The M3A1 Combination Tool©

A Short History of its Production and Identification of its Makers, Part 2

Probable Post War, Foreign Makers, Conversions, and Reproduction

This is the second part of a two part series dealing with the production and history of the M3A1 Combination Tool.  Post war information is almost non-existent.  The information gathered is based upon a base knowledge, inspections of packed tools, and speculation.  No speculation will be offered as facts; I will always identify the uncertainties. All tools covered in this part have Type III blades.

 Probable US Production, Post War Period

Unknown Maker (W-M, marking on body)

Marking of W-M indicates a possible contractor/sub-contractor.  As shown in Part 1, Mossberg and Son was a subcontractor for brush bushings. This may indicate a revised marking format, very late war, to reflect both entities.

The Case for WWII Production

The tool which has the most mystery behind it is W-M marked.  During the study of WWII production, the name O.F. Mossberg and Sons of New Haven, Ct. appeared in a few documents.  Mossberg provided Brush Bushings to at least two contractors, American Shearer (AR) and Parker Manufacturing (PK). It may also have been a sub-contractor with a New York State Company named Wallkill Machine Company for Union Fork and Hoe.  There exists the possibility that Union Fork and Hoe received the Brush Bushings from Mossberg and the remainder of the tool from Wallkill Machine Co as there are notations denoting the tool was subcontracted out.  

The attempt to sort everything involves the markings.  The approved identification markings as of September of 1944 had WM listed as Wallkill Machine Co., and, when used with American Shearer, M for Mossberg.   After inspecting many AR tools, including the bushings, I have never seen an M marking. I suspect there had to be some deviations in the use of the approved markings. The existence of the dash in W-M might show a combined contract of Wallkill Machine with Mossberg as a sub-contractor.  The question then becomes why two markings on this contract and not on earlier ones?

If it is a sub-contract situation it would not be the first time a dash was used as an indicator.  Certain M1 Carbine contracts used the dash to show contractor/sub-contractor relationships.

If this combination of producers holds true, production was very small.  The contract does not show up as being $50,000.00 or more in government listings.  That would indicate very small production numbers. 

The Case For Postwar Production

This combination tool is only one of two items that I have seen marked with a dash. The other one is an M7A3 Grenade Launcher.  The Grenade Launcher was delivered during May of 1954 with the marking L-M.  It has been erroneously reported as having been produced by Long Manufacturing.  The contractor box lists the maker as L-M Manufacturing of Roseville, Michigan.  The existence of this dash provides no information other than it was probably part of the company name. There may have been a W-M Manufacturing in that time period.  To further confuse the issue Mill-Rose Manufacturing has a dash is its corporate name.  Doing a search on recent Defense Logistics Agency contracts I have seen many corporate names with two letters separated by a dash.

Also complicating the issue was the 1953 adoption of the M10 Cleaning Rod.  The rod was supposed to render the M3A1 tool obsolete. Tools would still be produced but only in small quantities as replacements to supply armorers' tool sets. These would be marked with the ordnance part number. Logic says the production of tools for issue to the average GI would have ended.  Unfortunately logic may not always be the answer. It would not surprise me to find that the W-M was produced after that 1953 date of the M10 adoption.

Maybe it is just an unfortunate coincidence that the W-M contractor had initials similar to two possible WWII contractors. Until I get some definitive proof of its history, the W-M will go into the post war category as unknown.  In today’s market the W-M remains one of the scarcer markings, but surely not rare.

The Union Hardware Company (UHC, marking on body)

This tool was produced at The Union Hardware Company of Torrington, Ct., during the years of 1950-1951.  Information comes from a gun show attendee who worked there during the production.  At the time of his employment he was a young "Go For".  His goal at the gun show was to purchase a Union Hardware M3A1 Tool.  He and his time period sounded credible. This tool is plentiful in today's market.

Union Hardware Company.

