William J. Ricca Surplus Sales

Government Surplus 1971-2018

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The M3A1 Combination Tool

A Short History of its Production and Identification of its Makers

This is a partial study of the M3A1 Combination Tool. It will remain a partial study because information about its history is not wide spread and lots of digging is required to get the smallest amounts of information. The tool has been produced many times, by many contractors, in locations all over the world. It is also one of the most available tools in today's market. As of this writing, there surely is no shortage. It is a unique, yet very handy tool for any level of maintenance of the M1 Rifle. The tool was used for field stripping and cleaning the rifle. When not in use, it was stored in the M1 Garand's butt trap. It is one of my favorites.

This article will not address how to use it. There are many websites showing the different uses of each component. The only areas I want to cover are the US military production, foreign production, and today's reproductions. This is part 1 of 2 parts.

Nomenclatures as referred to in this article

I have used the nomenclatures found in letters and reports concerning certain aspects of production. The descriptions of components come from those sources and may be different than those found in Technical Manuals and Drawings.

Part 1: Confirmed US Contractors from WWII

American Shearer Mfg. Co. (Unmarked)

The earliest Ordnance contract I have found was with American Shearer Mfg. of Nashua, NH. The company had been awarded a contract to produce M3 combination tools in late 1943. I want to keep this on subject so I will just mention that the M3 was an earlier version. The first large production was in 1939. Instead of having a chamber brush, it contained a steel slotted end for the insertion of a cleaning patch. American Shearer's M3A1 production may have included screwdrivers (blades) that were being used in its production of the M3 Combination Tool. (1) This blade is longer than all others and is rarely seen by most collectors.

By 1943 it was decided that a chamber shaped brush would do a better job than the slotted end. The changes also included a configuration different from the M3. Unlike the M3, which had a swiveling blade, the M3A1 allowed both blade and the spanner arm to be swiveled into a storage position. This made the M3A1’s overall length a few inches shorter. Because the spanner arm accommodated a pin punch and a stuck case remover, the tool's blade required a circular cut for clearance of the pin punch. Without the circular cut in the blade, it could not be kept in a closed position. This circular cut and the longer blade (Type I) are noticeable differences that stand out, if you know what to look for.

Top: Type I Screwdriver (Blade) was used in the M3 production but with the circular cut added during production of a small number
of M3A1 tools. More information may show that the Type I blade was used by American Shearer at the very end of production.

Middle: Type II, length used on the rest of wartime production with the exception of one contractor.

Bottom: Usually referred to as "Modified" or "Cut Down", I have found only one WWII contractor that used this length, Type III

As can be seen above, the combination tool had three different size screwdrivers (blades) during its long history of production. Collectors have recognized only two: Type II (which was thought to be the only WWII production) and Type III (modified or cut down). The reason for this is due to the scarcity of the unmarked tool with the Type I blade.

American Shearer's possible production of the M3A1 Combination tool which used the Type I blade. Notice the location of the pin punch
and its relation to the larger blade. Out of view, in the rear, is the circular cut which allows the pin to enter, allowing the spanner
arm to close.

Close up of swiveling components, closed, in storage position. The pin punch is recessed inside the circular cut,
allowing the alignment of the two swiveling components with the body.

A side to side comparison with the AMCO marked tool shown below.

Ordnance Drawing 7310061, Revision 1, February 1944

In February of 1944 the Ordnance Department revised the drawing to include change 1. Change 1 shortened the blade (Type II) and required the contractor’s marking on the body of the combination tool. Contractors were allowed to mark the blade, but it required an “authorization of waiver” by the Ordnance Department. The Type II Blade has always been looked upon as the only production type during WWII, and I too believed that for years.

American Shearer Mfg. Co (AR, marked on body)

In February, 1944 American Shearer Manufacturing Company (AR) and Parker Manufacturing Company (PK) were the first contractors to be awarded contracts under the Revision 1 (Rev-1) changes. It is hard to tell which company first got into production of the revised tool. American Shearer’s second contract (Revision 1) was actually dated March of 1944 but the change over from M3 to M3A1 was going on much earlier. Government records are vague on this point. AR marked and unmarked brushes were used in production.

American Shearer of Nashua, NH. Its marking for Revision 1.

Parker Manufacturing Company (PK, marking on blade)

The Parker Manufacturing Company of Worcester, Mass., on paper, was the earliest contractor of Rev-1 production. The Ordnance Department awarded Parker its first contract in February of 1944. Many more would follow, making Parker the producer with the largest totals. This is confirmed by the contract data I have, plus the common availability during the last 30 years. PK marked tools are by far the most common WWII tool found in the market. Parker is the only contractor that marked the blade.

Parker was in the New England area, where four of the six major WWII contractors were located. O. F. Mossberg and Sons of New Haven, Ct., a components sub-contractor, supplied PK and AR with Brush Bushings. That is the part of the tool that retains the chamber brush. American Shearer's were unmarked. Parker used both unmarked and PK marked bushings.

Parker Manufacturing Company's original package of five.

