Friday, March 28, 2014

The Mystery of Gibbs Rifle Company

From the early 1990's up until about 2005, there were two related companies that offered good rifles and hand guns. Some were surplus, which were either refurbished to like new condition, or sold "as is", usually in NRA good to NRA excellent condition.  These came from the Gibbs Rifle Company.   Others were primarily Italian imports, replicas of weapons from the War Between the States or the Old West. Primarily Navy Arms offered these.  Both were owned by a man named Val Forgett.

Here's the write up on the company from their web page, which still exists.


Gibbs Rifle Company, Inc., was founded in 1991 by Val Forgett, III, originally to act as a distribution arm for Navy Arms' curio and relic firearms and to refurbish curio and relic firearms. In 1991, Navy Arms was headquartered in anti-gun New Jersey, who had elected the most anti-gun Governor in the nation at the time. Val, Jr. and Val III had just purchased the rifle division of the famed Parker-Hale of England and, rather than expand operations in New Jersey, decided to take a chance on West Virginia, its people and its culture. Val III moved there immediately after graduating from Clemson University in 1991 and knew instantly the right decision had been made. Gibbs grew to become the bulk distribution point for Navy Arms on its curio and relic firearms and ammunition sales, and also became a distribution and warehousing facility for numerous other firearms and ammunition firms.

The production facilities purchased from Parker-Hale were ideal for taking worn-out curio and relic firearms and upgrading them to Historical Remake™ arms like the #5 Jungle Carbine and Sport Specialty™ rifles like the Quest™ and Summit™ rifles., all made from the famous British Enfield action. Gibbs historic remakes have been used in several major movies, including "The Last Samurai" starring Tom Cruise.

Gibbs Rifle imported some fine surplus guns. They sent people all over the world, particularly to Africa and South America, where they found rifles that no one would have believed still existed in any quantity.

If you own an Ishapore Enfield, it's almost certainly one originally imported by Gibbs Rifle Company.

Gibbs also built some Jungle Carbine No. 7 rifles using Ishapore .308 actions.  The No. 7 was just going into trial production in Australia when WW2 ended.  The Australians had never switched over to the Enfield No. 4, as the English did.  So when the English built a carbine version of the No.4,  the Australians tooled up to do the same for their Enfield MK.III.  The rifle just didn't have time to reach the troops for trials. However, Gibbs built some according to the exact specifications of the original plans. Since they were not actually collectibles , they primarily went to people who just wanted a nice shooting .308 carbine, or a good truck gun.  The original limited numbers make them hard to find, but they show up on gun auction sites occasionally.

Navy Arms sold good, high quality replicas of just about any  Federal or Confederate weapon your heart could desire. I own a Colt Navy that was originally imported by Navy Arms, and it's a nice piece of work. The Italians have always had a flair for gun making and they spared no efforts on these weapons. Navy Arms imported reproductions of both rifles and pistols that were highly prized by shooters, reenactors, and the members of the Cowboy Action Shooting Community.

Then, somewhere in the mid 2000's, both companies just disappeared.  They still have their web pages, but I have not seen their products offered for sale anywhere in a very long time. The last rifle they put out was a rebuilt Springfield 1903A3 in the sniper variant.  It was well received and I heard only good things about it.

There are many, many threads on different shooting forums in which people are trying to find out why they seem to have disappeared.  I haven't seen any that offered substantive theories.  I did find one web page that deals in law suits, and apparently someone filed a suit against Gibbs Rifle alleging that some "ceremonial weapons" which had been reactivated after being demilled were subject to inferior welding on the receivers.  However, in reading the web page it seemed to me that the person writing it was confused. It's well known that low serial number M1903 rifles can't be fired safely because the heat treating system used on the receivers was inadequate.  There's no way Gibbs Rifle would have sold those as shooters, and they are very expensive to buy anyway because low serial numbers are highly desired by collectors who don't fire the rifles in their collections anyway.  So I don't think the company went under, if indeed it has gone under, due to anything related to bogus law suits.

If anyone knows anything about either Navy Arms or Gibbs Rifle, I'd be interested in hearing it.  Their old catalogs are now showing up on E Bay as collectibles, and that's a bad sign.  If they have shut down, it's a real shame.  They were good people, who put out a solid product and stood by their offerings.


