The Davis Brothers, Davis Industries, and Sedco Industries
George Jennings’ success with Raven Arms proved there was a large market for inexpensive handguns, and so other family members founded more inexpensive firearms companies. It made complete sense. Jennings had sourced suppliers for Raven frames and slide castings (International Die Casting and Lansco), and steel suppliers for the rest of the components; plus there was a solid business relationship between all parties, so why not?
One of the first of these companies was Davis Industries, which began operations in 1982. It was owned by Jim Davis and his wife Gail, who was the daughter of George Jennings. Jim had been the office manager at Raven. Keeping things in the family, Jim brought along his brother John (also from Raven Arms) when he left to found Davis Industries with Jenning’s blessings and assistance.
Davis manufactured only two semi-automatic pistols, both built on the same frame: The P-32 and P-380 (in .32 and .380 respectively). Like the Raven, they are straight blowback pistols with a striker firing pin that is held back by a sear which in turn is held up in place by a small coil spring; the firing pin doubles as an ejector. The frame and slide were die cast in Zamak while the smaller parts were made of steel; there are a total of thirty eight simple parts in the gun. Pistol purchasers had a choice of two finishes –black and chrome- and either wood or plastic grips. The magazine is held in place by a European style heel catch. The design similarities of the Davis pistols to the 4th generation Raven MP-25 are so striking that the Davis has been described as “a Raven on steroids”.
[Davis P-32 (left side in each photograph) compared to a Raven P-25]
There were only minor build differences in the two caliber pistols: the .380 had a buffer and the .32 did not. They share the same magazine; with the .380 holding one less round (5) than the .32 (6). Otherwise, the pistols are identical and, aside from the barrel and model designations on the slides, parts are fully interchangeable. There is one important caveat: A former factory employee has confirmed Davis did not use a positioning jig to drill the holes in the frame for the barrel pins. Thus, while a barrel from one Davis pistol will fit in another frame, odds are the pin holes will not match up exactly. I’ve dealt with this personally and it can be a real aggravation.
Davis also manufactured derringers, filling another huge void created by the ‘68GCA which had banned the importation of small Italian and West German derringers. Since derringers around the world have followed the same basic 19th-century design of Henry Deringer, there was minimal engineering required. Davis derringers were available initially in .22LR, .22WMR, .25ACP, .32ACP. Later on, these were designated as “Standard Model” derringers when Davis introduced their “Big Bore Model” in 9mm and 38SPL.
On May 27, 1999, Davis filed for bankruptcy and went out of business as a result of lawsuits filed against them as well as the contentious divorce of Jim and Gail Davis. Cobra Industries acquired the Davis tooling and continues making all the Davis designed firearms.
Notice that Davis Industries did not compete directly with Raven Arms. Raven Arms had the .25ACP market while Davis filled the .32 & .380 ACP & derringer niche.
The importance of family loyalty became evident when John Davis decides to grab a piece of the action by himself. In 1987, John Davis left Davis Industries to start his own gun manufacturing business and filed Sedco Industries as a California Domestic Corporation on October 13, 1987. There was only one principal on record; John O. Davis, and he was not married to one of George Jennings’ daughters.
In late 1989 -less than two years later- Sedco Industries of Lake Elsinore CA began operations in earnest, churning out over 5,000 simple, pocket-sized, straight blowback .22LR pistols a month. The pistol was designated as the Model SP-22, (presumably SP stood for “Sedco Pistol”). The design followed in the Raven tradition with a Zamack slide and frame, with most of the other bits being steel. The sights were “gutter” style, the only Ring of Fire pistol to have that type. The retail price of a Sedco SP-22 was $68.50 and you could get one in nickel or black finish, with three different pearl grip colors.
It ended just three months later when the company was forced out of business by a $45 million lawsuit alleging John Davis stole trade secrets and his gun design from the Jennings J-22. The plaintiffs were George and Bruce Jennings, and his own brother, Jim Davis. With Sedco shut down, John Davis moves on to become the plant manager at Lorcin Engineering, yet another “Ring of Fire” company; however he does end up having to file for bankruptcy as a result of the whole Sedco debacle.
So, is the Sedco SP-22 a copy of a Jennings J-22? Well, that depends.
(Note: In all the following pictures, the Sedco SP-22 is on the left, the Jennings J-22 on the right)
Point #1: Parts interchange-wise, the answer is an emphatic “No”. Practically nothing interchanges between the two diminutive pistols. The J-22 magazine fits and locks into the SP-22, but not the other way around. The J-22 slide fits the SP-22 after a fashion, but not the other way around.
The safety design is a reduced version of what was used in a Davis semiautomatic; completely different than the J-22 safety. The steel pins used in the two pistols are different diameters. The slides, take-down buttons, firing pins, trigger bars, and ejectors are all different.
So why did the lawsuit put Sedco out of business?
Point #2: Engineering design-wise, the Sedco SP-22 is a rip-off of the Jennings J-22.
As a high ranking employee of Davis Industries, John Davis had the means to acquire all the important “trade secrets” surrounding the J-22. In the absence of the actual court documents, I think what tripped John Davis up was an assumption that making numerous minor dimensional changes would be enough to make his Sedco sufficiently different to withstand a deep-pocketed court challenge by George Jennings et.al.
For the record, Sedcos are pretty much the worst performing Ring-of-Fire pistol ever made. They simply don’t feed or eject well; if a shooter can get through a magazine (6 rounds) without a failure of some sort, it’s a red letter day. However, because of their very short production run, as well as the story behind them, the Sedco SP-22 is actually considered somewhat of a collector’s piece as an interesting part of “Ring-of-Fire” gun history.