National Ordnance

Post WWII Commercially Manufactured M1 Carbines (U.S.A.)

National Ordnance, Inc.

Azusa, California
South El Monte, California


National Ordnance Chapter III: 1963-1973

The Big Split ... and Big Changes

In September/October 1962, before production of the 1903A3 rifles commenced, the differences between Arnold and Penney regarding the future of National Ordnance motivated them to go their separate ways.

John Arnold
[photo courtesy of Wyant LaMont]

Penney took the Alpine name, all of the personnel that had been National Ordnance, the M1 Garands, and moved to a different facility at 964 W Foothill Blvd in Azusa. He continued production of the M1 carbine, under the Alpine name. These were the only M1 carbines with the name Alpine. For further on Alpine and Robert E. Penney Jr., refer to the web page devoted to Alpine's carbines.

John F. Arnold retained the National Ordnance name, all of the machinery, and moved to a small warehouse in South El Monte, CA. The Los Angeles County Tax Assessor indicates the building at 9643 Alpaca St. in South El Monte was a 3200 sq. foot warehouse built in 1965. Penney is certain Arnold moved to this location when National Ordnance separated from Alpine in the Fall of 1962. It's possible this location was expanded in 1965, instead of newly built. Whatever the case, National Ordnance certainly occupied this address for most, if not all, of the years John Arnold ran the business.

Arnold and Penney made an agreement that, generally, Arnold would market his National Ordnance M1 carbines to the east coast, Penney would market his Alpine M1 carbines to the midwest, and they would both use their own distributors they already knew on the west coast. There were a few exceptions, for distributors either man had become friends with, such as Kaufman Surplus and Globe Firearms in New York City, whose owner (Manny Korn) was a close friend of Bob Penney. They also agreed that the cast receivers and other cast parts for both companies could be manufactured for both companies, from the tooling they owned jointly at Rimer Casting.

National Ordnance Redux

The move and setting up for production took Arnold and National Ordnance only a number of months. Wyant LaMont became his general manager. Between 1963 and 1964 National Ordnance continued to use the resources already in place for casting, machining, and parts, as did Penney at Alpine carbines. Arnold wanted to move all machining in house at National Ordnance, including the manufacture of his own barrels. He acquired the machines and personnel, and by 1965 a number of significant changes at National Ordnance began to take place, not all of them good.

Wyant LaMont inspects carbine receivers
[photo courtesy of Wyant LaMont]
By 1965 National Ordnance no longer used Calgo Manufacturing, they machined the cast receiver and cast parts for the M1 carbine and 1903A3. They hardened the cast parts in house. Alpine and Penney did not use National Ordnance, they stayed with the established resources companies Penney had used since the beginning of National Ordnance.

Arnold made the decision to change his source for barrels and made the mistake of purchasing barrel blanks made from stress proof steel, followed by the mistake of not extensively testing the barrels after they had been machined. National Ordnance sold their M1 carbines with these barrels for a number of months. They discovered the problem with using stress proof steel when a number of employees went recreational shooting in the desert during a weekend. During repeated firing, the barrels "blew up". The barrels cracked lengthwise along the channels for the slide, between the receiver and gas piston housing, expelling gas into the stock area below the slide. Wisely, Arnold stopped using these barrels and began using Small Arms Manufacturing Co. in Bridgeville, PA for his barrels. No recall was issued for the carbines that had already been sold.

Between 1963 and 1965 Arnold designed a solid metal handguard he called a "low profile" handguard. The GI handguard made of wood, and metal ventilated handguards manufactured by other commercial companies, have a sight channel along the length of the handguard to permit the rear sight and front sight to be seen at the same time. This "low profile" handguard was designed so the entire handguard sat below the line of sight, eliminating the need for a sight channel. Penney at Alpine purchased a large quantity of the "low profile" handguards from Arnold for the Alpine carbines.

National Ordnance "low profile" handguard.
Also used were wood handguards with two rivets and metal ventilated handguards.

In August 1965, during the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Arnold called Penney and requested 1000 Alpine carbines. Shortly thereafter, Arnold showed up at Penney's and was given 1000 Alpine carbines that Penney assumes Arnold sold to law enforcement and fire personnel in South Central Los Angeles. During the same time period, Penney delivered Alpine carbines to an Al;ine distributor, Kessler at INCO in Los Angeles, who sold them to individual law enforcement and fire personnel working the riots.

Penney related that at some point in 1964 or 1965, Arnold purchased 500 M1 Garand receivers from him and Alpine. Penney indicated these were the only Garand receivers Arnold and National Ordnance assembled into rifles, using surplus GI parts.

In December 1965 Penney sold Alpine to Kessler and INCO, due to health reasons. The company was closed the day it was bought. Arnold and National Ordnance acquired Alpine's distribution network, nationwide. The M1 carbine receivers and parts casting dies at Rimer Casting in Waterville, OH remained the property of both Penney and Arnold. When Alpine closed, their shop foreman, Walter Rayno, became the shop foreman at National Ordnance.