Parker's marking on all production. Only contractor to use the blade for identification. It appears PK had a plan
to get some of it tool bodies from UFH. Marking the blade made production easier when using UFH's marked bodies.

Illustrated is the PK marked bushing.

UFH provided the body for an unknown amount of Parker's production. This tool has a PK marked Chamber
Brush and Blade. Unfortunately over the years Chamber Brushes were changed many times. That makes today's research
very difficult. Often it is difficult to spot the installation of a replacement brush.

As mentioned in the above illustration, Parker used an unknown quantity of brushes which had the PK marking. Most likely none of the contractors actually produced the brushes used in their production. Twisted-In-Wire brushes' production machinery is very unique. It requires cutting and feeding wire (bristles) at a controlled rate as the retaining wire (body) of the brush is twisted. Producing a chamber brush, which tapers, has additional requirements. It is highly unlikely any of the contractors had this type of machinery. I think it is a very good bet that most of the brushes were sub-contracted out to companies that were in the full time business of producing similar brushes. The only exception I can think of is if a contractor offered the same style of brushes as part of its pre-war commercial line.

Holst, Inc. (HO, marking on body)

Holst is one of the harder to find markings, but surely not rare. Holst, too, was located in the New England area, in Milford, Ct. Holst had one of the contracts that included spare brushes. Holst's brushes were unmarked, but have an identifying feature. This will be shown in Part 2.

For years this maker alluded identification. I had to consider the possibility that the marking was OH due to differences
in machinery set up; a simple 180 degree rotation of the marking dies. Finding the contract information and a box of Holst
contracted chamber brushes made positive identification possible.

Union Fork and Hoe Company (U.F.H., marking on body)

The Union Fork and Hoe Company of Rome, New York (UFH) produced very large totals. Government notations indicate at least part of UFH's M3A1 production of partial and finished tools were sub-contracted out. Note UFH's body lined out and the PK initials on the blade.

Union Fork and Hoe's standard marking

Union Fork and Hoe lined out on a PK produced tool. A strange situation may have developed by providing Parker
with production farmed outside of UFH's plant. This is known as a three tiered contract. Sub-contractors,
if any, to UFH are unknown at this time.

Atlas Manufacturing Company (7310061 AMCO, both marked on body)

Atlas Manufacturing Company of Saint Paul, Minnesota is well known to some who have studied WWII Ordnance production. This is the same company that produced various tools for the Browning Machine Guns and the Carbine Bayonet Lug marked AMCO. Atlas was the only contractor to produce what I call the "AMCO Design" of the M3A1 (2). This design includes a large projection that makes removal of the bolt extractor much easier. It appears to be a more expensive design to produce. This is also the only WWII M3A1 marked with the ordnance part number. Its unique design, very limited production, and the presence of the part number most likely indicate it was produced for inclusion in various armorers' tool kits. Part number marking was a requirement of items making up the tool kits; it was not of much importance when applied to the tools for the soldier. It was a good idea, but in the real world consolidated storage and cross issuing constantly made control an impossible dream.

The AMCO contract was awarded in February of 1944 and completed by September. The AMCO tool is not rare, but it is much harder to find than most. Based upon the history of its availability, Atlas evidently had small production totals.

Arrows point to the larger extractor lifter and the circular cut in the Brush Bushing. The cut was probably a distinguishing
identifier for inclusion in the various small arms tool kits. Both make identification a simple task for the collector.

AMCO's marking

Stuart Engineering and Mfg. Company (S, marking on body)

Possibly the last of the WWII contractors. Stuart, another New England producer, was located in Norwalk, Ct. It was awarded a contract in Jan. 1945 for a quantity of tools to be produced with the Type III blade. The contract was ended early by the Government. Documents I have show only the pay off to get out of the contract. I have no production totals, prices, or total contract value. The Stuart marked tool is probably the scarcest of all known WWII contractors. I estimate 35,000-50,000 were produced. I have a record that 1/3 of the remaining contract was a government buy-out, but that applies to a different commodity from a different agency. This production figure is only a guess. Maybe one day more information will be available.

Stuart pack of two, in its original WWII wrapper. The presence of the Ordnance Bomb, SNL on
wrapper and no date are usually indicative of WWII ordnance small arms contracts.

Stuart's marking on body of tool.

The following chart is a consolidation of the few ordnance contracts I have. The information is formatted in two different government forms: actual production dates and figures, and contract total dollars without production details. The contracts listed with figures may have changed. I have many records of prices being voluntarily lowered by the contractor due to price decreases in raw materials or new efficiencies. I also have records of prices being raised due to new government requirements, like revisions and packaging for overseas shipments. I have records of quantities being increased and decreased. There also are instances of contracts being cut short or extended and set up costs listed separately and included.

I have omitted a combination tool with the markings W-M. There is a slim possibility is it also be a very late war contract, but without proof I cannot list it here. In Part 2 I will discuss this tool and the frustrations of attempting to identify its maker.

