Web Site for Volunteer Enterprises Commando

Right here. Great reference material. A couple of people have made Commando pages, but this is by far the best.

PreviouslyVolunteer Enterprises Commando Tommy Gun-style Stocks for M1 Carbines

Volunteer Enterprises Commando Tommy Gun-style Stocks for M1 Carbines

A reader emails:

i saw your webpage about the commandos, and as you seem to know alot about them, i thought id try to find out something about a rifle i picked up years ago.

its an m1 carbine in a nice machined tommy-gun style stock, and its marked COMMANDO MARK I. it looks like it may have been some kind of prototype, but i have no idea who to contact to find out.

can you help at all? thanks.

I’ve had a post about Commando stocks for M1 carbines in the drafts folder for a long time. I first heard of them in this comment at Michael Silence’s blog:

This may be a bit off topic but…I recently bought a Volunteer Enterprises Commando Mark I, in .30 cal with a fixed shoulder stock and two hand grips. The stock is aluminum. The receiver was made by Plainfield and the barrel is unmarked. Anyone have or know where I can find a manual for this? History of this Mark?

I’m pretty sure what Phil’s got is an M1 Carbine, which is .30 caliber. During WWII they were made by a large variety of companies to meet the war effort. Plainfield wasn’t one of the WWII suppliers. They were a post-war commercial manufacturer who used a mix of surplus parts and new parts. Some of the parts are GI spec that are interchangeable with war-era M1 Carbines and some aren’t.

There was a Commando Mark I stock made for the M1 as an aftermarket part. There was one in this (now expired) listing at Guns America, which also happens to be a Plainfield M1 Carbine with a Commando Mark I stock:

This thread on The High Road has some history of the stock and M1 compatibility:

Most stock makers make different stocks for the US GI M1 and the Universal M1. Volunteer Arms Knoxville made tommy-gun look-alike stocks for the M1 carbine and their literature says the stock will fit the US GI M1 and the Plainfield M1 but NOT the Universal M1. (Volunteer Commando I had a fixed Thompson wood butt; Commando II had no butt; Commando IV had a detachable butt; Commando I II and IV were actually just stocks for M1 carbines. Commando III and V were sheetmetal .45 tommy-gun replicas

And from another thread on The High Road:

Those were pretty fascinating old guns. A Hawkins County deputy let my son fire his (he was carrying it as a patrol rifle). Here attached are some pages from a 1970s sales brochure, which includes the Mark I Mark II and Mark IV stocks. (Mark III was the .45 tommy-gun look-alike that used grease gun magazines and the Mark V was the one that used the Thompson magazines.)

Larry Ruth in his book on M1 carbines ”M1 Carbine: Design, Development & Production” Gun Room Press, 1979, Chapter 9 Post-War Manufacturers, page 220 shows a Plainfield Machine Co. M1 Carbine in a “Commando Mark II” stock, apparently came from the factory that way, but Ruth wrote that PMC never answered his letters inquiring
about their products.

Hope this helps, Carl

More Commando catalog pictures after the jump.

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Volunteer Enterprises Commando Manuals, Information, Disassembly

Great stuff.

Need Gunsmithing for a Volunteer Enterprises Commando?

Talk to Coal Creek Armory. The head of the company owns a number of them and their gunsmiths have fixed up quite a few. I’ve read they’ve had success in  including fabricating new firing pins, which seems to be one of the more common parts to break.

What magazines (clips) for a Commando Mark 9?

From an email:

I’m searching for a clip for a commando mark 9. 9mm semi-auto. Any suggestions?


The Commando Mark 45 uses Thompson submachinegun magazines. What does the Mark 9 use?

Patent for Volunteer Enterprises Commando firing mechanism by Lee Frix

From comments here comes a link to the patent on the firing mechanism of the Volunteer Enterprise Commando rifle.

UPDATE: If you need gunsmithing work on a Commando, talk to Knoxville-based Coal Creek Armory. I’ve talked to the head of the company. He owns a number of them and their gunsmiths have fixed up quite a few. They’ve had success in  including fabricating new firing pins, which seems to be one of the more common parts to break.

John Torelli’s Mark 45 page has moved

Following AOL’s shutdown of their Hometown pages, John moved his content to his own domain at JTJersey.com. His Volunteer Enterprise Mark 45 page is a great resource for anyone interested in those guns.

Commando Rifle as described by Ian Hogg

From The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World’s Firearms by Ian Hogg, Copyright 1978 by Quarto Limited, published by A&W Publishers, New York. ISBN 0-89479-031-5.

