The meaning of “Hensley & Gibbs”

April 2008


A lot of folks have asked me over the years what “Geo. A. Hensley” or “Hensley & Gibbs” means on the blocks of the moulds


Well, here is the answer:


Geo. A. Hensley stands for George A. Hensley, a machinist who started the business in 1933 that eventually transformed into “Hensley & Gibbs” in about 1941 when George partnered with James Gibbs, father of Wayne Gibbs.  George A. Hensley and James ran the business in the war years (World War Two) out of a small shed in the back yard of George A. Hensley’s home in San Diego, CA, USA.  In 1954, George Hensley had by then retired, and James moved the operation to Murphy, Oregon, and later his son Wayne Gibbs joined his father in the manufacture of the finest bullet moulds ever made.  James Gibbs retained the Hensley & Gibbs name after the move to Oregon despite George’s retirement.


Eventually Wayne ran the business after his father James retired.  Here and there sprinkled in all the information I have assembled on this website you will see references to the above information.  I just decided it was time to put it all in one place for easy reading.


George A. Hensley started the business alone (solo) in about 1933.  Shortly thereafter, I don’t have an exact date, he met James Gibbs, circa 1936 or so.  George made moulds alone, and marked first the handles only, and then later the blocks with “GEO A. HENSLEY SAN DIEGO CA” for years, until he decided to partner with James Gibbs.  That partnership was “official” about 1941, and the markings on the moulds changed to “HENSLEY & GIBBS SAN DIEGO CA”.  The next change occurred in about 1954, when James Gibbs moved the mould making business from San Diego to Murphy, Oregon, and the markings changed to “HENSLEY & GIBBS MURPHY OR” which was the final mark used until the business ceased operations in 1999.  This was a family business as you can see in this photo:



Pictured are:  James Gibbs (father of Wayne Gibbs), Fred Hensley (George’s brother), and George Hensley working in the San Diego shop behind George’s home.


One thing I’ve told folks over the years about their operation is context.  You, the user, have to take into context time and location when talking about why a certain mould was made which way, or why there are inconsistencies here and there on the mould stamping or other information.


In context, George Hensley started making moulds in 1933 behind his home in the then countryside of San Diego CA.  When he started in 1933, he worked alone, and moulds made in that early era bear the earliest trademarks and designs.  Where his home is today is the center of a bustling industrial modern city.  But back then, it was fields and homes.  George hunted for cottontail rabbits in his back 40 when he wasn’t making moulds.  And his shop was a shed behind his home.  Back in 1933, the depression was in full swing.  George needed to make money.  There was no such thing as an ISO 9000 operation.  George took raw materials and made a mould for money.  His ledger was probably a bound ledger that you see in antique stores today.  He scrawled down what the customer ordered, made it, and shipped it, and then moved on.  The very early GEO A. HENSLEY moulds do not bear a mfg’s mark on the mould body, the mark only appears on the handles.  So, there are unmarked GEO A. HENSLEY moulds out in circulation, as the moulds and handles often get separated in sales.  Later, as they made more and more moulds, and became Hensley and Gibbs, there was more of a standardization of markings and such, but remember, this was mid 1940 or so.  More than 60 years ago.  Most of the moulds back then were shipped rail express.  It was just a different time and place.  So understanding context of when a particular mould was made is very important.  Time was money in those days.  George just got it done.  Here is an example of what I am talking about, in an email from years back; this is a story Wayne Gibbs emailed me:


(Wayne and I were chatting about unstamped moulds if they were made by George A. Hensley and sold under the Peerless name)


…It probably wasn't stamped Geo. A Hensley, or H&G, just Peerless I'd guess. Those were depression years, and George wasn't that well known so I'll bet he didn't care whose name was on the product, as long as he turned out a good one. I know they would have been of the same quality as the ones he turned out under his own name. That was the only way George (and my dad) would have it, from my experience. 


I have letters from Elmer Keith on his designs, especially #258 for the .41 Mag.

(That was the first cherry that I made personally, as I recall) and letters from Dean Grennell--many letters from Dean, in fact. Question--I haven't heard, but do you know if Dean is still alive? He got where he couldn't hear on the phone, so he pretty well gave up on phone calls, then he quit writing for Gun World (he said he might as well quit writing anyway, as he couldn't find a place to shoot anymore)  Dean was a good guy, he meant what he said when he wrote.


He didn't like writers that "prostituted" themselves for some free firearms trinkets.

On Elmer Keith's letters--My dad said that they of course had a bunch of correspondence from Elmer (In those days we didn't even have a phone in the shop, but George had a household phone in the house in front of the shop)--people didn't phone long distance in those days, and it was easier to read letters anyway, I guess. Anyhow, one day Pop came back from lunch and George was out in the yard burning all the old correspondence. He didn't see  any use in keeping it, it was just in the way. My dad took a more historical perspective on it, luckily, and convinced George that it would be a good idea to keep much of it (that hadn't already been burned) and hauled off the remainder.


One of these days I hope to get copies of those Elmer Keith letters from Wayne Gibbs and post it here on the website so we can all enjoy. 

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