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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Some random questions:

During WW2, it appears that all of Colt's production and products went towards the war effort and there were no commercial arms produced until after the war. Is that a correct statement? Maybe some were sold commercially but that was because some commercial prewar parts were available to assemble and enabled Colt to sell random pistols?

How about WW1? From what I have read here, Colt ramped up tremendously to be able to produce side arms for the soldiers, even taking finishing shortcuts to meet the needs. That suggests to me that Colt was stretched to meet production goals, especially considering the war was expected to run into 1919. However there seems to be more than a few post April 1917 war time Model 1903 pistols that appear to be for the commercial market. Did Colt continue to produce and service the commercial market side-by-side with the military contracts during the later part of 1917 through 1918? Or were an awful lot of these 1903's that appear to possess all the normal commercial characteristics make there way into military use?

Just curious.

Kim
 

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During WWII Colt did make some commercial guns but they were essentially for civilian law enforcement contracts. I wouldn't be surprised if some commercial guns made their way out of the factory...maybe built of leftover prewar parts. I believe some New Services were done that way.

The Colt factory...and probably most gun factories aren't so big they could consistently keep up with wartime demand. The military wanted more and more production for our use plus that of the allies. Even if the physical factory had large enough capacity it takes time to hire and train employees to build firearms much less at a faster and faster pace. Add to the receiving the raw materials which were often rationed based on priorities makes it even tougher.

Colt wasn't building just one kind of firearm...there were contracts for M1911's, Browning machine guns, revolvers and who knows what else...plus providing assistance to contractors who themselves were making 1911 pistols.

It was a huge undertaking for a company in a very unpredictable business and coming out of the Depression.
 
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The little Pocket Automatics didn't see military service until WWII - there as simply no need for that sort of sidearm in the military before then.

They came into the system for use by couriers, females, agents and General Officers.
 

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As an historical aside to Kim's topic, for a time during WWI, the Dept. of War (read US govt.) took over all production at the S&W plant in Springfield, Mass, as the company couldn't keep up production quotas.
I know S&W made the Mod 1917 45acp revolvers during the great war, but I don't know if they made any other wartime small arms, nor what other arms they could be .
 

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I don't believe Colt halted production of commercial firearms in WWI, and actually got caught rejecting a large quantity of military contract receivers, slides and barrels and then using them on foreign contract pistols.

During WWII Colt did shut down commercial handgun production in 1942, and even though Colt Pocket Hammerless .32 and .380 production was halted, production did resume in 1944 for government contracts. Other than the Commando, there were other small contracts for revolvers that were completed in WWII.
 

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Has anyone ever figured out the number of commercial Government Models vs 1911 Government produced during WW1?
 

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As an historical aside to Kim's topic, for a time during WWI, the Dept. of War (read US govt.) took over all production at the S&W plant in Springfield, Mass, as the company couldn't keep up production quotas.
I know S&W made the Mod 1917 45acp revolvers during the great war, but I don't know if they made any other wartime small arms, nor what other arms they could be .
Smith & Wesson produced various models through the summer and into fall of 1917. I have a Regulation Police 38 that shipped in September 1917, and I believe some lettered as late as November. There are some very few revolvers that have lettered as shipped in 1918 and early 1919, but these are generally assumed to be from 1917 stocks. The S&W historians have access only to shipping, not production records by serial number. Regular shipments of commercial guns, particularly their mainstay, the K-frame Military & Police .38, did not resume until mid- to late 1919. In-between, it's the Model 1917.

