By James Bardwell
Gemini Technologies, Inc., (Gemtech) is a Boise, Idaho based manufacturer of firearms, including NFA weapons. At the time the subject of this article was made Gemtech was a collaboration of three separate designers primarily known for their silencer designs, Dr. Philip H. Dater, Jim Ryan and Gregory S. Latka. Jim Ryan has since left Gemtech to pursue a new business. Gemtech continues as its own entity, with Phil Dater and Greg Latka producing the firm’s products. Silencers are the main product of Gemtech. However they did also design and produce concealable firearms that are as stealthy as their suppressors. One of them is the LDE. While it shares a similar name to the 9mm Parabellum LDE-9 pen gun also made by Gemtech, it is a different design, and considerably smaller.
The Gemtech LDE is a single shot “pen gun”, chambered for .22 long rifle ammunition. It was designed by Jim Ryan as a “Last Ditch Effort” (hence the name) firearm. The gun was originally conceived in the early 1990’s, at the same time as the companion LDES suppressor also made by Gemtech. However the first LDE used a trigger similar to that on the MAC Stinger, and Ryan felt that design wasn’t safe enough for carry while loaded. It was never released. The current trigger, which uses a rotating band to retain and release the cocked firing pin, was inspired by the bolt lock he designed for suppressed Ruger .22 pistols. He feels this design is safe enough for carry while loaded.
The LDE is extremely small, measuring approximately 3 inches in length by 1/2 inch in diameter. Weight is less than two ounces. Constructed entirely out of stainless steel (except the firing pin) it is both weather resistant and sturdy. The entire gun, except the firing pin, was made on CNC machining equipment by Greg Latka. The firing pins were made by hand by Jim Ryan, due to their complicated shape and the need to be made from a steel that will take the required heat treatment. Unlike many pen guns, the LDE has a rifled bore.
Pen gun generally refers to hand fired guns that have a stock in a straight line to the bore, as opposed to having a stock at an angle to the bore, as conventional handguns do. As a pen gun, it is regulated in the U.S.A. as an Any Other Weapon (AOW) by the National Firearms Act (NFA), since it is a concealable firearm that does not fit the ATF definition of a pistol or revolver.
The LDE is meant to be used with a muzzle suppressor. The barrel is threaded 3/8 x 24 tpi for that purpose, and Gemtech makes the LDES and LDES 2 muzzle cans, which are usable on this gun, as well as other .22 rimfire weapons. Even though the LDE was listed in the 1996 catalog, Gemtech decided that the level of care required of the operator in using such a small gun was high enough that they could not market it to the general public, due to legal liability concerns. While the LDES and LDES 2 silencers are offered for sale to anyone who can legally obtain a sound suppressor, the LDE is not offered for sale at this time. Jim Ryan advises that fewer than 12 have been made. He also indicated that he does plan at some point to make a longer version of the gun, which will have a longer body and cocking piece, with a pocket clip and a short ink cartridge for one end, and will resemble a writing pen, although it will not be made by Gemtech, but rather by his own company, Tactical Ordnance and Equipment Corp. The longer version, when available, will be offered for sale to anyone able to obtain an NFA weapon.
How it Works
The cocking piece, which is the rear knurled portion, has a Phillips head screw through it, the head of which retains the firing pin. The firing pin spring is captive on the screw, between the body and firing pin. Retracting the cocking piece retracts the firing pin, against the spring. The trigger is a rotating band on the body of the LDE. When it is rotated while the firing pin is retracted against the spring it catches and holds the firing pin, and when the trigger is rotated the opposite direction, it releases the firing pin. If the gun is loaded, it will then fire. The safety pin is a piece of stiff wire that, when inserted through its hole in the body, will catch the firing pin before it hits the round, should the firing pin fall unintentionally.
How to Use it
As with many AOW’s, using the gun is not intuitive, as it does not have a conventional trigger, or stock. The gun is cocked by first unscrewing the rear cocking piece portion until it is held against the body of the gun by the firing pin spring. This retracts the firing pin about 1/2 of the way, and will prevent an accidental discharge should the cocking piece slip out of the user’s hand while attempting to complete cocking a loaded LDE. Cocking a loaded LDE is not recommended. The cocking piece is then pulled back further against the trigger spring pressure, and when fully retracted, the trigger ring is rotated counter-clockwise until the allen head screw in the trigger ring is in line with the mark engraved on the body. This part of the cocking operation tends to be difficult, as the firing pin spring being compressed is rather strong. Attaching a silencer to the gun will help give the user enough gripping area to fully retract the firing pin while also rotating the trigger ring.
The trigger ring, once in line with the mark on the body, will hold the firing pin in the cocked position. The cocking piece will now stay in the fully retracted position by itself, and should be screwed back into the body. At this point the safety pin may be inserted. The LDE is now ready to be loaded, by unscrewing the barrel, inserting a live cartridge into the chamber, and screwing the barrel back onto the gun. The gun is then fired by rotating the trigger ring section of the gun clockwise about 1/4 turn. The muzzle cap/thread protector must be removed before the gun is fired. If the gun is to be dry fired, a fired case must be in the chamber, or the firing pin will hit the chamber, and score it.
In my testing the LDE never failed to fire a shot, perhaps due in part to the firing pin, which hits the rim at two points, to insure ignition. Accuracy testing was not performed, as the gun has no sights or stock, and is basically a contact range weapon. The bullet went where the gun was pointed, and hit the paper point first. It is quite adequate as a last ditch weapon. Firing the weapon with a suppressor was very pleasant, recoil was very mild. Firing the weapon without any muzzle device was a little harder, while the recoil wasn’t too bad, the small size of the gun made it hard to hold on to under recoil. The unsuppressed report out of the tiny barrel was extremely loud, particularly for a .22 rimfire.
The idea behind the LDE was to create a usable firearm as small as could be done. Gemtech succeeded. It is an extremely small survival weapon. The LDE could be concealed inside a package of cigarettes, if people could unobtrusively carry such an item in these puritan times. One might be better off carrying the LDE loose, or as part of their keychain. Due to its very small production figures, it is also quite a collector’s item.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N2 (November 1999)|