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A Texas Ranger's Unique Fox Carbine: The PCC You've Never Seen

This 1970s open-bolt pistol caliber carbine was unique with its built-in combination lock.

A Texas Ranger's Unique Fox Carbine: The PCC You've Never Seen

Thompson checking the balance of the Fox Carbine prior to shooting it; he found that the pistol grip allowed the carbine to be fired with one hand at close range on pepper poppers. 

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite Saturday morning Westerns was Tales of the Texas Rangers. Among the intriguing aspects of the show was that Rangers depicted were sometimes involved in adventures in the Frontier era Texas and sometimes in modern law enforcement. There were other Texas Rangers TV shows over the years, and I usually caught a few episodes. At one point Walker, Texas Ranger was on when I was on the treadmill, so I watched some episodes.

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Thompson firing the Fox Carbine.

I always liked Chuck Norris, especially in his Texas Ranger film Lone Wolf McQuade; it didn’t hurt that he had a magazine open to one of my articles in one scene! Most recently, I’ve watched The Highwaymen starring Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer numerous times. Come to think of it I’ve read Hamer’s biography, I’m Frank Hamer, more than once as well. I guess my point is that I have remained fascinated by the Texas Rangers.

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In a scene from the 1983 movie Lone Wolf McQuade, actor Chuck Norris is seen reading one of Leroy Thompson’s gun magazine articles. (MovieStillDB.com)

I can only remember one Texas Ranger gun that I’ve owned, but it was a neat one: a Model 8 Remington rifle that had belonged to a Ranger attached to the King Ranch and with a leather boot/recoil pad with King Ranch tooled into the leather. I traded it away for a rare Webley .50 caliber revolver. I definitely retained my interest, though, and when a friend bought the takedown Fox Carbine used by legendary Texas Ranger Captain Jack Dean, I was not only intrigued by its provenance but also because it was a weapon I’d never fired.

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Biography of Capt. Jack Dean, a Ranger who loved fine guns. The auction catalog for Jack Dean’s estate, which included the Fox Carbine discussed in this article.

It was also interesting in that Jack Dean had been well known for his taste in fine handguns, many of them engraved or custom made. The auction catalog for his firearms was filled with fine custom .45 autos and engraved revolvers, as well as lever and bolt action rifles. The Fox Carbine, however seemed to be a “working gun,” one that he might have carried in his vehicle.

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The Fox Tac-1 Police Carbine was intended from its inception as a police carbine with special features to fit that mission. One of the features immediately noticeable is its built-in three-wheel combination lock. It was also designed so that by fitting a battery into the butt stock, a riot control baton capable of giving an electric shock was created! The Tac-1 was available in either 9mm or .45 ACP, with the former taking Sten Gun magazines and the later M3 “Grease Gun” magazines. The Fox is one of the few semi-auto guns produced to fire from an open bolt. It also uses a fixed firing pin. As of 1982, ATF rules were changed so that even semi-auto weapons incorporating an open bolt/fixed firing pin design were prohibited.

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The Fox Carbine was available in 9mm and .45 ACP; shown is an example in 9mm. The final incarnation of the Fox Carbine (bottom) after the inventor had left the company was the DEMRO WASP. (Courtesy of Rock Island Auction Service)

This was due to the ease of converting an open-bolt semi-auto to full auto; sometimes, the only tool that is required is a file. Reportedly, Gerald Fox, the gun’s inventor was a fan of the Russian PPSh-41 submachine gun and incorporated some of its features. The gun was designed so that a select fire version could also be produced. As with full auto open bolt guns, the possibility that the gun might fire when dropped existed; hence, the carbine has a rather fat grip safety, which is incorporated into the pistol grip.

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Originally, the Fox Carbine was manufactured by the TRI-C Corporation in Meriden, CT, between 1974 and 1976 until a fire destroyed the factory. Initially, after the fire production continued with Gerry Fox as a President of FoxCo, a subsidiary of Dean Manufacturing. However, Gerry Fox eventually parted ways with the Dean Machine Company which continued to manufacture carbines under the designation DEMRO TAC-1 and DEMRO WASP, but when the new ATF regulation went into effect, manufacturing ceased in 1982. The exact number of Fox Carbines manufactured isn’t clear, but a website for those interested in the Fox Carbine (see below) has attempted to tally serial numbers.

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Fox Carbine’s rear sight is rudimentary but readily usable to 50 yards (top left). Fox Carbine’s front sight (top right) visible between the panels of the forearm. Close-up showing the Fox Carbine’s grip safety (bottom right), designed to prevent the open bolt weapon from firing if dropped. Also visible are the safety in the fire position and the magazine release lever. Top view of the Fox Carbine’s receiver showing the cocking handle, safety, and bolt.