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During WWII Colt did shut down commercial handgun production in 1942,.......
....Other than the Commando, there were other small contracts for revolvers that were completed in WWII.
Colt continued producing the Official Police in its standard pre-war configuration (blued, checkered walnut medallion stocks) through most of 1942, but only for the government and contracts authorized by the DSC (Defense Supplies Corporation), going to approved recipients like defense contractors, police agencies etc. Paul once opined that OP production ceased with the start of Commando production, and those few OP's shipped later came from 1942 production. The Detective Special also continued to be produced, all production going to "official" customers, but demand never being met adequately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for your replies.
I was really curious about the mindset at Colt during WW1 vs WW2. It appears to me that the powers that be felt the war situation was much more serious in the 40's such that Colt's efforts were much more consumed with production for the war effort with very little left for commercial orders. Or perhaps government edict required this total effort.
Perhaps this "total war" mindset was not the case during American participation in WW1 or maybe Colt's production capacity was so large such that Colt could also maintain there commercial production lines and fill commercial orders (as an example, 28K-ish units of Model M pistols in 1917 and again in 1918).
Kim
 

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I don't have all the answers, but I don't think it concerned the US Govt. mindset.

When the US entered WWI in April 1917, the govt. hoped to get a million men to enlist.
After a few months, only about 80,000 US men volunteered, and subsequently the draft was imposed. Eventually about 2 million US men served in The Great War.
The majority of Americans were neutral or against joining the fight in WWI.

Seemingly, the answers lie with the production capabilities of the various firearms manufacturers.
 

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It depends on whether you consider WWI starting in July of 1914 or April of 1917. Beginning in February of 1916 Colt began shipping Government Models to Russia with an eventual total of over 51,000 being produced for that contract. Other shipments of GM's in this time period went to Canada, France, Norway and others.

The records exist at Colt, just a matter of digging them out.
 

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Early in WWII the government ordered virtually all companies to stop production of civilian goods and convert to US government equipment.

Those few companies not involved in war production couldn't buy the raw materials needed to produce much of anything.
Companies making or able to make military goods were definitely limited to US government contracts.

Companies making guns or ammunition were strictly limited to government sales.
As above, Colt did sell .38 revolvers to police departments on an as-needed basis.

If I recall correctly, in addition to producing for the government the 1911-A1, Commando revolver, Detective Special, .380 Automatic, and Woodsman .22, Colt was producing the BAR, and Browning .30 Caliber machine gun, especially the M1917-A1 water cooled version.
That didn't leave any capacity to make commercial firearms, nor were they allowed to sell any. Steel supply was strictly controlled as a critical war material and was impossible to get unless you had a government contract. Even then supplies were hard to get for government contracts.
 

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Production of the Colt Pocket Hammerless .380 shut down in late 1942. A few were shipped but were made up from parts on hand. Production did not resume until March of 1944. The same was true of the .32.
 

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Will share this post I made on another forum years ago after some study on the topic of wartime small arms contractors. Of course it could be amended after review by Colt Forum experts.

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Would you be willing to trust in, and commit to using firearms that were produced by manufacturing concerns with no prior firearms manufacturing experience? Companies that built a business producing goods having nothing to do with firearms? Firearms that were rushed to the end user in some cases without a lot of field testing? Would you consider relying on such a firearm at a crucial time when you desperately needed self-protection during an emergency?

Our nation did just that during both World Wars. Non-firearms manufacturers of all kinds were tapped to produce all manner of small arms to equip the "Arsenal of Democracy" during a time of great crisis. While most Forum members are aware of the many different prime contractors who produced small arms during wartime some perhaps are unaware of the extent of manufacturers who successfully produced weaponry though having no prior experience. Perhaps readers can mention some additional prime contractors not having anything to do with firearms manufacture but producing firearms nonetheless. Feel free to contribute to this thread.

Three such firearms live around here. On the one hand it's amusing to use a gun made by a typewriter manufacturer but it is also a sobering thought to consider that a national emergency required such firearms to be produced. That such firearms served with great distinction is a tribute to American manufacturing skill. The big question is: Could we do it again? There's no reason to assume that we will never again be compelled to resort to such planning and production to adequately arm the nation in future.



1903-A3 produced by the Smith Corona Company, M1 Carbine produced by the Underwood Elliott Fisher, 1911A1 produced by Remington Rand. All three were produced by companies whose peacetime business was typewriter production.