For ease I have listed all of the AR contracts together. The information on AR is very vague due to the numerous contract and production changes. Sometime in the future the AR information may have to be adjusted or corrected.

Date and Marking Contractor Ordnance District-Contract # Quantity Price Contract Total Period
10/43(Initially M3’s) American Shearer Mfg. Co, Nashua, N.H. Boston #774 245,448 $1.485 ea Unknown 10/43 thru 9/44
2/44 Unmarked? Above Contract Changed To M3A1 Production
3/44 Unmarked Cont’d Until Rev-1 then marked, with some small quantities remaining unmarked after Rev-1 changes took effect.



American Shearer Mfg. Co, Nashua, N.H. Boston #1453





$1.485 ea

$1.40 ea



Orig. M3 Contract possibly changed to M3A1???, effective date unknown
M3A1 Contract totaling $59,000
M3A1 Contract totaling $124,000

3/44 thru 11/44

3/44 thru 11/44

6/45 delivery
9/45 delivery



Atlas Mfg. Co., St. Paul, MN. Chicago #1917 Only contractor to produce this design Unknown Unknown $361,000.00 2/44 thru 9/44


Parker Mfg., Worcester Mass. Boston #4870 1st Revision 1 Contract 300,000 $1.75 ea Unknown 5/44 thru 7/44


Holst, Inc., Milford, Ct. Springfield #840 Unknown Unknown $334,000.00 3/44 thru 12/44


Holst, Inc., Milford, Ct. Springfield







$1.75 ea

Brushes .37 each

Unknown 4/44 thru 12/44


Union Fork and Hoe Inc., Rome N.Y. Rochester #S4728-3 $275,500 $1.34 ea Unknown 4/44 thru 7/44


Union Fork and Hoe Inc., Rome N.Y. Rochester #S4869 553,489


$1.19 ea

Brushes .37 each

Unknown 4/44 thru 8/44


Union Fork and Hoe Inc., Rome N.Y. Rochester #S4869 2,450 added to contract 1.34 ea Unknown 4/44


Parker Mfg., Worcester, Mass. Boston #4065 300,000

300,000 pins

300,000 brushes

1.31 ea

.005 ea

.18 ea

Unknown 3/45 thru 7/45


Parker Mfg., Worcester, Mass. Boston #4649 197,000

289,000 pins

289,000 brushes

1.27 ea

.004 ea

.17 ea

Unknown 7/45 thru 9/45

Production limited. First Type III Blade.


Stuart Eng. & Mfg., Norwalk, Ct. Springfield #2529 Unknown Unknown Have no contract information, just a June 1945 payment of $72,000.00 for Contract Termination Charges. Original delivery was schedule for Jan thru June 1945.

A final word on the Screwdriver (Blade) of the combination tool. There has been speculation that the Type III Blade (also known as the cut down or modified blade) was designed to accommodate the rear sight screw of the late type rear sight. I know of no documentation that shows that to be true. I do know that the Types I and II blades are a lousy fit on the poppet style Gas Cylinder Lock Screw, but fit the Solid Lock Screw pretty well. I also know the Type III blade fits the poppet style Gas Cylinder Lock Screw perfectly. Maybe one day development records will clear this up. My mind is open.

As far as the past is concerned, here is evidence that there was no "Modification" program to alter blades on the M3A1 tools. All tools from the same contractors retain the exact same blade configuration. If there was such a program, a quantity of tools from the same contractor would have different blades.

(1) This needs more confirmation. This is what is known to date. American Shearer had an M3 contract and produced M3 tools until sometime later when the contract was changed to M3A1. That cannot be disputed as it appears in different documents covering the contract. The Type I blades were probably left over from American Shearer's M3 production.

Unfortunately the tools' characteristics contradict the tools' identification as standard American Shearer production. All observed AR marked tools have a unique spanner arm. They were made differently than that used on any other M3A1. Manufacturing methods of the spanner arms differed amongst the contractors. This is the WW II breakout:

1. PK , S, and UFH have the same spanner arm.

2. AMCO has a spanner arm unique among known WWII contractors.

3. AR marked production has a different spanner arm unique amongst the known WWII contractors.

4. The tool with the Type I blade has the AMCO spanner arm, Type I blade, and is unmarked. It also lacks the Brush Bushing unique to AMCO.

Until more can be discovered it appears that AR produced the tools with bodies and spanner arms supplied by AMCO, possibly to finish up production. The possibility that the tools were assembled at an ordnance depot does not hold up because of the probability that others would appear with markings or characteristics from the known makers. For now I will rule out postwar possibilities.

(2) Ordnance Technical Documents refer to the AMCO design as the standard. The alternate design was the everyday ordinary ones that were produced in massive quantities. If I had to guess it would be due to the cost differences.

The information on this page is my interpretation of limited government records and from inspecting several thousand combination tools. As more information becomes available some aspects of what is written will change.

This information may be used freely for message boards discussions. Permission must be granted for use on websites, for publication, or for inter-net auctions. Don't be afraid to ask, you may be surprised.

Click Here for Part 2 covering the postwar period.

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