caliber ammo in the present day! But I digress.
So then, with Grizzly and ammo in hand, along with a ginormous Saddam Hussein target – to put things in historical concept for you, this was a month before Operation Desert Storm kicked off – I made my way to the firing line. Mind you, this wasn’t my first time firing a big-bore Magnum, as I’d already attained that personal milestone via the Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum the month prior, but even that prior experience would pale compared to touching off .45 Win Mag for the first time.
Going back to my “Truth In Advertising” affirmation … do y’all remember the range scene from the original 1987 RoboCop film? You know, wherein after a few blasts from Robo’s gun, every other shooter on the line stops shooting to gawk with a big “WTF?” look on their face? Granted, Robo was using a modified Beretta 93R 9mm machine pistol, not a Magnum caliber, but eh, why nitpick? Yeah, well, my real-life scene bore a strong resemblance. After finishing my 7-round magazine and being all too happy to indulge the spotlight of stunned onlookers, I started spouting off the specs of the gun and caliber like the precocious know-it-all kid that I was; toward the end of my spiel, one of my fellow shooters advised me, “Hey buddy, try a .38!”
L.A.R. Grizzly .45 Win Mag: Raw Power When I Pulled the Trigger
So, what did it feel like to shoot the .45 Win Mag? The muzzle blast and muzzle flip left the .44 Mag in the dust. I could literally feel the heat from the cartridge’s ignition, despite the 6.5” bbl. Yet the recoil was surprisingly not all that bad, all things considered; I daresay she was far more enjoyable to shoot than, say, a J-frame S&W .38 snubnose. And accurate too; by the time I’d finished my 25-round allotment (fired entirely at the 7-yard line), paper-Saddam’s nose was pretty much obliterated. Meanwhile, a couple of the empty shell casings pinged my Army warrant officer buddy in the noggin as he was trying to concentrate on shooting his 9mm in the lane next to mine.
Aahh, the dear old L.A.R. Grizzly, gone but not forgotten.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.