The M3A1 Combination Tool
A Short History of its Production and Identification of its Makers
Probable Post War, Foreign Makers, Conversions, and Reproduction
This is the second part of a two part series dealing with the
production and history of the M3A1 Combination Tool. Post war
information is almost non-existent. The information gathered is based
upon a base knowledge, inspections of packed tools, and speculation. No
speculation will be offered as facts; I will always identify the
uncertainties. All tools covered in this part have Type III blades.
Probable US Production, Post War Period
Unknown Maker (W-M, marking on body)
Marking of W-M indicates a possible
As shown in Part 1, Mossberg and Son was a
subcontractor for brush bushings. This may indicate a revised marking
format, very late war, to reflect both entities.
The Case for WWII Production
The tool which has the most mystery behind it is W-M marked. During
the study of WWII production, the name O.F. Mossberg and Sons of New
Haven, Ct. appeared in a few documents. Mossberg provided Brush Bushings
to at least two contractors, American Shearer (AR) and Parker
Manufacturing (PK). It may also have been a sub-contractor with a New
York State Company named Wallkill Machine Company for Union Fork and
Hoe. There exists the possibility that Union Fork and Hoe received the
Brush Bushings from Mossberg and the remainder of the tool from Wallkill
Machine Co as there are notations denoting the tool was subcontracted
The attempt to sort everything involves the markings. The approved
identification markings as of September of 1944 had WM listed as
Wallkill Machine Co., and, when used with American Shearer, M for
Mossberg. After inspecting many AR tools, including the bushings, I have
never seen an M marking. I suspect there had to be some deviations in
the use of the approved markings. The existence of the dash in W-M might
show a combined contract of Wallkill Machine with Mossberg as a
sub-contractor. The question then becomes why two markings on this
contract and not on earlier ones? If it is a sub-contract situation it
would not be the first time a dash was used as an indicator. Certain M1
Carbine contracts used the dash to show contractor/sub-contractor
relationships. If this combination of producers holds true, production
was very small. The contract does not show up as being $50,000.00 or
more in government listings. That would indicate very small production
The Case For Postwar Production
This combination tool is only one of two items that I have seen
marked with a dash. The other one is an M7A3 Grenade Launcher. The
Grenade Launcher was delivered during May of 1954 with the marking L-M.
It has been erroneously reported as having been produced by Long
Manufacturing. The contractor box lists the maker as of L-M Manufacturing
Roseville, Michigan. The existence of this dash provides no information
other than it was probably part of the company name. There may have
been a W-M Manufacturing in that time period. To further confuse the
issue Mill-Rose Manufacturing has a dash is its corporate name. Doing a
search on recent Defense Logistics Agency contracts I have seen many
corporate names with two letters separated by a dash.
Also complicating the issue was the 1953 adoption of the M10
Cleaning Rod. The rod was supposed to render the M3A1 tool obsolete.
Tools would still be produced but only in small quantities as
replacements to supply armorers' tool sets. These would be marked with
the ordnance part number. Logic says the production of tools for issue
to the average GI would have ended. Unfortunately logic may not always
be the answer. It would not surprise me to find that the W-M was
produced after that 1953 date of the M10 adoption.
Maybe it is just an unfortunate coincidence that the W-M contractor
had initials similar to two possible WWII contractors. Until I get some
definitive proof of its history, the W-M will go into the post war
category as unknown. In today's market the W-M remains one of the
scarcer markings, but surely not rare.
The Union Hardware Company (UHC, marking on body)
This tool was produced at The Union Hardware Company of Torrington,
Ct., during the years of 1950-1951. Information comes from a gun show
attendee who worked there during the production. At the time of his
employment he was a young "Go For". His goal at the gun show was to
purchase a Union Hardware M3A1 Tool. He and his time period sounded
credible. This tool is plentiful in today's market.
Union Hardware Company.
K. R. Wilson, Arcade, New York (KRW, marking inside circle on body)
This company was very active making ordnance items during its M3A1
production period. K. R. Wilson produced M7A2 and M7A3 Grenade
Launchers, and M3A1 Combination Tools during the period of 1952-1953.
This too is one of the most common markings found. The KRW tool is so
common, many can still be found in their original green grease wrappers
K. R. Wilson's marking of KRW inside Circle.
Original package of 10 from July of 1952.
Unknown Maker (Makers) (J002-73-10061 & J002-73-1006-1, markings on bodies) (1)
These two tools were produced between 1953 and 1958 by one or more
unknown contractors. They were made as replacements to supply armorers'
tool kits. I suspect these tools were contracted out of Rock Island
Arsenal due to the SNL change. In 1951 the combination tool was listed
in the Garand SNL B-21 as J-12, the category for Tool Sets for
Maintenance of Automotive, Weapons, Mounts, and Trailer Mounts. Sometime
later Rock Island got the responsibility for the stocking and
contracting of all Tool Sets and I suspect that is when the change took
place. It is not unusual to see Ordnance Part Numbers broken up in a
variety of formats during the years preceding gradual merging of two
different numbering systems. See Below (2)
The tools' markings, for the first time, included the Standard
Nomenclature Listing (SNL). SNL's are a separate study but a short
explanation is in order. Under the SNL system each item was assigned a
letter code and a number to identify its initial end use. For example
the M1907 Leather Sling was originally assigned B-3 which covered items
assigned to the 1903 Rifle. However it was also be listed in SNL B-21
(Garand) because it was used with the M1. When printed in the Garand's
SNL it showed B-3 as the sling's assigned category. This showed the user
of the SNL that the Garand used an 03 sling.
