The Jo-Lo-Ar Pistol
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A brief history of the Jo-Lo-Ar Pistol.

On September 12, 1919 a Spanish gun dealer, Jose de Lopez Arnaiz, received a patent for a new invention. Five years later, in 1924, he made his way to Eibar, Spain to make some money with his invention. Eibar was the center of the Spanish gun making trade at that time; but Arnaiz had not invented a gun, he hadn't invented a new feed system, nor had he invented a new cartridge. Arnaiz invented a lever, or a palanca as any self respecting Spaniard would call it. Arnaiz was already a gun dealer of some reputation in his hometown and that paved the way for an interview with the Spanish gunmaking company of Hijo de Calixto Arrizabalaga. The management at Arrizabalaga liked the idea of the palanca and immediately decided to put it to use. Rather than design a new pistol around the palanca, they would add it to an existing one.

The pistol chosen was one that had sagging sales and was due to be upgraded already. The Sharp-Shooter pistol had been in production for 4 years but never sold very well; it's features made it and the palanca a perfect match. The current Sharp-Shooter had no safety of any kind, nor did it have an extractor. It relied purely on blowback to force the cartridge case from the chamber. The Arrizabalaga engineers had decided to add an extractor to the current Sharp-Shooter and call it the Extractor Model Sharp-Shooter in an attempt to boost sales. It was further agreed to add the palanca to this pistol after deletion of the trigger guard. A trigger guard would only impede the palanca's movement. The palanca could also be touted as a safety device on the Extractor Model Sharp-Shooter. It allows the user to chamber a round and cock the pistol, all with the firing hand. Therefore the pistol could be carried with an empty chamber, but readied for use in a very short time.

Now a name was needed for this new pistol, it couldn't very well be called the Extractor and Palanca Model Sharp-Shooter. Senior Arnaiz, quite proud of his invention, wanted the pistols called the “Arnaiz Auto Arm", the management of Arrizabalaga didn't like this idea. They felt the word auto was misleading, after all this was a semi-automatic pistol! A compromise was reached and the new pistol would be called the Jo-Lo-Ar (JOse de LOpez ARnaiz), satisfying Arnaiz's pride and the Arrizabalaga management.

Arniaz, being the shrewd businessman that he was, didn't want to sell his patent for the palanca, nor did he want to license it. Arniaz wanted to produce pistols bearing his name, or at least initials. To this end he set up a paper company, Fabrica de Armas y Dispositivos, to manufacture and sell Jo-Lo-Ars. Arrizabalaga would build the basic pistol and then Arniaz's 'company' would install palancas on them.

On September 15, 1924 the Spanish Proof House tested the first Jo-Lo-Ar in .380 ACP caliber and issued a proof certificate for it separate from the Extractor Model Sharp-Shooter, which was also in production. These first production Jo-Lo-Ars bore the Spanish Patents of #68027, issued in 1920 for the Sharp-Shooter pistol itself, and #70235, issued on 1919 for the palanca. The Extractor Model Sharp-Shooter was also issued a patent , #70237 in 1924, to differentiate the Extractor Model Sharp-Shooter from the earlier Sharp-Shooter sans extractor. The strange thing is that all Jo-Lo-Ars were built using Extractor Model Sharp-Shooters, patent #70237, but were marked with the old Sharp-Shooter patent, #68027. Why, we may never know. If you do happen to find a genuine Jo-Lo-Ar with the Extractor Model patent number on the slide; hold on to it dearly, none are known to exist.

At some point Senior Arniaz broke his contract with Hijo de Calixto Arrizabalaga and went in search of another partner for his palanca. The company he approached was Star Bonifacio Echevveria S.A., maker of Star pistols. The management of Star turned him down flat. He did ask Star if they would provide him with some pistols to add the palanca to, they replied if he wanted to do that he was on his own both commercially and legally. It is unknown if any Stars were modified with the palanca.

The largest overseas purchaser of the Jo-Lo-Ar was Peru, for use by the Peruvian Mounted Police. The palanca was real handy for a man on horseback, he could cock his pistol with one hand or even by snagging the palanca on his pants leg or saddle. The only other overseas purchaser of note was Portugal who purchased a small quantity for their use.

In 1969 Interarms Corporation found a cache of Jo-Lo-Ars languishing in Peru, bought them and shipped them back to the United States for sale on the surplus market. It is unknown how many pistols were in this cache. Many of the Jo-Lo-Ars in the United States today probably come from this Peruvian stock.

