Government Arsenal Rebuilds

From the mid 1920s to the mid 1950s thousands of 1911s and 1911A1s where refurbished at U.S. Arsenals and Service depots. These refurbishes could be minor inspections to major overhauls. Pistols that were refurbished at Government arsenals will usually be marked on the frame/receiver with the arsenals initials.

Arsenal overhaul and inspection stamps:
AA =
Augusta Arsenal
Anniston Army Depot (Anniston, Alabama) observed with a date stamp following it (MM YY) in 1975 and 1977
BA =
Benecia Arsenal
MR =
Mt Rainer Ordnance Depot
= Ogden Arsenal
= Raritan Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal
Red River Arsenal
SA =
Springfield Arsenal
San Antonio Arsenal
EB: Elmer Bjerke was promoted on January 6th, 1947 to Forman of small arms inspection at Rock Island Arsenal. He was responsible for the final inspection of new and overhauled small arms. He served in that capacity until 1958. All small arms inspected under his supervision bear the markings "RIA" for Rock Island Arsenal and "EB" for Elmer Bjerke.
FK: Frank Krack was Assistant Foreman of the Inspection Division at Rock Island Arsenal from September 17, 1941 until he retired on July 19th, 1946.  During that period all small arms inspected under his supervision would be stamped with his initials "FK" as well as those of the Rock Island Arsenal "RIA".

See images in table below:
1 - A rebuilt Colt 1919 AA pistol -  Notice all components other than  finish and stocks are still 1911  configuration. Long trigger,  short grip safety, wide hammer.  Slide was replaced with a  Ithaca manufactured one.
Image 2 - Here is a rebuilt 1917 Colt. The Arsenal Replaced the slide with a Savage slide. Notice the AA stamp.
Image 3 - 1943 Ithaca stamped RIA and FK. "FK" for Frank Krack.  
Image 4 - X marked rework. FNC Inspected. These pistols were stolen and the pistols where rebuilt and the new numbers applied by the various arsenals. SN X2,694,040 
Image 5 & 6 -Most of the 4 digit examples were reworked at Springfield Armory but this one is marked RIA (Rock Island Arsenal) and may have been reworked twice. Note the unusual flaming bomb stamps. X2447
Image 7 & 8 - Example of a pistol with RIA assigned replacement serial numbers 
Image 9 - Example of a Springfield Arsenal rework. 1943 Remington Rand
Image 10 - Mt Rainer Ordnance Depot marked Remington Rand. All original 1945 configuration.

Click on images for larger version
Picture from the Ty Moore collection
View page on this gun
Image 1
Picture from the Ty Moore collection
View page on this gun
Image 2
Picture from the Ty Moore collection
View page on this gun
Image 3
Picture from the Karl Karash Collection
Image 4
Picture from the Karl Karash Collection
Image 5
Picture from the Karl Karash Collection
Image 6
Picture from the Karl Karash Collection
Image 7
Picture from the Karl Karash Collection
Image 8
wpe1.jpg (34869 bytes)
Image 9

View page on this gun
Image 10

Springfield Arsenal Suspended Serial Number Range: (S/N 128617-133186) (Click on image)
Picture from the Karl Karash CollectionAt the direction of the Ordnance Department, Springfield Armory suspended production of 1911 pistols on April 15 1917 to achieve maximum production of Model 1903 rifles.  The final pistol produced at Springfield was serial 127978, (NRA marked Springfield serial #127906 is displayed in the pistol gallery.)  However unassembled receivers (some or all with incomplete markings) between serial 127979 and 128616 were transferred to Colts along with other surplus components.  The un-used numbers (serial #128617 to serial #133186) of Springfield Armory's final block of assigned serial numbers (#125567 to #133186) were apparently assigned to Colts Manufacturing Company.   Based on observed pistols, all of these serial numbers appear to have been applied to frames at Colts; yet much remains unknown regarding the fate of these frames and serials.

The "Springfield Suspended Serial Number Range" pistols are considered by some to be reworks because they are believed to have been shipped as frames only.  Other observers such as Charles Clawson, feel that these pistols may have been completed and shipped as whole pistols, (page 24, "Collectors Guide to Colt .45 Service Pistols.") "This suggests that they may have been produced as spare parts, but most pistols appear to be factory assembled pistols."  Yet there appears to be no evidence that these pistols were shipped as assembled pistols and much compelling evidence to the contrary: The serial numbers are not listed in Colts production or shipping legers, the normal "Ordnance Final Acceptance mark" as well as the normal "Colts assemblers mark" is consistently missing on all observed examples.  These three items are what constitutes the record of a factory assembled pistol.  Consistently lacking all three is extremely compelling evidence that the group of serials left Colts as "Parts Only." 

Many details are unknown and will probably continue to remain unknown about these frames and about the completed pistols that they became.  The frames have been found with nearly any vintage (Post 1915) WWI slide on them.  There appears to be no obvious pattern with respect to the slide except that most appear to be post 1915 manufacture.  Springfield Armory as well as Remington UMC slides have been observed.  What are they worth?  If fully blued with original finish, they are worth more than a typical rework, but probably not as much as an original pistol.  Yet these pistols are the central figures in one of the true Colts mysteries, and that may compel collectors to pay more, perhaps much more for an example.  If not original finish, they will probably be considered just another rework, because condition is the main determining factor of "Value", and a refinished pistol has zero % original finish.  The observed serial range seems to run over the range specified in the reference book "Collectors Guide to Colt .45 Service Pistols, Models 1911 and 1911A1" by Charles Clawsons  (128617 - 133186). 

Observations of a few of the
RIA marked pistols:  
M1911A1s have been examined in the Colt 1108xxx range and a Ithaca with SN 1224794 that had the RIA, FK, and ordnance bomb marked (Ordnance Bomb is usually found under the serial number). These pistols appeared to be all original and had not been reworked. The consensus is that a group of 1911A1s went through RIA while in like new, and were so marked with nothing else being done to them.

When and where are the arsenal marks applied?
The arsenal rebuild mark is applied after finish. There should be raised metal and burnishing. The original factory applied marks (inspectors, assemblers, and manufacturers) should still be present. There have been counterfeits seen so make sure the frames check out and are not cheap commercials with none of the proper stamps. All the examples I have owned, viewed in person, and seen in the great books (like the Charles Clawson 1911 book) the arsenal mark is on the frame, usually above the trigger guard on the left or right side of the frame/receiver. Reference Charles Clawsons “Colt .45 Service pistols”.

I personally find the arsenal rebuilt guns to be a great collectible. When I find one that has been manufactured in the WWI timeframe and then rebuilt for participation in WW2, now that's a gun that probably has seen a lot of history unfold. Another reason I like rebuilds is that rebuilds are less expensive then the original production specimens. For example a 1918 Remington UMC 1911 in original condition could run you $3,000.00. The same gun rebuilt by a arsenal sells for about $1,000.00, yet its still original since it is as it was when used by the military.

Return to ID page

Rev 1.1d