The Meriden Firearms Company of Meriden, Connecticut, USA manufactured small arms from 1905 to 1918. Meriden made sidelock double-barrel hammer and hammerless shotguns, single barrel shotguns, small revolvers and small bore rifles.
The Meriden Firearms Company was formed when Sears Roebuck purchased the Andrew Fyrberg & Sons firearms manufacturing plant and moved the plant and machinery to Meriden, Connecticut in 1905. The company started manufacturing firearms mid 1905. In 1918 Sears announced that the Meriden Firearms Company would discontinue the manufacture of sporting firearms.
From 1905 to 1919, Sears manufactured their line of “pocket pistols”, which were double-action top-break revolvers chambered in either .32 S&W or .38 S&W. The revolvers came in several barrel lengths and were offered with both exposed and enclosed hammers. Finish was Nickel-plated with rubber handgrips.
Meriden Firearms represented a selection of good-quality, relatively low-cost firearms of which many survive in operational condition more than 100 years later.
The shotguns were well made and available in several grades. All had automatic safeties and cocking indicators. Barrels could be had in twist, damascus of several grades, armory steel or Krupp steel. Hammerless or hammer shotguns with varying amounts of engraving were available.
In the early 1900’s, Winchester stopped selling firearms to Sears and Roebuck’s discount mail order house because they considered Sears discounting of prices to be demoralizing all firearms prices and causing general discontent in the trade. Most firearm manufacturing companies at the time agreed with Winchester, but only Winchester took any type of action. In November of 1904, Winchester announced that it would no longer sell to the Sears and Roebuck Company and they cancelled all unfilled orders. This forced Sears to address its supply problem.
Andrew Fyrberg & Sons
The Andrew Fyrberg & Sons plant in Worcester had contracted in 1899 to sell it’s entire gun production to Sears. The 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog lists the $15.75 Chicago Long Range Wonder hammerless double and the single barrel Long Range Winner “BUILT IN OUR OWN FACTORY under the direct supervision of one of the most skilled gun makers in America and his two sons, expert gun machinists, gun and tool makers in Worcester, Mass.” That same year, Fyrberg moved production to an old shoe factory in Hopkinton, Mass.
In 1904, Richard Sears bought Fyrberg’s interest in the company and moved the machinists and machinery to the vacant Malleable Iron Co. building on North Colony St. in Meriden, Connecticut.
Meriden Fire Arms Company
In 1904, Fred Biffar, head of the gun sales for Sears contacted A.J. Aubrey to design and produce a sidelock double barrel to be sold by Sears. In 1905 the Meriden Fire Arms Company was started to do just that. They produced the Aubrey design and used Aubrey’s name on the guns as “Manufactured by the Meriden Firearms Co.” They eventually produced a variety of firearms (hammerless and hammer doubles, single barrel shotguns, revolvers (some under Howard Arms Co.), and rifles) offering several grades, The New Aubrey, and Meriden Field, Special, Tournament, and Diamond grade . Later Sears ‘Trade Names’ included Utica Special, Gibraltar, Challenge, Gladiator, and Berkshire.
In, 1908 when Richard Sears left the company followed by Fred Biffer and later Aubrey in 1909. After Aubrey left, the guns were marked Meriden without the Aubrey name.
Casualty of the Great War
When W.W.I began in August 1914, Russia was gravely short of rifles to arm its mobilizing armies. All old Berdan I and Berdan II rifles in .42 Berdan as well as 300,000 available 7.62x54R magazine conversions were pressed into issue. This was inadequate to meet demand. Initial battlefield successes yielded Mannlicher Model 1888, Model 1890 and Model 1895 rifles in 8x50mm which were pressed into service. However reverses soon followed and especially after the crushing defeat at Tannenberg at the hands of the Germans under Hindenberg, losses of rifles far outweighed captured booty rifles.
Russia turned to its ally England for help. The British had no rifles to spare, but through their banking agents in New York, arranged for the letting of contracts with Remington Arms and New England Westinghouse for the production of huge quantities of the Mosin Nagant and bayonets for it. It was now 1915 and as a stop gap measure the British arranged the purchase of Japanese Type 30 and Type 38 rifles both for themselves and for Russia . These were in 6.5mm Jap. Despite this shortage of rifles, Russia, for political reasons, supplied Model 1891 rifles to Serbia and Montenegro to help keep them in the war, which began because of Serbia.
The British, through their American financial agents, arranged a contract with Remington Arms for over a million Mosin Nagant rifles of the latest Russian pattern and also with New England Westinghouse for the production of 900,000 M1891 on behalf of the Imperial Government.
To fill this order New England Westinghouse needed to increase its manufacturing capacity. In 1916 the Meriden Fire Arms Company manufacturing facility was sold to New England Westinghouse. Meriden Fire Arms continued to produce some firearms in another facility on Center Street in Meriden until 1918 when Sears announced that the Meriden Fire Arms Company would discontinue the manufacture of sporting guns.
Future of the Plant
New England Westinghouse went on to sell the plant to Colt Patent Fire Arms Company to produce their Browning-design machine guns.