Thursday, October 25, 2007

Flashback: 1954 Smith & Wesson Plant Tour

Raw Steel to Smith & Wesson - The Story of Revolver Making
Thanks to a forum member over at the Smith & Wesson Forums, here is a vintage plant tour of the Smith & Wesson plant circa 1954. The manufacturing operation is nearly entirely vertically integrated as can be seen by the raw steel and raw walnut blank inventory for grips; in fact the only "outsourced components" I can think of at the moment may be the wax paper and paper shipping box! The article claims there are over 2000 operations and 500 inspections, and I believe the claim since virtually everything for the revolver was made onsite. Additionally, since this tour is so old every operation was pretty much a manual job. The craftsmanship of the operators was essential to making a quality product, and the hand fitting required made the task closer to an art rather than just assembly.

Some of the interesting highlights of the tour are as follows:
Image 5: The in-house Screw machine department
Image 29: Father and son Blaisdell team; You sure don't see anything even close to this anymore!
*Father's age: 75 with 52 years of S&W service
*Son's age: 41 with 16 years of S&W service
Images 36 & 42: Hand serialized parts (and assembly numbers for internal tracking)
Images 49 & 50: S&W makes its own tools/jigs/fixtures/gauges
Image 59: Manual recording of revolver shipments. To this day you can still request a factory letter for $30 from S&W Historian Roy Jinks that will tell you your revolver's original configuration, date of shipment, and where the gun was shipped to.

I thoroughly enjoyed this Flashback tour, and I hope you do as well. Things have changed considerably over the last 53 years, and it is always interesting to look back to see how a pre-computer, pre-CNC maching, etc. factory operated.

If you have any magazines, links, etc. to other old plant tours I would love to share the information with everyone! Now, on to the S&W tour....

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