South El Monte, California
The End Days...and Months...and Years
Arnold's death was anticipated and prepared for. Arnold had no family. He left 50% of National Ordnance to Walter Rayno, the machine shop foreman, and 50% to Jessie LaMont, wife of Wyant LaMont, National Ordnance's general manager. Wyant LaMont was unable to own any part of a gun business due to legal problems he incurred while working with surplus military weapons at Cadmus. He had made the mistake of taking several of the selective fire weapons home.
At the time of Arnold's death, National Ordnance was having financial difficulty and almost bankrupt. During the first few months of 1974 the remaining assembled National Ordnance rifles were sold. Many surplus GI parts were placed into parts kits, for retail sale as replacement parts.
Around the time of the unexpected death of Walter Rayno in June 1975, Bob Brenner of Federal Ordnance acquired the holdings of National Ordnance by buying out Rayno's widow and Mrs. LaMont. Shortly thereafter National Ordnance vacated their building at 9643 Alpaca St, having a phone listed at the Federal Ordnance building next door at 9649 Alpaca in 1976 and 1977. Bob Brenner liquidated the surplus left at National Ordnance that was of no value to him, to the large surplus wholesaler and retailer, Sarco, in Stirling, NJ. This included the tooling for the National Ordnance and Alpine cast receivers from Rimer Casting in Waterville, Ohio. Sarco sold the tooling for the casting of these receivers to Reese Surplus and Rock Island Armory in Colona, IL in the early 1980's. Rock Island Armory used the tooling to make cast receivers in the mid 1980's, for assembling the surplus M1 carbine parts they had, left over from years of assembling and selling GI carbines. Refer to the page on Rock Island Armory for further about their carbines.
Bob Brenner and Federal Ordnance went through a major restructuring to pick up where National Ordnance had left off. The story of Federal Ordnance and Bob Brenner continues on the page devoted to Federal Ordnance.
In 1972 Larry Ruth, the author of War Baby and War Baby Comes Home, communicated with John Arnold by letter. Arnold indicated that as of March 1972 National Ordnance had manufactured a total of approximately 50,000 M1 carbines, plus or minus 5000, since they started in 1960. Arnold also indicated the serial numbers used were in four blocks. The first two blocks, he didn't know the numbers. The third group started at about 1,000 and went to 10,000. The fourth group started at about 17,000 and went to 35,000. No dates were provided. Arnold's response to Ruth indicates Arnold did not have the available time to look this information up in his records.
Bob Penney indicated they could only estimate how many carbines National Ordnance made. Any records obtained by National Ordnance from Calgo, along with records of serial numbers after 1965, were lost when Bob Brenner took over.
Thanks to the assistance of owners of National Ordnance carbines the serial number sequences have been clarified and a total number manufactured can be estimated. The serial numbers observed so far leave no gaps that indicate any other series was used. This information is still being collected and updates will be placed here as they become known. If you would like to contribute, it will only take a couple minutes of your time, at most. Please refer to this web page for simple instructions.
(observed so far)
(observed so far)
|Estimated Total Production: 112,000+|
The National Ordnance name, and later So. El Monte, CAL, were included in the casting. For a short time after the 1968 Gun Control Act passed in October 1968, the city and state may have been stamped on the receiver (see Markings C, below). If a National Ordnance carbine does not have the city and state on the receiver, it was manufactured before October 1968. If the city and state appear on the receiver, it was manufactured after October 1968.
The markings on the receiver ring were consistent throughout production.
Markings A (1960-1962)
Six digit serial numbers starting with 2.
S/N on left side of receiver parallel to breach
NAT'L ORD. INC. on top of receiver behind rear sight
Markings B (late 1962-1968)
These appear to be the most common markings and locations, pre 1969. There is insufficient information, so far, as to the serial numbers these started with and ended at. This may eventually change as more information is shared. At the least, they started about s/n 1400 and continued in sequence through approximately 19200.
S/N in front of rear sight
NATL ORD INC on top of receiver behind rear sight
Markings C (used after 1968)
The passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (October 1968) required the name and location of the manufacturer be placed on all firearms. This helps identify the approximate time frame carbines with the below markings were manufactured.
This group of markings and the serial number location were the same as Group B. The difference between Group B and this group is, So. El Monte, Cal was added to the left side of the receiver. The change started in the 19200 serial number range and continued until at least 32200.
SO. EL MONTE, CAL on left side of receiver parallel to breach
Markings D (used after 1968)
This change started by serial number 32972 and continued into the 35200 range. The serial number was moved to the left side of the receiver
NATL ORD INC on top of receiver between rear sight and bolt
SO. EL MONTE, CAL on top of receiver behind rear sight
Markings E (used after 1968)
This change started sometime in the 36200 serial number range and appears to have continued through end of production. The highest serial number observed, so far, is in the 51100 range.
Beween s/n 39800 and end of production sometimes the word SPAIN is hidden on top of the rear sight platform, obscured by the rear sight.