More Cast Parts, Stock Changes and Additions

At some point after the end of Alpine Carbines, Arnold began using a solid front sight with no holes in the sides to allow in extra light on the sight blade. National Ordnance carbines having this front sight were manufactured after 1965.

Distinctive heavy duty front sight with no holes in uprights

As surplus GI slides became less available, Arnold arranged for the manufacture of an unusual cast slide. Who designed it and how long it was used, is not known. It was not used before 1966 and, fortunately, it's not on the majority of National Ordnance carbines. It may have been used for only a short period of time, then replaced.

As the gas exits the gas piston to push the slide to the rear, the gas is contained within an area of the slide known as an inertia block. This is the large U shaped area that is the front half of the slide. Sometime after 1965, National Ordnance began using a slide with an inertia block reduced in size by approximately 80-90%, which also significantly reduced the weight of the slide. The slide cam that engaged the bolt was shortened. The slide stop pin was eliminated, with no substitute means of locking the slide back and bolt open.

If you own a National Ordnance carbine that uses this slide, it is strongly recommended you replace it with a surplus GI slide, along with a good surplus GI or new, recoil spring. Examine the bolt closely for any evidence of hairline cracks in front of, behind, and/or around the right bolt lug. If any are present, replace the bolt. If you encounter problems with the fit of the GI slide into the guide rails along the sides of the barrel, the carbine may require examination by a gunsmith. The slide should move smoothly back and forth along the guide rails without any interference. This National Ordnance slide adversely impacts the lifespan of many different parts, including their proper function and safety. It should not be used.

National Ordnance slide used sometime after 1965. If present, it should be replaced (see above text).

National Ordnance slide at top, GI slide at bottom

Penney indicated Arnold had this slide, and a replacement bolt, cast in Spain, not at Rimer Casting in Ohio. In the early 1970's Arnold had several semi-automatic M14 receivers cast in Spain (2 of 3 sources, 3rd says he used Rimer), in anticipation of adding semi-automatic M14's to his product line. These were cast by Electro Crisol Metal, S.A. (ECRIMESA) in Santander, Spain. Arnold was not able to obtain surplus M14 parts, so the receivers were set aside until the parts became available. These receivers were later obtained by Federal Ordnance, who used ECRIMESA for casting M1 carbine receivers, M1 Garand receivers, Springfield 1903A3 receivers, and M14 receivers. Refer to the page on Federal Ordnance for further information. It is believed ECRIMESA also cast M1 carbine receivers for Israel Arms International (IAI) of Houston, Texas in 1999/2000. For further information on IAI, refer to their web page.

Employee assembling completed carbine 1970 at 9643 Alpaca in So. El Monte
[photo courtesy of Wyant LaMont]

War Baby Comes Home by Larry Ruth, page 746, indicates National Ordnance purchased birch stocks from S.E. Overton of South Haven, MI. S.E. Overton had produced stocks for Inland during WWII and a number of commercial carbine manufacturers in the sixties and seventies. These birch stocks were configured with an oval cut slingwell and high wood covering part of the slide, similar to the previous stocks made of alder by Wayne's Wood Carving in Commerce, CA.

Birch Stocks Manufactured by S.E. Overton for National Ordnance
courtesy of Larry Ruth
October 23, 19673500Birch
April 29, 19682500Birch
November 16, 19702500Birch
May 13, 19712500Birch

Like Bob Penney and others, as opportunities presented themselves, John Arnold operated several different companies at the same time. In November 1962 Arnold incorporated Sumdac Inc. at 6311 Yucca St. in Hollywood, CA. By 1966 this company name was reversed, to Cadmus Incorporated. Cadmus assembled fully automatic Thompson sub-machine guns from surplus parts. In 1966 Cadmus introduced a Schmeisser type folding stock for the M1 carbine. The stock was designed by Jack Karnes. It was manufactured for Cadmus by Wayne's Wood Carving in Commerce, CA.

Shotgun News October 15, 1966

Cadmus Paratrooper stock on National Ordnance "Paratrooper Carbine"

Karnes had previously worked for Golden State Arms, running their factory in Puerto Rico. There he met his 2nd wife, Ilia. In 1968 Karnes set up A.R. Sales under his wife's name, located at 9624 Alpaca St. in South El Monte, several hundred feet west of National Ordnance. A.R. Sales manufactured 1911 frames, 1911's, and later, M14's. In the 1970's he sold his business to Bob Brenner, owner of Federal Ordnance, and later worked on the M1 carbines manufactured by Federal Ordnance. Cadmus and Sporting Arms Inc., are listed at 9643 Alpaca in So. El Monte by the yearly editions of Gun Digest in the 1970's. Interestingly, Gun Digest indicated Cadmus as a manufacturer of M1 carbines and Sporting Arms Inc. as a seller of M1 carbine parts. United States Martial and Collectors Arms, 20 Apr 1982 by Military Arms Research Service, San Jose, erroneously indicates Sporting Arms Inc. and Sum Dac Inc. were subsidiaries of National Ordnance that distributed Alpine M1 carbines. Cadmus and Sporting Arms Inc, during the time period they were in Hollywood and So. El Monte, were owned and operated by John Arnold, with management assistance from Wyant LaMont. According to Bob Penney, he and Alpine were not involved with these two businesses.

