By Jeff W. Zimba
The first time I encountered the LDE-9 (Short for “Last Ditch Effort” 9mm) was at the 1996 Soldieer of Fortune Convention in Las Vegas. As we rounded the corner of the aisle where Gemini Technologies was set up, you could feel something special in the air. The smile on the face of Gemtech machinist Jim Ryan told most of the story by itself.
“What do you think?”, was accompanied by an out-stretched arm, with a hand containing what seemed to resemble a Mini-Mag flashlight on a key ring. “We call it the LDE-9.” With folks in the gun business, this type of greeting is much more common than the old “Hello, how are you”. That comes next.
Our response was pretty universal. “9 millimeter, huh?” When you use the word pengun and 9 millimeter in the same sentence, you tend to get a reaction, even from the most seasoned enthusiast. The correct guy thing to do in a case like this is to nod your head and show your approval. You might ask why they did not make it in a 10mm, or even .50AE, but what you are actually thinking is “Wow. That has got to sting.”
Jim showed us a few of the prototype attachments that were still in research and development, and we were on our way. The idea of the 9mm pengun with the pull ring firing mechanism however, stayed etched in my memory.
I have been a fan of penguns for many years now. The idea of buying a pengun was originally attractive because of their relatively low price when compared to other Title II firearms. The idea of purchasing an NFA firearm on a $5.00 tax stamp is always attractive as well. The reaction by individuals the first time they see a pen gun is always worth it’s weight in gold too. If I had a dollar for each time someone said “Wow, real James Bond stuff”! I could have retired years ago.
The first pen gun to grace my gun cabinet was manufactured from an old pen flare kit, and was barreled in .25ACP. Yup, that’s the viscious round we keep hearing Charles Schumer talking about that is always used in the inner cities. Actually, the deciding factor in the caliber was the location of the firing pin. The pen flares were allready set up in a centerfire configuration, so it would have been much harder to chamber it for a rimfire cartridge. The firing mechanism was a very simple “pull back and let fly” system. In order to have this particular gun in the ready/fire position, the firing pin had to be pulled about half way back, and pushed over in a groove milled into the main body. While this was an interesting addition to the collection, as far as I was concerned, it was only a novelty, and not anything I would ever consider carrying for self defense.
There are a few immediate problems with carrying a pengun of that design as a defensive unit. The obvious are: capacity, caliber, and most of all, safety. Gemtech has managed to address almost all these concerns with the LDE-9. The hurdle of caliber has been easily jumped with this pen gun. I come from the old school of bigger is better, but we have to keep it sensible. With an increase in caliber, comes an almost equal increase in size, therefore losing the concealability that is so important in this design.
Even if we could get past the size, there is still the amount of felt recoil to be considered, and just plain being able to keep one of these things in your hand. The 9mm Parabellum seems to be an excellent choice. It allows the diameter of the LDE-9 to stay at 9/16” (14mm) remaining very concealable, the ammunition is available worldwide, and hey, 9mm kicks the pants off the vast majority of the pen guns on the market.
The safety mechanism of the LDE-9 is far superior to many others on the market. Rather than a straight “pull and slam-fire” mechanism with a safety notch parallel to the firing slot, it uses an in-line pull ring firing mechanism/incorporated with a threaded safety ring. This safety system makes it virtually impossible to fire the LDE-9 without being ready to do so. In order to fire this unit, you must first unscrew the safety ring to the tune of 3+ turns, or you’re not able to pull the key ring trigger mechanism.
There are a few accessories available for the LDE-9, and a few more on the drawing board. For those currently available, the barrel being threaded at 1/2×28 allows the use of many common 9mm pistol suppressors, or Gemtech’s model SOS. There will soon be a bell style thread protector on the market to allow for a more comfortable hold during firing, and give it the look of a mini flashlight. As for the ideas on the drawing board, all you have to do is use your imagination, and remember that the guys at Gemtech are behind this design.
