SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ Smith & Wesson Corp. has settled a federal discrimination complaint by agreeing to pay up to $450,000 to 1,600 women it allegedly refused to hire, the U.S. Labor Department said Monday.

The Labor Department had filed a complaint alleging the gun maker broke federal contracting rules in barring women from two entry-level factory positions between 1985 and 1987.

``Even though 1,600 women applied for these positions, they only ended up filling the jobs with men,'' said John M. Chavez, a Labor Department spokesman. Three-hundred men were hired for the jobs _ machine operators and revolver assembly persons _ during those years, he said.

Smith & Wesson said it admitted no wrongdoing in reaching the settlement.

``It was in everyone's best interest not to invest large amounts of time, money and energy defending a 10-year-old claim,'' said George Colclough, a vice president at Springfield-based Smith & Wesson, which is owned by Britain's Tomkins PLC. He refused to answer other questions.

Federal officials said the company has since hired women and now complies with rules on gender discrimination.