Rock Island Armory

Post WWII Commercially Manufactured M1 Carbines (U.S.A.)

Rock Island Armory

Colona & Geneseo


Rock Island Arsenal

Rock Island Armory, the privately owned company, is unrelated to Rock Island Arsenal, the U.S. Government owned and operated military arsenal. The name Rock Island Armory, with a logo similar to that used by U.S. Army Ordnance, was simply a marketing tactic. A good one, especially given the two locations were within 25 miles of one another.

Rock Island Arsenal comprises 946 acres (1.478 sq mi), located on Arsenal Island, originally known as Rock Island, on the Mississippi River between the cities of Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois. It lies within the state of Illinois. The island was originally established as a government site in 1816, with the building of Fort Armstrong. It is now the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States. It has been an active manufacturer of military equipment and ordnance since the 1880s.

After WWII Rock Island Arsenal manufactured various parts for the U.S. .30 caliber carbines and operated as an inspection and rebuild facility for carbines used during WWII. The marking assigned to Rock Island Arsenal for carbine parts they manufactured and carbines they overhauled was RIA.

Rock Island Armory, Incorporated

Rock Island Armory was incorporated March 1977 by David Reese in Colona, IL. Reese's brothers, Thomas and Dennis, incorporated Springfield Guns Inc., doing business as Springfield Armory, January 1977 in Geneseo, IL. Their father, Robert Reese, had been operating Reese Surplus, Inc. (RSI) in Colona, IL since December 1963. The Reese family often worked together assisting one another and their various companies.

Rock Island Armory acquired and sold surplus military weapons and parts with a primary focus on U.S. military arms. They were in business from March 1977 through approximately 2007.

Rock Island Armory - 1979-1985

In March 1985, author Larry Ruth interviewed David Reese and was told Rock Island Armory Inc. had completed assembly on 800-1000 M1 Carbines using surplus GI parts with commercial receivers made using the dies and tooling previously used by National Ordnance Inc. of South El Monte, CA. 100 of these carbines had been turned over to Springfield Armory and marked with the Springfield name. At the time of the interview Rock Island Armory Inc. and Springfield Armory Inc. occupied the same building. [War Baby Comes Home by Larry Ruth p. 755]

The master dies and tooling used by National Ordnance was manufactured in 1960 and used by National Ordnance throughout production 1960-1972 in addition to Alpine 1962-1965. After the death of the owner of National Ordnance in 1974, the equipment passed into the hands of Federal Ordnance who sold it to SARCO in New Jersey. The Reese family purchased this equipment from SARCO.

One of the definitive identifiers of the dies and tooling used by National Ordnance was the bottom of the receiver along the length of the recoil spring, which was cast in segments to avoid issues related to drilling the deep hole from the front of the receiver to the rear of the receiver.

The only advertisement for Rock Island's M1 Carbines located so far appears in their January 1983 catalog. Note the description indicates the receivers were newly manufactured from 4140 steel. By the 1985 catalog the carbines were no longer listed.

Rock Island Armory catalog
January 1983

Example #1


Example #2

When Rock Island Armory decided the dies and tooling for these receivers was no longer usable, a number of these receivers were left unfinished without serial numbers. These were eventually sold and may be encountered for sale either as unfinished receivers or complete carbines. Some of the carbines observed to date the unfinished receiver was parkerized or blued and used to build an M1 Carbine. Sometimes the receivers were finish machined, hardened, then parkerized or blued before being assembled into a carbine.

Note the lack of a serial number

Cast & unfinished receiver
DO NOT use a Rock Island Armory receiver that does not have a serial number or appears unfinished as it's highly likely it's unsafe to shoot.

In the U.S. serial numbers are legally required on all firearms manufactured since 1968. This
law does not apply to unfinished receivers. If the receiver has been used to build
a complete firearm or the machining was finished, the serial number is mandated.

Serial Numbers

Reese indicated to Ruth the first 500 carbines assembled by Rock Island were given the following serial numbers.

Reese did not provide the serial number sequences for the additional carbines.

Serial numbers observed so far include a three digit serial number with no letter preceding it and serial numbers with three numbers preceded by the letters A, B, C, D, and E. Some starting with the letter E have exceeded E-100.

Rock Island Armory Ceases Doing Business

Rock Island Armory continued selling various surplus military guns and gun parts until approximately 2007. About 2008 the company name was acquired by Armscor in the Philippines. Armscor imports 1911's and small caliber rifles manufactured in the Philippines into the U.S.A.

The Reese's didn't stop doing business, they just stopped using the Rock Island name. The family continues to operate several surplus parts businesses and Springfield Armory, Inc.