From the AR Archives: The Return of Iver Johnson

posted on March 19, 2010

Its name and familiar Owl Head symbols have appeared on a bewildering array of guns and other products for over a century, but the 1980s will mark a fresh start for Iver Johnson.

Anyone who sets out to write the definitive history of Iver Johnson and his products will find tough going. He would not only have to document a huge number of pistols, derringers, revolvers, rifles and shotguns, but blank, air, line-throwing and toy guns as well. That would be the beginning. Then he would have to list leg irons, handcuffs, hand tools, bicycles, tricycles, “juniorcycles,” motorcycles and baby walkers.

Even if the Iver Johnson historian stuck to firearms and let the rest go, he would run into trouble because, in the early days, private branding for various jobbers, distributors, agents and other middle-men invites confusion.

Iver Johnson surely made “Secret Service Special” revolvers for the Chicago firm of Fred Biffar—but so did Meriden Firearms Co.; I.J. made many variations of so-marked “Bull Dog” revolvers—but so did Forehand & Wadsworth and others, and they all looked about the same; I.J. used a number of grip-plate logos (in addition to many variations of its famous owl head) that some historians say were exclusively I.J.’s designs; yet other historians and old catalogs show some of these logos on revolvers which are indentified as being made by other manufacturers.....


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