Receiver and barrel markings of the Smith Corona '03A3





You'll just have to assume that the receiver is marked "Underwood" as the marking is mostly covered by the "Type II" rear sight which was a mid-WWII armorer modification of the original "flip" sight. Barrel marking is shown as well.



Roll marking on the slide of the Remington Rand M1911A1.


Another non-firearms M1 Carbine, my dad's Quality Hardware Machine Company example. This particular all-original carbine was produced by Quality Hardware using a barrel produced by Rock-Ola, a manufacturer of jukeboxes. Rock-Ola was a prime contractor for the M1 Carbine, and in addition to supplying other prime contractors with component parts, produced M1 Carbines roll-marked with its own name.

Listed below are most prime contractors who produced arms for World War I, World War II and even as late as beyond the cease fire of the Korean War. Notice how many were not traditional gun makers. As a small child, I recall badly stumping my toe on a large object in the floor of a relative's very cluttered and semi-dark garage and bawling and squalling over the event. I was told at the time it was a machine gun. Later, as a teen I found out it was the receiver of an M2 .50. Close examination revealed it was produced by the "A/C Spark Plug Division of General Motors Corp."

So, I've sustained an injury from a .50 caliber machine gun.

1911 and 1911A1 pistol

World War I production 1911 pistols

Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company- arms manufacturer
North American Arms Company- arms manufacturer
Remington UMC- arms manufacturer
Springfield Armory- (U.S. Government facility)
A. J. Savage Company- arms manufacturer (slides only)

World War II production 1911A1 pistols

Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company- arms manufacturer
Ithaca Gun Company Incorporated- arms manufacturer
Remington Rand Company- typewriters, business machines, shavers
The Singer Company- sewing machines (scarce, only around 500 made)
Union Switch & Signal- railway signaling equipment and services

1903 and 1903A3 Springfield

Springfield Armory- (U.S. Government facility)
Rock Island Arsenal- (U.S. Government facility)
Remington Arms - arms maker
Smith Corona Company- typewriters, business machines

M1 Carbine

Winchester Repeating Arms Company- arms maker
Inland Manufacturing Division of General Motors Corporation- subsidiary of GM
Underwood Elliot Fisher- typewriters, office equipment
Rock-Ola Company- jukeboxes, novelty and slot machines
Quality Hardware Machine Corporation- hardware, fasteners
National Postal Meter Company- postal meters, mail handling equipment
Irwin Pedersen Arms- Company Formed specifically to manufacture Carbines. Failed the attempt. (Rare)
Standard Products- Company automotive parts and equipment
Saginaw Steering Gear Division of General Motors- automotive components, gearboxes
International Business Machines Corporation- business machines

M1

Springfield Armory- (U.S. Government facility)
Winchester Repeating Arms Company- arms maker
International Harvester- (1950s contractor) trucks, tractors, farming machinery and implements
Harrington & Richardson- (1950s contractor) arms maker


The contractors producing the models listed below are likely incomplete and could use some attention. I have reference works for the models listed above but don't have anything definitive on hand for these guns.

M3 Grease Gun

Guide Lamp division of GM- automotive electrical components
Ithaca Gun Company- arms manufacturer

Thompson and M1A1

Auto Ordnance Corporation- arms maker
Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company- arms maker
Savage Arms Company- arms maker

Browning Automatic Rifle

World War I production

Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company- arms maker
Winchester Repeating Arms Company- arms maker
Marlin-Rockwell (later Marlin Firearms)- arms maker

World War II production

Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company- arms maker
New England Small Arms Corporation- arms maker
International Business Machines Corporation- business machines
Royal McBee Typewriter Company- (1950s production) typewriters


