Utah-based L.A.R. Manufacturing specialized in making some serious .50 caliber rifles, but they also bestowed upon the world a big, beautiful pistol with a lot of interesting properties.
Formed in West Jordan, Utah, in 1968, L.A.R. busied itself with bolt-action rifles and upper receiver assemblies for AR-15 style carbines until SHOT Show 1983, when they appeared in Dallas with eight different caliber conversion units for M1911 pistols and a gun they tentatively called the Grizzly Winchester Magnum, or GWM. Designed by L.A.R. owner Heinz Augat and Perry Arnett, who held accurizing patents for M1911 style handguns, the Grizzly was something special.
Using a 6.5-inch extended barrel and muzzle brake style bushing, the standard GWM hit the market in 1984 as the Grizzly Mark I. With a larger grip, heavier slide, 27-pound recoil spring, and other improvements, the gun was designed to use the powerful .45 Winchester Magnum, a round that had been introduced with the ill-fated NAACO Brigadier then later popularized by the Wildey gas-action pistol. Using a slightly longer case than the more draft horse-like .45 ACP, which generated a velocity of about 800 fps with a 230-grain bullet, the .45 Win Mag could make the same sized bullet hit up to 1,400 fps, transforming it into a racehorse that carried a saddle load of energy along for the ride. L.A.R. maintained at the time (1983) that the Grizzly was the only production .45 Win Mag semi-auto handgun on the market.
The Grizzly was, for all intents and purposes, just an enlarged M1911A1 series single-action semi-auto pistol. In fact, something like 39 of its 49 parts are interchangeable with standard Government Model .45 ACP, with the exception being those that were super-sized and beefed up to handle the .45 Win Mag. This meant that gunsmiths and hobbyists could maintain these guns as most parts were not platform-specific. It also meant that the nomenclature and manipulation skills easily transferred. Keep in mind that the M1911 was about the most common semi-auto pistol in the country for a couple of generations, akin to the Glock today, and probably still lands squarely in the top five now.
In a nice bonus, the Grizzly series could also use one of the company's caliber conversion kits to swap it out to fire 9mm Win Mag (go ahead and try to find that!), 45 ACP, 10mm Auto, .357 Mag., or .30 Mauser. Further, the asking price at introduction was in the $600 range, which was half than that of the Wildey.
Hand lapped, accurized, and constructed to tight tolerances, the Grizzly was not made in large quantities, with most serial numbers observed being in the 6,000 and under range. At the end of 1998, L.A.R. posted on their website that production of pistols by the firm had reached a point "that the market can no longer bear the cost of producing these firearms." With that, production halted the next year as the company concentrated on rifle production. L.A.R. was eventually acquired by the Freedom Group – the same holding company that bought up Remington, Marlin, Bushmaster, and others – in late 2012 and disappeared shortly after.