Welcome to Episode 185 of Gun Guy Radio! This is the podcast that shines a positive light on the firearms lifestyle. I’m Your host Ryan Michad and this is your weekly dose of positive firearms talk, without the politics.This week, I’m joined by Firearms Historian & Researcher Daniel Watters and Nathaniel F. from The Firearm Blog to discuss the saga of Colt Firearms post-WWI.
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Thank you both for coming on!
Nathaniel how are you doing? Any new articles up?
Daniel how are you doing?
Main Topic: The Colt Saga with Daniel Watters and Nathaniel F.
http://www.gunsmagazine.com/1956issues/G0556.pdf#page=10http://americanhandgunner.com/1978issues/AHMA78.pdf#page=32(Note that Colt President C. Edward Warner’s name is misspelled throughout the article as Werner.)http://www.newsweek.com/unmaking-gunmaker-158053
http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-05-29/colts-curse-gunmakers-owners-have-led-it-to-crisis-after-crisishttp://www.coltfever.com/Home_Page.htmlColt made over $21.5 million in profits in the years between 1914 and 1918. By the end of World War I, Colt had delivered over 425,000 M1911 pistols, more than 150,000 revolvers (such as the M1917), 13,000 Maxim and Vickers machine guns made under license, and 10,000 Browning machine guns. Colt had also successfully subcontracted thousands of additional pistols and machine guns through Marlin-Rockwell, Remington-UMC, and Winchester.
At same time, they also had accumulated a cash reserve in excess of $5.5 million dollars. However, this surplus immediately began to decrease as Colt's President William Skinner made the decision to fill all of the company's commercial backorders at their pre-war prices, even though wages and material costs had risen. Pres. Skinner was succeeded in 1921 by VP Samuel Stone. Stone had risen to his office after many successful years as Colt's sales manager. Skinner and Stone had each sought to diversify Colt's manufacturing base from small arms after the end of WW1. It first branched out into the production of adding machines and commercial dishwashers. (The former was a costly failure almost immediately.) Later, Colt bought out a hard plastics manufacturer in 1920, as well as an electrical device manufacturer in 1923. While US military orders were low during the 1920s, small arms production was sustained by foreign contracts particularly from Central and South America.
At the start of the Great Depression, Colt's armory employed nearly 1,600 people. Of these, 120 had been there 25 years or more, and 10 had been employed at least 50 years. Previously, it was felt that if an employee lasted their first year with the company, they would have a job for life. Elderly employees were routinely retained on the payroll in makework positions long after they could no longer operate machinery or perform delicate handwork. Despite the dramatic reduction in commercial orders, Stone did his best to keep as many people on the payroll as possible. Less than 400 positions were cut. While hours were reduced, day rates and piecework rates remained as before. In contrast, the company's executives reduced their own salaries by 10%. Stone also decided to continue paying dividends to the company's shareholders. All of this generosity had the end effect of reducing the company's cash reserves to roughly $2.9 million in 1932.
Orders began to rebound in 1933, but the company then began to start having issues with its employees. In 1934, the company's own employee organization was replaced with three workers organizations who were loosely affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). These organizations attempts to negotiate with Pres. Stone were rebuffed, ultimately leading to an AFL-sponsored walkout in March 1935. Government representatives were brought in in attempts to negotiate and force a settlement. The AFL goaded Senator Gerald Nye of Montana in an attempt to pressure the National Recovery Administration to withdraw their Blue Eagle accreditation from Colt. The loss of the Blue Eagle would mean that Colt would no longer be eligible for government contracts. Luckily for Colt, this threat was soon made moot by the US Supreme Court's ruling against the constitutionality of the National Recovery Administration's own existence. However, in the subsequent months, Colt was routinely targeted by Sen. Nye in his ongoing hearings investigating the US munitions industry.
Between Colt's own strikers and outside agitators, there was a great deal of violence towards the Colt employees who dared cross the picket line. As the strike dragged on through May, support for the strike among Colt's employees faltered. An unaffiliated trade unionist attempted to force the issue in late May in a plot to bomb the factory and Pres. Stone's home. The attempt to bomb the factory was abandoned due to police presence, but Stone's home was successfully attacked. This act of violence was the final straw even among Colt's own union representatives, and within a week of the bombing, the strike was finally called off in early June.
Besides its labor issues, Colt's facilities were damaged the flood of 1936 and the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. Earlier in 1938, Colt VP Fred Moore was killed in an accident during testing of Browning's unfinished 37mm automatic cannon design. Moore had risen from a tool room employee to works manager during his long career due to his close working relationship with John Browning. Moore was one of several potential successors to Pres. Stone who never lived long enough to take over the company.
