Firm’s Cheap Pistol Is Banned

Times Staff Writer

The state has blocked the sale of an inexpensive handgun manufactured by a Costa Mesa-based firearms company after the weapon failed safety tests.

Jimenez Arms, formerly known as Bryco Arms, was ordered to stop distributing its JA-9 model in California after three guns experienced a high number of malfunctions during testing.

The California Department of Justice ordered the company to stop selling the automatic pistol on Thursday, said spokesman Nathan Barankin.


Barankin said the agency had initially certified the handgun as safe, based on test results submitted by Jimenez, but pulled the certification after receiving the results of independent tests.

The new testing was arranged by Richard R. Ruggieri, a San Rafael attorney and critic of Jimenez Arms and its predecessor, Bryco Arms. Ruggieri represents Brandon Maxfield, a Northern California teenager left a quadriplegic after being shot accidentally with a Bryco handgun.

A jury awarded Maxfield nearly $51 million in compensatory damages last year, almost 10 years after the shooting. Bryco, founder Bruce Jennings and his Nevada-based distribution company were ordered to pay $24 million of the judgment.

Bryco’s former plant manager, Paul Jimenez, bought the company in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville, Fla., in June and renamed it Jimenez Arms. He confirmed Friday that state officials ordered him to stop selling the 9-mm pistol in the state.

“They said there were safety issues. But I don’t believe it, to tell you the truth,” said Jimenez.

He said the state’s action will have a minimal impact on his company because “this particular model is not sold in California at all.”

Ruggieri hired a state-certified laboratory to test three pistols purchased from Jimenez’s distributor, Shining Star Investments in Texas, which is owned by Janice Jennings, former wife of Bruce Jennings.

According to test results submitted by Ruggieri, the malfunction rate of the three guns was more than 15 times that allowed by state guidelines. The pistol is sold by dealers for about $190.

Before Bryco went into bankruptcy, Jennings and associates owned a group of companies in Southern California that made cheap, small-caliber handguns.