One of the
fascinating and sometimes confusing aspects of working with the M1919 series of
Browning machine guns is the marks often found on various parts, why they are
there and what they mean.
The markings fall into several categories, Some identify the
manufacturer or a sub-contractor, or the particular production process that
produced the part while others identify the part itself, and some of the marks
are “proof” marks or marks indicating the part or perhaps the entire weapon has
been “proved” and
accepted by the Ordnance Department.
But just a
little a little background is in order.
will deal with the markings that are imprinted on the part for identification of
that part and the manufacturer.
In any system of serial
identification of information whether it be the Ordnance Department or
constructing the Brooklyn Bridge there has to be a key element links
together all of the other information.
In the case of the Ordnance Department that key is the
various drawings of the item.
The drawings are the basic unit of information that is
used to create all of the other document resources needed to manufacture,
order and stock spare parts and rebuild the particular item.
1922 the Ordnance Department used a Class and Division system of numbering
drawings and the parts produced from those drawings.
and Division system applied a class number to a group of like weapons .
In the case of the Browning machine guns that class number was 51, all
automatic weapons below 40 mm were included in Class 51.Each different type of weapon was assigned a Division number the M1917
was assigned the division number of 10.
The M1919A4 Flexible was assigned Division 84, the Fixed version was
Class number was combined with the Division number it produced the Major Item
The drawings used to
produce M1917 parts before 1931 were numbered using this system.
The M1917 Browning drawings
started with a sheet numbered 51-10-1 which was the right side view of the
weapon.This sheet was followed by
drawing 51-10-1A which listed every drawing of every part needed to produce a
also served as an index to the drawings of all of the various parts, listing
which sheet the part appeared on and its piece mark.
The Class and Division system of identifying drawings allowed more than
one part to be shown on a sheet.
the drawing sheets was divided into four quadrants the upper left A,
upper right B, lower left C and lower
right D, however, we have seen sheets where the quadrants were not assigned in
was assigned a “piece mark” that is a combination of upper case letters and
numerals to identify it.Ordnance
sometimes wrote “piece mark” as one word.
Originally the piece mark itself was identified on the drawing by
enclosing it in a 3/8 diameter circle located next to the part nomenclature.
This system worked well with the Class and Division system
as there were usually only two or three characters used for the piece mark.
piece mark was created by combining the sheet number of the drawing with a letter
which sometimes coincided with quadrant letter, and, if there had been revisions
to the part, another number which corresponded to the revision number.
For example, drawing 51-10-10, Revision 1 (August 20, 1919) has three
In the upper left
quadrant,(A) the left side plate
is shown and it has a piece mark of 10A.In the upper right quadrant,
(B), is the elevating bracket it’s assigned piece mark is 10B1.The lower left quadrant (C) contains the drawing of the bottom plate with
a piece mark of 10C1, it appears that revision 1 altered both the elevating
bracket and the bottom plate but not the left side plate.
On some drawings the
piece mark appear to
have a direct connection with the location of the piece on the drawing sheet, on
others it doesn’t.
If the part had
been revised, the revision number that affected the part in question was
included in the piece mark.
these drawings, as on the later letter prefix drawings, just because a piece
has been assigned does not mean that the part is imprinted with that identifier.
early Class and Division drawings we have examined very few, if any, parts were
required to be imprinted with a piece mark.
At one time
in this search of drawings we thought that secrecy, or patent right infringement
might have been the reason for the lack of imprinting.
Ordnance implemented mandatory drawing sizes and identified them with letter
prefixes A through E the higher up the alphabet the bigger the sheet.
same time Ordnance also implemented a policy of depicting only one part on a
drawing sheet, this required redrawing every part and renumbering every drawing
and changing every piece mark.
Now the piece mark consisted of the drawing number and any
revision suffix numbers required.
The piece mark
would no longer fit in the 3/8" circle so Ordnance decided to continue using
the circle but extending the piece mark to the right through the perimeter
of the circle.
This gave the appearance
of a large "C" enclosing the letter prefix of the drawing/piece mark.
Each part was drawn on an appropriate sized sheet.
One of the drawbacks of the letter prefix system is illustrated by the barrel
extension of the M1917 which consists of two parts, the barrel extension and the
Formerly it was shown on one
Class and Division drawing sheet along with three other parts. Now there were
three drawings, just for the barrel extension, one for the extension itself, one
for the stud and one for the assembly consisting of the extension and the stud.
inter-war period’s budget restrictions, the conversion of drawings for existing
weapons took quite some time.
