Springfield Armory: The Oldest Name in American Firearms (And a Gun Legend)
The name Springfield Armory is a bit confusing. Today it houses the largest collection of historical military weapons in the country and is looked after by the National Parks Service (NPS). Its origins date back to the time of the American Revolution when the commander of the Continental Army General George Washington ordered it to be created as a repository for ammunition and weapons carts.
The original Springfield Arsenal made weapons for every American conflict from the war of 1812 to Vietnam until it was closed by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1968.
Then there is Springfield Armory, the weapons manufacturer.
This four-time recipient of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) American Rifleeman’s Golden Bullseye Award was founded by Bob Reese in 1974, but has no actual connection with America’s first arsenal in Springfield, Massachusetts. Reese was inspired by John C. Garand and John Browning and continues the tradition of excellence with the name of the famous arsenal.
One of the first firearms this new manufacturer made was a civilian version of the U.S. Army’s M14 rifle, released as the M1A. Almost ironically – but perhaps on purpose – the Army’s M14 was the very last military weapon made in the actual arsenal.
Military clones to Black Guns
This close association with the military continued when the company released numerous modern civilian clones for classic military weapons. As “The First Name in American Firearms,” the Springfield Armory paid homage to the US military, manufacturing a premium but affordable range of M1911 pistols and near-perfect modern versions of the M1 Garands, Cold from WWII FN FALs wartime and even the M6 Scouts, a copy of the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon.
For shooters, historical reenactors, and collectors, this was a way to own the classics at a fraction of the cost of the original – and in the case of the M6, it was never available in the civilian market.
The Springfield Armory was also a leader in the modern sporting rifle market, producing their line of Saint AR-15, which The National Interest had previously called “one of the best rifles of all time”. This simple, no-frills version was attractive in that it wouldn’t break the bank, but it was still a quality weapon that could be upgraded if necessary.
The company’s XD (M) Competition Series handguns also offered an affordable alternative to the Glock and Sig Sauer. The high-precision, extremely reliable pistols are characterized by a streamlined design that enables a balanced, light grip.
Fight against the good fight
In addition to making an affordable line of firearms, the company led the way in supporting the second change – and it wasn’t always easy.
While in Illinois today, the company campaigned for the 2006 state-proposed “offensive weapon ban”. The company’s co-owner, Dennis Reese, made it clear whether the law that passed Springfield Armory would find a new home. That way, it has become the first name and perhaps the last word in American firearms.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.