Union switch and signal 1911

Discussion in 'The 1911 Forum' started by gklein, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. gklein

    gklein New Member

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    Hello, I am looking to get some information about a US&S 1911 that I have inherited. This gun was my fathers who I believe got it from his uncle. He either worked at US&S and acquired it or I believe he was in the service and possibly got it. He lived in swissvale,pa. I can't find this exact gun on any sites. It has the Union switch and signal, swissvale pa on the side, but that is the only markings that it has. No serial#, no "P", no rcd......nothing else. Anybody know what I have here??
  2. gdmoody

    gdmoody Moderator Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum. It would help with identification if you dould post some pictures.
  3. dragman

    dragman New Member

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    I would really like some pics of this gun!!!
  4. gklein

    gklein New Member

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    Yes, I will put some pics up in the next day or two. Thanks
  5. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

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    I have a one and a half line reference here in a book to Union switch and signal 1911

    "second rarest model ever made , (55,000 total made, with 47,000 scraped or sold as parts after loss of contract) only the Singer model is rarer with 500 made and 450 (approx. figures) known today"

    below is the pic of the markings


    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2011
  6. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

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    and this from my Military arms of ww2 ( chester and warne 1982)

    Union Switch & Signal company of Swissvale Pennsylvania, primarily made railroad signaling equipment but received a contract on May 5, 1942 for the manufacture of 200,000 M1911A1 pistols. The first pistols were accepted by Ordnance inspectors in January 1943, but the company received word that their contract would be canceled, due to a severe drop in requirements for the pistol. Within a month U.S.&S. had signed a contract to supply carbine parts. On March 8, 1943 the company was officially notified that their contract had been cut back from 200,000 pistols to 30,000 pistols. However on June 26th, when the contract was nearly complete, and many of the workers had been transferred to Carbine operations, the company received a letter of intent to purchase an additional 25,000 pistols. The last of the pistols was shipped on November 27, 1943. 55,000 Union Switch and Signal pistols were delivered serial numbered from 1041405 to 1096404 with peak production reaching 650 pistols a day.

    U.S.&S. pistols are the second rarest of the M1911A1s (55,000 produced), only the Singer is rarer (500 produced). None of the Union Switch & Signal 1911A1s have the crossed cannons ordnance stamp even thought the practice was standardized in late 1942. Also most of the early pistols up through about serial 1060100 received no “P” proof on the slide and frame. From about 1060100 to about 1082000, the “P” proof was applied, but at the Left edge of the slide where the curved part meets the flat. This was due to a poorly drawn ordnance drawing showing the placement of the proof. From about 1082000 to the end of production, the “P” was placed in its normal location on the top of the slide (center in front of rear sight). When the "P" proof mark is found it will be on both the slide and receiver and be of the same size. Notice the "P" proof stamp is smaller then Colts but still an uppercase letter.
    The number of different machining operations performed by US&S on the parts for the pistol, was 600. These required the services of 658 different machines; 421 types of cutting and drilling tools; 239 different fixtures, and 447 different gages. While the Government owned the machines, gages and fixtures, US&S provided its own perishable tools. The receiver for each pistol underwent 106 individual operations, during which some four fifths of its weight was machined from the original forging.

    Another interesting fact is the development of the US&S firing range, the design of which was later adopted by various pistol manufacturers including Colt. On the range each of the 55,000 pistols produced was test fired 21 times. Not a single pistol manufactured and assembled by US&S was rejected by the resident ordnance department inspector, of the 55,000 pistols fired by the US&S inspector before being passed to the Government Inspector, only two failed in one test. They were found to be completely automatic in action, firing seven shots with one trigger pull. US&S was consistently rated high in tests for Interchangeability of parts. The test was conducted once a month, the four producers of the pistol being required to send six pistols each to the key inspectors of the small arms pistol industry integration committee. The pistols were taken apart, the parts scrambled, and the 24 pistols re-assembled.

    It is reported that Union Switch & Signal produced high quality pistols and did not experience the extreme production problems that Remington Rand and Ithaca had. The ordinance department reported the Union Switch & Signal pistols had a superior finish and consistently rated high in the interchangeability tests. According to the Springfield Research database a lot of these pistols were shipped to the Navy and the OSS.

    This early example has the P on both the slide and receiver which is unusual. It was not acceptable for one reason or another and sent to the Salvage Crib to correct the malfunction. This happened to many pistols, and is only noticeable on this one because of the late date of adopting the P. There were so many, for example Ithaca sometimes had 10% or more, they became backlogged and often took several weeks or longer to get repaired depending on the severity of the problem. By the time this pistol was submitted or resubmitted for acceptance the P proof mark had been adopted. This pistol is a very collectible oddity .

