Photo courtesy of Glen Efinger
Trademark of ...
Springfield Armory, Inc.
For over two centuries Springfield Armory manufactured weapons for the United States of America. The 20th century weapon they are known best for is the semi-automatic M1 or Garand rifle made from 1937 to 1957. In 1968, Springfield Armory was closed in a cost-saving effort resulting in U.S. military reliance on private contractors ever since. Springfield Armory was our Nation's first armory and last armory. Springfield Armory is now a National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service. The museum and surroundings are well worth a visit.
The U.S. .30 caliber M1 Carbine was never manufactured at Springfield Armory. All ten companies that made the original GI carbines were contracted to do so as Springfield Armory and other government owned facilities were already committed to other projects. After eight of ten contracts were canceled in 1944 due to a surplus, Springfield Armory was selected as a repository for some of the M1 Carbine production machinery and most of the surplus parts. Plans were made for Springfield Armory to begin manufacturing 1000 M1/M2 Carbines a month starting in January 1945. For a number of reasons, this never happened.
Between July 1945 and closure of Springfield Armory in 1967 they produced various M1 and M2 Carbine parts on an as needed basis. Along with Raritan Arsenal and Augusta Arsenal, Springfield Armory was involved in the overhaul of over 250,000 WWII carbines between 1945 and 1948. Between 1950 and 1954 they manufactured 454,761 carbine barrels to be used as replacements. The Ordnance marking used by Springfield Armory on the parts they manufactured were the letters "SA". [War Baby Comes Home by Larry Ruth, pp. 533-561]
The original Springfield Armory never manufactured a receiver for the M1 or M2 Carbines.
Illinois corporate records show Springfield Guns Inc. dba Springfield Armory was incorporated in January 1977 in Geneseo, IL by Thomas and Dennis Reese. Their brother, David Reese, incorporated Rock Island Armory Inc. March 1977 in Colona, IL. Their father, Robert Reese, incorporated Reese Surplus, Inc. (RSI) in Colona, IL in December 1963.
The name "Springfield Armory" was trademarked by the company June 19, 1986. As was the shooter drawing depicted at the top of this page.
Springfield Armory, Inc. - Act I: 1984
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.
Receivers manufactured by Rock Island using this die and tooling were built into M1 Carbines in 1983 and 1984. The receiver below was made from the same die and tooling and believed to be the first of the additional 500 carbines built by Rock Island and used by Springfield Armory that David Reese referred to during his interview by Larry Ruth.
Several Springfield Armory marked cast receivers were observed for sale on Gunbroker.com in early 2009. The machining of these receivers had not been completed and they had not been hardened. The Springfield markings were the same as what appears above but neither had a serial number. Both had the segmented recoil spring hole.
During an interview with Bob Brenner, owner of Federal Ordnance while it was in business, Brenner related the dies and tooling sold to SARCO was basically worn out and didn't have much lifespan left. This information was corroborated by Bob Penney, who initially started National Ordnance and designed the open recoil spring hole, separating from National Ordnance in 1962 and building carbines under the Alpine name until 1965. By mutual agreement Alpine used the same dies and tooling for their carbine receivers as National Ordnance continued to use for their receivers. National Ordnance ceased using the dies and tooling about 1971, opting for a new master die and tooling used by a company in Spain. See the pages on National Ordnance and Alpine for further information about their history and carbines.
The receivers manufactured with the dies and tooling designed by National Ordnance used a two or three digit serial number preceded by the letters CS. Reese indicated to Ruth 100 of these receivers were made by Rock Island Armory and used by Springfield Armory.
The Gun Control Act of October 1968 blocked the importation of all U.S. military surplus weapons that had been provided to other countries during and after WWII.
In May 1986 the Firearms Owners' Protection Act lifted this ban caused by the GCA of 1968. However, when Blue Sky Productions of Arlington, VA attempted to import M1
Garands and M1 Carbines from South Korea in September 1986, the rifles were seized by U.S. Customs and the Dept. of Treasury. Blue Sky filed an appeal, citing the
Firearm's Owners' Protection Act. The Dept. of Treasury cited the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which had also prevented importation of U.S. military weapons given or
sold to other nations. In December 1987 the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 was amended to align it with 1984 GCA, thus allowing Blue Sky to import the M1 Garands and M1 Carbines.
[Washington Post 1/8/1988]
What followed was an influx of tens of thousands of original WWII production GI carbines from around the world. This continued until another change in the laws under the Clinton Administration, about 1994.
The Firearms Owners' Protection Act had been in the works for at least a year prior to it's passage. Efforts to get Congress to accept the Firearms Owners' Protection Act were highly publicized within the NRA and shooting sports industries. Rock Island Armory Inc. was an importer and stood to benefit from this legislation (and eventually did). What Blue Sky encountered was not anticipated, but was well known in the industry almost immediately after it happened. The appeal placed a temporary hold on any immediate plans, but it did not eliminate the anticipation of what was probably coming in the not too distant future.