Despite the tragedies, Colt managed to rebuild its cash reserves in the years leading to World War 2. However, the armory employees successfully unionized under the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) in 1941. leading to a series of labor disputes that lasted into the war years itself. Increased costs, military contract price renegotiations, contract reductions and cancellations, and other issues ultimately led to Colt starting to post monthly losses in July 1943. The issue was further compounded when the Army cut its orders for .50 BMG by 40% in January 1944. Colt sold off its electrical division months later, but the bleeding continued.
Pres. Stone's health reportedly began to suffer, and he was under pressure to leave. With no suitable successors within the company, Stone convinced Graham Anthony, the president of Veeder-Root, to succeed him in April 1944. Pres. Anthony's first day at Colt was met with a new strike threat. The company was under pressure to reduce the differences between piecework pay rates paid primarily to experienced fitters versus the flat day rates paid primarily to machine operators.
Mass layoffs occurred at the end of the war, and the financial losses continued through 1946. If Pres. Anthony had not already alienated any remaining older employees with his outsider status, the appointment of Colt's Plastics Division head Ben Conner as Executive VP was likely the final straw. Conner was reportedly quite heavy handed in his attempt to run off any potential competitors to succeed Anthony as company president, which he ultimately did in 1949. Colt was also faced with trying to rebuild its commercial firearm production lines. Tooling and fixtures for designs that had been discontinued during the war, like the Single Action Army and New Service, were reportedly damaged due to improper storage.
Minor profits were made in 1947, 1948, and 1949, but this also brought the first attempts of a hostile takeover of Colt by financial speculators. Colt resorted to buying out the speculators' shares in 1950 at a cost of $6.6 million from the company's cash reserves. The company's fortunes rose during the Korean War, but its sales and profits immediately dropped again afterwards.
The year of 1955 brought a series of corporate takeovers. Burton Bartlett and Chester Bland forced their way into the board of directors. Bland quickly replaced Conner as company president. Looking to make a quick profit, Bartlett and Bland began courting Leopold Silberstein and his holding company Penn-Texas, fresh from their takeover of Pratt & Whitney. Silberstein replaced Bland with Sidney Stewart, the vice-president of Pratt & Whitney's Chandler-Evans Division. However, Silberstein installed his own son Charles as Colt's executive vice president. Silberstein began selling off Colt's non-firearms divisions, and he angered many Colt employees by giving away the company's museum collection to the Connecticut State Library as part of tax write-off.
However, Silberstein's control of Colt was short-lived. In 1957, Silberstein failed in his attempt to take over the firm Fairbanks Morse, leaving Penn-Texas financially overextended. Ironically, Fairbanks Morse ended up turning the tables completely on Silberstein in 1958, taking over most of Penn-Texas' holdings, including Colt and Pratt & Whitney. The resulting conglomerate was renamed Fairbanks-Whitney. In 1964, Fairbanks-Whitney renamed itself Colt Industries in order to capitalize on the name recognition of Colt.
After the ouster of Silberstein, Colt VP and Sales Director Fred Roff was elected company president late in 1958, with Stewart becoming chairman of Colt's board of directors. As VP of Sales, Roff had undoubtedly had a hand in working the deal for acquiring the license rights to the ArmaLite AR-15 rifle from Fairchild. Upon becoming Colt's president, this deal was finalized. Roff unexpectedly quit late in 1962, and was temporarily replaced by David Scott, who had just been recruited as Fairbanks-Whitney's group manager for Colt, Chandler-Evans, and Pratt & Whitney. During his short term as president in 1963, Scott's major contribution was hiring William Goldbach as VP of Operations. Goldbach was better known at the time for his work at TRW, establishing their M14 production line.
Scott's successor was Paul Benke, yet another executive recruited from outside the company. Benke had the luck of presiding over Colt's major sales and profits expansion resulting from their Vietnam War-era contracts. In 1969, Benke was promoted within the parent Colt Industries, and the firearms company was divided into separate civilian and military arms division. Gordon Walker became president of the civilian arms division, while William Goldbach was named the military arms division’s president. Goldbach's luck was the reverse of Benke as military contracts began to taper off while the US scaled down its involvement in Vietnam. Goldbach ultimately left Colt in 1972.
