William Powell Country

Post War Birmingham Gun Trade


Article written by 06 December 2012

It was B.SA. who nearly succeeded in mass producing double barrel shotguns with interchangeable parts and this was started in 1920! They designed a method of barrel making which was a cross between Chopper Lump and Dovetail lump which did not need brazing! This method was so accurate that the barrels once ‘assembled’ could be fitted to the machine made actions with the very minimum of hand work thus once fitted could interchange with other guns!

Our Country owes a huge debt of gratitude to B.S.A. who, in my opinion, were one of the reasons we held back the Nazi’s and eventually over powered them with our bloody minded determination. This contribution by B.S.A. was a repeat of their huge effort in WW I.

Between 1939 and 1945 B.S.A. manufactured over 50% of all small arms used by our forces in WW II being :

568,100 Browning machine guns, 1,250.000 .303 Lee Enfield rifles and 60,000 7.92 “BESA” machine guns.

By 1940 B.S.A. factory covered 32 acres, it was bombed 3 times during this year alone killing 53, injuring 89 and destroying 4 1/2 acres.

After the war they were ignored with no investment. More care and money poured into Germany, France and Italy to rebuild their economies. We won the war but lost out on our future!

B.S.A. developed a five shot semi auto shotgun to rival the Browning but once again no investment and this was the same sorry story right across the board in Birmingham. When our soldiers returned in 1945 the skilled workers amongst them were directed into the car and engineering trades as Gunsmiths were higly prized and went straight into the tool rooms of big factories who paid twice the wage of a Gunmaker!

This was the start of the decline of the British Guntrade.

Peter Powell

I am the fifth generation of the William Powell Gunmaking Company which was founded by my great, great Grandfather in 1802. I started with the firm in 1968. I have been on the board of The Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House since 1974, bei.. Read more.

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