Rowen, Becker Company
Rowen, Becker Company was started in 1959 by Kenneth Rowen and Joseph Becker at N. 6th street, Waterville, OH.
Rowen had been employed by Rimer Casting in Waterville, OH. Becker was an investor interested in muzzle loaders and was hoping the company would manufacture a reproduction muzzle loader. Neither were machinists. Rowen handled company management and operations, Becker funded the company. [personal interviews with Joe Becker September 2009]
Initially the company handled subcontracted finishing of simple cast metal parts unrelated to firearms (screws, etc). The first carbine parts they made were the hammer and trigger. Rimer cast them, Rowen and Becker machine finished them. Who these parts were made for was Bob Penney, founder and owner of National Ordnance in Azusa, CA.
Penney had been involved with surplus military rifles for a number of years leading up to his involvement with the U.S. M1 Carbines in 1958. While working with surplus Springfield 1903A3 rifles in 1959, Penney received a letter from Rowen, Becker Company that they could provide and/or manufacture any parts Penney might need. Shortly later Penney acquired a number of surplus U.S. M1 Carbines and needed hammers and triggers. Penney contacted Ken Rowen, sent him a hammer and trigger, and shortly later Rowen, Becker Company began supplying Penney with cast hammers and cast triggers. Penney was unaware the Rowen, Becker Company was not who was manufacturing the hammers and triggers.
By the beginning of 1960 Penney began preparing for the manufacture of the National Ordnance commercial carbines. Penney contacted Ken Rowen regarding their ability to manufacture a cast M1 Carbine receiver.
Rowen indicated he knew someone who could machine the casting die to the dimensions and look of an M1 Carbine receiver. Rowen, Becker Company would then manufacture the receiver and had the machinist necessary to complete the job. Penney paid for the original tooling to produce the wax and mold, and a short run of 100 receivers. The die was designed by Bill Lowry and manufactured by Lowry Manufacturing of Holland, OH.
When Penney received the receivers, the threading for the barrel had not been cut properly, barrels would not align with these receivers. The overall machining of the receiver was unacceptable. Penney flew to Ohio and visited with Rowen at his home, which Penney discovered was also the location of the Rowen, Becker Company. Penney accompanied Rowen to the machinist Rowen used and discovered the machinist operated out of the back of his personal truck. It became obvious to Penney that Rowen and the Rowen, Becker Company was not capable of meeting the quantity or quality Penney wanted. Penney could not recall exactly how and when he discovered Rowen and the Rowen, Becker Company had not manufactured the receiver, hammer, or trigger, only that it was during this time period. Who had manufactured the cast trigger and hammer, and the trial run of receivers, was Rimer Casting of Waterville, Ohio. After which the items were machined by the mobile machinist and sold by Rowen.
Penney met directly with Rimer Casting and arranged for them to continue manufacturing the cast hammer, cast trigger, and the cast receivers, without Rowen-Becker's involvement. The receivers that had been poorly machined and misthreaded were returned to Rowen, with one exception, which was retained by Penney. Receivers manufactured by Rimer Casting arrived in time for National Ordnance to begin selling their M1 Carbines by October 1960. [personal interviews with Bob Penney 2008-2011)
Becker was aware Rowen had been machining parts for Penney and National Ordnance but was not aware of the details.
At some point after the failed attempt at manufacturing receivers for National Ordnance, Rowen obtained a source for surplus GI M1 Carbine parts. Becker recalled Rowen insisting they produce M1 Carbines, while Becker remained interested only in muzzle loaders. Becker deferred to Rowen's insistence. He couldn't recall when Rowen first began assembling M1 Carbines or how many were made in the name of Rowen, Becker Company. The first receivers Rowen used were cast by Rimer Casting. It is not known if Rowen attempted to use, or used, the receivers returned to him by National Ordnance.
The die for the Rowen, Becker Co. receivers was similar to the die originally used by National Ordnance, with several changes. The most significant change was the Rowen, Becker receiver eliminated the solid left side and opted for the lighter design used by companies who had manufactured carbines under contract of U.S. Army Ordnance.
Rowen, Becker Co. receiver
original National Ordnance receiver
Rowen, Becker Co. receiver
One of the problems encountered by National Ordnance with machining their receivers was drilling the deep hole for the recoil spring. This same problem had been encountered by the companies who manufactured carbines for Ordnance during WWII. Until the proper machine could be obtained by the companies under contract to U.S. Army Ordnance, several companies had used a detachable main spring housing. Quality Hardware used the detachable recoil spring housing throughout their entire production 1942-1944. The problem was alignment of the receiver so that the hole was drilled straight from beginning to end. Without the right machine, if the angle was even slightly off, towards the end of the drill bit would exit the bottom or side of the receiver.
