Here’s some history I’ve found about Unique. 


From rec.guns FAQ: III.C.2.w.1. Unique DES/69-U

w. Unique
1. Model DES/69-U

by Emmanuel Baechler (
1. Introduction


Gun magazines are full of presentations of guns which are considered as “interesting”, “very good for their price”, “accurate enough for all practical purposes” and so on. This is the way gun magazines qualify mediocre to barely average guns. Most of us have been very disappointed by some gun which looked so promising on the dealer’s store and proved so poor in the range or on the street. And we made this experience more than one time. How many guns did you sell which were so important for your collection at the time of their purchase? Quite a bit, I guess. At least, this is my case.

This article is not about one of these guns. It’s about an outstanding ISU .22LR race gun without any compromise neither in performance nor in quality: the french Unique DES/69-U.

2. The Evolution of Unique.

Unique is born in 1925, in Hendaye, in France, near Eibar the capital of the spanish basque gun manufacturing center. Its original name was “Manufacture d’Armes des Pyrénées Françaises – UNIQUE” (“French gun factory – UNIQUE”).

From its beginning Unique was specialized in police pistols and was the suppliers of the french police departments. Unique Started copying the spanish guns. The french specifications were also very rigid and their guns did not evolve much for half a century. At the end of the sixties, the current model, the UNIQUE R-51 was a small frame, single action .32 ACP with primitive sights and control levers forbidding cocked and locked carry. Nothing really exciting.

At the end of the sixties, the french police abandoned the .32ACP semiautomatic pistol. For a short amount of time they adopted the MAC 50 in 9×19, the ordnance pistol of the french army. Then, under the influence of their chief, Raymond Sassia, who was a fan of the FBI’s techniques, they adopted the .357 Magnum. The french police departments are still using them, and I did not heard that they plan to change their choice.

Anyway, UNIQUE lost its captive market and had to find something else to survive. UNIQUE chose to specialize itself in the design and manufacturing of competition pistol, especially for ISU disciplines.

In 1969, UNIQUE released the model DES/69 “Standard UIT”, a .22LR rimfire for ISU .22LR standard pistol competition. This gun did immediately get the french championship. It was, and still is a top level gun in national and international competitions.

In 1979, UNIQUE released the VO/79 “Vitesse Olympique” (a .22 short for ISU rapid fire) which was later modified into the model DES/2000-U.

In 1986, Unique released the DES/32, a .32 SWL Wadcutter for ISU centerfire competition.

After the release of the DES/32, UNIQUE released an improved version of the DES/69, the DES/69-U, which will be described below. Unhappily I do not know the date of its release.

At the beginning of the nineties, UNIQUE released a single shot pistol for metallic silhouette. The gun exists in two versions. One is specific to the .22LR and has an aluminium frame. It can be sold freely in France. The other one, with a steel frame ca be adapted to many calibers, either rimfire or centerfire.

As far as I know, Unique has no free pistol. They have a few air and .22lr rifles, but I have very little information on them.


3. General presentation of the DES/69-U.

The UNIQUE DES/69-U is a self loader using a simple blowback mechanism. Its trigger can be adjusted in almost every aspect. It has an orthopedic grip with an adjustable “rest” (proper english term?) at its bottom. The rear sight is, of course, adjustable. The slide lies around the chamber and the barrel, as on the FAS SP-602, Haemmerli 280, Walther GSP and so on.
The^M magazine lies in the grip (as on the Haemmerli 208s) and it contains 5 rounds. The gun uses movable weights (of different weights and shapes) wrapping around the barrel.

Finally, and contrary to most other ISU race guns, the DES/69-U has an open frame: both the hammer and the rear part of the slide can be accessed freely. This is very convenient.

Here are its general characteristics:
Overall length: 285 mm
Overall height: 140 mm
Overall thickness: 50 mm
Weight (without barrel weight): 1.140 Kg
Magazine capacity: 5 shots
Line of sight: 220 mm
Barrel: 150 mm (heavy match grade barrel)
Trigger’s weight: 1.000 Kg (adjustable by the user)
Orthopedic grip: adjustable, available both for right and left handed people

Weight are available in two style: “shaped” and cylindrical. Shaped weights of 120, 220 and 320 grams are available.
Cylindrical weights of 100, 150, 260 and 320 grams are available. “Shaped” weights improve the gun’s look too.


4. Some important details.

The barrel has been adapted to the use of weights and reciprocally: it has small serrations on its bottom. The weights have a small aluminium plate containing similar serrations. When the weight’s screws are tightened the two serrations zones adjust to each other. This produces a firm adjustment of the weight to the barrel without exerting too much strength on the screws. The other advantage is that the barrel is neither marked nor damaged by the screws.

The DES/69-U has a very interesting dry fire system. In its “standard” configuration, a screw fills a hole at the rear of the frame. This screw has NO other function. But you can replace it with another longer one, which has been shaped so as to be able to: – Let the hammer fall when the trigger has been depressed – Intercept it after a few millimeters of its course
– Let the slide go back enough to cock the hammer It’s much more complicated to explain than to use (and observe). This
system is extremely simple and very convenient. It avoids all the problem usually met with the .22LR snap caps.

The DES/69-U’s trigger can be adjusted in almost every way:
– Trigger’s position (the trigger is fixed on a rail)
– Backslash (with the usual adjustable trigger stop)
– Course general weight
– Course’s style:
– Direct style, as on a 1911A1, “US style”
– Release at the end of a long course, i.e. “soviet style”.
– Two stage trigger, i.e. “french style”.
The way the overall weight is divided between the two stages
of the trigger’s course can also be adjusted.
The documentation explains, quite well, how to do it.
– the engagement of the of the trigger (on the sear, I guess) can also
be adjusted.
ALL these adjustments can be done without field stripping the gun.
They are done with the screwdrivers supplied with the gun.

