With the 80’s nostalgia machine in full effect I wanted to bring Loadout Room and Arms Guide readers a blast from the past. Arcadia Machine and Tool, aka AMT, is hardly known to younger gunslingers like me. In fact, the only reason I know about AMT is from the Hitman series of video games, particularly Hitman 2 Silent Assassin. The lead character famously wields a pair of AMT 1911s. Well, AMT produced a number of guns, including the somewhat well known AMT Backup. The AMT Backup moniker actually encompasses a wide variety of different calibers and even three different guns. There was a DAO gun, a SAO version, and a more modernized Backup 2 model. This particular model is the AMT Backup 2 380. What brings us here today is my recent acquisition of an AMT Backup 380 and how this gun was quite ahead of its time.
The AMT Backup – A Blast from the Past.
What’s cool about this gun is at the time it was produced it was one of the smallest 380s out there. Again at the time concealed carry really wasn’t a thing. The only need for small guns was for backups for polices, and that is what this gun was produced for. These guns came out in the mid-70s and continued production on and off up until 2001 apparently. This is a 1980s model to be specific. I don’t want to dive into the storied history of AMT and the associated companies. It’s long, confusing, and relies more on internet folklore than hard facts.
At the time a 380 ACP pistol this small was rare. Outside of these guns, you had some small 22s and 25 ACPs. Small guns and backup guns, in general, were more or less regulated to 38 Special J frames. The AMT Backup 380 offered a pocket-sized automatic pistol for police and the rare civilian concealed carriers. This super small 380 was certainly small for the time. The Walther PPK would have been considered small back then, but the PPK was considerably larger than the AMT backup.
Why Didn’t It Succeed?
So why isn’t the AMT Backup considered a revolutionary pocket carry 380? Probably because it wasn’t a very good gun. Well, many of them weren’t good guns. AMT had serious quality control issues and some of the Backups were complete junk, while others functioned flawlessly. I purchased this sample from a very reputable dealer and a personal friend who ensures junk guns aren’t in his inventory. I am the lucky owner a reliable Backup. With that said even reliable models like mine aren’t necessarily great guns.
Let’s get the good things said about this gun now. This particular model, the Backup 2, is an SAO gun with a surprisingly good trigger. The manual safety is cloned from a Baby Browning and located where a traditional magazine release would be. It’s extremely easy to reach with the thumb and click on and off. Lastly, the gun’s all stainless steel construction makes it pretty heavy. A heavy gun doesn’t recoil nearly as bad as a lightweight gun. This particular model lacks any of that heavy recoil commonly associated with pocket 380s.
This gun is a product of its environment and its time. The weight that helps with recoil also makes it feel a bit like a boat anchor when carried in the pocket. That’s hardly the only problem. The gun only packs 5 rounds of 380 ACP so it’s definitely meant to be a last-ditch effort gun. Let’s not forget the pain in the butt heel magazine release that is a massive hassle on a pocket rocket like the AMT Backup.
My model would be considered a good model, and even if doesn’t reliably cycle JHPs. AMT was famous for coming out and saying, “Hey don’t use anything but ball ammo in our guns.” This seemed to be a theme among AMT’s guns. Hollow points simply don’t cycle.
Let’s not forget the only sight you have is a trench with some kind of little nub near the front. They’re hard to see, not exactly great for shooting beyond bad breath distance. There is also some rumor going around saying these guns aren’t drop safe, but its hard to find official info from AMT.
Why I own one?
The biggest answer is I like weird stuff. A mini, all steel, 1911 wannabe that’s also a pocket pistol? Sign me up. Also, it was cheap and a neat piece of history. It’s a fun little gun to shoot and the retro nature of it keeps me coming back. The stainless steel slide and the print that reads, “Cal. 380 9mm Kurz” is nice and retro. If you have the chance to grab one of these for say 150 bucks its a fun piece of history, just make sure it actually cycles beforehand. The AMT Backup 380 is a fun little retro gun that’s great if you ever feel like being a hipster.