The August 18, 1945 issue of The Ottawa Journal newspaper lamented that good quality fishing gear “is practically non-existent,” and that “the war, of course, caused it all. Sport fishing might be very dear to the hearts of many but it was not an essential industry and its workers left and materials for manufacture of equipment was denied it when war came.”1 Later, the article made reference to “one major company (John Inglis),” who would commence the manufacture of fishing reels designed by the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Shakespeare Company.
Most Canadians know the Inglis name, but not for its fishing reels—and certainly not for the high quality guns it made during World War II. The venerable Canadian manufacturer is best known for its appliances, which washed Canadians’ dirty dishes and Stanfields for decades (and which continues to do so, albeit now as a brand name under Whirlpool). But what of Inglis’ time as a gun manufacturer?
While the gunmaking industry in Canada never achieved the volume that it did in the United States, Canadian-made guns were every bit as good as their American counterparts. Many Canadian children learned to plink tin cans with a Cooey .22, and the World War I-era Ross Rifle set the standard for bolt-action rifle accuracy. Lakefield Arms (up the road from Trent University in Peterborough, where yours truly cut his freshman teeth) still makes high quality rifles under the Savage name, and the TTC’s Long Branch Loop takes riders past the remnants of the Long Branch Arsenal, where the now-highly-collectable Lee Enfield rifles were made during World War II. And my childhood home in Agincourt, Ontario, was just down the road from the now-defunct Para-Ordnance Canada factory (which, years later, followed me down to North Carolina and became Para USA).
The Inglis Browning Hi-Power shown here is a fine example of the John Inglis Company’s output in early 1945, as evidenced by its 4T32xx serial number. Chambered in 9mm parabellum and finished in its factory-refurbished black enamel over the original grey parkerized finish, it carries the correct original barrel in the white and the original lanyard on the left side of the grip butt. I have to admit that the finish isn’t the most attractive at first glance, but it does display the sensible Canadian qualities of durability and corrosion-resistance.
The Canadian-made Brownings have a solid reputation as sturdy and reliable standard-bearers of John Browning’s engineering prowess, and a fresh spring kit was all it took to get this gun back into shape. 50 rounds of 115 grain jacketed ball ammo had no trouble finding their way into the 9 ring at 25 yards, with a crisp trigger break and a surprisingly clear sight picture courtesy of the fixed sights.
This gun also came with the original webbed cotton holster signed ZL&T (Zephyr Loom & Textiles) of Guelph, Ontario, which is another of the author’s old stomping grounds. The attached newspaper advertisement is an interesting glimpse into Canadian patriotism during the war, which has—as might be expected from a Commonwealth country—a more somber and muted tone than Americana from the same era. As an aside, it was nice to see that the City of Guelph has designated the old building at 72 Farquhar Street (where this holster was made) as a heritage property. Far too many of these old buildings (including much of the old Inglis factory) have been torn down in the so-called name of “progress.”