Calico M950: The Future Blaster That Never Was

The various Calico Light Weapon systems are some of those guns a lot of people recognize but not many can correctly identify. They’ve popped up in movies like “Space Balls,” “Tango and Cash,” “The Crow,” “Space Truckers,” “Terminator 2,” and even “Batman Returns.” The Calico Light Weapon systems rifles, pistols, and submachine guns are stand-out weapons that have a sci-fi edge to them. I recently found a Calico M950 for sale and couldn’t say no.

Calico M950

The Calico M950 is a 9mm semi-auto handgun variant of the Calico LWS. Calico guns and their bizarre appearance come from their helical drum magazine.

Calico with sling
The sling is a Calico original and bolts onto the gun. [Photo: Travis Pike]
The drums come in 50 and 100-round variants. Because the magazines are helical drums, they don’t create an overall long or wide magazine that hangs from the bottom of the gun. They don’t hang from the gun at all. The drum drops onto the top of the gun.

The gun’s design utilizes a hefty amount of polymer and takes some cues from the M16 school of gun design. The combination of the magazine and polymer-infused design creates a weapon you won’t ever forget or mistake. The Calico company has come and gone, but I got my hands on an original Bakersfield model. The company started in Bakersfield, California, moved to Sparks, Nevada, and then settled in Hillsboro, Oregon. This is an old-school version, and modern models come with various rail and optic mount options.

The Calico M950 Features and Specifications

The Calico is a really big pistol. It’s got an overall length of 14 inches and some change with a magazine installed. Since the magazine hangs over the rear of the gun, it increases the gun’s overall length. The 100-round drum would extend the length even more. The M950 has a six-inch barrel, and mine is wearing a compensator that resembles the classic Cutt’s compensator. The barrel is not threaded on these guns, and the compensator was an option from the factory.

Calico m950 laid out
My Calico came covered in what appears to be BBQ sauces. [Photo: Travis Pike]
The gun weighs just under four pounds with a fully loaded 50-round drum. It’s hefty but well-balanced. A good portion of the weight is over the shooter’s arm, so it’s not nearly as noticeable as something like a 50-round drum under the gun would be.

Helical magazine
Helical magazines are rarely used these days. Will it run reliably? [Photo: Travis Pike]
The helical drum is the big selling point of the Calico M950 and Calico light weapon system as a whole. It is a double-stacked design, and much like a standard double-stacked magazine, it’s a single-feed design. The drums also house your rear sight. Yep, the rear sight is part of the drum. Calico made both open sights and peep sights. Mine has the rear open sights.

The front sight is attached to a tower that’s right in front of where the magazine sits. The sight radius is super short, and holy height over bore, Batman. For a 9mm gun designed for close-range shooting, the height over bore is massive. There are Picatinny scope mount options, and they take the height over bore even higher by placing the optic over the magazine.

Inside the M950

The M950 features a roller-delayed blowback design, much like the MP5. It’s interesting to see it present in this gun, but also satisfying that it’s not a true straight blowback design. The portion of the gun that looks almost like a standard magwell is actually the ejection port.

The Calico M950 series comes with some fairly interesting controls. The safety is ambidextrous and placed right in front of the trigger. The safety switches from safe to fire when you cock the charging handle. That’s an interesting feature I don’t quite understand.

Calico compensator
The Calico M950 series had a compensator as an option. [Photo: Travis Pike]
The charging handle is on the left side for right-handed shooters. The magazine release is technically ambidextrous, but you need to pinch both sides to release the magazine. Your pointer finger and thumb form a claw that pushes both magazine releases at the same time. Then, all you need to do is lift up on the magazine and pull it out.

Witness holes
The magazine features witness windows to observe your round count. [Photo: Travis Pike]
Taking the gun apart is easy. I just have to remove one pin. You can then separate the upper from the lower and remove the bolt for cleaning. It seems like someone covered it in BBQ sauce at one point, so I’ve gotten used to cleaning it.