During late 1960s and 1970s, conflicts with organized labor began to rise again. After Colt licensed production of the M16 family to the US government in 1967, Colt's employees staged a five-week walkout, promptly proving the government's point on the need for second-source production. A minor walkout late in 1969 related to an increase in M16 delivery rates was quickly aggravated by union representatives into a two-week company wide walkout. The union was attempting to increase their leverage ahead of their 1970 contract renegotiation. The union played a similar hand ahead of their 1973 contract renegotiation, resulting in a five-month walkout. The walkout had been promoted by playing upon fears of a plant relocation due to the company's purchase of land in New Mexico.
After 1973, three more union contracts were negotiated without a strike, although it was barely avoided in 1982. However, the failed contract negotiations of 1985 led to a near fatal strike in January 1986 that lasted several years. The length of this strike undoubtedly led to Colt losing its follow-on contract for the M16A2 to FN Manufacturing in 1988. The parent Colt Industries also tired of the drama, and made the decision to cut the Firearms Division loose in April 1989. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the striking workers in September 1989. The company was successfully privatized in March 1990 with partial ownership going to the workers themselves and the State of Connecticut. The sale was followed by an agreement to pay back wages to all of the returning strikers. One odd aspect of the privatization of Colt was that all of its intellectual property had been sold to a separate set of investors. Thus, Colt had to pay royalties for the rights to make its own products and use its legacy trademarks
However, the new owners were pushed into bankruptcy by 1992. The Chapter 11 proceedings were dragged out, and potential buyers were thwarted by the possibility that while they might buy the Colt factory, they might not be able to use Colt's own IP. The investment firm Zilkha & Co. came to the rescue in September 1994 by buying out both the factory and Colt's IP rights. Colt became the pet project of Donald Zilkha, who had dreams of consolidating the firearm industry under one roof. During this era, Colt made curious purchases of Saco Defense and Ultra Light Arms, but their 1997 attempt to purchase Fabrique Nationale failed.
Zilkha's enthusiasm for the gun business began to wane in the late 1990s. The threat of local and federal lawsuits was making the handgun market appear too risky. Colt even broached the possibility of ending their commercial handgun line in 1999. Donald Zilkha's business partner, Ioannis (John) Rigas, pushed for the spinoff of Colt's military division as a separate company. Colt Defense was established late in 2002, just in time for the War on Terror. However, Rigas had his own investment firm, Sciens Capital Management, buy a controlling interest in Colt Defense. Failing in their attempt to take Colt Defense public on the stock exchange in 2005, Sciens appears to have resorted to taking out loans on Colt Defense from which they then siphoned off the funds back into Sciens in various consulting fees and distributions.
Colt Defense and Colt's Manufacturing were reunited in 2012 under the control of Sciens, but this is seen mainly as another attempt to drain money from the company.
CMG (Colt Machine Gun) family
CMG-1 / CMG-1A
Robert Roy?Robert Fremont tells Colt to drop the CMG-1 and CMG-1A design:
Robert Roy (transitional design?)
George Curtis and Henry Tatro
https://www.google.com/patents/US3791256George Curtis' history of the CMG-2:https://www.smallarmsreview.com/search/pdfdmp.cfm?docid=S00546.pdf
Approval for order of 500 CMG-2:
Shooting a Colt CMG-3 at James D Julia
Photo of the CMG-2 and CMG-3:
IMP (Individual Multi-Purpose Weapon)
Dale M. Davis (USAF) and Stanley Silsby (Colt)
SCAMP (Small Caliber Machine Pistol)
A relevant segment from the SAR article:
Only slightly larger and heavier than the .45ACP 1911A1 pistol it was to replace, the SCAMP was built around a Colt-developed, high-velocity, centerfire .22 round. It was also far better balanced than the old Colt, according to Into. [N: yeah, I believe that; 1911s are pretty front-heavy]
“The SCAMP was a gas-operated, locked-breech weapon with select-fire capability, including three-shot burst,” he added.
One of the major problems faced by any automatic weapon is the climb factor which draws the weapon off target. Light, miniature full autos like the SCAMP magnify this tendency. Eliminating that problem was a major accomplishment of the Colt engineering team, that sought minimal group dispersion in burst mode, according to Into, who also wrote Colt’s official proposal for the weapon to the military in 1971.
“Rather than build-in additional bulk and weight to control climb and recoil, we decided to create a compact compensator and a burst control mode, both of which would add to the inherent accuracy of the weapon by defeating the inaccuracies usually found in the smaller automatic weapons. The concept worked well,” he added.
Into added, “We used the burst control method because it is far easier for operators to keep their weapon under control that way, which also increases the potential for better aimed shots and a higher hit-per-shot ratio. This is especially true under stress situations, which is when this weapon would be used.”