Both of these tools are quite rare.
2 different SNL marked tools, maker
or makers unknown. Segmented part numbers occurred in the period just
before change over to the FSN system. I cannot understand why they took
an established, well understood system, and confused things by
segmenting the numbers. It makes no sense.
Unknown Maker (1005 731 0061, marking on body)
Probably the last US GI contract, and probably the smallest. The
only tool observed with the then newly adopted Federal Stock Number
(FSN) used as a marking. Time period is probably early to mid 1960's.
Most likely this tool was procured as a replacement in the Armorers'
Tool Kits. The below photo is not the actual tool. About a year ago I
took meticulous notes when consolidating all the post war information.
It is, as of this writing, missing. I am hoping it is just misplaced and
not gone forever. Other than the conversion listed below, this is
probably the rarest of all US M3A1's due to small production numbers.
This contract's probable small size was most likely dictated by the very
late time of production.
As explained above, thanks to this
Adobe Photo Program I can recreate what is missing. I also have a claim
of a West German tool from the late 1950's. The tool would be marked
1005 50 731 0051. The addition of the two digits 5 and 0 indicated West
Germany. I have not seen the tool and when I asked for a picture I
received no response. Seeing is believing so as of now I am a skeptic.
(The two digits were part of NATO's adoption of our FSN system; they
were known as "country of origin indicators". Our later adoption of the
National Stock Number system brought country and time indicators to the
US numbering system, while changing all the previous NATO indicators).
Unknown Maker (TN, marking on body)
Not much is known about this tool. There is some suspicion that it
was produced at the Terni Arsenal in Italy, but no proof is available.
Very large amounts of Italian production came into the US during the
late 1990's. I had seen this combination tool for many years before the
big importation. Until I get confirmation of the Italian connection I
will assume it to be US. In the future that may be proven to be wrong.
This tool is very plentiful in today's market.
Unknown Maker, always referred to as TN. There is a possibility it is NT.
Known Foreign Production
Manufacture D'Armes de Saint-Etienne, France (MAS with partial box and symbol on body)
This tool was produced at Manufacture D'Armes de Saint-Etienne in
France during the late 1940's, early 1950's. This information was
obtained from the late Charles Hittle who was the sales manager at
Interarmco, in Alexandria, Va. In 1967 Interarmco had imported M1 rifles
from France and a quantity of these tools were in the butt traps, along
with some French oilers as shown below. Compared to the importation
totals of M1 Rifles in recent years, very few came in from France. Of
all the foreign produced M3A1's, this is the most difficult one to
MAS marking with partial box and unidentifiable symbol.
MAS produced combination tool with French butt stock oiler.
Pietro Beretta, Italy (P.B. & OMA Triangle, PB, and GR PB) & Possibly Danish Production/Use
These tools are very common in today's market. During the time this
article is being written all Italian produced tools are the most common
ones available. The OMA marking has been seen on parts on an
experimental BM59 from the 1955 era. These tool are very plentiful in
today's market; they are literally underfoot. Not much history is known
about these tools.
Commonly available Italian Production P.B., letters OMA inside of triangle.
Of the Italian production this one appears to be the scarcest.
PB mark, another Italian tool.
GR PB another very common Italian tool.
In the late 1990's many tens of thousands of tools were imported
into the United States. The various batches consisted largely of the
Italian production mixed with smaller amounts of US production from all
eras. Most of the tools were very well used.
One characteristic of a well used tool is the tightness of the
swiveling arms. When new, the arms will remain closed in a tight
position for butt stock stowage. During my years I have had many M3A1
tools that were new in original wrap. It was always a chore to pry apart
the swiveling arms of new tools. As the tool goes through the repeated
processes of opening and closing the rivet loosens. The tightness issue
is the only way to estimate the amount of past use. Also remember that
re-finishing can hide a lot of sins. There still is a glut of Italian
produced tools for sale.
With current market conditions, this is a best time to attempt to
expand a collection of tools by design or markers. There are more M3A1
combination tools in this country today than at any other time in
Italian Modification and Production, time period late 1950's or mid 1960's (Various symbols on body)
The easiest way to identify a Italian produced (rebuilt or
modified) tool is by the absence of the standard rivet. The Italian used
a hex shaped lock with lock ring to work with a small hex shaped hole
in their gas lock. Another oddity of Italin production is the reversed
stuck cartridge remover. This tool is readily available in today's
market. I was told a batch came in from Korea and believed these were
Korean. It was not until I received an email with images of an Italian
Rifle and different lock screw. Simple fact is the dealer lied to me.
