Monday, 18 Oct, 2021
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Rare? One Of A Kind?

The ASP 9mm, a cut-down S&W Model 39, pioneered the idea of a concealable pistol that fired a service pistol cartridge. That was the first step and..

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The ASP 9mm, a cut-down S&W Model 39, pioneered the idea of a concealable pistol that fired a service pistol cartridge. That was the first step and led quite directly to the second: Devel. Charley Kelsey, gunsmith and former racer, ordered an ASP conversion and was quite disappointed by his experience. Kelsey’s fertile mind became convinced he could do better, and he started Devel, named after a Scottish word meaning to strike an incapacitating blow. In the late 1970s, there were three serious fighting guns: the S&W 39, the M1911 and the Browning Hi-Power. While Devel is best known for its cut-down Smiths (a la the ASP), improvements Kelsey pioneered were later incorporated in all three pistols by their respective manufacturers. Along the way, he also patented the eight-round 1911 magazine and a gas-operated handgun, in addition to designing a fluted bullet that looks suspiciously like the inspiration for some of the current defensive projectiles. Unfortunately, he was a better designer than businessman, and the Devel corporation, in part crippled by the eight-round magazine they could not make reliable, ended in bankruptcy. Kelsey’s life is a story of bitter disappointment and of innovation appropriated by others, and now, some 30 years later, most shooters no longer even know the name “Devel.” Wayne Novak, who has the largest known Devel collection, calls it “Devel Face,” a slightly whimsical expression other people give you because they have no idea what you’re talking about. This ignorance (which is changing a bit), worked in his favor when he discovered Kelsey’s personal Browning Hi-Power because while others simply saw one more Browning, he recognized it instantly for what it was.