    It may have been the pistol was held back due to problems with the slide or disconnector that US&S had in early production. The slide had a maximum tolerance allowed in the diameter of the drilled barrel hole on the slide of .002". This was a special problem because the steel was hard to machine. This piece had a total of 94 operations in all performed on it. Manufacture of the disconnector suffered because of inadequate gaging procedure. Inspection requirements on this piece later were changed by the Ordnance Department. In any case it makes this a very unique early specimen in outstanding 99% condition. Reference Charles Clawson's “Colt .45 Service pistols”, various Government and US&S documents and correspondence with C.W. (Chuck) Clawson
  7. BillM

    BillM Active Member

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    Just guessing, but it kind of sounds like you have a lunchbox gun. How
    is the finish on it? The parts probably "left the factory" before they got
    inspected, serial numbered or finished.
  8. gklein

    gklein New Member

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    Here are some pictures of the US&S 1911

    Attached Files:

  9. flintlock

    flintlock Active Member

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    This is an interesting thread! US&S 1911A1 are pretty rare. I have a 1911A1 that has a US&S frame and a Remington Rand slide. Arsenal re-build most likely. I have been looking for the correct slide for years, just haven't had the money($400-$500) when one shows up!
  10. gklein

    gklein New Member

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    The finish is in pretty nice shape. I got some light reflection in the pictures, but the finish is pretty uniformly blued.
  11. TheGunClinger

    TheGunClinger Active Member Supporting Member

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    Any pics of top view and rear view? I am having diffuculty finding anything about any US&S's without ser#'s or any other markings on the frame.
  12. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    That gun has had the heck ground out of it, and given a very bad reblue. It is likely that the frame markings, including the serial number, were removed when it was attacked. That makes it not a lunchbox gun but a firearm from which the serial number has been removed, and possession of which is a federal felony.

    It is not only without collector value but is trouble with a capital "T".

    Jim
  13. RJay

    RJay Active Member

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    Jim is correct, that is not a lunch box gun, the serial number and US Property markings were removed because someone was afraid that a Sherman tank would roll up to the front door and demand the Armys property back.
  14. muddober

    muddober Active Member

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    I, like Jim K, think the gun has seen a butcher reblue it. While the lack of a serial number is problematic and illegal I don't see it as big a problem for you especially if you make some attempt to bring out the numbers chemically or electronically. You might want to contact Turnbull they have the ability to pull up and re-engrave all the numbers writings etc. that may have been inadvertently ground off, including bringing the gun to 100% original. It might cost 3 to 5 grand but when done you would have a gun worth two to three times that amount.

    Ron
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2011
  15. TheGunClinger

    TheGunClinger Active Member Supporting Member

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    I was thinking what Jim K said but didnt want to say anything til I saw and heard more. Jim, Rjay, and Mud know they say.
    My first thoughts on this gun were "Wow! How nice and shiney and buffed out!"
    I was thinking that someone had a US&S slide but the wrong frame so they polished off all the lettering so that it might look real to the unknowing.
  16. BillM

    BillM Active Member

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    Not disagreeing with those much more knowledgable than me---but is it possible
    that the frame left the factory "in the white", after machining but before any finishing?
    Could what we are seeing be a kitchen table polish job? Look at the rough machining
    marks inside the dished out part behind the trigger on the left side. Are there any
    non-destructive methods to raise a serial number or "U.S. Property" stamp?
  17. gklein

    gklein New Member

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    This gun has been in the family forever. I'm 47 and I know my dad has had the gun at least that long. I'm sure he got it from his uncle who either worked at US&S or lived close by in edgewood/swissvale. His uncle was also in the service so it may have come from there....not sure. If the gun was refinished it would have been done a long time ago. My dad never said anything about it being refinished but I understand we don't know what might have been done years ago. Thanks for all the input!!
  18. deadin

    deadin Well-Known Member

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    Buy the gun, not the story! And this one has NO provenance whatsoever.
    If the serial could be raised and determined to be in the US&S range, it still, at least, a refinished gun and worth nowhere near as much as an original as there would have to be further "refinishing" to make it legal.
    If it's a US&S slide on anything else, it's a parts gun and would qualify as a shooter. The lack of a serial is very problematic whether removed or never had one. (i.e. lunchbox) Either way, it could be trouble. If it had one, removing it is illegal. If never had one, how are you to prove that it was an actual US&S frame to begin with? (Or any actual GI frame in the first place.)
  19. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Even that slide has been ruined by polishing down.

    FWIW, a "lunchbox" gun was one smuggled out of the factory in a lunchbox (or more likely in the worker's clothing), probably as parts from the scrap pile. They are not finished, are often only partially machined, and the parts are usually not hardened. They might or might not have serial numbers or other markings. They are interesting, if left just as they came (i.e., were stolen) from the factory, but have little collector value. If the receiver/frame was never serial numbered (and serial numbering was the last step just before final polish and bluing or Parkerizing) the gun would be legal in that regard, though it would still be stolen property.

    But, the term "lunchbox gun" is often used to deceive a buyer or as a coverup term for a gun from which markings have been illegally removed, not just never applied. It is also often used for a mismatched gun with a dubious number. At a recent gun show, I saw a "M1911A1" with a beat up Remington-Rand slide and a "no-name" frame with a hand stamped number being touted as a "rare lunchbox special." It would have deserved the name only if seller threw it together at lunch time; it had little value except as maybe a shooter if it functioned properly, which I doubted it would.

    Jim
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2011
  20. gklein

    gklein New Member

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    Thank you all for the opinions and information. That is not the best news about this gun but seems to be the only explanation. That being said, what is the best thing to do with this gun and does it still have any value?
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The 1911 Forum Union Switch & Signal Jan 10, 2010