May 02, 2018
By Eric R. Poole
Over the years, Guns & Ammo has presented stories on folding guns. One that comes to mind is Les Apaches (The Apaches), a revolver developed and manufactured by Louis Dolne of Liege, Belgium, from 1869 until 1900. The Apaches offered three weapons in one: a knife, a handgun and brass knuckles.
Folding guns, like The Apaches, have often been developed as a discreet way of concealing a tool for self-defense, but not this time. Aaron Voigt is the founder of Trailblazer Firearms and has launched the new Lifecard .22LR. It wasn't developed as a self-defense gun as many people first think. Rather, it is the result of Voigt's brilliant mind who had the idea pop in his head after watching a TV show spotlighting an impractical folding machine gun that would never be brought to market. He then set out in earnest on a design challenge for himself.
Voigt thought to himself, "What's the opposite of that machine gun, has value and never burdens the user? The answer for Voigt was something much smaller.
"I saw it as a gun that could be part of someone's survival kit," said Voigt. "The person that carries a Lifecard is never burdened by carrying it and can just stick it in a pocket."
He then latched on to the size of a credit card to see how small he could make such a utility gun. "It's gotta fold," he concluded.
Pencil hit paper in 2012. He shaped some wood, carving out his idea, and then hit a roadblock when he needed the help of professional solid works to move forward. You see, Voigt is one of those bright innovators who started with no formal design education or background. Once he had a crude prototype that he successfully fired one time, he decided the best thing to do was shop the idea around.
"I rushed off to SHOT Show in 2012 with the intent to secure a license," Voigt said. "That didn't materialize. I did manage to work with some manufactures and got close to bringing it to market afterwards. But it didn't happen. By the end of 2014, I decided to secure some investment capital and make the Lifecard myself."
Voigt sent a sample of the Lifecard to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on November 1, 2015, for classification to be certain that it couldn't be classified as an Any Other Weapon (AOW), making it subject to restrictions. Eleven months later, he received a letter back from the ATF that confirmed it was not be considered an AOW and that it could be sold as a single-shot handgun.
Voigt first sat down with me at the 2016 NRA Annual Meetings to introduce the Lifecard to G&A. He let me snap some photos in a booth and I extended my hand offering to help inform readers if it ever went into production.
Since receiving that ATF letter, Voigt has tweaked the design and entered into production. He says that he is able to manufacture about 100 units every couple of weeks and in the beginning, he was assembling and testing every gun himself, learning as he went. Today, his company is able to produce as many as 400 a week. With more and more consumers reaching out, Trailblazer's Lifecard is now on backorder as the business continues to expand.
Will the Lifecard become available in other calibers? Voigt doesn't like the idea since it's so comfortable to shoot in .22LR. At the range, I confirmed this recently with a sample of my own. It is surprising that a single-shot, tip-up rimfire puts such a big smile on so many faces.
Using the sight groove to aim with is quick to learn, and it's rather fun to transform the Lifecard from a small, wallet-size shape of aluminum and steel into an L-shape handgun. It's about 3 inches accurate back to 10 yards, but Voigt's kids have been known to perform some unimaginable long-range feats out to 50 yards while trickshooting with their Lifecards.
Notably, there is no extractor, so you have to pluck out each spent case with your fingernail or an improvised tool when the chamber gets sticky. My advice is to keep a small bottle of oil handy to ease extraction.
To fire the Lifecard, you must cock the action by pulling back on the bolt assembly. There is a half-cock safety position that must be set each time the Lifecard is loaded. This half-cock position affords the loaded barrel to close without risking an unintentional discharge with the striker touching the rim of a cartridge. To make the Lifecard ready to fire, simply pull the bolt assembly again until it clicks. There is no way to unload the gun when cocked. It must be fired or the bolt carefully ridden home. The same mechanism blocks loading a cocked gun.
The trigger pull is impressive and clean for what it is. My Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge measured an average of 6 pounds, 3 ounces for 10 pulls. Many of those were under 6.
My favorite load to shoot through the Lifecard was CCI's snakeshot for .22LR with 31 grains of #12 that patterned 16 inches on paper at 5 yards. If you shoot a Shoot-N-C target with this load at 5 yards, you'll be impressed at the perfectly distributed pattern that covers the entire target.
After testing the Lifecard, I discovered a small trapdoor at the frontstrap of the grip. Inside, you can discreetly store a few rounds of .22LR, which is another cleverly useful feature.
The Lifecard is easy to pocket carry, but Trailblazer Firearms also offers a leather pouch and recently introduced a Kydex holster in response to demand. I could really see the Lifecard being carried as part of any survival kit or even in a fisherman's tackle box. The possibilities are endless, and the retail price of $400 is certainly affordable given the quality and utility.
The best part of Trailblazer Firearms' story is that Voigt has future plans. Big ones that are equally as clever and have nothing to do with the Lifecard. So, let me offer Aaron Voigt a hat tip. To me, he represents the courageous spirit of the American entrepreneur who took a risk that produced something special.
Visit trailblazerfirearms.com to learn more about the Lifecard .22LR.
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