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:
September 2, 1980
The weapons 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.
First of 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.
No real 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.
The Wildey 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 commercially.
If Mack 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.
Now, no 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.
The Beretta 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.
That .460 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.
The Phoenix 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.
Grimaldi, 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 fact.
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 the P-38K.
I’m not 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.
Hear from you soon, I hope.