A self-loading carbine in .45 calibre, currently made by the Commando Arms Incorporated of Knoxville, Tennessee. In general appearance it resembles the Thompson submachine gun, but uses a different mechanism which fires from a closed breech. The barrel is 16 1/2 inches long, giving greater accuracy than the submachine gun, and there is a wide variety of optional magazines, grips and stocks available to suit the purchaser.

Firearms historian Hogg was British, hence the British spelling of caliber.

Couple of bonus links I’ve found here and there:


UPDATE: If you need gunsmithing work on a Commando, talk to Knoxville-based Coal Creek Armory. I’ve talked to the head of the company. He owns a number of them and their gunsmiths have fixed up quite a few. They’ve had success in  including fabricating new firing pins, which seems to be one of the more common parts to break.

More Commando Rifle Info, Old Ads and Literature



I found those images at John Torelli’s page* from the manual for the Commando Arms Mark 45. I dig the op-art Mark 45 logo. He also has more pages of the manual and a pic of the rarely-seen pistol version. Thanks to John for giving me permission to use his scans.

Commandos were made in Knoxville, TN. They were affordable, semi-automatic rifles that resembled the Thompson Commando submachine gun. The Mark 45 version even used Thompson magazines which are still widely available even today.

I knew about the company’s factory address on Clinton Highway. Torelli’s page lists a company address of 2515 Sutherland Avenue and a phone number of 615-523-3393. Note that when this ad was published the company’s name had changed from Volunteer Enterprises to Commando Arms, reflecting new ownership. According to this page and this one the name change occurred in 1978.


I’ve been exchanging email with a nephew of the man who co-designed the Commando and started Volunteer Enterprises. I’ve already learned a few things from him, and some family members are willing to share information. I’m leaning towards starting a site for the gun since it’s such an interesting and ignored piece of Knoxville history. I’ve promised a friend I’d create a blog for his non-profit group, so the Commando site will have to come after that.

I haven’t mentioned this on the blog because I stopped blogging about gun purchases, but last year I bought a Volunteer Enterprises Commando Mark 45. That’s it below. The case seems to be the “Heavy gauge vinyl carrying case with full-length zipper and inside clip pocket” mentioned in the manual. It previously belonged to an entertainer whose name you’d recognize. I’ll share that story at some point.


Torelli’s page says “Dry firing, the trigger pull is off the scale to the point that you’ll probably check to see that the crossbolt safety isn’t engaged.” That’s no joke. When I got mine I couldn’t get it to dryfire at all until I hosed down the interior with Breakfree CLP lubricant. When I took it to the last blogshoot Sebastian thought it was broken because he couldn’t get it to fire. Sebastian is a big fella, and I think he was being considerate in not wanting to hurt my gun. I told him to go ahead and pull the trigger as hard as he needed to and then it worked fine for him.

* Link updated February 22, 2009 following the shutdown of AOL’s Hometown service.

See also:

UPDATE: If you need gunsmithing work on a Commando, talk to Knoxville-based Coal Creek Armory. I’ve talked to the head of the company. He owns a number of them and their gunsmiths have fixed up quite a few. They’ve had success in  including fabricating new firing pins, which seems to be one of the more common parts to break.

Volunteer Enterprises Commando, Made in Knoxville, TN


I’ve known since I was a kid that the Volunteer Enterprises Commando was made in Knoxville. I didn’t know where in Knoxville until I saw the cover of the owner’s manual. Clinton Highway, PO Box 12198.

Does anyone have any idea where on Clinton Highway that might have been?

UPDATE: Micheal Silence at the Knoxville News-Sentinel was kind enough to link this post. One of his readers, Rick Forman, wrote: “I don’t know the exact address but they were made in Claxton in a steel building across from Old State Cir. next to Bull Run Rd. My brother worked there for a while in the early 70’s.” *

Based on that information I found this satellite image at Google Maps. The next time I’m out Clinton Highway I’ll pop in some of those buildings. I’m betting someone knows which one was formerly Volunteer Enterprises.

* NOTE FOR Y’ALL WHAT AIN’T FROM AROUND HERE – Claxton is an area on Clinton Highway. It’s either a community or possibly a town that was annexed by Knoxville (I’m a little unclear on that point, so if you know, don’t be bashful about posting in comments). There are many parts of Knoxville, like Bearden, that were once cities unto themselves before being annexed as Knoxville grew, and which retain parts of their original identities.

