THE PARRIS-DUNN TRAINING RIFLE
Victory 1942 model
Mark I Navy model
Unfortunately, no Parris-Dunn production records still exist, so all of the information relating to them has been pieced together from other sources. An early employee by the name of Maurice O. Greimann wrote short article in 1984 concerning the Parris-Dunn Corp and his information has been invaluable. In 1943 Mr. Greimann came to work for the Parris-Dunn Corp. as an electrical engineer. When the work shifted to making Training Rifles he became involved in their production and designed the firing mechanism for the first toy guns they later produced.
The Parris-Dunn Corporation was founded by William G. Dunn and Cecil L Parris when they formed a business partnership in 1937. Each of these men brought unique contributions to this partnership. Although Dunn had no formal technical training he, like many great inventors, could see the interrelationships that existed between different mechanical devices and could modify or combine them to solve problems. Parris had a background as sales manager for the Kari-Kleen company of Souix City, Iowa and was a talented merchandiser. Initially Parris was the President of the corporation and Dunn the Vice-president but during the war years their positions reversed.
William G. Dunn (1883-1968) ran a hardware business in Clarinda, Iowa in the early 1900’s. In 1917 he formed the Dunn Counterbalance Company operating out of the back of his hardware store. He eventually built a factory on South 15th Street in Clarinda and the name was changed to the Dunn Manufacturing Co. He was a very talented inventor and eventually held patents for 75 different mechanical devices, many of which were related to the early automobile and aircraft industry. In 1934 he developed a wind driven generator that was designed for farm use. His primary invention was a device to control the speed of the propeller on this device. In 1936 he formed a partnership with Cecil Parris in order to better promote his generator business. In 1937 they sold 37,000 of these units. When WWII broke out in 1941 their wind generator business was declared nonessential and they were only allowed to make repair parts for the units already in use. There was a severe shortage of military firearms at the start of the war and they were approached by US Army Ordnance to produce a non-firing training rifle. Shortly after, the US Navy also expressed interest in this project but they wanted some slight modifications in their model.
In July of 1942 the Army let contract 271 ORD for 35,000 training rifles of their pattern at a cost of $166,000. In August the Navy let contract NROS 10993 for 190,000 training rifles having their changes at a cost of $903,000. In October of 1942 the Army contract was completed and in November they finished the first Navy contract. In January of 1943 the Navy let contract NORD 808 for 110,000 additional training rifles and in June that contract was completed. The total cost of the 300,000 rifles produced for the Navy was $1,384,000. The cost per rifle for the first contract was $4.75 and for the second contract $4.37. By the time of the second contract, Parris-Dunn could no longer get walnut wood for the stocks as all of it was going to arsenals that were making functional military rifles. They had to start using a cheaper grade of wood during the last contract which lowered the unit price.
Prior to the start of the military contracts Parris-Dunn recognized that they did not have sufficient personnel to produce the required number of training rifles in a short period of time. They put together another organization called Parris-Dunn Associates to undertake this important project. I have a document that contains the following: “C.L. Parris, W.G. Dunn and H.E. Davidson, Copartners, doing business as Parris-Dunn Associates”. At this time I have not been able to identify H.E. Davidson. They immediately expanded into all of the available building space in the area and hired more employees. This number grew to 250 during the peak of their production. They sub-contracted much of the work to 14 different businesses. The wooden stocks and sights were manufactured at their Clarinda plant and all of the assembly and finishing was also done there. They had that capacity to produce over 3000 training rifles a day. They became so efficient that the company voluntarily returned $228,000 to the Government as excess on allowable profit. On July 23, 1943 Parris-Dunn Associates received the coveted Army-Navy “E” Production Award.
After the completion of their military contracts they continue to produce 200,000 of a civilian model for drill corps, schools and ROTC programs. The civilian model was essentially the same as the military models but had different markings. In November of 1945 The Nave classified their training rifles as surplus and offered them for sale at $7.75. This price included a plastic bayonet and scabbard. Nothing is known concerning the disposition of the Army training rifles. The Parris-Dunn Training Rifle is not a very accurate replica of the 1903 Springfield Rifle. It has a similar profile but is thinner in cross section and 3 pounds lighter in weight. The receiver, bolt and trigger mechanism are simple and crude by comparison to the Springfield. It has the general feel and appearance of a toy. It was reported that these training rifles were not very popular with soldiers and sailors that were required to use them during basic training. It must be noted that there were no other alternatives available at the time.
The Army model was marked on the butt plate:
The Navy contract rifles were marked on the butt plate:
The stock and the bolt mechanism are identical on both models and both models have two sling swivels and a stacking swivel. The following differences will help identify each model.
The typical Army Model
- It have a simple trigger that does not move.
- It has a sheet metal trigger guard.
- It either had no middle barrel band or it had a painted black stripe to simulate this band.
- It has no bayonet lug.
The typical Navy Model
- It has a movable trigger that makes an audible click when pulled.
- The trigger guard was made of cast iron
- It has a metal middle barrel band.
- It has a bayonet lug on the metal front barrel band.
Specimens with the Army butt plate marking have been found with some Navy model parts. This is probably due to the Army and Navy contracts overlapping. William Brophy indicates that there are unmarked specimens of these training rifles. An interesting fact appeared while I was examining a U.S. Training Rifle Co. Specimen. The rear sight on the Parris-Dunn Training Rifle is an exact copy of the rear sight on the U.S. Training Rifle which was produced in 1917. Because of the way they were mounted this cannot be chance or a case of interchanging parts at a later date. Maurice O. Greiman indicated that the rear sights were made in the Parris-Dunn plant in Clarinda. It would be interesting to know how Parris-Dunn got the tooling to produce them or if they possibly produced the original sights for the U.S Training rifle Co. All of the Navy contract training rifles were supplied with a plastic bayonet and scabbard. One of the changes specified prior to the start of the first Navy contract was to attach a bayonet lug on the forward band. This probably indicates that no bayonet lug was planned on the Army model. However, there a known specimens of the Army model that have a bayonet lug. This may have something to do with the Army and Navy production overlapping and that it was more economical to use one style of front band. Early in WWII there was a critical shortage of steel.
As little steel as possible was used in the manufacture of the training rifles and plastic was substituted for the blade of the bayonet. The bayonet was designed to fit the training rifle and they would not fit on any of the standard U.S. military arms. Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Co. and Beckwith Manufacturing Co. each had military contracts to supply the plastic bayonets. Victory Plastics had a contract to produce scabbards for the bayonet. All of the bayonets are marked U.S.N Mk. I. on one face near the hilt and on the other side either B.M. or P.B.C. The scabbards are also marked U.S.N. Mk.I. The contract price of the bayonet varied but it ranged from $1.50 and $1.70 and the price of the scabbard was $0.75.
The next installment: Parris-Dunn Variants
From the paper, Non-Firing Drill and Training Rifles, by By Malcolm MacPherson