Penney's answer to the problem was to contact Rimer Casting and have the dies changed to cast the hole in segments. This became a hallmark for receivers used by National Ordnance and later Alpine, when Penney separated from National Ordnance and started manufacturing carbines in the Alpine name (refer to pages on National Ordnance and Alpine for further information on those two companies.). Rowen and Rowen, Becker Company didn't make this change, nor was the machine obtained to make sure the hole was consistently drilled straight. As a result, some, but not all, of the receivers machined by Rowen, Becker Company have an opening where the drill exited the receiver at varying angles to varying degrees.
During 1961 Rowen managed to land a contract to sell carbines to Sears. Not long after they started supplying Sears with carbines, Rowen reversed himself and canceled the Sears contract. This act, in addition to other decisions made by Rowen that Becker considered financially unsound, caused Becker to separate from Rowen, Becker Co. during the Fall of 1961. Rowen continued to use the same company name, without Becker. During this same time period Rowen's employment by Rimer Casting ended and he switched to using a company in Michigan for casting the Rowen, Becker Co. receivers.
U.S. Ordnance Rossford Arsenal was located in Toledo, OH and was closed between 1963 and 1965. This shouldn't be confused with Rossford Armory, the name adopted by Kenneth Rowen when he partnered with Kenneth Ahl, a local gun shop owner in Waterville, OH. The earliest advertisement indicating Rossford Armory as a Division of Rowen, Becker Co. was found in the July 1962 issue of Shooting Times Magazine.
The carbines sold by Rossford Armory retained the markings of the Rowen, Becker Company.
Machining of the receiver and cast parts, manufacture of the barrel, and clarity of the markings appear to have been poor throughout production. Rowen, Becker carbines observed to date were polished smooth and given a shiny finish. The only thing consistent about the names and serial numbers used on the carbines manufactured by Rowen, Becker Company was inconsistency (see examples below).
Cast parts used by Rowen, Becker Co. included the trigger, hammer, and trigger housing (see below).
One feature that is unique to many of the carbines by this company were punch marks placed on the:
As this first example shows, this wasn't consistent throughout production. The punch marks are depicted on the second example and fairly common.
The purpose of the punch marks, hammer excepted, appears to have been peening of the holes to secure the pins that fit into and/or through the cast trigger housing. This suggests improper machining and/or improper hardening of the receiver and trigger housing and likely includes the hammer.
If you own one of these carbines, if for no other reason but age, it is highly recommended you have it safety inspected by a gunsmith before firing it.
Many of the commercial carbine manufactures assembling carbines in the early 1960's found it near impossible to locate barrels for their M1 Carbines. Two of the reasons for this were carbine barrels were always in high demand for as long as the carbine was manufactured and the military used them, followed by U.S. Ordnance destroying the barrels by cutting them half and selling them as scrap metal. During the early 1960's, most commercial manufacturer, but not all, assembled carbine barrels using the rear half of a cut and scrapped carbine barrel with a 1903A3 barrel cut to carbine dimensions and inserted into the bored out hull of the rear of the carbine barrel. The two barrels were then attached to one another and the chamber reamed for the .30 carbine cartridge. Some companies were better at it than others.
Many barrels used by Rowen, Becker Co. that have been observed to date, if they were the original barrels that came with the carbine, were constructed in this manner. A few have been found to have a machined barrel blank onto which a gas piston housing was welded. This became more common by 1963 as several barrel manufacturers had begun to manufacture barrel blanks made for the M1 Carbines.
Barrel made from rear half of a torch cut M1 Carbine barrel into which a 1903A3 barrel was inserted. Used by Rowen, Becker Co. on most carbines they sold
Barrel used by Rowen, Becker Co. made from a barrel blank onto which they attached a gas piston housing.
This was a receiver only, no other parts attached.
no serial number
no name, serial number is double stamped on the rear sight platform forward of the dovetail
another example has been observed with the name ROWEN, BECKER CO. completely spelled out across the top of the receiver behind the rear sight.
Advertisements for M1 Carbines and receivers continued through August 1964. In the September 15, 1964 issue of Shotgun News, Rossford Arms Supply, a division of Rowen, Becker, Co., no longer offered complete carbines or receivers, selling surplus parts only. The few advertisements that appear after this date offer only parts for sale.
Becker related that Rowen had continued to assemble carbines until the company went bankrupt in 1963 or 1964. Becker had moved and lost contact with Rowen, so he wasn't certain which of the two years the company was closed.