Whether this was what stopped Rock Island Armory Inc. and Springfield Armory Inc. from manufacturing and selling M1 Carbines, is not known for sure. But, any profit they would have made was likely reduced significantly under these circumstances. The commercial carbine manufacturer Iver Johnson's had acquired their biggest competitor, Universal Firearms, in 1983. Due to circumstances not related to these legal events, the owner of Iver Johnson's filed for bankruptcy in 1986. However, Iver Johnson's was taken over by a new owner and continued to make carbines. By 1992 Iver Johnson's and their new owners were in bankruptcy, leaving no one manufacturing new commercial M1 Carbines. This may be a clue as to the foresight at Springfield Armory, Inc. et al.
Springfield Armory, Inc. - Act II: 1995-1996
Several sources have reported receivers sold by Springfield Armory in 1995 or 1996 that were returned to Springfield Armory due to machining flaws related to the deep hole
for the recoil spring.
This issue has been an issue related to M1 Carbines from their introduction in 1941. A special machine is required to control the specific angle to start this hole at the front of the receiver to prevent the drill from exiting the sides of the receiver before it reaches the end of the receiver. During 1941 contracted manufacturers had difficulty obtaining this machine due to the demand. Some opted for a detachable tube that held the recoil spring. All of the receivers manufactured by Quality Hardware under contract to U.S. Army Ordnance during WWII utilized the detachable recoil spring tube. Winchester and Inland utilized the detachable tube to recover from scrap those receivers that the drill had exited the sides of the receiver. The side was milled out and the tube was used instead.
It is not known if these receivers were the same as what follows or an entirely different receiver. With the receivers that follow Springfield Armory either acquired the correct machine or a company who had the machine and could drill the hole for them. CNC machining not available during WWII may have helped solve this problem for Springfield Armory.
Springfield Armory, Inc. - Act III: 1997-2003
A Springfield Armory advertisement in the October 1999 issue of Shotgun News advertised a new forged steel M1 Carbine receiver.
Shotgun News advertisement October 1999
Obviously the company planned on manufacturing and selling entire M1 Carbines. They did introduce their M1 Garand. The reason for not proceeding with the carbines is believed to have been the retail prices needed to cover the overhead cost and still earn a profit would not be well received by buyers.
Another Springfield Armory Inc. advertisement in Shotgun News in June 2001 indicates their M1 Carbine receivers were still available. At the National Rifle Championships held at Camp Perry Ohio in the summer of 2003, these forged steel receivers were being sold at clearance prices at the Springfield Armory booth in the vendor area.
These receivers were of a quality and dimensions equal to, and some believe better than, the original WWII Carbines manufactured under contract to U.S. Army Ordnance. They have been one of the best commercial carbine receivers manufactured to date.
David Reese related the receivers were manufactured for Springfield by Lewis Machine & Tool Company of Milan, IL.
Photo courtesy of Glen Efinger
The forged steel receiver sold 1997-2003 has a 6 digit serial number starting at 100,000, all preceded by the letters SC. The lowest serial number observed to date is SC10045 which was purchased direct from Springfield Armory, Inc. in July 1997. The highest observed to date has been SC12971.
David Reese related the total quantity manufactured by Lewis Machine & Tool Co. for Springfield was 3000.
Unique "Springfield Armory" Carbines
A number of carbine collectors and/or enthusiasts have used the forged steel receiver manufactured by the commercial Springfield Armory of Geneseo, IL and
constructed an M1 Carbine using parts manufactured by the original U.S. Springfield Armory in Springfield, MA.
Walnut M2 stock & handguard
Birch M2 stock & handguard
Post WWII U.S. Springfield Armory in Massachusetts manufactured a number of carbine parts. These parts are interchangeable between the U.S M1 Carbine and the U.S. M2 Carbine. They did not manufacturer all of the parts. Most of the parts can be identified by the initials SA somewhere on the part. Many of these parts were covered with a grease preservative and packaged for use as replacement parts. Some of them have never been used.
Parts manufactured by the original U.S. Springfield Armory marked with the letters SA:
Several parts were manufactured by U.S. Springfield Armory and not marked (i.e. M2 sear, cast recoil plate). For the parts that were not made by U.S. Springfield Armory, late Inland parts are often used. The result is an M1 Carbine that has often been constructed using unused GI parts on a new forged steel receiver made to GI specifications, with a configuration consistent with the last carbines manufactured for U.S. Army Ordnance in 1945. In "like new" condition.
Yet Another Possible Springfield Armory, Inc. Receiver
The carbine that follows was built using surplus GI parts. The barrel was manufactured by the original Springfield Armory. Look close at the markings on the receiver ring.
CAL .30 M2
The original Springfield Armory did not manufacturer M1 or M2 Carbine receivers. Given this carbine has the letters SA where the manufacturers markings are normally found, with no other manufacturer's name, the logical conclusion is the receiver was made by Springfield Armory, Inc,. The font type and size are consistent with those used on a Rock Island Armory receiver depicted on the web page for that company's carbines.
Rock Island and Springfield are not known to have produced M2 Carbines (selective fire capable of full-auto fire). Every M1 Carbine receiver marked M2 is considered a machine-gun by U.S. law and illegal to own or possess without the proper ATF documents.
Insufficient information was available to determine if this was one of the M2 receivers manufactured by Inland in 1945.