The rear sight has fine clicks. Adjustments are “repeatable”. It only lacks switchable sheets with apertures of different widths.

The slide lever lies (unusually) on the right side of the gun. It has a dual purpose:
– Maintaining the slide in open position when the magazine is empty (or when the shooter wants to hold the slide open and there is no magazine in the gun)
– Safety: push the slide a half centimeter back and push the lever down. The slide is then locked into a safe position. It looks a
bit bizarre, but its simple, easy to learn, it works well and its enough for an ISU race gun.


5. Field stripping

The standard field stripping is longer to explain than to perform. The procedure is the following:

– Perform rigorously all the security checks
– Remove the magazine
– Remove the barrel weight (loosen the screws and move it)
– Push the pin lying in the slide retaining catch (there’s a key supplied with the gun to do it).
– While the pin is pushed, push the slide retaining catch upward
– Push the slide back
– Lift the rear of the slide clear of the frame
– Then the slide comes forward and is easily removed.

The assembly procedure is the inverse one. The pin in the slide catch comes back to its original position when the slide catch is pushed downward.

Usual maintenance does not require a more in depth disassembly, but the manual gives some more details (firing pin disassembly and sights disassembly).


6 Accessories

The DES/69-U comes with a manual, a magazine, a set of keys, a dry fire screw, two screwdrivers and a small case for carrying and storage.

The documentation is in four languages (french english, german and spanish). It is complete, concise and very clear. The only detail that I didn’t find in it was an explanation about the influence of the adjustment of the trigger (on the sear) on the general trigger’s weight. I suspect that there is a connection, but i didn’t find anything in the manual.

I wish they supplied the gun with a second magazine.

All the user operations on the gun can be done with the tools supplied with it.


7. On the range

The first thing to do is to find the proper position of the hand around the grip. The grips is bulkier than the one of the Haemmerli
280. Its angle with the vertical is around 20 degrees. But the grip is very comfortable and it took me half a minute to find a comfortable, stable and repeatable hand position. Memorizing it didn’t take much longer. The palm rest can be precisely adjusted too. And it supports the hand very well.

The grips are made with an excellent wood. They can be easily adjusted to a given hand. It’s easy to remove wood where it’s needed and to add some “wood pasta” where you need some more material.

Then comes the placement of the index on the trigger. One of the improvements of the DES/69-U over the original model is that the trigger is an open “v”. The trigger of the original model was a straight piece. The first part of the index (proper english noun?) comes naturally at the bottom of the “v”. That’s one of the advantages of an adjustable trigger. I put it as far as possible
from the grip and it is naturally adjusted to my index. People with smaller hands can place it as close to the grip as needed.

When you raise the gun in direction of the target, it points naturally and the sights are naturally aligned toward the target. That’s the advantage of an orthopedic grip. And this one is perfectly efficient.

This gun digested every standard velocity ammo that I shot with it. But I must admit that the brands that I shot the most extensively are the Fiocchi Training, Eley Pistol Match, Eley LR pistol and SK Pistol Match. my groups were tighter with the SK than the Eley LR pistol. The groups with the Pistol Match were even tighter. Groups with all these brands were excellent.

Although the magazines can theoretically contain 6 rounds, people should definitely avoid to try to put more than 5 rounds in them. With 6 rounds they jam. It takes some time to empty them and to put them back in working condition. The documentation tells 5 rounds, put 5 rounds in them, and nothing more. With five rounds they work 100% reliably. Anyway, you don’t need more in ISU.

At the beginning I did notice little difference in accuracy with my S&W 41. After a few weeks of familiarization, this started to
change. While I have been able to make a 50/50 only once with my mod 41 (on an ISU C50 target at 25 meters), with the DES/69-U my groups started shrinking. I got 8 ten one after the other (on ten shots) for the first time of my life. Since that time it did even improve. I get performances like 13 “10” on 15 shots (and quite a bit of them in the inner circle) that I did never get before. And I’m just an amateur, not an high level competitor, and by far.

Both the orthopedic grip and the outstanding adjustable trigger helps in this. The two stage trigger is very comfortable. It is
also very convenient for fast firing strings. You can start depressing the trigger before it’s on target, while you’re still
breathing, and you stop at the end of the first course. Then, when it’s on target you have time for the final sight correction and you just have to do the second course before the gun fires. It requires some coordination and some training, but it works wonderfully well.

The grip helps the hand to maintain a stable hand pointing to the target, even during long shooting sessions.

I do not have a ransom rest to do some formal accuracy measurements. But considering the performances that I can get from this gun, and the fact that I’m just a modest amateur shooter, it is an evidence that this gun is able of groups of less than an inch at 25 meters. I wouldn’t be surprised if a formal test produced groups of less than one inch at 50 or even 100 meters.

In fact, several french shooters practicing metallic silhouette use it in competition.


8 Conclusion

This pistol is not an easy gun for plinking. It is complex and demanding. But it is, and by far the best .22LR that I ever owned
and shot in my life. Its quality of manufacturing matches its performances. The fact that this gun is a very tough contender in
national and international ISU competitions isn’t a surprise, It’s definitely one of the very best guns, if not the best of all .22. For me and for many other shooters, this gun is outstanding.

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