One of the unsung inventions of the industrial revolution was the go / no go gauge. Most mechanical parts have only a few critical dimensions, and the go / no go gauge was used to make sure the part fit, in the most literal sense.
Among the rarities of Smith & Wesson’s earliest years is the gutta percha case. Between 1850 and 1861 almost 5,000 of these cases were manufactured. The cases’ fragile plastic and delicate hinges have whittled the number of survivors down to an estimated 250 cases, if that.
The M1951 Beretta pistol is the most recognizable ancestor of the Beretta 92, whose importance to the world of firearms can hardly be understated. One variant was the Helwan 9mm pistol, which was a clone of the M1951 that was made in Maadi Factory 54 located just south of Cairo, Egypt. While I haven’t found any really comprehensive accounting of the Maadi factory’s history with gunmaking, it is well known that the Maadi factory also produced AK-47 variants (and perhaps other guns) for many years.
Launched in 1908 and in production for forty years, over 400,000 of these tiny Colt semi-automatic pistols came out of the Hartford factory. I decided to put a few hundred rounds through one at the range to see how it stacks up to the myriad of pocket pistols that are being sold over a century after this gun’s introduction. This particular gun shipped from the Colt factory in June of 1930 to a dealer in Chicago, and it’s not bad looking for pushing 90 years old.
Fegyver- és Gépgyártó Részvénytársaság is a mouthful, but the PA-63 pistol that came out of this Hungarian factory is a surprisingly manageable and well-made compact pistol that belies its Soviet-era roots.
The “Smith & Wesson Automatic,” as it was advertised, or the “Model of 1913” as the collectors refer to it, is a gun that by all measures should have done well. Its innovations still delight and amaze, and were it not for some bad timing, this gun could have been far more influential than the historical footnote that it has been relegated to.
The basics: the .35 S&W Auto chambering is almost identical to the .32 Automatic Colt Pistol round that would come to dominate the world of semiautomatic pocket pistols for decades. Manufacturers knew that getting the public hooked on a particular caliber of ammunition with the manufacturer’s name in it was a source of free advertising (like the ubiquitous .38 Smith & Wesson round). In the early years of Smith & Wesson when the Model 1 was the only gun sold by the little company, it was sufficient to simply purchase ammunition for the Smith & Wesson, and the earliest ammunition was known thus.
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?
The guns of Lucius Willson Pond pop up on the market from time to time, and they receive some attention because of Pond’s affiliation to Smith & Wesson (specifically, through his violation of Rollin White’s patent). Throughout my research I realized that there is no really good biography of Lucius. Here’s a summary of my research on this interesting man.
For most people, thinking about the venerable (and now defunct) Chicago retailer Montgomery Ward doesn’t conjure up images of guns. Over the years they sold plenty of branded guns (like this rebranded Stevens rifle), but the gun I’m writing about today is actually a Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action, First Model, that was shipped to the Chicago firm on July 15, 1892.
The first thing you notice about this gun is its weight. Clocking in at X pounds and X ounces without any rounds in the cylinder, this is a heavy piece of hardware. Robustly made and with a jewel-smooth action, this gun opens and closes with confidence.