History on Display: Behind the scenes at the Smith and Wesson factory

The author recently had a chance to tour the Smith & Wesson manufacturing plant in Springfield, Mass. History was on display at this fascinating location.

For more information, visit https://www.smith-wesson.com/.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go the Smith and Wesson factory for the unveiling of all the new toys for 2017. Part of the package was a tour of the manufacturing facility, a peek behind the curtain of how things are made. I have seen a lot of CNC machines in my life, that doesn’t impress me anymore. But the S&W factory offered some perspectives not seen in younger companies. Security is tight inside the factory, protection of trade secrets and all, so pictures were not that extensive.

The first thing that gets your attention at S&W is the size. This is a massive operation, a scale I have never seen in firearms before. Most of the weapon manufacturers I have visited in the past would fit in the foyer of S&W. I am sure it helps to have been in the same building since the 1940s, but the operation is just massive. It is so big there are several employees whose entire job is to drive what look like baggage cart trains around the building, moving parts from station to station. The tour guides wouldn’t tell us how many guns are produced everyday, but it has to be a staggering number. The structure even features a massive underground tunnel designed to continue production should the main building be bombed to ashes.

Most weapons builders today use CNC exclusively; hence you have seen a lot of that if you have been to a lot of factories. Smith and Wesson is old school enough they still forge on site many of the revolver components, to include frames. The forge room looked like the set of Terminator 2, industrial as the day is long. In addition to their own parts, Smith forges for a variety of different industries, and some parts that might surprise you. Just seeing this room was worth the price of admission.

All revolver polishing is done by hand at Smith & Wesson. Photo courtesy of Smith & Wesson.

The second stop on the revolver tour was the polish and buff station. This is a specialized skill set at Smith and Wesson, and all done by hand. We were told that the apprenticeship time to learn the trade was over a year, and the master craftsmen can tell who finished a part just by looking at it. The difference in look to parts going in and coming out the other side was astonishing.

While the author has been to other manufacturing facilities, he was impressed by the breadth of everything done at the Smith & wesson location. Shown holding a pistol frame forging.

At S&W, there is still ONE master engraver on staff. The custom work on display at his station is truly staggering. By hand, this man can engrave detail that is mind blowing. Human faces to the feathers on a dove wing, if you can dream, he can engrave it.

Unlike a lot of gun companies, S&W also does all the chemical treatments in house. We only got to watch from a distance, but there is an entire wing of the facility that does plating and coatings. If Smith and Wesson makes you a nickel-plated gun, they actually made a nickel-plated gun. We are sworn to secrecy, but I was also rather shocked by the other gun companies S&W does the finish for.

All in all, I was pretty impressed by all that is done under one roof. Revolvers to ARs, there was a lot going on. Pallets and pallets of barrels, for a variety of guns, to include the Thompson/Center bolt actions. Crates the size of my kitchen full of rough cut frames. Enough M&P slides to sink a container ship. It was gun nerd paradise, and I am glad to have gotten the invitation.

For more information, visit https://www.smith-wesson.com/.

The Military & Police moniker has a long history stretching back to the days when the revolver was the dominate combat and defense handgun.


About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Doubledee January 3, 2017, 3:18 pm

    Alright folks, let’s keep our minds about us. Our strength in the face of snowflake anger and offense is that we’re not gonna sweat the minutiae.
    Because as you all are well aware, if we started referring to firearms as roses, the left-wingnuts would start picketing florists.

  • BuzGuy January 3, 2017, 12:59 pm

    I think its important to clarify the “deluxe” revolver I bought with the poor workmanship was a PRO model, 357 caliber, J – frame revolver. Thanks, BuzGuy

  • Mike Watkins January 3, 2017, 12:19 pm

    S & W, being one of the premier and long-historied US firearms brands, is to me something to be regarded as a National Treasure. So imo, anything that makes them stronger is a Capital Letter Good Thing! Point, their recent expansion into related outdoor/shooting products such as the acquisition of Crimson Trace, Taylor Brands, etc.

    The only thing I see that may dampen their continued success is their unfortunate (but also historic) location in the Northeast, which has become intensely anti-gun in the last 50 or so years. Which has impelled a number of other firearms manufacturers to move operations to more gun-friendly locales.

    Since the increasingly shrill hoplophobe efforts of the last 25 years have actually served to drive increased gun ownership, 2nd Amendment awareness, and a stronger and more diverse firearms industry, my advice to S & W would be, “Go South now while the profits are providing the extra finances for the huge costs of moving.”

    On a side note, there has never actually been an S & W firearm in my vault. (I don’t think the TC Hawken rifle counts since it’s a pre-S & W vintage.) Maybe it’s time I change that!

