Springfield Armory: The Oldest Name in American Firearms (And a Gun Legend)

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The original Springfield Arsenal was where weapons were manufactured for every American conflict from the War of 1812 through Vietnam until it was closed by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1968.

by Peter Suciu

The name Springfield Armory is a little confusing. Today it houses the largest collection of historic military firearms in the country, and is actually under the care of the National Parks Service (NPS). Its origins date back to the time of the American Revolution when Commander of the Continental Army General George Washington ordered that it be created as a place to store ammunition and gun carriages.

The original Springfield Arsenal was where weapons were manufactured for every American conflict from the War of 1812 through Vietnam until it was closed by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1968.

Then there is Springfield Armory, the firearms manufacturer.

This four-time recipient of the National Rifle Association (NRA) American Rifleman's Golden Bullseye award, was actually founded in 1974 by Bob Reese, yet has no actual connection to America's first arsenal in Springfield, Massachusetts. Reese was inspired by the likes of John C. Garand and John Browning, and continues the tradition of excellence with the name of the famous arsenal.

Among the first firearms this new manufacturer produced was a civilian version of the U.S. Army's M14 rifle, which released as the M1A. Almost ironically – but perhaps purposely – the Army's M14 was the very last military firearm produced at the actual arsenal.

Military Clones to Black Guns

That close connection to military has continued as the company released numerous modern civilian clones to classic military weapons. As "The First Name in American Firearms" the Springfield Armory has paid homage to the U.S. military and manufactured a top of the line yet affordable series of M1911 pistols, as well as near perfect modern versions of the World War II era M1 Garands, Cold War era FN FALs and even the M6 Scouts, a copy of the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon.

For shooters, historic reenactors and collectors this provided 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 on the civilian market.

The Springfield Armory has also been a leading manufacturer in the modern sporting rifle market, and produced its line of Saint AR-15s, which The National Interest previously described as "one of the best rifles ever made." That basic no-frills version was attractive in that it wouldn't break the bank, but it still was a quality firearm that could be upgraded as the need arose.

The company's XD(M) Competition Series line of handguns also offered an affordable alternative to the Glock and Sig Sauer. The highly accurate, extremely reliable pistols feature a streamlined design that allowed for a balanced lightweight hold.

Fighting the Good Fight

In addition to producing an affordable line of firearms, the company has been at the forefront of supporting the Second Amendment – and it hasn't always been easy.

While located today in Illinois this company has stood up to calls for state's proposed "assault weapons ban" in 2006. The company's co-owner Dennis Reese made it clear if the law passed Springfield Armory would find a new home. In that way it has become the first name and perhaps 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.

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