Top: Reversed stuck cartridge
remover used on Italian Production (and rebuilds), facing downward when
in use. It grabs the top of the cartridge case. Also notice the hex lock
and ring in place of the standard rivet.
Bottom: Standard stuck cartridge
remover used on every other country's production. Notice it faces upward
and grabs the bottom of the cartridge case.
All Italian tools in my possession are very loose, indicating
either different adhering abilities of the hex lock or lots of use. I
think the jury is still out on this one. You may also find tools of US
origin with these characteristics. These tools were rebuilt or modified
Unknown Maker (Converter): US Ordnance Department, postwar, time period unknown (Unmarked, as most M3 tools are)
Years ago I saw a depot pack of brush bushings. It contained 5
bushings that had been packed in the early 1950's. I figured at the time
that the bushings were for converting the M3 combination tool to M3A1
configuration. Now I wish I had purchased the pack.
After many years of searching, last year I was lucky enough to find
the example in the photo below. The original M3 tool was cut and
required a precision bend, otherwise it would not have fit inside the
butt stock. It would have been too long with the bushing and brush
attached. Bending the tool shortened the overall length. Notice the
stuck cartridge arm does not swivel as it does with all other M3A1's. On
the M3 the arm is part of the overall body. This is by far the scarcest
of all known combination tools.
Top: Standard M3 Combination Tool
Bottom: M3 Combination Tool converted to M3A1.
Unknown Maker (Converter): US Ordnance Department, postwar, time period unknown (This one is PK but it could have any marking)
This is a neat oddity. The tool's brush has been permanently
replaced with a piece of solid aluminum cylindrical stock. The aluminum
piece enters the bore which stabilizes the tool. This modification
converts the tool to a high speed extractor removal tool. Due to the
lack of a chamber brush, the user does not experience resistance when
inserting or removing the tool from the chamber. This tool may have been
used to remove bolt extractors at a rebuild facility.
This tool is a time saver when used on a rebuild line.
Wayne Machine Inc., Taipei, Taiwan (WMI, marked on blade)
This is the current reproduction as sold on certain web sites and
in the Shotgun News. The example I have has a very loose rivet, which
allows the arms to swivel every time the tool is handled. Unlike a GI
tool this one will rattle when stored in the butt stock due to the
looseness of the swiveling arms. Unlike the GI version the bushing and
chamber brush are locked with hollow split pins. The example I have has
an actual GI chamber brush. I am sure as GI brushes dry up the current
made reproduction brush will be substituted.
WMI marked on blade. Tool is very loose, even when new.
Chamber Brush Terms (Click Here)
Brushes were contracted two ways. Some were purchased from tool
manufacturers and some were purchased from brush manufacturing
companies. I have not done a search for WWII brush manufacturing company
contracts but I do have some brush contracts from the tool suppliers. I
also have post war contract information when all contracts were filled
by brush manufacturers. It is also important to keep in mind that each
tool contractor may have had more than one brush supplier. Part I goes
into some of the historical information on the brush and pin contracts.
Below is a chart dealing with the identification of brushes. A mark
indication on this chart shows only that the mark exists. Not all
brushes used by that contractor may have that mark. I suspect some tool
manufacturers used both marked and unmarked brushes. The brush base
(coupling) is shown in two styles. The mid point of the brush's wire is
mounted in the base and is visible from underneath.
Left: Flush Base
Right: Recessed Base
|Parker marked PK and American Shearer mkd AR
||Brass and Alloy
|Holst Inc. unmarked WWII
||Brass and Alloy
|Better Brushes 1953 & 1954
||Brass-Spiral Best Quality of All Production
|Mill Rose 1956
||Brass and Alloy
||Photo Not Yet Available
||Brass and Alloy and Brass
Chamber Brush Retaining Pins
Retention of the chamber brush inside the brush bushing is
accomplish by a bright solid pin. Korea and Denmark have substituted
roll pins when replacing chamber brushes. I have never seen a roll pin
in any tool that has been released from US inventory. Roll pins are also
a favorite of dealers because they are so cheap.
(1) SNL's are shown with one zero,
multiple zeros, dashes, or with no zeros. Thus J002 is the same SNL as
J02, J-2, or J2. According to two editions of Ord. 1, December of 1946
and January of 1950, items assigned to the SNL J002* (J-2) category were
tools for Cutting, Boring and Tweezers. The folding of the swiveling
arms closely resembled a tweezers. The J-2 assignment was mostly like
used only during the last few contracts of the 1950's.
(2) The assignment into an SNL was
still pending during 1944. All my UHF cartons have the marking SNL: OTE,
which is Organizational Tools and Equipment. Eventually after the
adoption of the Federal Stock Number (FSN) system, the M3A1's,
irrespective of why they were purchased, were assigned to the 4933
grouping (Tool Sets) but not before spending a short time in the 1005
category (Weapons up to 30mm). The SNL system was used during WWII (and
earlier) and was finally merged into the Federal Stock Number (FSN)
system in 1957. Eventually the SNL system was scraped and by the late
1960's SNL markings disappeared and the system was history.
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