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.
- Volunteer Enterprises Commando, Made in Knoxville, TN
- Jay Earns Net.fame
- Notes from the Smokey Mtn Gun Show
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.