Saturday, September 1, 2018

What's in a Name?

Gun magazines would never print an article like this for obvious reasons. 

Before I start with the article I will provide you a little context: There was a movie back in the early '90s called The Distinguished Gentlemen, starring Eddie Murphy as a con man turned politician.

The premise of the movie was a down and out con man who was looking for the big score, when the longtime Congressman from his district  suddenly died. This Congressman was named Jeff Johnson, while Murphy's character was named Thomas Jefferson Johnson. Murphy's character quickly thought up a scheme to run for Jeff Johnson's seat while using the name, Jeff Johnson, which technically was his name. 
He wins a slim victory, mainly by fooling people who had not paid attention to the news and simply recognized the name.

This post is about companies who share very little in common with the original owners of the name, but have used the name in hopes to cash in on the name recognition.

I want to say that I am not trying to smear the reputation of these companies. I have owned products by made by some of these companies and have nothing bad to say about their products.
I am merely pointing out what they are doing, which in my opinion is same as what Thomas Jefferson Johnson did, whether or not it is wrong is up to you.

Springfield Armory

This first one "borrowed" the name of America's first armory. 

The Springfield Armory was founded in 1777, during the revolutionary war. It served as our primary armory until 1968 when it closed.
In 1974 it became a National Historic Site and was added to the National Park Service.

That same year (1974, not 1774 like their logo states) Elmer Ballance of San Antonio, Texas started a company to produce a semi-automatic copy of the M14 (the last small arm produced by the real Springfield Armory). Mr Ballance sold the company later that year to a machine shop in Illinois owned by Bob Reese. Reese then incorporated under the name Springfield Armory Inc. Their website claims he "rescued" the name.
Reese even used the traditional crossed cannons and flaming bomb in their corporate logo.
The use of the crossed cannons and flaming bomb, surrounded by a belt goes back to at least 1833 (although portions of these symbols were used by others much earlier).

The following is an excerpt from the official home page of the United States Army Ordnance Corps and Ordnance School:

According to the Army Institute of Heraldry, the crossed cannons represent the Ordnance Corp's early relationship to the Artillery. The Shell and Flame (a.k.a. the Flaming Bomb) represents the armament of days gone by, while the energy it connotes is applicable to the weapons of our own day. The cannoneer's belt, which encircles the flaming bomb and crossed cannons, is embossed with the words 'ORDNANCE CORPS U.S.A.' and represents the traditional association between munitions and armament. The white background symbolizes the Ordnance Corp's motto, 'ARMAMENT FOR PEACE.'

As far as I can tell, there is no connection between the U.S. Army Springfield Armory and the Geneseo, Illinois based Springfield Armory Inc. They do produce some of the same small arms that the original U.S. Armory did, so at least they have that going for them.

.....oh btw when you put the phrase "since 1794" that would mean to imply the company has been in continual business since 1794, which even if you make the leap that the products are built using the same plans and schematics, there was a 6 year gap between the closing of the U.S. Armory and the opening of the private company Springfield Armory Inc....and who do they mean by "we've". They should have put "They built the legacy, and we are cashing in on it"

Rock Island Armory

This next one takes the name of "Rock Island Armory". The name is taken from a U.S. Arsenal located on Rock Island in the Mississippi River between the towns of Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois.

You may notice the use of both Armory and Arsenal. I have found these names to be mostly interchangeable, but here are the official definitions:

Arsenal: a place where weapons and military equipment are stored or made.

Armory: a place where arms are kept.

The Rock Island Arsenal was built in 1862 and used as an armory, arsenal and military prison during the Civil War. In 1905 a museum was built and in 1969 it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. The facility is still in active use by the U.S. Army.