  1. Harry,


    I would love to get one of them 'Isapore rifles" or one of the "Jungle Carbines"

    I would "not' use it as s truck gun (that's what AR-15's are for) Those old guns are collectors items, albeit a $600 AR may be more expensive, but the old classics are harder to come by and demand more respect. I can treat an AR like a "red headed stepchild" and beat it to death. Then pick up parts for dirt cheap at any gunshow or store. If you want a real beater gun, get an AK. Guarenteed to work everytime! I got one of them Century Arms WASR's. All of my friends make fun of it, but it never stops no matter what.
    Now that "Russkie" ammo may dry up because of all the political bullshit (pardon my anglo saxon, redneck, Texan language) I'm only using easy to find ammo, like 5.56, etc.

    On a side note' check out "No Man's Land" on History Channel. I am totally addicted to that show. The area I'm interested in is in West Texas, and the Rancher, that lives and works in the "Davis Moutains, Big Bend region" That's near the area I grew up in on the Texas, New Mexican Border. I have been out there several times and I may go out there again in the coming months. If I give up the Texas Gulf Coast, I will trade my surfboard in for a saddle and I would love to buy some land and be a rancher like my grandfather, and great grandfather. I don't know if I will pull that one off. I would need a 'butt load of money"
    The rancher featured on "No Man's Land" has 700 acres at about $2000 to $3000 and acre (on the high side) Yeah' his ranch is at least worth a million dollars.

    1. Captaincrunch, hickok45 seems to really like the new AK47 from Century Arms.

      I take it you do as well....

    2. do you have a European model to compare it to?

    3. CC, I have been watching No Man's Land and thoroughly enjoy it. If nothing else, the scenery is fantastic. My favorite is the guy down on the Arizona Mexico border, because he is a survivalist whether he knows it or not. I feel sorry for the old cowboy, the handwriting is on the wall for him and I hope he has some money and a little place to live out the rest of his life. The rock collector guy is too strange for me, and the wannabe primitive living enthusiast doesn't really have it wired. But they are all decent people. I'll tell you one thing, there is no way in hell I'd have gone down in that cave, even in daylight. Rattlesnakes hanging off the walls, and them in there messing around. If I were a camera man I'd have told them sorry, not going down there pals.

      The Ishapore's arent collectibles, CC, so they really don't have any value except as shooters. The Jungle Carbine #7 guns are "replica" and that gives them absolutely zero collecting value, so you can pretty much use them any way you want without fear of decreasing their value. I don't mean neglect or abuse them, I just mean there's no real point in making them gun safe queens. If a collector gets a really collectible piece, he isn't going to shoot it at all in most cases, it's just to "have" and "look at" not to shoot. I've got a few like that, and while I don't sell or trade guns often, I figure I should preserve unique specimens for future collectors. I won't last forever.

      If I lived on the beach like you do, I think I might stay there. Maybe you could get you some scrub land somewhere and put a trailer on it, and just stay out there when you felt like it, then you'd have the best of both worlds.

      I don't have any European AK-47's. I might get a Yugo before I'm done. I do have a Chinese RPK, two Chinese MAK90's with Choate stocks, and a Chinese type 56. They are all top flight.

    4. Harry,


      On the second episode of "No Mans Land' Howdy Fowler, the West Texas Cowboy owns a 700 acre ranch. If you check out comparable ranches for sale in the Davis Mountains where he lives, you will find his ranch may be worth six hundred thousand to a million dollars. Howdy Fowler is what we call cash poor, land rich.
      My guess is he will retire, pasture cattle for a fee on his ranch. Sale the ranch or sub-divide it up and make some money.
      Also I think that old cowboy does not buy garbage like flat screen TV's and computer garbage so he can live comfortably the rest of his life sitting on a rocking chair on his porch watching the sun rise and set everyday.

    5. Crunch,
      I hope you are right. On tonight's episode they had him out scrounging old bones for $300.00. Maybe that was just dramatic effect, I noticed he had a nice truck and trailer rig.

  2. Interesting you got me curious what happened. If you find out anything give us an update.

  3. I will but it is kind of like the import license thing with the state department. I've exhausted every avenue of approach I know. People just don't like to share information on the net, I think they are afraid they'll get sued. I've been trying to figure this one out for some time and I just can't nail it down.

  4. It looks like Navy Arms is going to have a booth at the NRA AM. I will stop by and see what I can learn. I will let you know.

    1. Mark, I would very much appreciate that. I was a good customer of theirs for years, and would like to know what happened.