WW2 Union Switch & Signal 1911 Manufacturing Documentary

Union Switch and Signal are some of the most valuable 1911’s from the Second World War due to their rarity. Originally contracted for 200,000 units, the company was only able to delivery about 55,000 handguns to the government. They are the second rarest of the pistols from the period with only the sewing company Singer’s being harder to find with only about 500 units manufactured.

Sponsored by Periscope Films, it seems that the War Department or Union Switch and Signal themselves produced a documentary on the manufacturing of the 1911A1 handgun during the conflict. The classic film shows the general processes, skipping over the physical cutting of the metal.

Different from many other films, the documentary shows the bare forgings and billets that were used at the time including the frame, slide, mainspring housing, ejector, backstrap safety, and the disconnector. The use of forgings greatly reduced manufacturing costs through the reduction in needed materials and cutting time to make the handguns.

Perhaps the most interesting portion of the video is the time-lapsed cuts on one of those frame forgings, which required more than 100 unique operations to manufacture at the time. Modern CNC takes care of this now in almost a single operation.

Check out the video below. Note, its a silent film, but I am confident one can imagine the standard 1940’s voiceover and cheerful orchestra.

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • datimes

    Don’t just love a woman who can machine and/or assemble a 1911?

    • Ranger Rick

      The blonde at 6:40 is my kinda girl.😃

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Cool! I have a Switch and Signal 1911, I’ll apparently have to watch this.

    One contention though, I’ve only ever seen one, but I thought the M&M Mars 1911 was more rare.

  • jonp

    Friend of mine from NJ that moved north was talking guns one day and he told me he had his dads 1911 and wanted to go shooting. Yeah, I almost crapped myself when I saw it was a Singer. He had no idea what it was or its value. It was just an old gun he kept in a drawer and shot once in a while

  • Cymond

    I know a guy who has a US&S. His brother has a Singer. Both were collected postwar by their father who served on the USS Farquhar (DE-139).

    I need to convince them to get together with a camera, drive the 1911 collectors nuts.

    • Haulin’ Oats

      I’ve recently seen an old man walking around with a USS Farquhar hat in a retirement home.