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When World War One began, German armies roared through Belgium, occupying all but a small corner of the nation. Belgium still had an army to defend that last bit of territory, but it no longer had any of its manufacturing base. The Belgian State Arsenal was evacuated, but took several years to reorganize and restate in Birmingham, England. In the meantime, Belgium was in serious need of rifles!
The United States was not yet in the war, and American companies were more than happy to make arms by the hundreds of thousands for the European forces. Belgium didn’t offer very good terms in its search for an American rifle maker, but found the Hopkins & Allen company at a moment when H&A had lost a major contract and desperately needed something to replace it. And so Hopkins & Allen signed a contract in August 1915 to make 140,000 rifles and 10,000 carbines. In their rush to sign a contract however, Hopkins & Allen didn’t consider what they were agreeing to. The low price of $27/rifle without any down payment led to the company’s bankruptcy in 1917 by the time barely 12,000 rifles had been delivered. It went into receivership, and the whole company was sold for $65,000 to Marlin-Rockwell.
Marlin had enough cashflow from other contracts (including the BAR and aircraft machine guns) to finish the Belgium contract, although the final deliveries did not occur until October 1918, as the war was nearly ended. These delays also meant that what had originally been contracted as Model 1889 carbines were actually manufactured to the improved 1889/16 pattern.
Belgium would rework its small arms in the 1930s, and the vast majority of Model 1889 Mausers were rebuilt as 89/36 carbines, which included scrubbing their original receiver markings. Intact Work War 1 pattern Hopkins & Allen rifles like this one are very rare today. Many thanks to Mike Carrick of Arms Heritage Magazine for providing me access to film this example!
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