M1917 BMG drawings weren’t fully converted until 1931.
The M1919A4 BMG family’s design wasn’t approved until 1936 so
all of the parts drawings conformed to the letter prefix naming convention.
However, the Class and Division system which produced the Major Item Number
continued to be used, but instead of these “drawings” showing the actual parts
they became illustrations of the complete weapon and lists of drawings of parts,
materials, standards, and other things like packing crates that pertained to the
and Division assignments and Major Item Numbers for the WWII era M1919 family of
ground BMG were as follows.
and Division “drawings” for the M1919A4 Flexible were numbered as follows:
Right Side View
List of Drawings and Specifications
Sectional View (Cross section)
Sheets 3 and
4 are actually “finding diagrams” which show the individual parts, location of
the parts on the weapon and their drawing numbers.
sheets served as a sort of master index of all of the things necessary for
producing the complete weapon.
any other type of Ordnance drawings they were updated from time to time, that is
a dated Revision to the drawing was made and recorded on the drawing itself and
on a drawing index card which was the history of the individual drawing.
The last available drawing 51-84-1A is revision 57 dated 8-19-48 when it
was redrawn without change.
Some drawings produced between the introduction of the
letter prefix system 1922 and before about 1936 used "Symbols" to identify
the individual parts on the finding diagram
and to group together all like parts.
By like parts it is meant that anything identified by a
common name such as "barrel" would be identified by a three alpha characters
having no relationship to the drawing number with the last letter being B
the first letter of the common name and followed by numeral(s)
assigned in chronological order.
The Symbols system
seems to have first appeared on Caliber .30 BMG drawings for the M1919
Aircraft Machine Gun.
The barrel drawing number was D32 and the Symbol was EEB1.
If you looked at the Finding Diagram for the M1919 BAMG
the barrel would be identified as EEB1 then you looked at Sheet 51-25-1A
found the barrel symbol and looked at the column to the left and there was
the drawing number.
In the Symbols system all "barrels"
for whatever weapon would be grouped under EEB so engineers could quickly
locate all the barrel designs in the Ordnance system.
Detailed instructions for
using Symbols appeared in the 1934 version of the "Drafting Room Regulations
of the Ordnance Department of the United States Army "
The whole Symbols system was abandoned about 1936,
likely because it was redundant and the use of drawing numbers would serve
the same function.
There are quite a few drawings made after the Symbols system was
discontinued that have the "Symbol" box in the title block with no entries.
Ordnance must have been using up the drawing medium
drawing 51-84-1A, List of Parts and Specifications, is dated September 30, 1936,
it is the original without revision, and makes no reference to instructions for
individual piece marks. However, it does make reference to Piece Mark
instructions on drawing B169913
We are of
the opinion that all marking instructions continued to be on the drawing for the
part itself and there were no general instructions for marking M1919A4 parts
until January 22, 1941 when drawing B169913 appeared.
Our copy of this drawing,
entitled “PIECEMARK INSTRUCTIONS” has no authorizing signatures, but does
contain the draftsman’s initials and a note “New tracing made 4-7-41” and is
signed “A.W. Roe”.
A civilian employee of the
Ordnance Department, Mr. Roe's signature appears on many RIA produced
Pertains To” block shows both drawing 51-83-1A and 51-84-1A, the M1919A4 Fixed
and Flexible BMG’s and has a list of the parts to be marked and a note advising
that piece marks, and their locations, can be found on the drawing for that part
andthat no other parts need be
marked regardless of instructions to the contrary on the drawings.
There are no manufacturer’s identification marks listed on this drawing.
B169913 as redrawn on April 4, 1941
takes a more comprehensive approach.
does it list the same parts and drawing numbers as the previous version but it
adds a table of manufacture’s identification marks and directs that the parts
listed have both the manufacturer’s marking and the drawing number and adds the
note that the manufacturer may place his markings on additional components with
the Chief of Ordnance’s approval.
This goes a
long way to explaining why some manufacturers, like Buffalo Arms marked all
kinds of parts that the Ordnance Department didn’t require to be marked.
variety of manufacturers, some, like Frigidaire, AC Spark Plug, Saginaw Steering
Gear, and Brown-Lipe-Chapin are General Motors subsidiary companies and had
previously produced everything from household appliances to auto parts.
