Iver Johnson Arms
A man by the name of Iver Johnson was an immigrant who started his first gun factory in the 1800's in Massachusetts. Over the years he was in business the weapons and other products his company made developed a reputation worthy of making his name a U.S. Trade Mark. After Iver Johnson died his descendants operated the business until selling it in the early 1970's to a Brooklyn investor, Louis Imperato. Along with the company assets Imperato acquired the trade mark "Iver Johnson". Imperato eventually moved the company to New Jersey and began making M1 Carbines in the name of Iver Johnson in 1978.
Due to a number of changes in ownership the history of Iver Johnson's can be a bit confusing. Also confusing can be the names Iver Johnson, Iver Johnson's Arms, & Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works. Sometimes the names had more to do with corporate records than the names that appeared on their carbines or in their literature. While all three names will be covered throughout this document, on an operational level all three names are interchangeable with one another. Just because one name appears on the carbine does not mean a different name wasn't used on their documentation or in their corporate records.
The history of the carbines with the Iver Johnson name is divided into five sections. Each section is subdivided into different parts (several with multiple pages). As an example, "Section I: History" starts with a prelude followed by four parts chronologically, each part representing one of the four companies that manufactured carbines using the Iver Johnson name.
|Section I||Section II||Section III||Section IV||Section V||Section VI|
Iver Johnson Arms
Dates of Manufacture
Brochures, Price Lists,|
Fliers & Manuals
|Five Separate Companies in Different Times and/or Different Places|
|Prelude||1882-1977||Worcester, MA, & Fitchberg, MA|
|Part I||1977-1983||Middlesex, NJ|
|Part II||1983-1986||Jacksonville, AR|
|Part III||1987-1992||Jacksonville, AR|
|Part IV||2003-2012+||Hardwick, VT & Rockledge, FL|
Iver Johnson began his gunsmith career in Bergen, Norway at the age of 16 in 1867. In 1863 Iver Johnson immigrated to America and settled in Worcester, MA. In 1871 Iver Johnson and Martin Bye, gunsmiths employed at Allen & Wheelock Company in Worcester, started their own gun manufacturing business under the name of Johnson & Bye Gunsmiths. In 1882 his partnership with Bye ended and Iver continued on as Iver Johnson & Company Revolvers, also known as Iver Johnson Arms Company. In 1890 Iver moved the business to Fitchburg, MA and the Iver Johnson owl logo began to appear.
In 1894 Iver purchased a bicycle shop in Fitchburg and changed the company name to Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works. Iver died in 1895. Between 1895 and 1973 the business was run by his sons and eventually one of his grandsons, who sold the business to Louis Imperato in 1973.
"Iver Johnson" 1871-1973 became well known for firearms, bicycles, motorcycles, and small appliances along with their own retail outlets in five different countries including the cities of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Iver Johnson revolvers were competitive with revolvers made by Colt Firearms and Smith & Wesson. [excerpts from Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works Firearms 1871-1993 by W.E. Goforth]
Anyone interested in the history of Iver Johnson's prior to when they produced carbines may wish to pick up a copy of Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works Firearms 1871-1993 by W.E. Goforth.
Louis Imperato was born in Brooklyn January 21, 1933. After being discharged from the U.S. Army after the Korean War, Imperato began working at John Jovino Gunshop in Brooklyn, NY. About 1954 Imperato married one of the daughters of the owner, Frank Albanese, who had purchased the store years earlier from Jovino ["Built in Brooklyn", American Rifleman Sep 2001, p.75]. In the 1960's Imperato started a gun import business in Brooklyn, L.A. Distributors, and was the first to import the Erma Werke Model E M1 .22 caliber M1 Carbine look-alike in 1967. Imperato and his wife acquired the John Jovino Gunshop after the death of her father in June 1970. According to New York corporate records Imperato incorporated the John Jovino Gunshop on November 24, 1971.
Catalogs containing the firearms manufactured by Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works in Fitchburg, MA continued through 1977.
Plainfield Machine was a machine shop located in Middlesex, NJ with a post office box in Dunellen. Circa 1961-1962 they were contracted to machined receivers, barrels and other carbine parts for Millville Ordnance of Union, NJ. When Millville Ordnance closed unexpectedly, Plainfield produced carbines from the leftover parts under the H&S name. Profits convinced the two owners of Plainfield Machine (William Haas & his brother-in-law William Storck) to remain in the carbine manufacturing business and produce carbines under the Plainfield Machine name.