According to the tally, serial numbers of examples manufactured before the 1976 fire go to at least 000694. FoxCo serial numbers run from 05005 to 051252. Subsequent manufacture after Gerry Fox left the company, which included a few full auto versions, was carried under the designation of Demro TAC-1 and Demro XF-7 WASP, both of which seem to have been in the serial number range continuing to at least 053449. Most purists seem to prefer Fox Carbines manufactured while Gerry Fox was still involved, thus making the first 1,250 or so of the most interest.

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Right side view of the Fox Carbine’s receiver (top right). Fox Carbine’s barrel assembly (left). View of the Fox Carbine’s main spring (bottom right).

One of the most interesting aspects of the Fox Carbine is the list of optional accessories included in the manual that came with each gun. The basic carbine was listed in the manual for $162.50 and was guaranteed for five years against faulty workmanship or materials. Accessories included a sling, “adjustable shoulder lanyard” (tactical sling), and conversion kit allowing conversion from .45 ACP to 9mm, or 9mm to .45 ACP. The kit, priced at $65, included a barrel, bolt face, magazine adapter, and proper caliber magazine. Conversion was to take five minutes without tools. Also listed were optional accessories for law enforcement purchasers.

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These included a conversion trigger pack to full auto, which could be installed or wwremoved in one minute! Other LE options included the Armor Head Shield, which was 12 inches high by 16 inches wide and weighed four pounds. It could be installed or removed in 30 seconds. A photo was not included, but appears to have been a small ballistic shield, which attached directly to the rifle. The “Bullseye Light” was a tactical light with a rechargeable battery pack. Also offered for night use was an electronically operated “light gathering” sight with adjustable cross hairs and a weight of only “three pounds.” Finally, a silencer was offered that replaced the forearm with special barrel with silencer.

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The Demro TAC-1 Carbine as it appeared in the 1981 Annual Guns & Ammo catalog.

One of the law enforcement accessories deserves its own paragraph. The “Riot Baton” was a nightstick that connected to the wiring for the Bullseye Light wiring and switch. It could be attached to the carbine as if it were a bayonet. The accessory list notes that the Riot Baton will deliwver 15,000 volts at its two contacts and offers the information for comparison that a typical cattle prod would deliver 500 volts. There was also an embedded saw blade in case someone tried to wrest the baton from an officer’s hand! I’ve been searching for photo showing a fully tricked out LE version of the Fox with all accessories but have not yet found one. Stressed in the manual that the Fox Carbine’s safety features make it especially appealing for law enforcement use. These included a thumb safety and a grip safety, both of which positively blocked the sear. Additionally, to avoid tempering with the weapon it had a built-in dial combination lock safety. For easy carry in a briefcase, the carbine could be broken into the receiver, barrel group, stock, and magazine. For detailed cleaning, the carbine may be stripped in more detail. As with assembling any weapon, repeating the process makes it quicker and smoother.

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The Fox Carbine disassembled into four primary parts groups to allow stowage in a briefcase.

Once the weapon has been assembled, the manual of arms is fairly simple with easily located controls. The cocking handle and magazine release are both readily operated with the support hand. For those used to semi-auto weapons that require the bolt/slide to be pulled to the rear and released to go forward and chamber a round, it takes firing the weapon a few times to get accustomed to the fact it is an open bolt weapon. Operation of the safety switch is readily carried out with the thumb of the firing hand. The pistol grip/grip safety unit is thick enough that with my medium hands I found it was not comfortable. It wasn’t that it had sharp edges or applied undue pressure on the web of the hand; it was just thick. On the other hand, as it required a firm grip it allowed good control of the carbine.

Recommended


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Thompson firing the Fox Carbine at 25 yards; note the open bolt mechanism. He also shot at steel plates at 50 yards.

Sights were utilitarian and sufficient to 50 yards. The former Texas Ranger Captain’s example I fired was in .45 ACP. The carbine-length barrel, relatively comfortable stock, and the weight made recoil virtually unnoticeable, and muzzle rise minimal. Even though the trigger pull was heavy, firing at plates and pepper poppers I could easily score hits moving quickly among targets. As with open bolt SMGs, the shooter knew when the Fox Carbine’s magazine was empty as the bolt went forward with a “clunk!” My friend who owns the Fox Carbine and I speculated on why Capt. Dean purchased the Fox Carbine. He was a gun collector and may have just found it interesting. As a law enforcement officer, he may have considered registering it as a machine gun and acquiring the full-auto trigger group. There is also the possibility that as a Captain who carried .45 autos, he might have felt that the Fox Carbine gave him a carbine he could carry in a compact case in his official vehicle. If he needed a carbine, he could quickly assemble it and insert a loaded M3 magazine and be ready to “go to war!” Whatever the rationale was for Captain Dean when he bought it, it is an interesting carbine that belonged to an interesting lawman. Unfortunately, we can only speculate on its full story.




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