The Colt prototype was 11.6 inches long, 1.4 inches wide and 6.8 inches in height. It weighed 3.25 pounds with a magazine capacity of 27 rounds [N: so basically, in-between a 1911 and the later but similar in concept MP7 in size. A big pistol to be sure, but not huge by machine pistol standards]. In a futuristic design, ahead of the times, the receiver housing was glass-reinforced, high impact plastic and contained the moving parts, all of which were made of stainless steel. The cyclic-firing rate varied between 1,200 and 1,500 rpm [N: yeeeehaaw! it doesn't sound like they incorporated a cyclic rate controller; I bet a burst mech was lighter and more compact]
Another factor in the control and accuracy problem was that the cartridge originally suggested for the SCAMP was the .223 round, far too hot for an ordinary handgun, much less a machine pistol. [N: wat]
The SCAMP’s .22-centerfire cartridge fired a 40-grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,100 fps [N: note that this is much more powerful than the current 5.7x28mm FN round, despite the two rounds being almost identical in size; the .22 SCAMP was hot, hot, hot]. Colt officials developed the round specifically for the new weapon. The world standard and popular 9mm round was rejected because of its relatively heavy recoil signature. The designers also rejected the rimfire .22 long rifle because of its inadequate ballistics.
Into’s later research rejected the .22 Winchester Magnum and the 5mm Remington cartridges. The .22 Hornet cartridge was studied for modification, as well. However, the Remington .221 Fireball cartridge was used as the starting point for the new Colt cartridgeIn their benchmark book on submachine guns , Nelson and Musgrave explain the design capability of the new Colt cartridge, writing, “Should a substantially different type of ammunition than ball be desired, the general design is capable of further modification...a multiple flechette round, for example.” [N: have fun with that… SPIW couldn’t even get the bigger flechettes down to a reasonable cost]
Testing showed that the new round shot flat and accurate out to about 125 meters, far superior to most military pistols, plus it had the full-auto and burst control capability of the SCAMP pushing it. By the way, this .22-centerfire Colt round developed for the SCAMP was later redesigned as a rimmed cartridge for revolvers, to be used primarily by security forces. This effort met with about the same level of contractual success as the original SCAMP design.
The SCAMP’s grip design was fashioned after the thumb-rest grips of target pistols and the bore was located low to the firer’s hand with the firing mechanism above the bore to lower the center of gravity and improve balance.
The sights were open partridge, adjustable for windage on the front, plus rear sights with ear protectors and windage adjustment. According to Into, “We also designed a quick-point aiming rib into the housing design for combat shooting, plus the weapon was balanced for natural pointing characteristic along the shooter’s forearm.”
Fieldstripping was simple and required no tools. A major part of Into’s design requirement was “for simple maintenance and a high degree of insensitivity to environmental harshness,” he explained.
The SCAMP was designed for performance under poor environmental conditions and with ease in maintenance. Into noted, “Face it, we do not fight wars in hospitable locales and you want a survival weapon that’s going to work each time and every time, no matter the field conditions.”
Thus, all metal parts were built of stainless steel, while the housing was fabricated from fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The front sight was anodized aluminum. Field stripping was designed to be easy and is component based so as not to lose small parts in the field. Colt also proposed several ways of storing and carrying the weapon; including two new holster designs and a Velcro-based hook and loop fastener for wear on the uniform. This design was offered for aircrew use.
Although only one prototype SCAMP was built, it was tested both by Colt and military officials. According to Into, “We were highly pleased with the operation and performance of the weapon...it was all we had hoped it would be.”
