From the RIA Blog
Born on the dusty streets of African revolution as the Armsel Striker, the shotgun called the Street Sweeper found its way to the U.S. market through some fairly sketchy people involved in espionage, drug dealing, and tax evasion.
The Armsel Striker was a 12-gauge, 12-round revolving cylinder shotgun developed by Hilton Walker in what was then Rhodesia in 1980. Unlike traditional revolvers which rotate their cylinder mechanically as the trigger is pulled, the Striker’s drum rotates after the trigger is released. As the trigger resets, a tensioned spring in the cylinder housing is briefly allowed to rotate the cylinder to its next position. The tension spring has to be manually tightened via a key on the front of the cylinder housing. Walker moved to South Africa and took his gun design with him, which was eventually adopted by the South African and Israeli police.
In the United States the gun was produced by Cobray and called the Street Sweeper, made and marketed from 1989 to 1994 with slogans like, “It’s a Jungle Out There! There Is A Disease And We’ve Got The Cure.” And “Make your streets safe and clean with the help of ‘The Street Sweeper’!” Cobray also manufactured the MAC-10 and MAC-11 machine pistols.
The ATF declared the Striker and Street Sweeper shotgun “destructive devices” in 1994 due to a lack of “sporting purpose.” Street Sweeper shotguns can be found for sale in Rock Island Auction Company’s Premier and Sporting and Collector Auctions throughout the year.
Cobray marketed the Street Sweeper shotgun beginning in 1989 along with the M10, M11, M11/9, and others. Word in the gun community was that Cobray’s weapons were of low quality. The 1994 assault weapons ban specifically named the MAC-10 so it couldn’t be sold for 10 years.
The same year as the assault weapons ban was the year SWD surrendered its federal firearms license. It continued to sell firearms through companies owned or associated with SWD, including Mountain Accessories Corporation (MAC), Full Metal Jacket (FMJ), Cobray Firearms, Street Sweeper Sales Inc., All Purpose Ammo, The Ultra Force, Et Cetera, S&L Sales, D&L Sales, Excalibur, and Leinad.
An ad in Shotgun News declared the Street Sweeper “Delivers Twelve Rounds In Less Than Three Seconds!!!!” The ad continued, “Time for spring cleaning. Why try cleanups with inadequate equipment?? Buy the machine designed to clean thoroughly on the first pass.”
Cobray added another version of the Street Sweeper shotgun that was chambered in .45-70 caliber and didn’t have a foregrip in order to be considered a pistol. The company cheekily dubbed it the Ladies Home Companion. A Maryland law enforcement official once called it “a sick joke.”
At the time of the assault rifle ban, the ATF took a look at the Street Sweeper shotgun, as well as the Armsel Striker, and whether they were destructive devices.
Under the National Firearms Act, a destructive device is a weapon with a bore diameter of more than half an inch. A 12-gauge shotgun has a bore that wide, but shotguns are exempt from being declared destructive devices if they have a sporting purpose, like hunting or trap shooting.
The ATF noted that the Street Sweeper’s 12 rounds could be fired off in three seconds or less, and so determined in its 1994 ruling that the shotguns didn’t meet the sporting purposes exemption and would be considered destructive devices:
“The Striker – 12/Streetsweeper is a shotgun with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter which is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes. The weight, size, bulk, designed magazine capacity, configuration, and other factors indicate that the Striker – 12/Streetsweeper is a military-type shotgun, as opposed to a shotgun particularly suitable for sporting purposes.”
In announcing the decision in March, 1994, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen said, “I’m a sportsman. I use shotguns. This isn’t exactly what I’d take on a duck hunt.”
Under the NFA, the Street Sweeper shotgun now required a $200 transfer tax, must be registered, and the manufacturer had to pay a $200 per firearm tax.
It is only natural that a marginalized but dramatic gun get plenty of screen time in B-level action movies. While it was used by Richter and Mars Colony troopers in blockbuster “Total Recall,” the Street Sweeper shotgun also found its way into such movies as “Hard Hunted,” “Men of War,” “Bad Blood,” “Death Sentence,” and “Wicked Blood,” according to Internet Movie Firearms Database.
Those who have used the Street Sweeper shotgun often don’t speak well of it, calling it cumbersome to load and say the cylinder gap allows significant discharge to escape. The trigger pull is heavy and the folding stock has sharp edges that could be dangerous if coming in contact with the user’s cheek.
the Street Sweeper is a gun that brings equal parts of a mercenary past, the drug war of the 80s, an air of illegality, and danger that a collector can appreciate. The SWD/Cobray Street Sweeper shotgun offers all of those things to someone who appreciates its stigma and curious design. Two Street Sweeper shotguns are for sale in Rock Island Auction Company’s May 13-15 Premier Auction.
The Story of a Gun, by Erik Larson, The Atlantic (Jan. 1993)
Mitchell WerBell – The man Who Was Involved in Everything, Ian Harvey, thevintagenews.com
Our Man in Powder Springs: Mitch WerBell, by Ron Ecker, The Education Forum
Manufacturing History of Ingram-MAC Type Firearms, by Frank Iannamico, Small Arms Review