GM companies went on to be the high quality, low cost providers of weapons.
those manufacturer’s marks that consisted of letters only had periods after
each letter i.e. S.A. for Springfield Armory.
B169913 Revision 1 dated 1-19-42 removed the periods after the letters
and added the bottom plate to the list of parts required to be marked.
None of the subsequent drawings up to Revision 9 dated 10-7-44 have the
periods after the letters.
The 1-19-42 date for Revision 1 on B169913 coincides
with the Revision 6 date on drawing D35392 which required imprinting the bottom
plate with the piece mark and manufacturer’s mark.
the periods after the letters, shown on Revision 1, to be a drafting error
corrected by Revision 2rather than
an explanation ofwhy some Saginaw
Steering Gear produced parts are marked S.G. rather than the more common SG
It is a distinct possibility that the S.G. marked 1919A4 parts may have been produced at the Grand Rapids, MI plant rather than the
Saginaw, MI plant and so marked to identify which plant produced them.
Saginaw used a variation of the same system to
identify M1 carbine parts produced at the different plants.
manufacturer’s identification marks listedon the B169913 drawing dated April 7, 1941 list some manufacturer’s that
are not usually connected with weapons manufacture and some identification marks
that differ from markings on M1917’s such as the marks for Remington and Colt’s.
Typically, Remington M1917 parts were marked with the R enclosed in a
triangle and the Colt’s C in a box.
The marking for Westinghouse produced parts, a W in a circle remained unchanged.
One explanation for some of the manufacturers listed is that at the time
the April 7,1941 drawing was prepared, it was unknown who, or how many of the
firms listed would actually be producing M1919’s or component parts, as this
drawing predated the U.S. entry into WWII.
It is also possible that this was a generic list of manufacturers marks,
as Frigidaire, AC Spark Plug, Brown-Lipe-Chapin, Savage, Kelsey-Hayes and
High-Standard went on to produce 50 Caliber BMG’s, and other weapons and parts.
There is no
mention of a manufacturer’s mark for Border Cities Industries, Windsor, ON,
Canada (BC/BCI) because M1919’s produced by BCI were not produced under Ordnance
Border Cities Industries was a GM Canada subsidiary, and produced M1919’s for
Canadian and other British Commonwealth forces.As of this writing we do not know exactly which parts were required to be
marked by Canadian Ordnance.
Revision 2 (2-23-42) removed the requirement that the cocking lever be marked
with the piece mark, the manufacturer’s marking was all that was required from
this point on.
It also removed the periods following the letters in the
manufacturers marks.The triangle
precedingLever, Cockingis a symbol used on this drawing to indicate “Manufacturer’s
(3-3-42) removed the requirement
that the ejector be marked with the piece mark, probably the manufacturers of
this very small part complained about the difficulty of marking it.
After 3-3-42 only the manufacturers mark was required.
has much relevance to identifying original, that is to say unmodified, extractor
assemblies. Most of the 1919 parts and parts kits available today “repatriated”
from Israel have had the bolts and extractor assemblies modified including
replacing the ejectors with one supposedly better suited to the design of the 7.62X51 NATO
cartridge which has a very different extractor groove than the U.S. Cal.30
Revision 4(3-30-42) to B169913 added the rear sight base spring to the parts no
longer requiring the manufacturers mark.
Revision 5(5-15-42) added the M1919A5
to the “Drawing Pertains To” block.
Revision 6(6-18-42)added an alternate
design rear sight base spring (A13157A) to the list of parts and required the
manufacturer’s mark only.
Revision 7(3-19-43) changed the drawing number of the extractorfrom C8464 to D44087.
(7-22-43)removed both styles of
the rear sight base spring from all marking requirements.
revision also added Gellman Manufacturing company (GC) to the list of manufacturers.Gellman was located in Rock Island, IL and Davenport, IA, and was, from
our research, involved in manufacturing metal products.
The Rock Island Argus newspaper archives carried a story about aGellman subsidiary company, Mississippi Foundry Corporation, opening a
plant in 1933 on First St. in Rock Island.
Gellman also apparently produced
hand tools as there are several
wrenches listed on collectable tool websites.
