Is there anything the Colt Model M1911 can’t do? I certainly don’t think so. I’m not the only one either. Long before the idea of the PDW ( personal defense weapon) existed for military and VIP protection, there were some men who felt that a full auto M1911 would be just the ticket. Sad to say those men happened to be murderous bank robbers Dillinger and Lester Gillis.
The man who provided those “baby machine guns” the gangster was a TX gun smith named Hyman Lebman. Lebman was a talented gun smith and tinkerer. He modified multiple guns for the criminals of the day supposedly not aware of their real occupation, thinking they were newly rich oilmen. When the FBI attempted to apprehend those killers, firefights erupted in to now nearly legendary events. The Lebman “baby machineguns” were used in most and resulted in the deaths of FBI agents.
“My father was Hyman S. Lebman (his name was not Harold, as quoted in the article), and I worked with him from the time I was 10 years old (1937) until he developed Alzheimers in 1976. He died in 1990. He told me many stories about the customers who he later found out were John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. He thought they were charming, wealthy, oil men who were interested in guns, and even invited them to his house for his wife to make them dinner when I was about 3 or 4. Our shop had a firing range in the basement, and when he was experimenting with a Model 1911 on full automatic, the 3rd or 4th round went off directly over head, through the floor, and I was visiting above at the time. It scared him so much that he invented and installed a compensator on the muzzle to control the recoil. At one time much later, when I was visiting Washington, DC, I made an appointment with the FBI, and they were happy to bring out their collection of my dad’s guns for me to see”
Lebman developed two models of his baby machine guns, one using the .45ACP firing government model and one firing the Super. 38 round.
Lebman tweaked the internals of God’s gun and made it into a full auto only machine pistol. It didn’t take long to realize the gun firing on full auto wasn’t very useful as is so a compensator was adder along with a fore grip. The fore grips usually being the front vertical grip from a Thompson submachine gun. Some examples used buttstock and all guns used custom made by Lebman extended magazines.
The Super 38 was the most powerful round for semi autos in the USA at the time It was known to be able to defeat the body armor of the day and for a time before the .357magnum, was prized for its ability to penetrate the auto bodies. Having a compact full auto machine pistol that would defeat body armor and the sheet metal used in the cars used by the robbers and held 22 rounds per magazine was a huge advantage from some one constantly running from the law and ready to start a fire fight at a moments notice. The two grips allowed tight control of the handgun, Much needed due to its high cyclic rate . Reportedly the guns will empty in a heart beat.
As I said above, the guns were part of major events in US law enforcement actions and shoot outs. Gillis and Dillnger used the baby machine guns at the Wisconsin shootout during a raid on their hide out lodge named Little Bohemia.
Lebman, even if he was nothing more than a honest man and gunsmith happy to sell his modified guns to any one with money as the law allowed, owed his eventual downfall to his own success and the 1934 National Firearms Act. Before the NFA, it was not big deal for the unworthy peons to own , posses or make fullauto weapons of all type. After, well we all know the current state on that. Because of the popularity of his guns with the top 10 on the FBI’s most wanted list and the ability of G-men to trace the serial numbers back to his shop. It didn’t take long for feds to do what the feds do best to the gun business and gun owners. He was able to avoid spending a day in prison after several trials. He went on to continue his work as a gunsmith while his machine guns went on to live with the FBI. Pictured below is Lebman made full auto M1911 owned and used by Dillinger . Now in the FBI vaults.
Interestingly at a later date, while the Army was thinking about replacing handguns with a carbine. The M1 carbine was adopted for this role but for a time Colt submitted to the Army a “Carbine ” M1911. It certainly seems to have taken some inspiration from Lebman’s “baby machine gun.”
A lot more polished in design with some more care and refinement , the Colt carbine M1911 submitted to the army looks like it was influenced by Lebman’s design.