Commercial production of Lithgow SAF
What does an arms factory do when there is no demand for weapons?
The story of the Factory is one of boom and bust. Frantically busy in times of war, but trying desperately to stay afloat at other times as demand for arms dwindled. Work for the commercial market helped to keep a 'nucleus' factory (one that was barely ticking over) ready for full-scale arms production for when it would be needed again - more often than not at a loss due to high wages and devotion to military quality, but this was the price the Government had to pay to keep valuable skills and manufacturing capacity.
Between the first and second World Wars the Government was reluctant to allow the Factory to compete against or take work away from private firms, realising that this would be only shifting unemployment and angering another section of workers and unions. Government relaxed this attitude somewhat after World War II being more willing to allow the Factory to prop itself up with outside work .
Over the years an incredible variety of smaller 'outside work' was produced along with the more complex items, including adze tools, toasting forms, architectural castings, coal picks, door closers, dental picks, drill chucks, nail (and other) punches, springs, streamlined wires for bracing wings of bi-planes, stub axles, tie-rod ends, tow balls, trowels, wheel braces, bottle openers and nuts, bolts and screws.
The Factory also assisted other industries by producing forgings and investment casted components for them.
Notable commercial production of Lithgow SAF
- Admiral Record Changer parts
- Aircraft parts
- Arc lamps for Projectors
- Bottle openers and sealers for H E P Bracey
- Crank shafts
- Deisel engine components
- Drill chucks for Qualos
- Faces for Sydney parking meters ($1 & $2 coins)
- Centrex film projector components
- Components for F W Hughes Woollen Mills
- Gear Blanks
- Hand cuffs
- Locomotive components
- Medical implants
- River Lett hand saw
- Motor vehicle components
- Outboard marine shafts
- PA Multitool Belt and Disc Linisher
- Pencil sharpeners
- Pruning shears
- Refrigerator components and motor parts
- Sewing machines (Pinnock and others)
- Sheep shearing handsets
- Slazenger golf club heads
- Spanners (ZircAlloy and various others)
- Sunbeam Mixmasters
- Tractor components
- Victor Mower components
- Westrex universal base for adapting silent projectors for sound
Sporting and target rifles
Slazenger Sporting Rifle
The association between Slazengers Australia and the Factory began c.1930 when the Factory manufactured golf club heads for the company, and continued when Slazengers began making .303 rifle woodwork in 1941 as a feeder factory during World War II. Famous Australian sharp shooter Lionel Hartley Bibby worked for Slazengers and consulted with the Factory on the design of all of the Slazenger rifle models.
A project between the Factory and Slanzengers resulted in production of the very popular single-shot .22 bolt action Slazenger sporting rifles from 1945. These rifles used the same barrel steel as the legendary SMLE and almost 18,000 were delivered in the first year of manufacture. The 'Model 1' was followed by the 'Model 1A' and the 'Model 1B'.
In 1947 a .22 bolt action repeating model, the 'Model 12' with a 5-round magazine was added to the range. C.1953 saw the introduction of the "Bibby" 10-round magazine. Then in 1949 a higher powered rifle, the 'Model 24' using the .22 Hornet cartridge, and a single shot bolt action shotgun using the .410" cartridge were introduced. Both of these new rifles were built on the SMLE action. Prototypes of another rifle in .310 cadet calibre, also based on the SMLE action, were built, but this project never went ahead. In 1955 a short barrel version of the Model 12 was introduced as the 'Model 55'.
Originally meant as a stop-gap measure until US imports of hunting/sporting rifles were again available after World War II, the Slazengers proved so popular that production continued until c.1961. All of these rifles were distributed by Slazengers. By the time production ceased the Factory had produced around 220,000 single shot .22 rifles, 85,000 .22 repeating rifles, 7,700 Hornet repeating rifles, and 6,800 .410 shotguns.
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SAF Lithgow Target Rifle
By the mid 1960's the National Rifle Association was looking for a new competition rifle that took the 7.62mm NATO round. The Lithgow Factory was informed of their requirements and set about producing a suitable weapon
After a number of prototypes a single shot 7.62mm target rifle based on the then current L1A1 Service rifle was produced. It was made exclusively at Lithgow SAF and had an adapter plate for a Central aperture sight fitted as standard.Originally designated the 'SAF Target Rifle 7.62mm', the word 'Lithgow' was added to the name in 1969. The design was not really successful with most competition shooters preferring a conventional bolt action rifle. As a result only around 130 of these rifles were manufactured.
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Lithgow Target Barrels
Following the first World War, heavy barrels in .303 calibre were made for the range rifles used by rifle clubs, as were replacement barrels for the early LE ('Long Tom'). Many of these barrels, although made by Lithgow SAF, have local gunsmith's names as well as the standard "H" on the knox form.
Around 1956 .50 calibre black powder barrels were manufactured for the Lithgow branch of the Muzzle Loading Gun and Rifle Association.
Another project during the 1970's was the manufacture of the 7.62mm "Black Mountain" target barrels.
An interesting and closely guarded secret was the manufacture of a very small number of special barrels to be fitted to the
rifles that were used by the Australian team in the 1958 World Shooting Championships held in Moscow. It is interesting that
even special ammunition was developed for these rifles.
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