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Austin Behlert began gunsmithing in 1939. After serving in WWII he worked as a tool designer and draftsman. He went into business fulltime as a gunsmith in 1957. His N frame short barrel conversions, Mini Combat 45's and Mini combat 9mm's are why SW offers short barrel N frames and compact semi autos, and Colt has the Officer/Defender/New Agent. He comes from an era of hand fabrication which is seldom seen today except by a small percentage of the top gunsmiths. 


Austin with Bill Ruger

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Mr. Behlerts obituary:

Austin F. Behlert, WWII vet, firearms dealer, patent holderWednesday, October 12, 2005 PLUMSTEADVILLE, Pa. -- A service for Austin F. Behlert, 87, of Pipersville, formerly of New Jersey, will be here at 1 p.m. today in the Shelly Funeral Home, Easton and Kellers Church Roads. Mr. Behlert died Friday 10-07-2005 in Doylestown Hospital. An internationally-known custom gunsmith, he owned and operated Behlert Custom Guns in Cranford, N.J., Kenilworth, N.J., Union, N.J., and Monmouth Junction, N.J. He held numerous patents for firearms and medical devices. Mr. Behlert served in the Army during World War II and belonged to the National Rifle Association. Born in Jersey City, N.J., he lived in Cranford before moving to Pipersville 20 years ago. Surviving are his wife, Catherine; sons, Bill and Frank; daughters, Linda Simeone, Lori Staffler, Cathy Leckie and Betsy Smith; 11 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.



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Austin Behlert in his own words. From a Pistolmsith.com post. 

Some early highlights of my shooting life and gunsmithing career. Born in JerseyCity, N.J. in 1918 . My dad died when I was 12 and I guess reading hunting mags steered me into it. In 1936 I bought my first car, a 1929 mod A Ford and shortly thereafter I joined a pistol range in Hoboken where I went about 3 times a week. I had a K38 revolver and learned to shoot pretty well. We used to show off to friends by putting a hatchet in the target frame with a target backer sharp edge facing the shooter vertically. With a little practice you could split the bullet and plunk 2 holes in the target. These days were 15 years before they invented ear muffs and stuffing cotton and 38 emties in your ear didnt help much. Saturdays we always had a match against another club in the area and the rivally was great. No one was doing gunsmithing so I decided to try it. Trial and error of course as there were no schools around. I formed another club of friends of mine and we shot in a league locally once a week. I also picked up a few jobs at this league. You were beginning to shoot more than you could afford so little by little we got some equipment. We had 2 Star reloaders and a couple of H & G 10 cavity molds for 38 and 45 semi wad. One night a month we all met at my house to reload and boy did we work at it. The guy with the molds was a genius with them as he never lifted the mold but had a slide arrangement where he poured slid it out and tipped it to empty. The star machines had case and primer feeds and working a solid nite gave us all we could shoot for the month. Little by little we all got 22s and 45s and I did my best to make them shoot well. A few years later after some of us got married , I had been setting up shop at some of the local matches and doing well so shortly thereafter I decided to go to Camp Perry and setup shop. How I arranged for this is another interesting story but will save it for another time. Anyway Im at Perry in the building with Hi Std and having enough work to keep me busy. If you were never to Perry in those days you havent lived. It is a place shooters dreamed about . You slept in small 4 man bungaloes and ate the finest food for 18 days. The military brought in some of their best cooks as there often were some pretty famous people there. They ffed ab3500 people 3 meals a day and you could have seconds. Breakfast was 35 cents, lunch 50 cents and supper 75 cents. There were also times when you were on the chow line and they would have one of the military bands playing outside. The weather at Perry played games as being right on Lake Erie some mornings the fog was so bad you had trouble seeing the target and the wind blew and it rained and some days it was beautifull but humid. Now for the target ranges. There were 800 tagets in a line in groups of 100 and somtimes there would be a different course of fire on some. The color was unreal with all the military flags regimental, battalion company and team. Behind the ready line was a shop truck from each branch of service to work on its teams guns when needed. I got to know most of these armorers and often got parts by the handful from them. Perry was also the place you could talk to all the top shooters in the country, and during the small arms school you often got one as your private coach. WOW. I remember a friend of mine went to Perry his first time and shot a 200 with 4 Xs timed fire. He was very excited but I told him to wait till the scores went up. He wound up 56th on the list and it sure burst his bubble. On Commercial Row many of the well known smiths were setup including me. My work day was about 7:00 AM till we pushed the shooters out at 10:00 PM. There were years at Perry when you could draw a 45 match tuned by Springfield Armory and if it sot well you could buy it for 98.00 What a deal. Alot of the shooters would sit around in there rooms playing poker for 45 hardball ammo. I remember also the year they expected Gen Schoup, Marine Corp Commondant to come in . The color of that should have been a movie as 200 marines in their dress blues and the Marine band played and I remember the sharpest salutes Ive ever seen as he got out of the helicopter. It was color at the extreme. I was setup at Perry for 35 years and the last 10 was in the bldg with Colt.The gunsmith was Don Tedford (a real good friend) and I always learned from him. Thinking of those days at Perry brings tears to my eyes as Im sure we shooters will never see those days again. About 5 years ago my wife and I made a trip to Perry just to reminice and see some old friends who were still alive and enjoying the same things, but not really the same. I remember parking on Commercial Row and when we got out we were met by about 15 or so shooters I new. I have alot of stories of this and other shooting experiences that Im sure you may enjoy
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Austin Behlert
Pistolsmith, retired.

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The Behlert/Colt/ Seecamp mini here is one of the many I did of these. I
would send the basic pistol to Louie Seecamp for DA and when it was
returned I would perform all that was required to make a Mini. We had a
good working relationship and I would say that I built about 15 minis of
this style. This particular one has my sight and a finger groove. These
were popular to people who liked the DA first shot.
_________________
Austin Behlert
Pistolsmith, retired.

(The above is from a January 2005 post on Pistolsmith.com. Austin was talking about a pistol like the below S70 from my collection but not the exact gun.)


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Austins first comp gun from the 1950's.