  1. R. Wilson, Arcade, New York (KRW, marking inside circle on body)

This company was very active making ordnance items during its M3A1 production period.  K. R. Wilson produced M7A2 and M7A3 Grenade Launchers, and M3A1 Combination Tools during the period of 1952-1953.  This too is one of the most common markings found.  The KRW tool is so common, many can still be found in their original green grease wrappers from 1952.

  1. R. Wilson's marking of KRW inside Circle.

Original package of 10 from July of 1952.

Unknown Maker (Makers) (J002-73-10061 & J002-73-1006-1, markings on bodies) (1)

These two tools were produced between 1953 and 1958 by one or more unknown contractors.  They were made as replacements to supply armorers' tool kits. I suspect these tools were contracted out of Rock Island Arsenal due to the SNL change.  In 1951 the combination tool was listed in the Garand SNL B-21 as J-12, the category for Tool Sets for Maintenance of Automotive, Weapons, Mounts, and Trailer Mounts. Sometime later Rock Island got the responsibility for the stocking and contracting of all Tool Sets and I suspect that is when the change took place. It is not unusual to see Ordnance Part Numbers broken up in a variety of formats during the years preceding gradual merging of two different numbering systems.  See Below (2)

The tools' markings, for the first time, included the Standard Nomenclature Listing (SNL).  SNL's are a separate study but a short explanation is in order.  Under the SNL system each item was assigned a letter code and a number to identify its initial end use.  For example the M1907 Leather Sling was originally assigned B-3 which covered items assigned to the 1903 Rifle. However it was also be listed in SNL B-21 (Garand) because it was used with the M1. When printed in the Garand's SNL it showed B-3 as the sling’s assigned category. This showed the user of the SNL that the Garand used an 03 sling.

Both of these tools are quite rare.

Top: J002-73-10061
2 different SNL marked tools, maker or makers unknown. Segmented part numbers occurred in the period just before change over to the FSN system.  I cannot understand why they took an established, well understood system, and confused things by segmenting the numbers.  It makes no sense.

Unknown Maker  (1005  731 0061, marking on body)

Probably the last US GI contract, and probably the smallest.  The only tool observed with the then newly adopted Federal Stock Number (FSN) used as a marking.  Time period is probably early to mid 1960's.  Most likely this tool was procured as a replacement in the Armorers' Tool Kits.  The below photo is not the actual tool.  About a year ago I took meticulous notes when consolidating all the post war information.  It is, as of this writing, missing.  I am hoping it is just misplaced and not gone forever. Other than the conversion listed below, this is probably the rarest of all US M3A1's due to small production numbers. This contract's probable small size was most likely dictated by the very late time of production.

As explained above, thanks to this Adobe Photo Program I can recreate what is missing.  I also have a claim of a West German tool from the late 1950's.  The tool would be marked 1005 50 731 0051. The addition of the two digits 5 and 0 indicated West Germany.  I have not seen the tool and when I asked for a picture I received no response. Seeing is believing so as of now I am a skeptic. (The two digits were part of NATO's adoption of our FSN system; they were known as "country of origin indicators". Our later adoption of the National Stock Number system brought country and time indicators to the US numbering system, while changing all the previous NATO indicators).

Unknown Maker (TN, marking on body)

Not much is known about this tool. There is some suspicion that it was produced at the Terni Arsenal in Italy, but no proof is available. Very large amounts of Italian production came into the US during the late 1990’s. I had seen this combination tool for many years before the big importation. Until I get confirmation of the Italian connection I will assume it to be US. In the future that may be proven to be wrong. This tool is very plentiful in today's market.

Unknown Maker, always referred to as TN.  There is a possibility it is NT.

Known Foreign Production

Manufacture D'Armes de Saint-Etienne, France (MAS with partial box and symbol on body)

This tool was produced at Manufacture D'Armes de Saint-Etienne in France during the late 1940's, early 1950's. This information was obtained from the late Charles Hittle who was the sales manager at Interarmco, in Alexandria, Va.  In 1967 Interarmco had imported M1 rifles from France and a quantity of these tools were in the butt traps, along with some French oilers as shown below.  Compared to the importation totals of M1 Rifles in recent years, very few came in from France. Of all the foreign produced M3A1's, this is the most difficult one to obtain.

