I've never made a secret about being a Jerry Ahern fanboy. I loved his books when I was a teenager.
Back in 2015, I became Facebook pals with author Stephen Mertz, who, I need not say, is a legend in men's adventure writing himself, having turned out titles for the Bolan series, as well as many others. In 1980, probably not long after Gold Eagle/Harlequin acquired the Mack Bolan series from Don Pendleton, the editors at GE asked Jerry Ahern for his opinions on which weapons Bolan, Phoenix Force, and several others, might use in the books. Ahern replied with two pages of well thought-out reasoning for this weapon or that, and a copy of the letter was forward to Mr. Mertz, who sent it along to me thinking I might like to add it to my Ahern collection. It was actually quite fascinated to read, and I've been meaning to post it on this blog ever since. I've included pictures of the actual letter, but transcribed it for the blog for easy-reading.
I'm not sure what to add, but I think it's safe to say Ahern's remarks were what made Gold Eagle replace the Pendleton-era Bolan weapons with the updated Beretta 93R and Desert Eagle the Executioner has used throughout the Gold eagle era. While Ahern suggested a different .44 Magnum (S&W, as you'll see), we know he approved of the Desert Eagle since he included it in THE DEFENDER series. I wish he'd have recommended the 93R over the 92, but for whatever reason the 93R wasn't on his radar at the time.
Here is Jerry's commentary:
suggested by your man from The Stony Man Farm team for Bolan to use do not make
a heck of a lot of sense, as we discussed by phone. The guy’s plot ideas sound
terrific, and no offense to the fella, but although he may have a Federal
Firearms License and be some sort of gun dealer, he apparently does not know
the technical side of things terribly well.
all—the reason the Auto Mag has always been a ridiculous choice for Mack Bolan
is that commercial ammunition is usually available only from one
manufacturer—Norma—and is terribly hard to find. It may not be available at all
anymore. The Auto Mag, aside from a reputation for power in the game fields and
on metallic silhouette ranges, has also earned a reputation for poor
reliability over the years. The guns tend easily toward jamming. Aside from the
fact that they are huge, unreliable and generate such heavy recoil that
shot-to-shot recovery time is greatly protracted, the gun almost invariably
requires that both hands be free to hold it, certainly for repeated shots.
adventurer or agent would be caught dead with one—simply because he might be
caught dead if he used one. A fine gun for handgun hunting, perhaps, but not
for any type of defensive or police use. It may have a lot of pizazz but anyone
with an ounce of firearms sophistication realizes it is a stupid choice for
Bolan or anyone like him.
Magnum which your writer suggests does not truly exist at this point in time,
although prototype models do exist and the gun is still—as I gather—intended
for production. The ammo has been generally available for some time, simply
because Winchester, a major manufacturer, decided to offer it. But currently,
anyone who wishes to shoot the ammo must do so in a single-shot T/C Contender
pistol. Even if the first production guns were to appear tomorrow, there would
still be problems. The recoil would be on the high side, though supposedly not
as bad as the Auto Mag. The ammunition would not be available everywhere,
though more available than fodder for the Auto Mag. But, most importantly, the
gun has never been proven. What may prove acceptable in eventually game field
and silhouette shooting use will likely not prove acceptable for combat. And,
the gun may never actually exist—it has yet to be offered for the first time
Bolan must use a huge, non-combat type gun with a flashy appearance—which would
be poor logic in the real world, of course—then the best bet to replace the
Auto Mag would be the new Smith & Wesson Model 629. Simply a stainless
steel version of the Dirty Harry Model 29 .44 Magnum, the gun actually does
exist, has manageable recoil for a strong man, enjoys wide ammunition
availability and is thoroughly reliable. I have recently tested one for GUN
WEEK, THE AMERICAN HANDGUNNER, and SAGA. Aside from the fact that it is already
one of the most sought after guns in the world, it is a good one.
really weapons-wise person would use a .44 Magnum for combat, but the 629 is
perhaps the best compromise with pizazz and common sense with a super-powerful load.
Many vice cops, narcs and others do use the .44 Magnum, so at least its use by
Bolan would be within the vicinity of good sense.
Model 1951 Brigadier 9mm Bolan carries, though somewhat odd a choice, is a
rational one. Yet, if you wish to update Bolan’s weapons a bit, he could switch
to the newer Beretta Model 92S. This gun uses a fifteen-round double column
magazine, has double action first round capability and features a fine
decocking lever safety. Aside from a bit of additional girth at the grips over
the older model (to accommodate the wider magazine with increased capacity) the
guns are identical in appearance and Bolan’s holsters would work with the new
gun just as well as with the old one.
Weatherby Magnum Bolan uses for sniping people is the ultimate absurdity. A
good, solid .308 or .30-06 would be far better, capable of being silenced when
necessary, etc. The .460 caliber is fine for Rhino, overkill for people. Each
time Bolan uses the gun, any gun-wise reader realizes the writer just picked
the most powerful caliber he’d read about and really knows nothing about how
the gun is really used. I would suggest a Steyr-Mannlicher SSG with synthetic
stock and Kahles sniper scope, or just a much-worked-over Remington 700 BDL, either
gun in .308. With either of these, he might even get into using a Leatherwood
ART scope mount—the kind used extensively in Viet Nam by snipers—something we
are given to understand Mack Bolan is intimately familiar with.
Force people should all be armed with handguns of the same caliber for ammo
interchange when necessary. Most professional soldier types reportedly use a
9mm Parabellum (Luger) since ammo can be found all over the world and this is
the handgun caliber of most European armies. Many 9mm pistols will also with the
Soviet pistol cartridge which is similar to the 9mm. Recommendation for a
specific gun would be the Browning P-35 High Power. If all the Phoenix Force
guys carried these, scenes of pitched battles could include swapping magazines
when one man runs out of ammo, etc. That was always very effectively done in
the old “Man From Uncle Series” and professional people working together always
try for ammo compatibility.
for a nice twist, might use a gun that is a carryover from his Mafia flying
days, as well as any clandestine flight experience for the government. This
could be any one of a number of silenced .22 pistols, most likely and old High
Standard HD Military or a Colt Woodsman, although if you can check that Sturm-Ruger
wouldn’t sue, the current (Viet Nam era) Special Forces/CIA assassination
pistol is, by all reports, a Ruger MkI .22 automatic with integral
silencer—these still being made about sixty miles from my house, as a matter of
If Dagger is
quite Continental and sophisticated, he’d probably go for a .380 ACP pistol
like the Walther PPK/S or Beretta Model 84 when concealment is critical and a
9mm Parabellum when serious trouble is expected—probably a Browning High Power
here too, but perhaps something with a little more in the exotic looks
department, like a Walther P-38K (the old UNCLE gun), or the new Heckler &
Koch PSP, a 9mm small enough to be carried for concealment as well, as would be
trying to sound presumptuous, but I am a weapons “expert” and you did ask.
Personally, I carry a Detonics .45 automatic most of the time, in the warmer
months when concealment is more difficult sometimes dropping down to a little
snubby .38 Special Smith & Wesson. Sometimes, too, I use a six-inch Colt
Python .357 Magnum. If I were in a situation of constant danger, like the
fellas under discussion, I stick with the .45 or .357. If you want further
information or amplification, let me know and I’ll help as best as possible.
you soon, I hope.