    And one other side note: hey Smith, now that you own Taylor Brands (Schrade, Uncle Henry, Old Timer, Imperial) would you please consider bringing some of that production back from China? Actually your Chinese factories are producing some pretty good knives at pretty good prices, but an Uncle Henry with a “China” stamp just ain’t the same!


    • Steven January 4, 2017, 9:43 am

      No, bring ALL production back to the USA, help “make America great again.”

      • bring it all back, YES!!!! January 5, 2017, 8:54 am

        I don’t agree with the statement that the china made knives are as good, I had one and the first time I used it, IT BROKE! Might have been JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS!

  • michael ehresman January 3, 2017, 11:24 am

    Although a brilliantly crafted piece of Artwork, especially when customized…. A Gun of any kind is still crafted as a fine Weapon. Let the anti gunners kiss the wind. They either can’t or won’t understand in the least anyway!!….. Had a S&W M&P as a survival weapon while in the military. It is, as all S&W guns, a fine Weapon…

  • Tug January 3, 2017, 11:07 am

    Really enjoyed the article. I love seeing the inside tours of the gun factories
    Keep up the good work

  • Robert Gonzalez January 3, 2017, 10:30 am

    Just an FYI for the editors: the last paragraph is repeated twice basically. Excellent read otherwise.

    • S.H. Blannelberry January 3, 2017, 10:32 am

      Thanks! Fixed. Word Press bug.

  • Weapons Trainer January 3, 2017, 7:54 am


    Really? Get a life!
    Keep up the good work Clay.

  • Tracy Kunstmann January 3, 2017, 6:31 am


    A gun of any kind is not a weapon until it is used against someone. You are supposedly a firearms industry writer, show some nuance. Let’s make the anti gunners work for it.

    • clay martin January 3, 2017, 10:41 am

      a gun is always a weapon. do you have a concealed gun permit, or a concealed weapons permit? I am not scared of the anti gunners. call things what they are.

    • Jason Blankovich January 3, 2017, 11:57 am

      Really? Really? REALLY? I don’t mean to be rude, but come on! Political correctness has no place in gun liking/accepting/loving circles. Of course guns of all descriptions are weapons. As far as I am concerned gun, weapon and firearm are synonymous and completely interchangeable.

      And, even if I am not in a forum either on line or in person, I still use the same terms.

      • srsquidizen January 3, 2017, 5:11 pm

        Wouldn’t agree that the terms “gun”, “weapon”, and “firearm” are synonymous or interchangeable. There are many types of guns that aren’t meant to be weapons and a great many weapons that aren’t guns at all. Moreover, the term “firearm” pertains only to guns that set some kind of propellant on fire to push the projectile out.

        I don’t think it’s catering to political correctness or gun haters when you simply use the right terminology in referring to types of firearms. It is simply correct. Some are obviously intended as personal defense weapons, others are made for recreational purposes. But if you want to call them all “weapons” that’s okay too. A baseball bat is a recreational product that can also be a very brutal and deadly weapon. I only have a problem with the people who want to tell me what kind of “weapon” I should be able to own.

    • Prog Hunter January 3, 2017, 3:13 pm

      Just to chime in on the “weapon” terminology. The most accurate usage is what a cop would write in his paperwork at a homicide. True. That said, I spent 8 years in the Army (1968-76) in Armor and when we came back to our so-called base camps on the RVN DMZ, the CO would come up on the net and tell everyone to halt (M48A3 tanks) and clear all weapons before entering the gate. This included 90mm man gun, .50 cal. and 7.62 MGs, rifles, 1911s (and these looked like they were made in 1915 or such, real junk). The MPs at the gate (a chicken wire grade bit of uselessness) would yell up to each tank commander as we slowly rolled by if all weapons were cleared. So I also interchange weapon and “guns”.

      I know, “this is my rifle, this is my gun”, but infantry NCOs (when we went out on patrols with them) would call out to their M60 teams to “bring up the guns” when potential firepower was needed near the point man.

      Co A, 1/77th Armor, 3rd herd 5th Mech

    • DRAINO January 5, 2017, 9:09 am

      LOL!!! This is the argument that you pick on a site called Guns America?????? Guns ARE weapons that replaced, what?…Spears and bows and arrows….ALSO Weapons…..weapons used to defend people against WHATEVER……mastadons, sabre toothed tigers or terrorist morons. Or to KILL food for sustenance. Killing paper targets is a hobby that came along after the development of society for those who wanted to remain proficient at using their weapons…..to KILL If it’s not an actual functioning gun(weapon) then it is a “replica”.

      Show some brains…..let’s make the anti-gunners work for it.

      AMERICANISM!!!! NOT Globalism!!!

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