MAS marking with partial box and unidentifiable symbol.
m3a1 mas 02

MAS produced combination tool with French butt stock oiler.

Pietro Beretta, Italy (P.B. & OMA Triangle, PB, and GR PB) & Possibly Danish Production/Use

These tools are very common in today's market. During the time this article is being written all Italian produced tools are the most common ones available. The OMA marking has been seen on parts on an experimental BM59 from the 1955 era. These tool are very plentiful in today's market; they are literally underfoot. Not much history is known about these tools.

Commonly available Italian Production P.B., letters OMA inside of triangle. Of the Italian production this one appears to be the scarcest.

PB mark, another Italian tool.

 GR  PB another very common Italian tool.

In the late 1990's many tens of thousands of tools were imported into the United States. The various batches consisted largely of the Italian production mixed with smaller amounts of US production from all eras. Most of the tools were very well used.

One characteristic of a well used tool is the tightness of the swiveling arms. When new, the arms will remain closed in a tight position for butt stock stowage. During my years I have had many M3A1 tools that were new in original wrap. It was always a chore to pry apart the swiveling arms of new tools. As the tool goes through the repeated processes of opening and closing the rivet loosens. The tightness issue is the only way to estimate the amount of past use. Also remember that re-finishing can hide a lot of sins. There still is a glut of Italian produced tools for sale.

With current market conditions, this is a best time to attempt to expand a collection of tools by design or markers. There are more M3A1 combination tools in this country today than at any other time in history.

Korean Production, time period unknown (Various symbols on body)

The easiest way to identify a Korean produced (rebuilt or modified) tool is by the absence of the standard rivet. The Koreans used a hex shaped lock with lock ring to adhere the swiveling arms to the tool's body. Another oddity of Korean production is the reversed stuck cartridge remover. This tool is not readily available in today's market.

Top:  Reversed stuck cartridge remover used on Korean Production (and rebuilds), facing downward when in use. It grabs the top of the cartridge case. Also notice the hex lock and ring in place of the standard rivet.
Bottom:  Standard stuck cartridge remover used on every other country's production. Notice it faces upward and grabs the bottom of the cartridge case.

All Korean tools in my possession are very loose, indicating either different adhering abilities of the hex lock or lots of use. I think the jury is still out on this one. You may also find tools of US origin with these characteristics. These tools were rebuilt or modified in Korea. 

GI Conversions

Maker (Converter): US Ordnance Department, postwar, time period unknown (Unmarked, as most M3 tools are)

Years ago I saw a depot pack of brush bushings.  It contained 5 bushings that had been packed in the early 1950's. I figured at the time that the bushings were for converting the M3 combination tool to M3A1 configuration. Now I wish I had purchased the pack.

After many years of searching, last year I was lucky enough to find the example in the photo below.  The original M3 tool was cut and required a precision bend, otherwise it would not have fit inside the butt stock. It would have been too long with the bushing and brush attached. Bending the tool shortened the overall length. Notice the stuck cartridge arm does not swivel as it does with all other M3A1's. On the M3 the arm is part of the overall body. This is by far the scarcest of all known combination tools.

Top: Standard M3 Combination Tool
Bottom: M3 Combination Tool converted to M3A1.

Maker (Converter):  US Ordnance Department, postwar, time period unknown (This one is PK but it could have any marking)

This is a neat oddity. The tool's brush has been permanently replaced with a piece of solid aluminum cylindrical stock. The aluminum piece enters the bore which stabilizes the tool. This modification converts the tool to a high speed extractor removal tool. Due to the lack of a chamber brush, the user does not experience resistance when inserting or removing the tool from the chamber. This tool may have been used to remove bolt extractors at a rebuild facility. 

This tool is a time saver when used on a rebuild line.