We also discovered appellate court records from 1961 concerning a law
suit against Gellman regarding failure to deliver, as specified, bread
slicing/wrapping machinery to a customer.
unknown as of this writing which M1919 parts Gellman produced.However “Hard Rain” (Iannamico) mentions that “General Motors
Corporation, Detroit, MI” and “Guide Lamp Division of General Motors
Corporation, Anderson, IN” were
producers of M1919 barrels.“GL”(Guide Lamp) marked barrels are not uncommon, possibly the “General
Motors” barrels were confused with barrels marked “GC”, however this is only
conjecture as it is unknown whether or not Gellman ever produced barrels.
Since Gellman appears to have been in the metal fabricating
business, and owned a foundry, they could have produced nearly any part for the
M1919, or any other small arm for that matter.
We have seen
M1919A6 Stellite barrels with a RIA-G marking which might indicate that RIA
contracted with Gellman to manufacture the “tube” (barrel) portion of the
Stellite assembly, but that begs the question why weren’t the barrels marked
RIA-GC.In any event, we know very
little for certain about Gellman parts.
I suspect that we will know much more about Gellman’s role in the
production of parts after this article becomes more widely circulated.
We tend to
learn much more about this subject from persons contributing to the base of
knowledge than from pure research.
available B169913 drawing, also a Revision 9, which is a “Blueprint”
reproduction of the original,
carriesthe note “SUPERCEEDED BY
B6169913 WO/C (without change) 5-10-48”.
Sometimes redrawing and renumbering to the 7 digit system
originally instituted in the November of 1943 was shown as a
numbered Revision but that does not
seem to be the case on this
redrawing/renumbering date is common with all of the other observed dates on
M1919 drawings that were redrawn using the seven digit drawing numbers required
by the 1943 plan to add commonality the drawing/part/stock number system.
well covers which parts were requiredby Ordnance to be marked, and the authorized manufactures identification
marks, however, is does nothing to shed light on other markings applied to parts
by various manufacturers to identify their sub-contractors, or their own
production facilities that produced individual parts.It is likely that after the passage 75 years or so the meaning of many of
these marks will remain a mystery.
What is not
a mystery is the “Proof “ marks and the world famous “Flaming Bomb” or the
equally famous “Crossed Cannons” Ordnance Corps escutcheon.
“Proof” mark signifying that the weapon or part had successfully passed a firing
prooftest using special high
pressure test cartridges was placed on the part or weapon as indicated on the
component or assembly drawing. This mark was a upper case “P” the size and
location or which varied with the part and the individual weapon.
Weapons with wooden stocks often had the
‘P” proof mark, sometimes enclosed in a circle, imprinted on the bottom of the
.30 M2 Ball cartridge has a normal operating pressure of about 50,000 PSI.
at least 2 types of “Proof” cartridges, one had an operating pressure of about
68,000 PSI and one with a 75,000 PSI operating pressure.
These pressures were produced by using either a greater propellant charge
or a heavier projectile or both.
don’t know why there were two different requirements.
required that the barrel, barrel extension, bolt assembly, and of course the
completedM1919 weapon undergo a
proof/function firing test.
This is, as
far as we know from the drawings we have examined, these arethe only M1919 components requiring the “P” imprint.
the proof/function testing of the completed weapon consisted of firing some
number of proof cartridges along with some number of Ball cartridges.
This would be a pretty straight forward process and the Base Shop Data
book shows sight alignment and firing fixtures.
What we do not know is how the component parts, that is those parts that
were not installed on a completed weapon, were proofed, or if they were proofed
prior to being installed on the complete weapon and the final test was just a
function test, the component parts having been previously proofed.
a very highly used replacement part and every barrel was required to be proofed, no
doubt there was some high speed production method that was developed to
research may yet uncover the Ordnance directives that describe the method and
equipment used to proof component parts and completed M1919‘s.
We now move
on to the “Flaming Bomb” and “Crossed Cannons” marks.
research may uncoverthe
circumstances under which of these marks were placed and where.
seemed to have the “Crossed Cannons” mark placed on the right side plateadjacent to the Ordnance Inspector’s initial’s.
Bomb” U.S. Ordnance symbol/property mark is seen in widely varied locations,
especially with Saginaw Steering Gear produced weapons.
further investigations may disclose Ordnance directives specifying where these
marks should have been placed.
seems to have placed these markings in many locations, the purpose of these
marks is, as yet, unclear.
