GREEN RIVER — Some of the handguns designed and manufactured during the early 1900s have stood the test of time.
The German Luger is a sleek marvel of mechanical engineering and the Colt 1911, designed by John Browning, is sturdy, reliable and ergonomic.
But the Warner Infallible, a blocky handgun made in Connecticut between 1917 and 1919 — a firearm recently researched by the Sweetwater County Historical Museum — has none of those qualities.
The fact that the Warner Infallible has so few redeeming qualities is part of what makes it endearing, said Dick Blust, a gun expert who evaluates and researches all kinds of guns for the museum in Green River, Wyoming.
That’s One Ugly Gun
Tony Niemiec, a state legislator from Green River, inherited the pistol and said it might be the ugliest gun he’s ever laid eyes on.
Niemiec recently contacted Blust — both are retired sheriff’s deputies — and asked him to take a look at his Warner Infallible.
Blust has researched dozens of firearms over the years and confirmed that the gun is definitely not aesthetically pleasing nor reliable, as the name “Infallible” suggests.
It’s a .32-caliber ACP which is puny by today’s standards, and it has one serious drawback. If someone disassembles the pistol and forgets to replace a small lever correctly, the breechblock could fly back into the face of the next person who shoots the gun.
About 7,000 of the pistols were manufactured, making them fairly rare today. And according to Blust, they were not “infallible,” and the company went out of business.
Aside from being ugly and dangerous, they were heavy for a compact frame pistol.
Niemiec told Cowboy State Daily they weigh about the same as a Colt 1911.
“It’s a hideous-looking gun, which makes it cool,” said Niemiec. “It’s over 100 years old now.”
It’s Great, Just Don’t Fire It
Niemiec said he plans to hang onto the to the gun. His father, whom he inherited it from, said when he fired it, it malfunctioned and emptied the entire clip. The gun has not been fired in several years since.
Infallibles are seldom encountered, and though they are an interesting oddity in firearms circles, they should be considered curios that for safety’s sake should not be fired, according to the report written by Blust about the weapon.
Blust said researching firearms is a lot like the work he did as a detective for the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office. With some guns, the research may uncover a rare and valuable discovery. With others, it’s more about the story behind the gun.
“We have a lot of interest in guns in this area and what we do is write up a report when people want to know more about a vintage gun,” Blust said.
From serial numbers and vintage firearms manuals, Blust can normally find out when the gun was made and where it was shipped to from the factory. Winchester and Colt keep records of all of the firearms they make. Blust said the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody is an excellent source for Winchester guns, but it charges a fee for its research.
Blust has researched firearms from all over the U.S. and Canada and sometimes he works from photographs alone.
Blust said the Infallible’s design couldn’t hold up to a bigger cartridge than the .32-caliber because there is no locking mechanism between the breech and the barrel. It uses a stout spring instead.
“The problem with the Infallible was that if you field stripped it, reassembled it and made a small error, the bolt would fly off and strike the shooter,” Blust said.
A lot of people who bring guns to the museum are looking for a value. Blust said he can’t do that, but it’s not difficult to find auction records on gun broker websites to estimate a value.
For those with a vintage firearm (ugly or not) the Sweetwater County Historical Museum offers a firearms research service that anyone can use to find out more about their vintage guns. Contact the museum at (307) 872-6435 or via email at email@example.com .There is no charge for the service.