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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 (still wearing its RIG coat)





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" so stamped.

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. And, we shouldn't forget the M91 Mosin Nagants produced by New England Westinghouse (as well as Remington) over several years in the 1915-1918 time period for the hapless Czar Nicolas II. 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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I must admit, although I have nothing to add, it was extremely fun to read. Thanks for posting it.
 

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What a fun subject, definitely!


It is fascinating and Romantic, these Manufacturers who otherwise made non-Firearm items, how they could Tool UP, press their Temples over sheaves of Blueprints, and, generally did splendidly with the task!

Rock-Ola always cracked me up in this context, Juke Boxes...then M1 Carbines, just-like-that.


I myself do not own any examples of these War Production Guns, but I have been brooding for years on maybe getting a 'Westinghouse' Mosin Nagant.

I always kind of liked George Westinghouse, and how he had tried to be fair with Nicola Tesla, even if loosing out to his Stockholders in the tussles.

And I always liked the Czar and did not like what happened to him or those who did it.

So, if I were to want a Nagant, a 'Westinghouse' made one, would fit the bill I think...long as it has the Double Headed Crowned Eagle intact.
 

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I think NESA, New England Small Arms was not an arms company before getting a contract to build M1918A2 BARs, but rather a consortium formed in Meriden and Wallingford Connecticut of many manufacturers who could not help the war effort on their own. The anchor company was International Silver, the big silverware company. They had two completely silver plated BARs displayed at their HQ for many years before they donated them to the Connecticut State Police.
 
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