The Small Arms Factory, which opened in June 1912, has proudly supported Australia’s soldiers on battlefields around the globe from Gallipoli to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. All Australian troops were equipped with weapons made in the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. A 90,000-foot factory floor and tool room, and forge, were both located within the buildings. Each machine was driven by pulleys extending overhead with shafts running the length of the buildings. At the time there were 340 machines, 11 forging hammers and 22 oil fired furnaces in use. The Small Arms Factory manufactured single-shot gun models 1A and 1B, as well as a repeating model 12, under the Slazenger brand and after the end of World War II the factory produced around 100,000 guns per year.
As part of its efforts to maintain skilled labour during times of peace, the Small Arms Factory was authorised by the Government at the time to accept commercial contracts, sometimes controversially. Forgings, investment castings, and finished products were all included in these contracts. Manufacturing brand name products including Sunbeam Mixmaster’s, Pinnock sewing machines, Slazenger golf clubs, Zircalloy’s spanners, and many more.
Originally collected for technical appraisal and reference, this impressive collection has been accumulated over years of operation. Their former employees and community members explained to the Australian Defence Industry how significant the collection was in terms of the history of small arms, commercial products, machinery, and tools. The Australian Defence Industry donated the entire collection to Lithgow in 1995, since managing the collection in a museum had not been within the SAF’s purview.
Since 1996, the Small Arms Factory Museum has been open for public viewing, staffed entirely by volunteers. The museum showcases firearms from all over the world, including small arms, long arms, and machine guns, as well as commercial products and precision metalworking equipment.