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.