In the late 19th and well into the 20th centuries, it became very common or even trendy for consumers to shop from the catalogs of major retailers. J.C. Penny, Sears, and Montgomery Wards were all big names that offered their extensive selection of products through catalog sales.
Companies in many industries jumped at the chance to capitalize on this trend by offering their products incognito. It was a genius marketing strategy really. They were selling their goods under trade names and/or store brands in an effort to secure more sales for their products, and the firearms industry was no exception.
Have you ever heard someone say, “don’t buy that one, you’re just paying for the name”? Well, it was probably because you were! It is a practice that is still common today with electronics, clothing, and just about everything else.
It worked so well, and generated so many sales that many gun manufacturers established trade names or subsidiaries to sell their firearms through these store catalogs. For the most part consumers could buy what was essentially the same gun as the name brand, but with perhaps a few inferior parts, such as cheaper wood used for the stocks, or plastic trigger guards instead of metal, and so on. A good example would be a rifle sold as a Glenfield in the retailer’s catalog, which was actually identical to a gun being sold at a premium directly from Marlin.
There were also guns contracted to be sold under store brand names such as J.C. Penny, Sears, and Wards. Some stores took this a step further and created their own brand names, such as Western Field. Western Field guns were made by Mossberg, Savage, Marlin, and others, but were sold and exclusively made for Montgomery Ward. Sears used the same tactics with their brand name J.C. Higgins and later Ted Williams.
All this name changing can create quite a bit of confusion for someone trying to repair one of these old catalog guns, and without a good reference it may be nearly impossible. To list all of the models that were sold this way would require a lot more space. Luckily, we have been collecting this information for many years and can offer a cross-reference search function that should help remove some of the guesswork from your next project.