Jay Earns Net.fame

I noticed a visitor in the blog’s referral logs that came from Deviant Art (work safe despite the name). It turns out the artist used a photo from this 2003 blog post to make a photo manipulation.

Vintage Katz by ~roguehobbit on deviantART

Here’s the original:


The gun Jay is holding is a Commando made in Knoxville by Volunteer Enterprises. That post gets quite a few hits from people searching for information about the Commando, and in comments people are sharing information and trading parts.

Notes from the Smokey Mtn Gun Show (Volunteer Enterprises Commando Rifle)

Commando carbine, made in Knoxville, TennesseeJay and I went to the Smokey Mountain Gun Show yesterday at the Knoxville Expo Center. Here’s a summary of what we saw. If you have a 9 mm or .40 caliber pistol, be sure to read about the Kel-Tech Sub 2000 carbine, my pick of the show. You’ll also be interested if you need a light system for your shotgun, or have an interest in French pinfire guns of the 1800s.

We found a piece of local history at the show. In the picture at right Jay is holding the Commando, a .45 caliber Tommy Gun look-alike once manufactured in Knoxville, Tennessee. We also found a single shot shotgun marked “Volunteer Arms” with a hang tag saying “paint it orange and white.” I had never heard of the company, but according to this page they were headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, so the Volunteer name is apparently a fluke. Too bad. It could have been the official boarding weapon of the Vol Navy.

UPDATE: If you need gunsmithing work on a Commando, talk to Knoxville-based Coal Creek Armory. I’ve talked to the head of the company. He owns a number of them and their gunsmiths have fixed up quite a few. They’ve had success in  including fabricating new firing pins, which seems to be one of the more common parts to break.

I didn’t buy any guns, but I picked up a bore light, range bag, and rifle bag. I also snagged some ammunition, including some short, light-recoil 12 gauge shells that looked interesting.

The best thing I bought was an Advanced Technology light clamp and a TacStar light switch for my Mossberg shotgun. The clamp holds a standard Mini-Mag or other 1″ flashlight below the tubular magazine. The switch replaces the Mini-Mag’s tail cap, and has a curly cord running to a pressure switch that I mounted on the shotgun’s fore-end stock. Tapping the switch turns the Mini-Mag on and off. It’s a complete tactical light for about $40, as opposed to $300 or more for a SureFire or similar lighting system. (Later: I’ve decided the switch is flaky, so I’ll use the light’s own on/off switch instead.)

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Three Reasons I’m Proud of Knoxville: Guns, Trucks, and Breasteseses

Nippits InstructionsNippits are “nipple concealment devices” for women of fashion. From World of Longmire:

According to the Birmingham Business Journal, Knoxville is soon to have a new entry in its long-beleaguered apparel industry. A company called Nippits, Inc., manufactures special adhesive tape that helps fashionable ladies in thin dresses conceal their nipples from unwanted detection. The Nippit has reportedly already been worn by some of the most fabulously breasted women of Hollywood, including Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, and Angelina Jolie, and by Carrie-Anne Moss in the new sequels to The Matrix. Developer Sheila Johnson, a Birmingham entrepreneur and former model, and her physician husband Kraig Johnson have reportedly bought “manufacturing capacity at a factory in Knoxville, Tenn.” They have sold more than 300,000 of the accessories at $5-10 per five-pair pack.

Longmire is a twisted bastard. I like him already.

U.S. Internet alum Hillary Meyer reports that Idleaire got Slashdotted yesterday. They’re a local Knoxville company that makes trucking terminals that provide truck cabs with air conditioning, heating, Internet access, phone lines, cable TV and AC power so that the truck’s engine doesn’t have to idle all night. The company was founded by some of the same people who started U.S. Internet. Fellow U.S. Internet alum Chris Range of Celtic Grove announces a possible new direction for the startup:

Stay on the lookout for new licensed products including Idleaire Pull-Ups. They’re absorbant, disposable pull-up underwear for bigger kids suffering from enuresis and nighttime incontinence. Plus they have the added benefit of in-pants air conditioning, Internet access and electrification.

.410 revolverJay was saying the other day how a .410 pistol would be cool. The Thunder Five is a five-shot, .410 bore revolver made in Piney Flats, Tennessee.

Technically, Piney Flats is one county over, but Knoxville has its own gun-making history. According to Ian Hogg’s “Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World’s Firearms,” a Knoxville firm known as Commando Arms Incorporated used to make a Thompson submachine gun clone called the Commando. Starke Patteson tells me that there’s currently a Knoxville company who manufacturers gun barrels for Winchester, and is now tooling up for their own guns.