.50, 13,2 mm and the cost of materials in 1931


#1

Here’s part of an interesting letter from F. J. Monaghan, in charge of export sales at the Remington Arms Co., to Harry J. Strugnell, general sales manager at the same firm.

A C. I. B. Henning is mentioned. He was an employee of the Du Pont company.
Also a Herbert G. Hadley is mentioned. He was technical director at Remington.

[i]"New York, May 20, 1931
Mr. H. J. Strugnell

[…]

Lately, Mr. Henning returned from Europe and told me it was their intention to cooperate with us, rather than the industry as a whole, in obtaining Government business, especially in Europe. He said while in Europe he had succeeded in raising the standard of specifications of some of the governments so that our competitors on the Continent would not be able to comply, thereby giving us the chance to get our price. He was not specific as to the countries involved.

Then he laid great stress on the possibilities of .50 caliber ammunition. He told of Poland having placed an order with Fabrique National, Liege, Belgium, for 2,500 .50 caliber machine guns, but no order was placed for the cartridges.

One of the reasons he says he left Europe so quickly was that Fabrique National and other companies were inquiring for too much detail on the manufacture of .50 caliber ammunition and he did not want to give it. He spoke of Nobels and ourselves being the only manufacturers of .50 caliber ammunition, and that our product was superior to Nobels. Yet there was no information forthcoming from him as to what we should do to go after the business.

Yesterday we received from our agent in Greece, who is also the du Pont agent in that country, a report of the bids made some months ago on 13.2 cartridges (13.2 is almost identical with the .50 caliber cartridge). This report states bids were entered by Nobels of England, Nobels of Holland, Fabrique National and Italian, French, and Swiss companies, with the contract being awarded to Nobels of England. We knew we had no chance on our bid as the Hotchkiss Company of France, who make this gun, would recommend only Nobels ammunition. For this reason our prices were lower than Nobels of England who were awarded the contract as we wanted Nobels to learn of our low prices and open negotiations to establish a higher basis for the future in cooperation with them.

Mr. Henning also gave Mr. Hadley the story on .50 caliber in Europe and how he wanted to work with us, but the facts of the report from Greece are at variance in many respects with Mr. Henning’s advices to us. It would not be surprising to have confirmed the impression that du Pont does not like to see our nonmercuric primer developments, as it means the loss of business to them on mercury fulminate. If the United States Government were to take up a nonmercuric primer, du Pont’s loss in this respect would be increased, which may account for Mr. Henning’s talk against our nonmercuric primer in .50 caliber.

The cost of materials in a military cartridge is approximately $15.00. With an average of 7 pounds of powder to a thousand cartridges du Pont receives from us, at the price of 90 cents a pound for powder, $6.30 of this $15.00, or 40% of the material cost. In the prices we have given them for military cartridges we have figured on the necessity of the price being reduced $1.00 or $2.00 per thousand because of competition. Our attitude, so far unexpressed to them, is if this must be done they should absorb most of the reduction in the price of their powder. While we cannot advance concrete evidence we believe that when in competition with some of the other European powder companies they quote as low as 60 cents a pound for powder, compared with their price to us of 90 cents.

Even on powder for commerical cartridges we have had the impression they quote quite low prices for export. It might do no harm to query them on their export price of powder compared with their prices to us.
Reverting to the China business du Pont has told us they have sold powder to the government arsenals there at about 90 cents a pound and they probably consider that so long as they can get 90 cents a pound selling powder in bulk to China it is preferable to giving us a lower price so we could get completed cartridge business.
All in all we have never found any cooperation from du Pont unless it meant at least 90% of the advantage to them.

Export Manager.

FJM:AF."[/i]

And now my questions (I hope somebody has had the patience to read through this):

Was it true that only Nobels and Remington were capable of making .50 caliber ammo at the time?

I understand that “Nobels of England” must be Kynoch, but

Who was “Nobels of Holland”?

The Italian company bidding would be SMI?

The French company bidding would be SFM?

Who could be the Swiss company bidding?


#2

I can’t answer all you questions, but BPD could also manufacture 13.2 Hotchkiss, and more than SFM in France had the capability, although I an not sure if at that time. Some headstamps from my collection, no different dates only different styles:





#3

Nice headstamps, they include a spanish one.

What is the meaning of the “BHB” logo? It is shown in your photos in FN and Kynoch headstamps.


#4

Schneider, it is the Hotchkiss-Logo if I recall right.


#5

“One must specified that all the steps starting 1900 to end of 1924 , from the first one 12 m/m prototype to the final step in the improvement of the 13.2 Hotchkiss were realized by close relationship between Société française des munitions and the “Maison Hotchkiss of Levallois; and one might question the reason why the first industrial manufactures were realized not by SFM but by Kynoch Birmingham.
One reason can be advanced . In 1925 SFM has a machinery park able to respond in any quantity to any small arms ammunition contract in the world , she owns a special medium caliber cases production department but doesn’t manufacture any loaded munitions in these calibers and therefore doesn’t own a big park of lath for the production of steel cores. For this reason, she can’t respond in a short delay to a contract of several tenth of thousand of loaded cartridges.
In the meantime, Kynoch Birmingham has already in production .50 cartridges ; Browning and Vickers, closed to 13.2 H and she is able after manufacture of specific tools for 13.2 H to start in a short time an industrial production. This is the reason why Hotchkiss Paris sent her first contracts to Kynoch; military contracts for the first customers such as Greece , Chile and presenting lots destinated to present the new weapon and its ammunition to foreign military commissions. It is the case for FRANCE where Kynock ammunitions were used to present the new weapon to the french military authorities. Shortly SFM plan to create a park of turning laths for the production of the hard stell cores. In the early 1930, she received her first contract for 790 000 ctgs from the French naval artillery , to which iwas added an other order for 1300 000. In 1931 SFM will receive orders for some 9.500 000 ctgs , inside and outside orders. In 1932, among the export contracts , one can notice an order from Japan, and another one from Italy which will be taken in charge at Kynoch !”
These details are extracted from my study on the French 13.2 Hotchkiss , arm, carriages and ammunitions , for which I look for an editor!!!


#6

A very interesting information, Phil12. Thank you. It answers some of my questions. Now a couple of bidders for the Greek 1931 contract remain unidentified: the Nobels of Holland and a swiss company. After reading your post I wouldn’t be surprised to know that these both bidders would pass the order to an actual manufacturer if the contract was awarded to them. Nobels of Holland, probably to Kynoch, and the swiss company to another european firm.


#7

Schneider, it might be an idea to check on Swiss commercial ammunition manufacturers of that time. The only one that comes to my mind is “PFS” = “Patronenfabrik Solothurn” which made ammo up to at least 20mm. Anyone else with better or more info?


#8

EOD is correct on the BHB logo; the letters are the initials of Benjamin B. Hotchkiss.