“Flaming Bomb” is a Ordnance mark, not a proprietary mark of any one
manufacturer, although Saginaw seems to have used the “Flaming Bomb” for just
One reason for this
might be that for a period of time between 1943 and 1945 Saginaw was the only
manufacturer of complete M1919 ground BMG’s
seems to have placed final proof “P’s” and “Flaming Bomb” marks overlapping the
joint between the left side plate and the top plate near the rear sight bracket.
The drawings we have reviewed indicate that the final
firing proof was supposed to be imprinted on the right side plate just to
the rear of the right mount adaptor.
What authority directed this placement of the other
flaming bomb markings is, at yet, unknown, but this
is a good method for identifying probable Saginaw production, even if the right
side plate is missing as it is in the of “parts kits“.
My kit built
semi-auto U.S./Saginaw/Izzy/ OOW/A4/A6 mutt has a mismatched top/left side
plate, as the stamped marks are not in alignment.
familiar with M1919’s view stamping
in this area as proof that the weapon was produced
by Saginaw, however, we do not have at this writing anything definitive to confirm this.
disclaimer must be noted.While the
information used to prepare this article was obtained from actual Ordnance
drawings there is no guarantee that during wartime production these very
detailed directives were followed in every instance.The more we learn, the more we discover how little we understand about
what actually went on.
A Korean war
vintage RIA produced Revision 22 bottom plate note the 7 digit part number
6535233 which replaced the earlier D35233 piece mark number on the1948drawing.This plate is most likely a replacement part as it shows no evidence of
ever being assembled into a complete weapon.
courtesy of Rollin Lofdahl
is of a Rock Island Arsenal produced D35392 MP (modified part) bottom plate.
This specialized bottom plate was used in the conversion of WWI era M1917
water cooled Browning machine guns to M1917A1 water cooled and M1919A4 air
cooled weapons used in WWII.
courtesy of “CaptMax”
This photo shows a Gellman marked ejector attached to a Gellman
Photo by Douglas Dague
barrel markings on a D35233 Revision 6barrel produced by Saginaw Steering Gear Division of General Motors.
The “P” proof mark is located just below the G in SG the Ordnance
“Flaming Bomb” is just visible below the piece mark the 2 “C” ‘sstamped on the barrel are most likely Saginaw production codes.
used many subcontractors to produce M1919 parts and had the subcontractor apply
number codes to identify their production.This M1919 lock framehas a
223 code imprinted on the lock frame separator along with Buffalo‘s BA
The accelerator stop stud shown in the upper left is marked
“BA 80“, the left and right side plates are marked “135” and the spacer, not
visible in this picture is marked “11”. this lock frame consisting of 7 parts
appears to have had 4 different production codes.
This is not uncommon on Buffalo produced parts.
According to Iannamico in “Hard Rain“, Buffalo Arms only produced 36 of
the nearly 189 parts of the M1919A4 in house, the rest were produced by
The identify of the various subcontractors is unknown as the
marks were required by Buffalo Arms not the Ordnance Department and the records
are long gone.
hobbyist, or collector puts great store in being able to date or identify thevarious parts, either by piece marks or design changes to the part, I am
fairly certain that the combat users of these weapons occupied themselves with
more practical concerns.
praying was doneon the way into
Omaha Beach than wondering when a weapon or part was produced and who
CREDITS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
contains mostly original sourced material, where other sources are used, they
have been credited in the body of the article.
All of the
Ordnance drawings through the courtesy of Jodie Creen Wesemann, Rock Island
Arsenal Museum.Without her
assistance none of the information we have presented in this article, or our
other attempts to shed light on the M1919 enigma, would be possible.Not only does she provide the drawings, but more importantlyshares her “finds”.We have
discovered more through Jo’s “Would this help ?” offerings than by structured
Lofdahl also contributed much as usual, his collection of parts, and extensive
contacts in the 1919 community are most helpful and greatly appreciated.
A special thanks to SHOTS the founder of the 1919a4.com forum
for offering a place to post and discuss our information.
not least, thank you to all the 1919a4.com forum members for their comments,
encouragement and suggestions, and even their criticism.
All of us have a piece of the big puzzle and by sharingour observations, experience, and knowledge we all benefit.