Springfield Armory: A Classic American Name Lives On

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posted on January 1, 2022
Springfield Armory

Gen. George Washington ordered the establishment of The Arsenal at Springfield—or Springfield Armory as it’s better known today—in 1777 in the city of Springfield, Mass. Its primary duty early in the Revolutionary War was storage of powder and other supplies needed for firearms. That mission evolved quickly, though. The Connecticut River’s waterpower and the region’s skilled workforce made it ideal for manufacturing.  Soon it was producing flintlocks and the established “roads” that made it an ideal storage and distribution site, were soon carrying raw materials in and finished guns out.

The arsenal played a critical role in arming our troops when the nation was in its infancy and the models it produced changed with each firearm design refinement. By the late 1800s, though, other government-owned plants were better equipped at making small arms for our troops. The Armory, however, had a reputation for in-house innovation—so it became the military’s research, testing and design hub.

Budget constraints closed The Armory at Springfield in the late 1960s. With nearly 200 years of history, machinery and equipment to move, sell or mothball, the duty of closing its doors were assigned to Lt. Col. “Sherm” Mills. American Rifleman’s interview with him in 2019 provides an in-depth look at that formidable task and more detail on the firearms perfected within its walls.

Today the history, and the role it played in our Independence, is preserved on the 55-acre Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Visitors can still visit some of the original buildings, learn more about the critical role it played and more.

The Springfield Armory name may have been destined for trivia, were it not for Elmer C. Balance, who was producing guns under the company name. He was eager to sell the business, despite the fact his semi-automatic version of the M14—marketed as the M1A—was one of the few available to enthusiasts at the time.

In 1974 the business was sold and its entire operation moved to Illinois in a pair of semis. This was no deep-pocketed corporate takeover, though. The new owners were, and are, the Reese family. To finance the purchase they mortgaged the family farm, testimony as to their belief in the Second Amendment and eagerness to keep the Independence-winning tradition of quality and innovation alive. American Rifleman covered Springfield Armory’s move to Geneseo, Ill.—where it remains to this day—earlier this year.

The family’s focus, at first, remained squarely on the vastly popular M1A model, but the company introduced a variety of firearms as it grew, including 1911s, ARs, striker-fired pistols and much more. From that modest, Midwest launch, it has become one of the industry’s foremost. Its lineup continues to grow and recently added Hellcat pistols that have quickly grown to become one the most popular carry options available today.

And the company has never lost focus on defending the Right to Keep and Bear Arms—the primary mission Springfield Armory served more 200 years ago when it helped arm our citizen soldiers. It is among the industry’s leaders when it comes to defending the Second Amendment. It severed ties within hours with Dick’s Sporting Goods after the retailer announced it was removing and destroying all modern sporting rifles from its inventory a few years ago.

Springfield Armory is also a big supporter of the NRA and last year Dennis Reese, CEO-owner of the company, received a well-deserved NRA Publications Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award. “Springfield Armory will continue to do its part in helping protect our right to keep and bear arms, and will work hard to keep bringing exciting and innovative firearms to the consumer market,” Reese said after learning he was the recipient. “I am both proud and honored to receive this prestigious award from the National Rifle Association and look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

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