N: The SCAMP is one of the most interesting Colt designs, because it is truly unique, having few parallels elsewhere (the HK PDW, later MP7, is a substantially larger and heavier weapon). The SCAMP was developed beginning in 1969, with the goal of replacing handguns for certain echelon personnel, especially aircrews (note that the Colt IMP was also designed for this role). Colt analyzed several different operating mechanisms for the SCAMP to determine which would give the least weight and cost, and most reliability; they eventually settled on what was mechanically essentially a teeny tiny adorable Browning BAR or Harvey T25. An upward pivoting breechblock locked into the top rear of the receiver, and a long internal slide attached to an annular gas piston provided the motive force for operation. A series of cams unlocked the bolt and actuated the gun. Interestingly, Colt’s engineers were very focused on bringing the barrel as low as possible, so as to improve the recoil controlling ability of the shooter. To this end, the fire control group of the weapon was located above the barrel, and more closely resembled that of a scaled-down assault rifle than a pistol’s mechanism.Colt’s engineers determined that the recoil characteristics of the 9mm were too great for a weapon of reasonable size, so they set about to find alternatives. They looked at the .22 LR, .22 WMR, and 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum, but none of these were suitable. As a result, they created a shortened, rimless variation of the .22 Hornet, and indeed the first rounds were stamped as such. This round, now called “.22 SCAMP” produced 2,100 ft/s with a 40gr bullet, but test rounds produced velocities as high as 2,200 ft/s with safe pressures. Colt’s engineers also considered the SCAMP to be flexible in terms of caliber, and investigated other exotic ammunition types for the project, including multiple flechette loads, as well as necking down the round to .17 caliber (which would have been very similar to the later 4.6x30 HK). Interestingly, the actual SCAMP pilot lot of ammunition did not use the planned 40gr bullet, but a 42gr bullet at over 2,000 ft/s.The SCAMP’s project goal weight was three and a quarter pounds. The single SCAMP prototype actually constructed beat this goal, weighing in at a flat 3 pounds. Multiple different concepts for carrying the SCAMP were investigated, including gluing velcro to the pistol and just velcroing it onto a soldier’s uniform.Thought was put into the SCAMP’s sighting system as well; it utilized a sighting rib concept in addition to more traditional post-and-notch type. Note that the later Colt ACR also used a sighting rib.That is more or less what I know about the SCAMP.
SSP (Stainless Steel Pistol)
SSB (Salvo Squeeze Bore)
MARS (Mini Assault Rifle System)
Michael R. Harris and James F. Taylor
This info is largely going to come from Bartocci’s The Black Rifle II.
Development began in 1997
"Mini-assault rifle", replacement for 9mm pistol and SMGs.
Colt Mini Assault Rifle System (MARS). Patent granted to Colt engineer James Taylor and Michael Harris, founder of the Special Analytical Service.
MARS, like SCAMP and IMP, was intended to fill the PDW role. Bartocci says:
"The goal was to create a
small, compact weapon which would be able to win
a shootout against an AK47/AK74 or any other threat
weapon, neither of which were practical or realistic
opponents for someone armed with a 9mm caliber
pistol or SMG. It was believed at the time by Colt and
SAS that the MARS could replace 8 0% of all pistols
and submachine guns, as well as up to 2 0% of rifles
5.56x30 MARS was formed from shortened 5.56mm NATO cases (it should be noted the 5.56 MARS is not dimensionally similar to the .221 Fireball; the IMP used a variant of the Fireball, leading to this confusion), and was very, very powerful by PDW standards, nearly equaling the performance of 5.56mm NATO from short barrels (55grs at 2,620 ft/s from a 10.5" barrel, some rounds were also loaded with the 62gr SS109 projectile). This is considerably better performance, for example, than the comparable Soviet/Russian AKS-74U mini-assault rifle, and much, much more powerful than either 5.7x28mm or 4.6x30mm. The MARS was also chambered for the 9x30mm MARS, based on the 10mm Magnum case head, which would have given it performance substantially similar to the later .300 Whisper/Blackout, although only with shorter bullets.
All three MARS prototypes were made from M4 components, cut and shortened to fit the new more compact cartridge. The buffer tube and stock were both shorter than the standard M4's stock. The shortened bolt carrier of the MARS necessitated that a safety mechanism be added to prevent out of battery firing (impossible on the full-size weapons due to their dimensions). The head of the firing pin and the hammer were both modified to prevent this malfunction.
To accommodate the shortened components, the hammer pins, automatic sear, and selector had to be moved slightly rearward, which incidentally improved handling slightly.
The MARS prototype weighed only 5.2lbs, and was less than two feet long with the stock collapsed.
The Israelis showed interest in the MARS project, as they had Uzi submachine guns and M1/M2 Carbines that the MARS would have been an ideal replacement for, and they were ready to sign a contract for 2,000 guns per year for ten years. However, Colt decided this didn't justify tooling up to make the weapons, and opted out.
Law Enforcement Pistol / Smart Gun
Kevin A. Kaminski and Douglas G. Overbury
https://www.google.com/patents/US6363647Colt's VP of Engineering Douglas G. Overbury and Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-CO) with the Smart Gun:
Thank you both for coming on!
Where can people find your articles Nathaniel?
196800 Revolutions Per Minute
The Firearm Blog
Where can people find your articles Daniel?
The Gun Zone
The 5.56mm Timeline: A Chronology of Development
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