Published monthly by the National Automatic Pistol Collectors Assn.
Thompson D. Kox Sr., President/Editor
Auto Mag is the tangible benefit of membership in NAPCA. Currently in its 36th volume/year, it is the written compendium of serious pistol collecting during the last third of the 20th Century. It is featured prominently in the bibliography of several fundamental books on the Luger (and most likely other auto-loading pistol tomes; my interest is Lugers and so this review is pointed that direction).
As a new NAPCA member, I availed myself of the offer to purchase the existing back issue collection from Tom Knox. As of two months previous to this writing, this included part or most of vols. 25 and 29 through 35. The cost was nearly $50, postage included. I have been paging through issues at random to get a "sense" of the publication, as well as increase my knowledge of Lugers.
It is immediately apparent that among the correspondents to Auto Mag are the giants on whose shoulders we collectors stand. Names such as Joachim Görtz, Reinhard Kornmeyer, Jim Cate, Joe Wotka, Harry McTague, not to mention Jan Still (merely the ones who come to mind at the moment) fill the volumes. Even while reading at random one runs across the articles, surveys, unearthed documents, on which we have come to depend to identify, assess, and evaluate our Lugers. In addition there are gun descriptions, questions & answers, and bits of information which answer and supplement many of the questions which are posed on Luger discussion forums today.
A brief listing of notable submissions, from random issues, includes: the order documents for the 1930 delivery of 400 Lugers to the Netherlands Navy (Joachim Görtz); the article detailing the background and data basis for the 1929-type Luger (Jan Still); Jan Still's review of John Walters's "The Luger Story"; a cautionary facsimile reproduction of the Imperial Holding Company (of Copperas Cove, Texas) announcing the availability of reproduction of LP-08 barrels and sights including the purchaser's choice of serial number stamping; a statistical study of the changeover timing from adjustable to fixed sights on the LP-08 (Harry McTague); a discussion about fake stamps cottage industry, with sample illustrations and report of a conversation with one of the stamp makers (Joe Wotka); a remarkable new explanation for the omission of j as a serial# suffix (Joachim Görtz)...the list goes on and on, 12 issues a year, for 35 years.
In fact, predating the internet, Auto Mag is very much like a long, slow, uncorrelated version of these forums. Its format is very informal; articles, questions, answers, comments--on all manner of different pistol makes--are strewen together, seemingly laid out as they arrive. There is no attempt at organization of any kind. Questions are asked or data is solicited, and the replys come over the succeeding months. Reading the archive there is at least a bit more immediacy and the possibility of relating data; participating in the discussion real-time, at least to the internet savvy, is agonizing--I submitted a question weeks ago, I don't hope to see a printed reply until the next issue arrives, and my request for personal contact has so far been fruitless.
Auto Mag should be a gold mine of information for research. This, in fact, was the reason I joined NAPCA--to have this archive available to me. Unfortunately the potential of this information is nearly impossible to realize due to the difficulty of its availability. There is no official cumulitive index for its 35+ years of publication. One member has taken it upon himself to assemble an index, which he sells to the membership. This is a costly item, $40 in the classified ad I noted, maybe more now. This cost stands in the way of all but the most serious researcher; such an index should be available to all members as a benefit of membership. Another member is willing to copy individual back issues and send them, again for a small fee. Of course this is volunteer work, taken on members' personal initiative, but it does stand in the way of making the most of this tremendous knowledge base.
Auto Mag suffers a crisis of identity. The internet has seriously eroded the number and nature of submissions. It seems to both point up and support a segragation in the auto pistol collecting community: many of the collectors who continue to submit to Auto Mag are those who are not interested in, or do not feel capable of, participating in online internet collector discussions. Valuable information is thus not shared between the two groups.
In addition, the internet is responsible for a drastic reduction in classified advertising and trading in the magazine. Even over the span of volumes sampled, the classifieds in the back of the issues has dropped from as many as eight pages to as few as two.
Though many of the things I have written here are negative, this should not be construed as a negative review. Auto Mag has much to offer, and I eagerly look forward to the next issue every month, as much as I anticipate what may be posted every time I log on to a Luger forum. I'm disappointed that all but what falls immediately to hand is so hard to access.