Rock Island Armory is a brand name used by Armscor International Inc. which is a trade name of a holding company named Squires Bingham Co.
In 1905 Ray Squires and William Bingham opened a print shop in the Philippines. The print shop added sporting goods and eventually guns. Before long they became the "Sportsmen's Headquarters" in the Philippines.
In 1941 Don Celso Tuason bought Squires, Bingham and Company and in 1952 obtained the first firearms manufacturing license from the Philippine Government. 
Sometime around 1985 Armscor "acquired" (not sure what that means) the Rock Island Armory brand name and began exporting firearms to the United States. Their flagship product is a copy of the M1911 pistol. Other than their copy of the American pistol, they have no connection to the U.S. Arsenal at Rock Island.

There is also a firearm auction company named Rock Island Auction company, but they are actually located in Rock Island, Illinois, which gives them a pass in my opinion.

Frankford Arsenal

The U.S. Frankford Arsenal opened up in 1816, just outside the Philadelphia suburb of Bridesburg. The Arsenal was used as a producer of arms and mainly ammunition. In 1977 the facility was closed and is now an industrial park.

Frankford Arsenal Reloading Tools is a trade name used by Battenfeld Technologies.
Battenfeld owns numerous trade names to sell tools and accessories to sportsmen.
According to founder Larry Potterfield (yes THAT Larry Potterfield) when they spun Battenfeld (Larry's ancestral family name) from Midway USA into a different company, they opened the phone book and picked names from different pages (Caldwell, Wheeler, Tipton and Frankford). I guess they added the Arsenal part later? See the short story here.

The Company nor the products have any connection to the original U.S. Army Frankford Arsenal.

Harpers Ferry Armory

The Arsenal and Armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia dates back to 1799, the arsenal was used during the War of 1812 and was lost to the confederacy during the Civil War (although it changed hands multiple times during the war). After the Civil War it was left in ruins and in 1963 became a National Park, see my write up on the Harpers Ferry Arsenal here

The private company Harpers Ferry Armory opened in 2015 and is selling brand labeled guns under the classic name. They operate from a small building in Ranson, West Virginia, about 7 miles or so from the original Harpers Ferry Arsenal. Other than their proximity, they have nothing in common with the original U.S. Armory.

Iver Johnson

Iver Johnson was a Norwegian immigrant who started his own company in 1891 to manufacture bicycles and firearms. Mr Johnson died in 1895. The company continued in business under various owners for nearly 100 years.

By 1993 there were no guns being produced with the Iver Johnson name. In 2006 Armscor (yep the same folks using the Rock Island name above) renamed their Florida import company from Squires Bingham International to Iver Johnson. They do not make any firearms in Florida. The guns are imported from the Philippines, Turkey and Belgium.
To their credit the company admits to having no connection to the original Iver Johnson Company, but you have to look for that statement.

Federal Ordnance

Federal Ordnance was a gun importer and manufacturer that was based in southern California.
In the 1950s, they helped pave the way for importation of European WWII surplus weapons and ammunition.
The name was obviously chosen to appear to be an arm of the U.S. Government.
The dictionary definition of the word "Federal" is as follows:
  • having or relating to a system of government in which several state form a unity but remain independent in internal affairs
  •   relating to or denoting the central government as distinguished from the separate units constituting a federation
  • relating to or denoting the central government of the U.S.
I could level the same claim against Federal Premium Ammunition, while they have actually managed operations at government owned munition factories, they are not in anyway owned by the U.S. Government nor was Federal Ordnance.

Shiloh Manufacturing Company aka Shiloh Sharps

Christian Sharps invented his single shot rifle in 1848, the rifle was used during the Civil War and was popular with western hunters despite it costing as much as three times the price of a standard muzzle loading rifle.

The Shiloh name was never attached to the Sharp's rifle until the founder of the Shiloh rifle company put the two together. Shiloh was a famous battle during the Civil War (in southwestern Tennessee) and there probably was a Sharp's rifle or three present at the battle. Now this company has no connection to Christian Sharps or his company, but they do produce well made, faithful reproductions of the models of 1863 and 1874, the latter being used in the filming of the movie Quigley Down Under. 


United States Army Ordnance Corps and Ordnance School:
Springfield Armory Inc
Springfield Armory
Rock Island Arsenal
Frankford Arsenal
Shiloh rifle

Harpers Ferry

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