Behind the Scenes at the Smith & Wesson Factory, Part I

Smith & Wesson Factory
Smith & Wesson was founded in 1852 by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson as the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. It became Smith & Wesson in 1856. The building we visited dates to 1946. Built with the Cold War looming, it was made to be bombproof, at least by WWII standards. There is enough space in hardened basement rooms with thick concrete ceilings supported by massive pillars that the entire gunmaking operation could be moved below ground in the event the Russians bombed the factory. Editors
Smith & Wesson Parts
The guns begin as forgings. Along the top of the picture you can see how a piece of metal stock takes shape as the frame of a pistol. The steel is heated and stamped in giant presses. You know when the forges are working, even if you’re in another part of the huge factory. S&W also makes parts for the auto industry and Harley Davidson, a few of which you see there. Editors
Smith & Wesson Factory Tour
The entire factory floor used to consist of wooden blocks set grainside up absorb oil. The last few remaining sections of wooden flooring are in the forge. The rest of the factory floors are concrete and very clean. Editors
Smith & Wesson Gun Parts
S&W controls every aspect of production. They make their own cutting tools at the factory. No, they don’t sell these to dentists. Editors
Smith & Wesson Gun Slide parts
S&W’s Paul Pluff shows Gordon a slide made in a seven-axis milling machine. It can make many, many different cuts on one piece of steel, and takes the place of several old machines. For instance, revolver cylinders used to require 72 separate machining operations. Now cylinders are made on two machines. Editors
Smith & Wesson milling machines
Before and after: bar stock comes out of the milling machine as a completed slide. Factory tolerances now run as tight as 1/10 of a thousandth of an inch. The machines also monitor the sharpness of the tools as they cut. Says Pluff: “When people tell me “You don’t make ’em like you used to,” I say “You’re right. Now we make them better.” Editors
Smith & Wesson Assembly Area
The assembly area is very secure. We had to pass through a metal detector to make sure we weren’t going to smuggle out revolver pieces to put together at home. This man is fitting the barrel on a .460 revolver. Editors
Smith & Wesson AR Style assemblies
The M&P 15 22 Ar-style rimfires are also built in Springfield and right now S&W is selling them as fast as they can make them, both to recreational shooters and to law enforcement agencies for use as inexpensive AR stand-ins in training. During all assembly each worker checks the work of the person before him or her – it’s quality control by peer pressure. Check back for Part II of this inside look at Smith & Wesson. Editors