A History of Drill and Training Rifles Part 9

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My only interest in the Parris Mfg. Co. toy rifles is in their bolt action models that were generally patterned after the 1903 Springfield rifle. However, some general information is useful in understanding their development. It appears that Cecil Parris was the driving force in developing their toy gun market. He was younger that William Dunn and had a strong sales background and it would have been natural for him to have wanted to expand their market. In 1943 Parris approached Maurice Greiman about designing a toy gun that would fire small corks and the successful development of this first “pop gun” started them in their toy business. When Parris purchased the company in 1949 they already had a well-established toy business.

With each toy rifle you got a well-designed document that gave the standard military manual of arms and showed pictures of their line of toy guns. Unfortunately these documents were not dated but those that show the Clarinda, Iowa address were printed between 1944 and 1951. In one such booklet, they show two “clicker” models that were non-firing toys and seven models of different sizes that were “cork shooters”. They also show a “cork shooter” pistol that appears to have been patterned after the Colt Woodsman automatic pistol. This pistol was sold under the name of “Strait Shooter”. There were two different groups of rifles, one called “Trainerifles” and the other called “Cowboy Pla Guns”. Both used the same lever action cocking lever and had similar profiles. The main difference was that the Trainerifles came with a canvas sling attached. They also produced a “Shoot- Rite Gun” which was also cork firing. This was available singly or as a complete “Indoor Trainer Kit” which included movable “Ro-Target” that spun when the cork hit the target. This gun was substantially more refined and had front and rear sights. It is interesting to note that this booklet does not show any toys guns patterned after the 1903 Springfield rifle. At this time they were still producing a Drill Rifle similar to the full size military training rifle. I would assume that they felt that this model was too large to be appropriate for the toy market and as such was not included.

It should be noted that from the very start of the production of bolt action toy drill rifles there were minor variations in their size, shape and marking. All of these models carry the TRAINERIFLE designation. Although you may find drill rifles that vary slightly in length, it appears that there were only five different sizes of bolt action toy rifles produced. The smallest is the SMALL FRY TRAINERIFLE which was 23 ½” long and had a different type of bolt action. It had a trigger mechanism that made a clicking sound when pulled and is definitely a toy. This model appears to have gone out of production soon after the company moved to Tennessee. Production records no longer exist so it is impossible to determine precisely when specific models were introduced, modified or dropped from the line. For a short period of time about 1960 they list a model No. 11 cork shooting drill rifle. This is the only bolt action drill rifle designed to fire any form of projectile.

In the earliest listing of toy rifles made by the Parris Mfg. Co. in Clarinda, Iowa the prefix A is used on several of their earliest models. The prefix B has been verified to indicate models that had a rubber bayonet attached. The prefix K was used on models specifically designed for the Kadets of America. The Kadets of America were organized in 1953 and stopped functioning in 1970. The prefix M appears on bolt action models patterned after the 1903 Springfield military rifle. It appears that at various times the letters K and M were “mixed and matched” on the same models. (K-23, M-23, K-M-23). The number designations appear to be a means of identifying the relative size of the non-firing toy drill rifles. The smallest being #20 and the largest #30. It should be noted that their model No. 11 fired corks and does not have an M designation.

The following bolt action drill rifles all have the same action as the original military training rifles made by Parris-Dunn. They were introduced into the toy line in 1955-56 and were offered with a rubber bayonet at this time.

Approximate Overall Length and Model Designation

  • 30″ K-21
  • 33″ K-23
  • 39″ M-K
  • 43″ (Full Size replica) M-30

The early model K-23 illustrated below was made about 1956. What is unique with these early models was that they were designed to carry a rubber bayonet. You should note that on this model the barrel is longer than on later models and that it has a metal tab on the barrel near the forearm. This metal tab fits into small recess in the end of the bayonet handle. The barrel length is 3 9/16″ from the muzzle to the inside of the tab. The barrel length of later models ranges from 2 1/2 – 3″, which is too short to mount the bayonet. If the barrel has no tab, the toy drill rifle was not designed to carry a bayonet. It is uncertain when the change occurred but it is probable that after 1970 no bayonets were available.

The following appears to be a later variation for mounting a rubber bayonet on the muzzle of a K-23 Parris Mfg. Co. Toy Drill Rifle. You will note that there is a small bar inserted into the wood below the barrel. I suspect that this was the system that was used during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as this would have been less expensive than mounting the tab on the barrel.

The next installment: Rubber Bayonets

From the paper, Non-Firing Drill and Training Rifles, by By Malcolm MacPherson

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