Wayne Machine Inc., Taipei, Taiwan (WMI, marked on blade)

This is the current reproduction as sold on certain web sites and in the Shotgun News. The example I have has a very loose rivet, which allows the arms to swivel every time the tool is handled. Unlike a GI tool this one will rattle when stored in the butt stock due to the looseness of the swiveling arms. Unlike the GI version the bushing and chamber brush are locked with hollow split pins. The example I have has an actual GI chamber brush. I am sure as GI brushes dry up the current made reproduction brush will be substituted. 

WMI marked on blade.  Tool is very loose, even when new.

Chamber Brushes

Chamber Brush Terms Click Here

Brushes were contracted two ways. Some were purchased from tool manufacturers and some were purchased from brush manufacturing companies. I have not done a search for WWII brush manufacturing company contracts but I do have some brush contracts from the tool suppliers. I also have post war contract information when all contracts were filled by brush manufacturers. It is also important to keep in mind that each tool contractor may have had more than one brush supplier. Part I goes into some of the historical information on the brush and pin contracts.

Below is a chart dealing with the identification of brushes. A mark indication on this chart shows only that the mark exists. Not all brushes used by that contractor may have that mark. I suspect some tool manufacturers used both marked and unmarked brushes. The brush base (coupling) is shown in two styles. The mid point of the brush's wire is mounted in the base and is visible from underneath.

Left:  Flush Base
Right:  Recessed Base






 Parker marked PK and American  Shearer mkd AR


Brass and Alloy



Holst Inc.  unmarked WWII


Brass and Alloy



Better Brushes
1953 & 1954


Best Quality of All Production



Mill Rose 1956


 Brass and Alloy


Photo Not Yet Available

 Danish- 1950's- 1960's

Brass, Recessed

Brass and Alloy and Brass

Crimped Brass


Chamber Brush Retaining Pins

Retention of the chamber brush inside the brush bushing is accomplish by a bright solid pin. Korea and Denmark have substituted roll pins when replacing chamber brushes. I have never seen a roll pin in any tool that has been released from US inventory. Roll pins are also a favorite of dealers because they are so cheap.

Holst, Inc. WWII Packed 600 to the box
Springfield Armory Possible production, but probably a repack, 10/pack.

The information on this page is my interpretation of limited government records and from inspecting several thousand combination tools.  As more information becomes available some aspects of what is written will change. 

(1) SNL's are shown with one zero, multiple zeros, dashes, or with no zeros.  Thus J002 is the same SNL as J02, J-2, or J2. According to two editions of Ord. 1, December of 1946 and January of 1950, items assigned to the SNL J002* (J-2) category were tools for Cutting, Boring and Tweezers. The folding of the swiveling arms closely resembled a tweezers. The J-2 assignment was mostly like used only during the last few contracts of the 1950’s.

(2)The assignment into an SNL was still pending during 1944.  All my UHF cartons have the marking SNL: OTE, which is Organizational Tools and Equipment. Eventually after the adoption of the Federal Stock Number (FSN) system, the M3A1's, irrespective of why they were purchased, were assigned to the 4933 grouping (Tool Sets) but not before spending a short time in the 1005 category (Weapons up to 30mm).  The SNL system was used during WWII (and earlier) and was finally merged into the Federal Stock Number (FSN) system in 1957.  Eventually the SNL system was scraped and by the late 1960's SNL markings disappeared and the system was history.

This information may be used freely for message boards discussions.  Permission must be granted for use on websites, for publication, or for inter-net auctions.  Don't be afraid to ask, you may be surprised.

WANTED:  Any M3A1 Combination Tool or Tools in original contractor's packaging from American Shearer, Holst, Inc., Atlas Manufacturing Co., The Union Hardware Company, or any unidentified M3A1 with the maker's name on the wrapper.  I also seek any other contactor where the packaging reflects either the company name or contract number and date.   I will pay top dollar.

 All inquiries regarding this history must be by email.