From Art Haas, son of William Haas and a supervisor at Plainfield Machine: "There were some tough years in the mid 70s and in early 77 we started to negotiate with Lou Imperato who had purchased Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works several years earlier. Imperato had purchased IJ mainly for the name. Lou lived in Brooklyn, NY and wanted to move the factory closer to his home."
"Lou did not purchase the company [Plainfield Machine] but only some of the assets. He purchased the building, most of the equipment, plus the carbine tooling & inventory. He did not want the pistol lines. Lou retained most of the factory personnel, maintained my father as basically head of Engineering, and I was made V.P. of Operations with total daily control of the facility in NJ."
"I helped move Iver Johnsons from Fitchburg, Mass into the Middlesex, NJ building in the fall of 77." William Storck did not remain with the company.
A short timeline that accompanied an article in the September 2001 issue of The American Rifleman indicated Imperato purchased Plainfield Machine in 1975. Numerous other publications have cited this as the year the change took place (without quoting their source for the info). Given the first hand experience and very detailed description provided by Art Haas in addition to the information that follows, 1977 appears to have been more likely but whatever the case, Iver Johnson moved into the Middlesex, NJ facility in the latter half of 1977. By the end of 1978 the Haas family was no longer involved with Lou Imperato and Iver Johnson. They had moved on to own and operate a metal hardening business.
New Jersey corporate records indicate Iver Johnson Arms was incorporated in New Jersey by Louis Imperato in November 1977 with an address of Wilton Ave. in Middlesex, NJ. This was the location of Plainfield Machine Company.
The carbines being manufactured by Plainfield Machine 1975-1978 were:
In the latter part of 1977 Iver Johnson's Arms took over the Plainfield Machine production lines and continued to produce carbines in the name of Plainfield Machine. Within a matter of months the name of Plainfield Machine was switched to the name of Iver Johnson's Arms. The two Enforcer model carbines depicted below show one of the last Plainfield Machine Enforcers and one of the first Iver Johnson's Arms Enforcers.
Notice the "PP30" on the receiver below "Dunellen"
Notice the "PP" on the receiver below "Arms"
Iver Johnson's Arms started their carbine line with the same three carbines, calling them "Iver Johnson's Plainfield Carbines". Initially very little changed other than the manufacturer's name.
The American Rifleman October-December 1978
The 5.7mm Johnson cartridge is a wildcat cartridge invented by Melvin Johnson, inventor of the 1940 Johnson rifle and M1941 Johnson Machine Gun. The 5.7mm cartridge uses a necked down .30 carbine casing with a .222 caliber bullet. This cartridge is also known as the .22 Carbine cartridge. The only difference between this carbine and the .30 caliber carbines is the bore and chamber of the barrel. All other parts, the receiver included, are .30 caliber carbine parts. Inside and out they look just like an M1 Carbine as that's what they are, with a barrel chambered in 5.7mm caliber instead of .30 Carbine. Federal law required the receivers to be stamped in the caliber of the firearm.
Plainfield Machine produced several sporting model carbines in this caliber. Iver Johnson continued producing carbines in this caliber. Available with a blued finish as the Model M5 (EA s/n prefix) and in stainless steel (ES s/n prefix). It appears less than 500 of these were actually produced. Although listed in the later Iver Johnson catalogs, all of these were manufactured in Middlesex, NJ. Those with a serial number followed by the letter A were manufactured in Middlesex, NJ then acquired and sold by Iver Johnson of Jacksonville, AR. Refer to Iver Johnson in Jacksonville, AR in Part II for additional information.
With the acquisition of Plainfield Machine, in 1978 Iver Johnson introduced carbines made from stainless steel.
These were available as a stainless version of the military style carbine, paratrooper model (both with SS s/n prefix), the Enforcer model (BS s/n prefix), and the 5.7mm model (ES s/n prefix).
It appears less than 5000 of these were actually produced. Although listed in the later Iver Johnson catalogs, all of these were manufactured in Middlesex, NJ. Those with a serial number followed by the letter A were manufactured in Middlesex, NJ then acquired and sold by Iver Johnson of Jacksonville, AR. Refer to Iver Johnson Jacksonville, AR in Part II for additional information.