M1919 Browning .30 Machine Gun

Frigidaire Division of GM- air conditioners, cooling equipment, household appliances
A/C Spark Plug Division of GM- spark plugs, automotive electrical components
Saginaw Steering Gear Division of GM- automotive components
Brown-Lipe-Chapin Division of GM- maker of gearboxes, transmissions
Winchester Repeating Arms Company- arms maker
Remington Arms Company- arms maker
Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company- arms maker
Springfield Armory- (U.S. Government facility)
Rock Island Arsenal- (U.S Government facility)
Frankford Arsenal- (U.S. Government facility)
High Standard Manufacturing Company- arms maker
Buffalo Arms Corporation- arms maker
Kelsey-Hays Wheel Company- automotive and industrial wheels


M2 .50 Machine Gun

Colt's Patent Firearms Company- arms maker
High Standard Manufacturing Company- arms maker
Savage Arms Company- arms maker
Buffalo Arms Corporation- arms maker
Frigidaire Division of GM- air conditioners, cooling equipment, household appliances
AC Spark Plug Division of GM- spark plugs, automotive electrical components
Brown-Lipe-Chappin Division of GM - maker of gearboxes, transmissions
Saginaw Divisions of GM- automotive components, gearboxes
Kelsey Hayes Wheel Company- automotive and industrial wheels


This list does not include all the myriad sub-contractors who funneled small parts and even large components to the prime contractors. For instance Union Switch & Signal produced some receivers for Quality Hardware's use in its M1 Carbine contract. These will be marked "UN-QUALITY." Some of the troops were said to be upset with "second rate guns" stamped so.

It also doesn't consider additional contractors who provided attachments and accouterments for the weapons of the World Wars. For instance I have a M1942 bayonet marked "A. F. & H", American Fork & Hoe company, a hand implement maker who obtained a contract to make bayonets for the government. Lots more of this kind of stuff is out there. Let's see if we can add to the list through Forum members' knowledge and collections. Photos added would be appreciated.
 

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The Smith in Smith-Corona was from the old L.C. Smith gun company.

Like the A.J. Savage Company and North American Arms, there were several companies issued contracts for the Model 1911 that never delivered any pistols before the war ended and the contracts cancelled. Winchester Repeating Arms was issued a contract, but never got far enough into production to deliver a pistol.

The Quality Hardware and Machine company was more an assembler than a manufacturer of the M1 Carbine. The only part of the Carbine they produced was the receiver, and didn't make all of them. US&S that made the Model 1911A1 pistol also made receivers for Quality Hardware.

Ithaca was an old line gun company that was awarded a contract to build the Model 1911A1 pistol during WWII. Ordnance had more problems with Ithaca getting into production than any of the other manufacturers. Singer had been awarded an educational contract to see how well a company with no background in firearms manufacture could get up and running. The 500 Model 1911A1 pistols produced for the military were some of the highest quality built.
 

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Smith Corona was in fact or was at one time a firearms manufacturer: L. C. Smith.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
It depends on whether you consider WWI starting in July of 1914 or April of 1917. Beginning in February of 1916 Colt began shipping Government Models to Russia with an eventual total of over 51,000 being produced for that contract. Other shipments of GM's in this time period went to Canada, France, Norway and others.

The records exist at Colt, just a matter of digging them out.
Ahhh....so there may be some interesting surprises if one were to request a Colt letter for a handgun produced, say in 1917 or 1918, even though it has all the appearances of being a commercially made model.
Kim
 

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A number of IBM Carbine receivers were made for them by Auto Ordnance. They were marked "AO" on the heel of the receiver.
 

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Ahhh....so there may be some interesting surprises if one were to request a Colt letter for a handgun produced, say in 1917 or 1918, even though it has all the appearances of being a commercially made model.
Kim
I suggest always requesting the assembly date if you are getting Colt letters. Whether for a military or a civilian gun. You have to specifically request the build date, unless things have changed.

I found out Colt could supply this info by accident about 4 years ago when talking to Beverly or Joe. I don't remember whom at the moment.
 

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M16A1's were also produced by GM's Hydramatic Division. (?transmissions)
These were the 3 million serial range M16's.

Transferable, original examples are extremely prized by collectors.
 
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