From Assassins of the Lost Kingdom, coming November, 2016.
They were on the ground in Madrid for just six hours, long enough to drop off their delivery packages and top off their supplies of food and water. Deadeye wandered off into town and returned a couple hours later with an odd looking pistol. It lacked a trigger guard and had a strange lever mounted alongside the frame.
“Been wanting one of these,” he said to Jack. “JoLoAr in .45 ACP. Look at that.”
Deadeye explained that the gun was meant to be carried with the chamber empty—which Jack thought was probably a good idea given the lack of a trigger guard. Then the lever on the right side of the frame let the user cock and fire the pistol quickly with one hand.
“Good for when you’ve got the other hand full,” Deadeye said with a grin. “With reins, handlebars, another gun, whatever.”
That little moment in Assassins is kind of a throwaway. It doesn’t really play any crucial, load-bearing role in the plot, though Deadeye will get a chance to put his new toy to use before the story ends. It’s in there basically because Deadeye is the kind of guy who would be really into interesting firearms – his nickname is Deadeye, after all – and I couldn’t see him passing through Madrid in the 1920s without picking up something.
Spain was home to a long tradition of fine gunsmithing, and in the era of Assassins, the countryside was dotted with small factories producing relatively small numbers of weapons with all sorts of interesting features. The JoLoAr was just one.
It was the invention of a designer named Jose de Lopez Arnaiz, whose initials gave the pistol its name, but Arnaiz didn’t actually design the gun itself. He patented the lever, or palanca, on the side. The lever doesn’t actually have any mechanical function; it’s simply attached to the slide and allows you to pull the slide back to cock the weapon with one hand.
Arnaiz made a deal with an existing gunmaker to add the lever to one of their models that wasn’t selling well, and the JoLoAr was born. The trigger guard was also removed, in part because it would get in the way of the lever. Given the lack of a trigger guard, carrying the pistol with a round in the chamber would be
rather insanely dangerous. So the idea was that you would carry it with the chamber empty, eliminating any chance of the gun going off in your pocket, etc. When you did need your pistol, the lever would allow you to get it ready to fire very quickly with just one hand.
The period advertisement for the JoLoAr above shows that the company apparently thought this feature would make the gun popular with civilians for home and personal defense. On the right, a hapless loser who didn’t buy a JoLoAr fumbles with his pistol as a pair of burglars saunter calmly off, laughing as they go. On the left, however, a trio of burglars run in terror from a JoLoAr user who has already brought his weapon to bear.
(Note that in both cases, the miscreants appear to be getting away with a full sack of loot, so perhaps the idea is that you’ll still get robbed if you have a JoLoAr, but at least the crooks will have to sweat a little for it. On the other hand, Google translates “Huyamos ligeros” as “flee light,” so perhaps the idiomatic meaning is something like “flee empty-handed.” That would make more sense. Perhaps it’s a problem in the art department…)
As it turns out, however, the biggest purchaser of the JoLoAr was not harried homeowners, but the government of Peru, which bought them for the country’s Mounted Police. The gun was well-suited to cavalry use. The lack of a trigger guard made it easier to fire while wearing heavy leather gloves, and – as Deadeye notes – the cocking lever made it easy to ready the weapon with one hand, leaving the other free to steer your horse. Apparently a reasonable number of JoLoArs are in circulation in the United States today, most of them having originally been Peruvian Mounted Police issue.
So that’s the backstory behind the JoLoAr. Here’s a video that will give you more detail and a closer look at the newest addition to Deadeye’s collection of unusual guns.