National Ordnance & Federal Ordnance

Every carbine was test fired
[photo courtesy of Wyant LaMont]
Golden State Arms in Pasadena, CA went into bankruptcy in early 1966. One of the two remaining owners, Burton "Bob" Brenner, incorporated Federal Ordnance in November 1966. The M1 carbines and other weapons manufactured and/or assembled by Federal Ordnance are covered on the page devoted to Federal Ordnance. However, Bob Brenner and Federal Ordnance got their start with Arnold, in the same building as National Ordnance. Both companies and owners literally worked together and side by side 1967-1974. Federal Ordnance and Brenner picked up where both left off, when National Ordnance was closed in 1974 (discussed in Chapter IV).

Federal Ordnance and Brenner initially operated out of a P.O. Box in Los Angeles. During interviews with this author and Bob Brenner in 2008, he indicated that sometime in 1967 Arnold invited Brenner and Federal Ordnance to move into 9643 Alpaca St in So. El Monte with National Ordnance. Brenner was given a small area in the National Ordnance warehouse to store the items they started out with, many of which had come with Brenner from Golden State Arms.

Many people still recall National Ordnance and Federal Ordnance working together at the same facility. Some believe both were owned by John Arnold. Others recall that National Ordnance was gun sales while Federal Ordnance was ammunition and parts. This information was shared with Brenner. He indicated things may have appeared this way on a retail level, but this wasn't the case. Arnold and Brenner became partners. As you read the following paragraphs, keep in mind corporations were/are tools used to limit tax and liability. What a particular corporation appeared to be doing, was often not the whole picture. These owners used the corporations to achieve their goal(s), not the other way around.

Arnold's background and desire was sales and overseeing the manufacturing done at National Ordnance. National Ordnance needed surplus GI parts with which to build their guns. Brenner's background and desire was finding military surplus, traveling to the countries that had it for sale, and negotiating the deal. This is why Arnold and Brenner teamed up. Arnold stayed and oversaw the operations and sales with Wyant LaMont, Brenner traveled the world acquiring surplus parts, ammunition, and many other things for National Ordnance. Items acquired by Brenner were imported by Federal Ordnance and sold to National Ordnance. Federal Ordnance sold items not needed by National Ordnance, and surplus ammunition acquired from other countries.

Operations at National Ordnance grew and more room was needed. In 1969 a new building with 3200 square feet was constructed adjacent the east side of 9643 Alpaca, at 9649 Alpaca St. in So. El Monte. Federal Ordnance and Brenner moved into the new building. National Ordnance and Arnold remained at 9643 Alpaca. A driveway to the rear separated the two buildings. The area to the rear of both buildings was used as common ground for both businesses.

John Arnold & National Ordnance9643 Alpaca St., So. El Monte (1963-1974)
Bob Brenner and Federal Ordnance9649 Alpaca St., So. El Monte (1969-1980)
Jack Karnes and A.R. Sales9624 Alpaca St., So. El Monte (1968-1980)
Bob Brenner & Ranger Sales9624 Alpaca St., So. El Monte (1981-1984)
Bob Brenner & Federal Ordnance1443 Potrero St., So. El Monte (1981-1992) [1.5 miles SE]

National Ordnance M1 Carbine Models circa 1972

The below scans were obtained from a one page flier circulated at gun shows circa 1972.

Download the National Ordnance
M1 Carbine Manual (2 MB)

[manual courtesy of Wyant LaMont]

Also advertised for sale on the flier were National Ordnance M1 carbine receivers, National Ordnance M1 carbine barreled receivers, and various other rifles other than M1 carbines (see below). The only difference in these three models were their stocks, and with the Strateline model, replacement of the front and rear sights with a scope mount.

Besides retail sales to the public, National Ordnance M1 carbines are known to have been used by law enforcement agencies, California's State Prison system, and the police of several foreign governments. In Fall of 2008, the Martin B. Retting retail store in Culver City, CA was in possession of a National Ordnance M1 carbine with the markings of a special unit within California's San Quentin Prison that had housed Black Panther George Jackson, boyfriend of Angela Davis. On August 21, 1971 Jackson was shot and killed while attempting to escape, by a guard armed with an M1 carbine. Employees at Retting were attempting to identify if the carbine they possessed, was the carbine used in the shooting. In any case, National Ordnance carbines were used in this special unit at the time of the shooting.

Completed carbines awaiting shipment 1970
[photo courtesy of Wyant LaMont]

In December 1973 the owner of National Ordnance, John Arnold, passed away due to cancer.

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