ARTV: The Springfield Armory Story

Behind the scenes at Springfield Armory Inc.

by
posted on June 3, 2021

Springfield Armory Inc., based in Geneseo, Ill., is one of the most popular manufacturers of AR-15s, striker-fired semi-automatic handguns, 1911s and M1A rifles the U.S. market today. The M1A in particular is one of the product lines for which the company is best known. Springfield Armory Inc. wasn’t always as well known or as large of a manufacturer as it is today, though, and started off with humble beginnings as a family business.

Before becoming Springfield Armory, Inc., the company was a small surplus firearms parts distributor located on the property of the Reese family in Illinois. The Reese family were farmers who ran a firearm-parts business on the side, storing large quantities of parts in the different farm buildings on the property.

A rack of Springfield Armory Inc. M1A Squad Scout assembled receivers at the factory.
A rack of Springfield Armory Inc. M1A Squad Scout assembled receivers at the factory.

At the time, there were very few semi-automatic versions of the M-14 select-fire rifle on the market. Some of the few offering available were M1A semi-automatic versions made in San Antonio, Tex., by a small business called “Springfield Armory” owned by Elmer Ballance. In 1974, Ballance was looking to end his business and sell the assets, and the Reese family mortgaged their farm to purchase the materials and rights to the company.

Two semi-trucks delivered the machinery and resources of the old “Springfield Armory” business to the Reese farm. Included in the shipment were several shoeboxes full of letters responding to an American Rifleman ad for the M1A rifles. This encouraged the Reese family to pursue the M1A rifle as a product line, and was the start of the Springfield Armory, Inc. known now. 

A worker at the Springfield Armory Inc. Custom Shop polishing the receiver of a 1911.
A worker at the Springfield Armory Inc. Custom Shop polishing the receiver of a 1911.

From there, the M1A line of rifles made by Springfield Armory Inc. increased in popularity and helped put the company name on the map. The rifles also drew in professional competition shooters to the company, like Rob Leatham who started his connection with Springfield Armory Inc. after winning a M1A Super Match in the 1983 IPSC U.S. Nationals.

Later in the 1980s, the company began offering 1911-style handguns and established a custom shop to make higher-end pistols. The custom shop pistols are all fit and filed by hand to this day. This later grew to the importation of foreign pistol models, like the CZ-75 based P9 and XD family of polymer-frame, striker-fired handguns based off the HS2000.

A rack of assembled Saint AR-15 style rifles at Springfield Armory Inc.
A rack of assembled Saint AR-15 style rifles at Springfield Armory Inc.

Since then, Springfield Armory Inc. now also offers its own lines of AR-15 rifles and pistols called the Saint. This is on top of the many custom and standard models of rifles and handguns it offers. The company is stilled headed by the Reese family, with Bob Reese’s son, Dennis Reese, as CEO today.

To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST.

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