The purpose of this website is to document the history of the commercially manufactured M1 carbines. Inevitably, researching the carbines reveals information on other small arms. Given the number of people who own rifles with National Ordnance markings and my access to Bob Penney, Wyant LaMont, and Bob Brenner, I felt I would be derelict if I did not include the information on these other rifles. Some of the information on these rifles is included in with the history of the carbines. The information below will refer to the other locations on this website where relative information may be found.
Please keep in mind history is what history was. I am not qualified to render any opinion on any of these rifles. There are some strong opinions circulating the internet and elsewhere regarding the rifles manufactured and/or assembled by National Ordnance. Opinions have no relevance, here. If you would like to read the opinions, just do a Google search on "National Ordnance". Please keep in mind that the internet has far too many experts and far too few masters.
|National Ordnance Flier circa 1972|
|03A3 Service Rifle||30-06||24"||43"||8.5 lbs|
|03A3 Knockabout Sporter||30-06||24"||43"||8 lbs|
|NatOrd Standard M1 Garand||30-06||24"||43.5"||10 lbs|
|NatOrd Tanker Garand||7.62 NATO, 30-06||18"||38"||9.5 lbs|
|NatOrd BM-59||7.62 NATO||18"||38"||9 lbs|
These can be divided into two groups. The first group were 5500 1903A3's that Martin B. Retting, John Arnold, and Bob Penney assembled 1958-1960 under the name of Sporting Arms Inc. of Culver City, CA. These were original GI receivered barrels and actions. None of these 1903A3's had any markings indicating National Ordnance or Sporting Arms Inc. They all retained their original GI markings.
The first group of National Ordnance 1903A3's were manufactured between late 1962 and 1973. With the exception of the first 10, all were manufactured when National Ordnance was owned solely by John Arnold. These 1903A3's have investment cast receivers manufactured by Rimer Casting of Waterville, Ohio. Surplus Springfield 1903A3 parts and barrels were still readily available in 1962, when Arnold expressed a desire to Bob Penney for National Ordnance to begin manufacturing 1903A3's.
Penney arranged for Rimer Casting to manufacture a test run of 10 cast receivers for research into the feasibility of using them to manufacture National Ordnance 1903A3 rifles in 30-06 caliber. After receiving the test run, machining, and hardening, Penney submitted the receivers for ballistic strength testing to H.P. White Laboratory, Incorporated of Street, MD. White Laboratory determined these cast receivers surpassed the strength of the original Springfield 1903 receivers. [The Springfield 1903 Rifles by Colonel William S. Brophy]. After the testing of these receivers, in Sep/Oct 1962 Bob Penney separated from National Ordnance and started manufacturing carbines under the Alpine name. John Arnold retained possession of the 10 receivers, and began 1903A3 production under the National Ordnance name in 1963. This information is from Bob Penney, and the dates are corroborated by all of the sources that document the separation of National Ordnance and Alpine in Sep/Oct 1962.
The 1903A3 receivers from Rimer Casting were possibly machine finished by Calgo in Pasadena. Surplus GI 1903A3 parts and barrels were assembled onto the cast receivers at National Ordnance. The name NATL ORD INC is on the receivers. The surplus GI parts retained whatever markings they came with.
According to United States Martial and Collectors Arms, 20 Apr 1982 by Military Arms Research Service, San Jose, between 1965 and 1970 National Ordnance produced 22,500 newly manufactured M1903A3 receivers and assembled them into complete rifles using USGI surplus parts. Their source for this information was John Arnold. Other information provided by Arnold to this book's author and other authors has been found to be approximates, not specifics. Including the dates of manufacture.
In 1961 or 1962 Bob Penney purchased the first 5,000-10,000 M1 Garand receivers that would eventually total 75,000. These had been cut by U.S. Ornance and sold as scrap. Penney hired Melvin Smith of Valley Ordnance in Wilkes-Barre, PA to refurbish the receivers. In 1962, while operating as National Ordnance, and between 1963 and 1965, while operating as Alpine, Penney sold these receivers individually, and as assembled Garands using most all GI surplus parts. All of these Garand receivers and surplus parts retained their original GI markings. The names or markings of National Ordnance or Alpine were not placed on these rifles.
Garands assembled between 1960 and Sep/Oct 1962, were assembled at the National Ordnance warehouse located at 235 S Irwindale Ave, Azusa, CA (photograph included in Chapter II on the M1 carbines). Garands assembled between Sep/Oct 1962 and Dec 1965, were assembled at the Alpine warehouse located at 964 W Foothill Blvd, Azusa, CA.
Between 1962 and 1965, John Arnold and National Ordnance did not manufacture M1 Garands. During this time period Arnold contacted Penney and requested 500 Garand receivers from those refurbished by Valley Ordnance. Penney provided the 500 receivers to Arnold, but does not know what Arnold did with them. When they were provided to Arnold, they retained their original GI markings.
