If it wasn't George Jennings it probably would have been someone else. Capitalizing on a provision in the Gun Control Act of 1968, which banned the importation of cheap, poorly-made handguns, Jennings created his own design for a small caliber, easily-produced pistol.
That design launched a domestic manufacturing empire which churns out high volumes of handguns commonly referred to as "Saturday Night Specials." This extended family of businesses has been dubbed the "Ring of Fire" by critics, and now consists of five southern California companies which in 1993 produced almost 900,000 handguns.
A machinist by trade, George Jennings founded Raven Arms in 1970. His son Bruce Jennings joined Raven two years later, but left in 1978 to start Jennings Firearms. In 1982, George Jennings helped his daughter Gail and her husband Jim Davis, formerly the office manager at Raven Arms, start Davis Industries. Jim's brother John Davis, a machine operator at Raven, also went to work at Davis Industries.
In 1985, faced with the prospect of losing his Federal Firearms License for a felony assault charge, Bruce Jennings sold Jennings Firearms to Calwestco, owned by a his former office manager, Gene Johnson. After plea bargaining the charge down to a misdemeanor, Bruce Jennings converted Jennings Firearms into a firearms wholesaler and established a new company, Bryco Arms, controlled by his ex-wife Janice, to manufacture firearms. Jennings Firearms, the wholesaler, bought guns from both Calwestco and Bryco Arms, and resold them to distributors. In 1991, Calwestco closed.
In 1987, John Davis left Davis Industries to start his own gun manufacturing business, Sedco Industries Inc. John Davis was in business for only three months before a $45 million dollar lawsuit alleging he stole trade secrets was filed against him by George and Bruce Jennings, and his own brother, Jim Davis. Sedco closed in 1989, and John Davis declared bankruptcy three years later. That same year, a nephew of George Jennings started Sundance Industries.
Jim Waldorf, a childhood friend of Bruce Jennings, set up his own gun manufacturing business in 1989, Lorcin Engineering. He brought in John Davis as plant manager and by 1993 Lorcin was making more pistols (341,243) than any gun maker in the U.S.
The original Jennings company, Raven Arms, was destroyed by fire in 1991. But soon after the company re-emerged as Phoenix Arms. Phoenix is equally owned by Bruce Jenning's ex-wife Janice, his three children, Jim Davis' four children, and Raven's former general manager, Dave Brazeau. George Jennings has since died.