In the early 1980's while the company was still located in New Jersey they experimented with, and appear to have begun production of, an M1 Carbine chambered for the .30 M1 Short cartridge for export to France. All parts of this carbine were the same as the standard model Iver Johnson M1 Carbines. The only difference was the chamber was finish reamed slightly shorter to accommodate the .30 M1 Short cartridge and prevent the use of the .30 Carbine M1 cartridge.
French laws prohibited ownership of a rifle chambered for a military cartridge. The .30 M1 Short was designed to allow French M1 Carbine owners a legal means of owning an M1 Carbine. All dimensions of the cartridge were the same as the .30 Carbine M1 cartridge, with the exception being the case was shortened 1.25mm. Overall length of the cartridge was the same as the .30 Carbine M1. Both cartridges used the same bullet.
In the early 1980's Ammunition was manufactured for export by Iver Johnson's Arms by R&H Manufacturing of South Plains, NJ. Bill Ricca, a part owner of this company, related he had been contacted by Iver Johnson's to manufacture the ammo but was not aware if the carbines had actually been exported. This cartridge was also produced by Rheinisch-Westfalische Sprengstoff A.G. (RWS) of Nuremberg, West Germany, as the .30 Court.
Receivers meant for export to France were marked with the caliber and serial numbered with an FF prefix.
Additional information on this model may be found in Section II.
Serial numbers were assigned a two letter prefix followed by the number. Numbers ran consecutive within each letter prefix. While in New Jersey the following two letter prefixes were used:
|Serial Number Prefixes|
Iver Johnson's Arms
|AA||Military & Paratrooper||blued steel|
|DD||D-Day Commemorative||blued steel|
|EA||5.7mm Johnson||blued steel|
|ES||5.7mm Johnson||stainless steel|
|FF||.French Short||blued steel|
|SS||Military & Paratrooper||stainless steel|
|A complete list of prefixes and serial numbers may be found in:|
With the exception of the D-Day Carbines the serial number on Iver Johnson carbines manufactured in New Jersey was located on the left side of the receiver at the front.
The casting mold mark of these receivers (stainless steel excluded) was the same as used by Plainfield Machine.
Notice the vertical line in the middle of the tang that engages the recoil plate.
In early 1980 the markings were changed on the blued steel receivers.
Markings on the stainless steel receivers remained the same. The 5.7mm receivers were completed before this change.
On top of the receiver behind the rear sight
Notice the change in the mold marks as compared to the prior receiver.
The Receiver Mold
The tooling used for the casting of the first receiver used for the Iver Johnson carbines was the tooling used by Plainfield Machine. This same tooling was eventually used for the receivers manufactured in Arkansas.
The second receiver, as well as all of the stainless steel receivers, were cast using the tooling of Ecrimesa, a foundry located in Santander, Spain. Iver Johnson was neither the first nor last to use Ecrimesa for cast receivers. They were successfully used by National Ordnance in the early 1970's, Federal Ordnance in the early and mid 1980's, and Israel Arms International in the mid to late 1990's. For National Ordnance and Federal Ordnance, Ecrimesa cast receivers for the 1903A3, M1 Garand, and M14. 1903A3 receivers cast by Ecrimesa in 1962 were submitted to White Laboratories for testing prior to use. The report indicated these receivers were comparable in every way to those milled during WWII and deemed safe for use by White Laboratories (refer pages on Alpine and National Ordnance).
For further information on all of the markings used on carbines with the name of Iver Johnson, refer to: Section IV.
With a full page advertisement in the January 1980 issue of The American Rifleman, Iver Johnson announced the Iver Johnson's Arms D-Day Commemorative Model Carbine. This was the first commemorative carbine released by anyone. Because of the success of the D-Day Commemorative a number of companies, Iver Johnson's Arms included, would eventually manufacture a number of limited quantity commemorative carbines to commemorate various dates or events in history and branches of the U.S. Military. The D-Day Commemorative was limited to a production run of 10,000 with serial numbers preceded by the letters DD. All of these were manufactured by Iver Johnson Arms in Middlesex, NJ.
This carbine is still very popular due to the laser engraving of the D-Day invasion on the right sight of the buttstock. The rest of the carbine was the standard military style M1 Carbine.
The 1982 catalog introduced several new handguns to the Iver Johnson line.