The magwell of calico
The M950 mag well is on top of the gun. [Photo: Travis Pike]
Loading up the magazine is surprisingly easy, but you should most certainly follow the directions to make the weapon reliable. There is a button to relieve spring pressure. Simply press it, and then start loading the magazine.

You might have to press it again as you load the magazine. It’s super easy and won’t hurt your thumbs. Then, you have to rotate a lever seven times before the magazine is ready. If you are loading and storing the magazine, do not crank it and leave the spring un-tensioned.

To the Range

I have heard of a lot of reliability issues with the Calico series. With very low expectations, I followed the instructions to a T when loading and hoped it would help. My fears were almost confirmed when I fired the first round, and the gun jammed. Removing the malfunction required me to remove the magazine and work the action.

It’s not an easy process to clear a malfunction. With my mood dampened, I dropped the magazine back on and tried to shoot the gun once more. To my complete and utter surprise, the gun fired through the entire magazine without a problem.

Man shooting calico
A stock or even a brace would make this big gun even easier to shoot. [Photo: Travis Pike]
Throughout all of my testing, my only malfunctions came with the first round in the magazine. I eventually just loaded the drum to 49 rounds, and the problems went away. Weird, but hey, I’ll take it. After reliability, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of recoil.

The roller-delayed system does a great job of keeping the weapon controllable. With a stock, this thing would be fantastic, but even with a little push-pull, it can reduce recoil and create an even easier weapon to control.

Calico rear sight
The rear sight is part of the magazine. [Photo: Travis Pike]
The Calico M950’s sights aren’t doing it any favors. The iron sights are fairly plain, and the sight radius is short. Of course, a stockless weapon this size is tough to shoot anyway. I whipped out a classic Bull’s eye target and fired a somewhat decent group at 25 yards. The rounds grouped low, but accuracy was acceptable.

The trigger is this super mushy experience that’s far from impressive. I’m not totally sure that the previous owner’s BBQ sauce spill isn’t creating this experience because I don’t typically see complaints about the trigger.

Up Close

I knew as soon as I saw the sight’s height that height over-bore would be an issue. To see how bad it was, I went to the five-yard line and used a numbered target. Sitting dead center in the target is a 13. I aimed directly at the 13 and fired. The round landed about three inches low. It’s certainly something to be aware of for close-range shooting.

Height over bore
I aimed at the 13 at 5 yards. The height over bore of the sights creates a significant offset. [Photo: Travis Pike]
The light recoil makes the gun pretty easy to shoot, and up close, that translates to fast and accurate shots on target. Even without a stock, I was able to do a ready drill in less than a second and put a round nearly dead center on target. The sights aren’t fancy; they sit high, but they are also large and easy to see. That makes it easy to get those snapshots on target. With a lot of the weight on the rear of the gun, it’s surprisingly easy to fire with a single hand.

I only have one drum for the M950, but I imagine reloads aren’t super fast. The gun lacks a last-round bolt hold-open device. There is a manual bolt lock but not an automatic one. It’s also a process to remove and insert a new magazine. I guess that’s a good argument for getting the 100-round drum instead of the 50-round drum. Who needs to reload, then?

Back To The Future

The Calico M950 is that 1980s take on a futuristic weapon. It’s sleek and odd but still kind of cool. The M950 is a big pistol that’s somewhat tough to handle because of its nature and lack of stock. There aren’t brace options for a gun like this, and the receiver wouldn’t accommodate the Calico stock even if you SBR’ed the gun.

Calico pistol profile
My model is a Bakersfield original. [Photo: Travis Pike]
To me, it’s a fun, weird gun but not a super useful one. I enjoy shooting it, but it’s a novelty more than anything else. Some guns are novelties, and that’s okay. I’m pleasantly surprised by the gun’s reliability and novel design. It’s a shame we don’t see more weird guns like this these days.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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