United States Martial and Collectors Arms, 20 Apr 1982 by Military Arms Research Service, San Jose, indicates National Ordnance produced over 2000 M1 Garands between 1965 and 1970. Their source for this information was John Arnold. Penney believes this number was closer to 500. These receivers were machined by Frank Day at Golden State Arms, for Arnold and National Ordnance.
M1 Garands with the cast receivers have the markings NATL ORD INC., if I can find an example I will include one here. Penney estimates there were only about ten of these, as the majority were original GI receivers that retained their GI markings.
Not all of the Garand receivers were used for M1 Garands. Some of them were used on the National Ordnance "Tanker Garand".
In 1961/1962, while visiting the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, Bob Penney observed an M1 Garand prototype (T26) with a shorter barrel that had not been adopted and never went into production. This motivated him to experiment with the concept, while running National Ordnance. The end result was what is known as the "Tanker Garand".
Between 1962 and 1965 the "Tanker Garand was built using the M1 Garand receivers being refurbished by Valley Ordnance, assembled with surplus GI parts. Penney did not add the National Ordnance name or the Alpine name to any of these rifles, or any of the Garands he assembled. They retained their original manufacturer markings. [Interviews with Bob Penney by this author, 2008; Tanker Garand; An Apocryphal Martial Weapon by Phyllis Benson, Man At Arms Magazine, November/December 1980, pp.49-51]. Many people have assumed this version of the Garand was a government issued weapon, as the markings are the original manufacturer of the barrel, receiver, and parts. The "Tanker Garand" concept started with U.S. Army Ordnance, but the rifles were made by Bob Penney and his employees at National Ordnance in Azusa, CA in 1962, then Alpine in Azusa, CA 1963-1965.
After Alpine closed in December 1965, Arnold decided to produce National Ordnance "Tanker Garands". The majority of these rifles were built on investment cast receivers using surplus GI parts. The receiver was marked NATL ORD INC. Those that also indicate SO. EL MONTE, CAL were built after 1968 and before the company closed in 1974. It's not known how many of these National Ordnance "Tanker Garands" were produced.
Federal Ordnance picked up where National Ordnance left off, making their own "Tanker Garand". The version made by Springfield Armory of Geneseo, IL was started based on the public interest initiated by the "Tanker Garands" that preceded the commercial Springfield Armory, operated by the Reese family. Penney and Bob Reese have known each other since the 1950's. Penney purchased surplus GI M1 carbine parts and M1 Garand parts from Bob Reese at Reese Surplus in the 1960's.
According to Bob Brenner, National Ordnance obtained a trial run of cast M14 receivers from ECRIMESA in Spain, but did not have access to the surplus parts required to start full production. These receivers were retained by Arnold and eventually came into the possession of Bob Brenner at National Ordnance. For information on any and all of the M14's, including those made by National Ordnance and Federal Ordnance, I strongly recommend the research and work done by Lee Emerson, author of M14 Rifle History and Development. I defer to Lee for anything M14, including the M1A by Springfield.
In 1964 Beretta entered into a contract with Golden State Arms of Pasadena, CA for stateside production of the Beretta BM-59 [Shotgun News October 15, 1964]. One of the two owners of Golden State Arms at the time, was Bob Brenner. Production of the BM-59 at Golden State Arms is beyond the scope of my research.
When Golden State Arms closed in 1966, Brenner became Federal Ordnance and moved in with Arnold at National Ordnance. As discussed above in relation to the M1 carbines, Arnold and Brenner became partners. The two companies retained their separate names for tax purposes, licensing, and to limit liability. Several of the employees at National Ordnance had worked at Golden State Arms. Jack Karnes, who had managed the Golden State Arms assembly warehouse in Puerto Rico, opened up his own business, A.R. Sales, several hundred feet west of National Ordnance in 1968. Karnes, Brenner, and Arnold were business associates for many years. While partnered with Arnold at National Ordnance, Brenner's work required him to travel a great deal. Arnold ran the operations end of the partnership.
The National Ordnance BM-59 was probably built on an M1 Garand investment cast receiver manufactured at ECRIMESA in Santander, Spain. The BM-59 has been beyond the scope of my research. The information, above, is collateral information picked up while doing M1 carbine research. I may be able to learn more information at a later point in time. If I do, I will update this area. For further information on the BM-59, I recommend contacting Lee Emerson, author of M14 Rifle History and Development.
The only source that National Ordnance even made AR-15's was an advertisement for a used one for sale in 2008. Neither Brenner of Penney knew anything about them. The presence of a National Ordnance logo on this rifle, is the first logo seen for National Ordnance. Even by Bob Penney. The logo looks very similar to the logo used by Federal Ordnance, after the demise of National Ordnance. Brenner's memory was impaired by a stroke, which may have impaired his ability to recall this rifle.
Notice the condition of the lower receiver between the magazine release and selector switch.
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