The TP22 pistol was based on the Erma Werke Model EP 752S. The pistol was also offered as the Model TP22 in .25 auto caliber. Both were copies of the Walther PPK. Iver Johnson imported the parts for this pistol from Erma Werke in West Germany and assembled them onto a frame manufactured in the U.S.A. The annual BATF report of firearms manufactured by caliber indicates the quantities produced of the .22 caliber model by Iver Johnson in New Jersey was 1,527 in 1982 and 2,846 in 1983. The same report indicates the quantities produced of the .25 caliber model was 11,656 in 1981, 1,576 in 1982, and 100 in 1983. The September 1983 issue of "The American Rifleman" includes a short overview of this model in the magazine's "Dope Bag" section.
The Model X300 Pony in .380 caliber was based on the Colt Government Model .380. The parts were made for Iver Johnson in Spain and assembled onto a receiver manufactured in the U.S.A. Iver Johnson acquired the tooling for the receiver from F.I. International in 1978, who had previously sold this pistol as the FI Model D. The pistol had also been manufactured previously by Star-Echeverria in Spain and sold by them as the Model DK. The annual BATF report of firearms manufactured by caliber indicates the quantities of the .380 model produced by Iver Johnson in New Jersey was 2,398 in 1979 and 1 in 1981. Quantities reported manufactured were not consistent with actual sales while the company was in New Jersey. This model did not start shipping regular to customers until the company was moved to Arkansas in 1983. It's likely some, if not the majority, manufactured in New Jersey were acquired by the Iver Johnson investors in Arkansas when they purchased the company.
Imperato appears to have been seeking a buyer by late 1981 or early 1982.
NATO may have been a prospective buyer of the company or a contract for carbines manufactured by Iver Johnson. So far only one of these carbines has been found. The carbine and it's serial number are consistent with those manufactured by Iver Johnson Arms of Middlesex, NJ about 1981.
Attempts to identify NATO and/or the company name these initials may represent have so far failed to identify the company. Should further information become known it will be added here and on the page devoted to this NATO carbine.
During 1982 Louis Imperato sold Iver Johnson's Arms to a group of eight investors/merchandisers from the Little Rock, AR area. According to the December 17, 1990 issue of Arkansas Business magazine, the investors/merchandisers were Phillip Lynn Lloyd ("a high flying accountant"), Ed Penick Jr., Larry Wallace, John Flake, Tommy Hodges, Walter Gleason, Ralph Anderson and Gary Corpier. The article states "The price of the 119-year-old firm has frequently been reported in the press as $7 million. But one of the initial investors confirmed last week the purchase was just $2.5 million, and $500,000 of that was cash."
Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works, Inc. was incorporated in Arkansas on July 21, 1982 by Arkansas investor Phillip Lynn Lloyd, indicating the sale of Iver Johnson probably took place in the first half of 1982.
The company remained in business in Middlesex, NJ until early 1983, when the buyers packed everything up and moved the company to Jacksonville, AR. Why Imperato sold the business is unknown. Due to unforeseen circumstances, as you'll read in Sections II and III, his intended separation from the company turned out to be less than permanent.
The final catalog published in Middlesex, New Jersey in late 1982 for 1983 showed the beginning of the transition to the new owners in Arkansas with the introduction of the Survival Model Carbine. The Survival Model was simply the same M1 Carbine as the others but with a stock manufactured by Choate Machine Tool using a polymer composite called Zytel. The stocks offered were a fixed stock or side folding stock.
This model continued production after the company was moved to Arkansas in 1983.
In 1975 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) began providing Congress with an Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report (AFMER) of the number of firearms manufactured in a given year. AFMER reports from 1977 through 1983 indicate the last firearms manufactured by Plainfield Machine in Middlesex, NJ, and the first firearms manufactured by Iver Johnson Arms in Middlesex, NJ.
The only rifles manufactured by Plainfield Machine and Iver Johnson 1975-1983 were their M1 Carbines. The Enforcer model was/is a handgun, not a rifle. AFMER handgun production reports listed handguns by common calibers as opposed to exact calibers. The .30 caliber Enforcers were indicated in the column for .32 caliber as there was no column for reporting .30 caliber handguns on the ATF forms. Plainfield Machine did not manufacture the Enforcer model until the production lines were taken over by Iver Johnson's Arms, who then introduced the first Enforcers produced at the Middlesex, NJ facility before changing the name on the carbines from Plainfield Machine to Iver Johnson's Arms.