|Like any gun collector, I have a special
place in my heart for rare guns. But unlike a commercial firearms
dealer, I don't assign value to a piece based on it's cash value.
For me, it's the history behind the weapon that gives it that intrinsic
Although it is frequently mistaken for the Linda semiautomatic carbine, the J&R model M68 is an even rarer bird. In fact, I have never seen an M68 with a serial number higher than 4000. At one time my father owned an M68 with a serial number lower than 10, but I have seen little evidence to convince me that there were actually four thousand of these guns built. With surviving specimens of this rifle estimated to be in the hundreds, it is surprising to note that this rare weapon actually made the list of assault weapons formally banned in the People's Republic of Kalifornia under Penal code 979.10.
The story behind the M68 goes back to the early seventies. Years ago, roughly 1967, when my father was a DEA agent he was approached by a gunsmith who wanted to build guns that cops would use.
"So what kind of a gun would guys like you really want?" was his question.
Since many of the agents were highly mobile, but preferred to travel light yet have more than a pistol in hand when it came time to kick in a door, the carbine concept was employed. To further enhance the design, the M68 was built as a takedown weapon that would fit into a briefcase when fully disassembled. Chambered in 9mm, it achieved increased muzzle velocities over its companion pistols. Sporting a hefty flash hider and hooded sights, this was a no-nonsense weapon.
Machined largely from aircraft grade aluminum, the weapon was actually manufactured in a garage workshop. Using a design that was totally unlike anything else I have ever seen. The best way to describe the action of the M68 is as a floating, non-captive firing pin design. At first glance the design defies logic, but after further investigation you can see the method to the madness of the M68's design. It does work, but for a long time I had a hard time understanding how.
There are shortcomings to the M68 though. First and foremost is the availability of parts and accessories. If something breaks then you literally need to take the part to a machinist and have them fabricate you a replacement from scratch. Another issue is the weight saving aluminum the weapon is constructed from. It is not uncommon to have to re-thread screw holes to the next larger size after stripping out the threads. One catastrophic error in design was the use of aluminum for the internal hammer. Having broken one, I can tell you that they are extremely difficult to replace unless you happen to have a lathe or CNC machinery in your garage.
One thing that can be said about the M68 is that it is a sexy little gun. Another fun part of owning one is that I am constantly being asked what it is. Even serious aficionados rarely know what to make of the gun. As I mentioned earlier, it is usually mistaken for the Linda carbine. Although they appear to share parts from the lower grip, one was built by Wilkinson arms, and the other was manufactured in a home workshop.
These days, my M68 is strictly a collectible. I have plenty of other guns I can shoot when the urge strikes me, but the M68 will always have a special place in my collection.
Links to the Linda 9mm Carbine:
Shown here being carried by the author, it is easy to see the size of the M68. Not a large gun, it was handy enough for an entry or close quarters weapon.
Seen here disassembled for storage, the M68 was an easy weapon to pack into a briefcase. Assembly required only an allen wrench for to tighten the shoulder stock screw. The 30 round magazine picture here is part of the reason it was banned in California.
The J&R model 80 seen here is a dead ringer for the Linda Carbine. Few examples of this weapon survive to this day. Even Google was only able to find a few mentions of the J&R line of weapons.
Shown together for comparison, the resemblance between the M68 (top) and the Linda Carbine (bottom) are evident. In fact, the M68 appears to actually use the lower assembly from a Linda.
This close up of the serial number for a surviving M68 is of interest considering that although the weapon was once manufactured in California, it can never go back due to state assault weapon prohibitions in effect. The M68 is specifically named in California statutes as a banned weapon.