The Raven: The "Ring of Fire" Pistol That Started It All
The Raven has been called the original “Ring of Fire" pistol; the “Ring of Fire” referring to the six firearms manufacturers clustered within 45 minutes of downtown Los Angeles known for producing inexpensive Saturday Night Special handguns. How did this happen? Ask the United States Congress.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibited the importation of small handguns into the United States. Prior to the GCA, numerous inexpensive Zamak handguns made by firms such as Röhm in Germany were readily available for purchase across the country.
George Jennings was the owner of a machine shop in Southern California that made parts for aerospace companies. One of Jennings friends owned a pawn shop. The story goes that this pawn shop owner complained to Jennings that the GCA had effectively dried up his supply chain of cheap guns, and that profits were falling significantly. Jennings looked at the designs of the banned firearms, and he knew he could design and make a better, cheaper gun that would result in profiting both him and his friend. That gun was the Raven.
The design of the Raven was ultra-simple, and followed the footprints of the now banned import guns: a straight blowback .25 ACP with a striker firing pin that, when cocked, was held back by a sear which in turn was held in place by a small coil spring. The frame and slide were die cast in Zamak. Smaller parts were made of steel: seven of the firing control parts, eight springs and five steel pins. In all, there were thirty parts total. Best of all, an experienced assembler could put a Raven together in under two minutes from start to finish. Raven Arms was open for business less than two years after Congress passed the GCA.
Early models have a sliding safety that will not allow the pistol to chamber a round or cock the striker when the safety is not in the fire position when the slide is cycled. Later models have a push up disc safety that will not allow the slide to be cycled when it is in the safe position.
Ravens were available in three finishes during its entire production: Chrome, Nickel, and Black. Initially the grips were either wood or imitation mother-of-pearl, but with the introduction of the last generation MP-25 black grips were a new option and the Phoenix Model Raven could be had with pink pearl grips.
The magazine is held in place by a European style heel catch. Each magazine holds six .25 ACP rounds, plus one more round in the chamber.
Summary of Raven Models:
(1st Generation made in Baldwin Park, CA and 2nd Generation made in City of Industry, CA)
The first generation Raven pistol was designated the P-25 and was manufactured in Baldwin Park California. It can be easily distinguished from all the other Raven models due to having a large sliding button safety that will not allow a round to be chambered or cock the striker when the safety is not in the fire position. Under the surface, there are slight differences from later model Ravens including a different cam and different cutouts inside the slide for the cam and the safety. As such, not all parts will interchange with the later model Ravens.
The second generation Raven was also designated the P-25. The serrations of the slide remained the same as the first generation pistol, but numerous changes were made inside the slide. These changes include a fully enclosed breech face, a different cam, a thinner sliding bar safety minus the big button, and are marked “City of Industry” outside (as are all subsequent Raven Arms models). There are also subtle variations in the frame of the pistol. As noted in the previous paragraph, most parts between the 1st & 2nd generation P-25 Ravens will not interchange.
(3rd and 4th Generation made in City of Industry, CA)
The third generation Raven was designated the MP-25 and is internally identical to the 2nd gen Raven right down to the frame. The only change is the slide serrations which are more numerous and are placed closer together. Parts are fully interchangeable between the 2nd and 3rd gen pistols.
Raven Arms also made a very limited number of factory engraved versions of the 3rd generation pistol.
The fourth generation Raven is also designated MP-25. The 4th generation incorporated a new rotating disk safety (identical to the Davis P32/P380) that won’t allow the action to be cycled when it is engaged due to a notch in the slide that locks the slide closed. The left grip also incorporated a notch to accommodate the new safety design. Other than the disk safety, slide notch, and left grip, pistol parts are interchangeable.
Raven Arms ceased operations In November 1991 when a fire destroyed the factory, after which George Jennings retired and sold his designs to Phoenix Arms.
Phoenix Arms Model Raven
(“5th Generation” made in Ontario, CA)
Phoenix Arms (named for the mythological bird that rises from the ashes) was owned in equal shares by George Jennings’ ex-wife, his children, and by the former GM of Raven Arms. Although the Phoenix Arms ‘Model Raven’ was manufactured by a different legal entity at a different location, it is for all intents the “fifth generation” Raven. The pistol is identical to the 4th gen MP-25 with one notable design upgrade: the incorporation of a magazine disconnect safety that made the pistol unable to fire without the magazine inserted. All of the parts, with the exception of the left grip (which was slightly modified for the magazine disconnect) are fully interchangeable with the 4th gen Raven MP-25.