Over the course of its production life the Jo-Lo-Ar was produced in 5 calibers:

A 4mm subcaliber adapter was also available for the Jo-Lo-Ar, manufactured by Star Bonifacio Echevveria S. A.

Production estimates on Jo-Lo-Ars are in the neighborhood of 30,000 pieces with 9mm Largo the most produced caliber. Standard Sharp-Shooter production was much higher, Extractor Model Sharp-Shooter production lower and lowest yet were the few Sharp-Shooters sold without trigger guards.

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There are no known serial number records for Jo-Lo-Ars as the factory was reportedly destroyed by fire during the Spanish Civil War. The collector must determine a pistols age based on proof marks. Jo-Lo-Ars are normally proofed on the left side of the slide, under the name and patent stamps. Unfortunately, if you collect old Spanish Steel long enough you will realize that there is never an always. This pistol was proofed sometime between 14 December 1929 and 9 July 1931 based on the two outer proof marks. However, the inner Year of Proof code (applied to all Spanish pistols since 1927) indicates proofing in 1928. It's possible that the pistol entered the proof house on 31 December 1928, was stamped for admittance to proof and sat in the proof house until 14 December 1929. This would mean that it took the proof house 348 days to proof this pistol. Personally, I think they just liked it and didn't want to give it back to Arniaz.
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eibar_1925.jpg - 16708 BytesThis specimen is another exercise in speculation. The first proof mark indicates proofing between December 14, 1929 and July 9, 1931. The second proof indicates proofing before the Year of Proof Codes came into use in 1927. The third proof indicates proofing between July 18, 1923 and December 14, 1929. Additionally it bears a stamping under the left grip panel that indicates manufacture in 1925. So, we now have another pistol who's markings don't agree with each other. I don't know that these mysteries will ever be resolved. This is part of the enjoyment of old Spanish Steel.

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An old advertisement for the Jo-Lo-Ar. From the picture it appears to be a .32ACP or .380ACP version.

When 9mm Largo ammunition was hard to find in quantity shooters regularly fired other cartridges such as the 9mm Luger, 9mm Steyr, 9mm Browning Long, etc in their 9mm Largo firearms. Many dealers and distributors also claimed the firearms would fire all of these and more. This however is not a prudent practice to engage in. The Jo-Lo-Ar, like all pistols firing straight walled cartridges, headspace on the mouth of the cartridge. When a cartridge shorter than the 23mm of the 9mm Largo is used, the cartridge case cannot headspace against the end of the chamber. This leaves only the extractor to hold the cartridge case against the breechface allowing the firing pin to impact the primer. This causes excessive wear and stress on the extractor, too much freebore (the distance from the bullet to the beginning of the rifling), and scoring of the chamber walls. The result of these abnormalities can result in broken/misshapen extractors, poor accuracy, and the inability to chamber and extract correct size cases.

The use of cartridges that produce too much chamber pressure is also discouraged. Yes, the .38 Super and 9x23mm Winchester will chamber in most 9mm Largo firearms, and if they will chamber they will fire. The metallurgy and design of the Jo-Lo-Ar was not developed to handle the pressure of these rounds. Use of these type cartridges in the Jo-Lo-Ar risks damage to the pistol and possibly yourself through a ruptured chamber, fractured slide, or fractured frame.

Ammunition in 9mm Largo is now available from a number of sources. Surplus ammunition is now coming into the country in shootable quantities and is available at some gunshops, many gunshows, and via mailorder. Factory new 9mm Largo ammunition is being made by CCI in their Blazer line (product number 3513) with a 124g Gold Dot Hollow Point bullet. If you reload RCBS makes dies in 9mm Largo (product number 56665), these are not a normally stocked item and require special order. You can also utilize 9x23mm Winchester dies to reload 9mm Largo, the exterior case dimensions are almost identical. Starline also produces virgin 9mm Largo brass for reloading. Gone are the days of manufacturing cases out of .223 Remington (done that, not fun), 9mm Winchester Magnum (done that, much easier) or other cases.

Detailed images of Jo-Lo-Ars and some Sharp-Shooters
click on thumbnails for larger views

Jo-Lo-Ar #1
left view

Jo-Lo-Ar #1
right view

.380 ACP


Jo-Lo-Ar #2
left view

Jo-Lo-Ar #2
right view

Proof on barrel of
Jo-Lo-Ar #2

Proof on barrel pivot
of Jo-Lo-Ar #2
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Text, images, and HTML coding Copyright 2001 Colin D. Castelli, All Rights Reserved.