The LDE-9 pengun consists of four major components. The body, the safety/firing device, the barrel, and the thread protector. The Body (or receiver), carries all the markings from the manufacturer. The Safety/Firing Device consists of the rear knurled, and inner threaded sleeve, which is the safety, and the trigger pin with an attached pull ring. This assembly is not removable from the body of the firearm. The Barrel unscrews from the receiver to allow the loading of a new round, or the removal of a fired cartridge. Where it is supplied normally in 9mm Parabellum, it may be special ordered in .380ACP, or .32ACP. The end of the barrel is threaded 1/2×28. The Thread Protector is a knurled piece with a 3/8” aperture. It comes from the factory with a 3/8” diameter piece of black nylon as a plug. This plug is held in place by friction only, and helps to disguise the muzzle. It should be pushed out with a pencil before shooting, but in case of an emergency it is acceptable to shoot through the plug.
The loading and firing sequence is as follows; Making sure the safety ring is screwed tightly on to the receiver, unscrew the barrel and insert the cartridge into the chamber. Point it in the direction you wish to shoot. Screw the barrel back into the receiver. Hold the body of the LDE-9 securely in your left hand. Unscrew the knurled safety ring at the rear of the receiver approximately 3 turns, until it is free. The safety is now disengaged. Pull the ring back as far as it will go. Near the end of it’s rearward travel, the striker will automatically be released and will disengage from the pull ring assembly firing the LDE-9.
The LDE-9 is designed to use any standard, American manufactured ammunition except Plus-P (+P) or Plus-P-Plus (+P+) rated ammunition. It is also recommended that no foreign ammunition be used because of possible (and likely) overpressurization. For comfortable use, Gemtech recommends a nice light load when not using this with a sound suppressor.
I tested it with and without a sound suppressor. The ammunition used for testing was 147 Grain FMJ by D&S Manufacturing, (Now Maine Cartridge Company). The suppressor I used was manufactured by North American Sales International of Midland, Texas. The length of the can is a little over 2 1/2 times the length of the LDE-9, but the thing I was looking for was an increased gripping surface. With the can, the LDE-9 was not at all unpleasant to fire. I popped a few rounds at a distance of 30’ or better, and surprisingly enough I was hitting in the general area I was “Aiming” at. Obviously, as far as accuracy, it is only as effective as your ability to point. On the date of the testing our shooting range was still knee deep in snow, so I only concerned myself with a safe backstop and fired for comfort only.
The comfort ended as soon as I fired the unit with no suppressor! I held the LDE-9 in a “death grip” with my left hand, and as soon as the trigger mechanism was engaged, the rear of the unit introduced itself to the knuckle on my trigger finger rather abruptly. Nothing a Band-Aid wouldn’t take care of, but enough to get your attention. In speaking to Jim Ryan about this we both agreed that it could be avoided by gripping the outside of the key ring and the knurled safety portion when firing. Another good point Jim had was to pull the unit away from your body with the left hand at the same time you are applying rearward tension to the trigger assembly. The newly designed thread protector would compensate for this as well, by giving a sturdy point of hold in the left hand.
My overall assessment is that the LDE-9 stands atop of the heap of “Big Boy’s” pen guns. Many typical pen gun problems were solved in the design, and it has more accessories both on the drawing table, and on the market, than any other pen gun I am immediately familiar with. For it’s actual purpose, which is designated by it’s name, the Last Ditch Effort, it is a step above many competitors and sure to meet it’s intended requirements. It should be required as an addition to any pen gun collection. The craftsmanship and the quality are second to none, and the design is sure to be unique when placed by it’s relatives. As for the recreational shooting value….let’s just say that it is not for those with a light grip. For anyone in the Tough Guy category who was wondering why it is not offered in .50AE, your question will be answered as soon as you pull the firing ring.
On a serious note, when you shoot this thing you had better remember that it is in no way a toy, and adhere carefully to all the safety rules. A pen gun is still a gun, and all rules apply. Be safe, and have fun.
LDE-9 Physical Specifications
Caliber: 9mm Parabellum (9×19 NATO)
Overall Length: 4” (102mm)
Barrel Length: 1 3/4”
Diameter: 9/16” (14mm)
Weight: 2oz (55gm)
Firing Mechanism: In-Line Pull Ring
Material Used: 4130 Steel
Finish: Black Oxide
Muzzle Thread: 1/2×28
For more information on the LDE-9:
Division of Gemini Technologies, Inc.
P.O. Box 3538
Boise, Idaho 83703
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N2 (November 1997)|