Read about Springfield Armory history below
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History of the
Springfield Armory M1A
Invented by Elmer Balance
Springfield Armory, Inc. M14 Type Rifles - Springfield Armory, Inc. is the oldest and largest commercial manufacturer of M14 type rifles. The Springfield Armory, Inc. story begins with Mr. Elmer Balance of the L .H . Gun Co. in Devine, Texas (Stevens and Poyer). The U. S. Army Springfield Armory had closed down in April, 1968 (Stevens and Ezell). So, the name of his company was changed to Springfield Armory, Inc. (Stevens). The change was a successful marketing strategy. The receiver design was approved as a Title I firearm under the 1968 Gun Control Act by the Department of the Treasury (March, 1974 American Rifleman). Mr. Balance began selling the Springfield Armory M1A ™ in September, 1971 (Stevens). They were assembled from USGI M14 parts except for the receiver and “certain small action components” according to the March, 1974 American Rifleman. The Texas company warranteed M1A rifles for one year (March, 1974 American Rifleman). Based on serial number evidence, Mr. Balance built less than 3000 rifles using USGI and NM M14 parts. Some of the machinery and parts purchased by Mr. Balance came from the Harrington & Richardson M14 project (Stevens).
The M1A became eligible for use in NRA High Power shooting matches on January 01, 1974 (Stevens). The NRA modified Rule 3.1.1 in the High Power Rifle Rule Book “to include commercially manufactured rifles having the same configuration as the M14 rifle” (Stevens). Mr. Balance states that a total of 4620 receivers were manufactured before selling the company in November, 1974 (Tim Strait’s discussion with Mr. Balance in the fall of 2003 and Duff). These receivers were investment cast of AISI 8620 alloy steel by Valley Ordnance, Inc. in Wilkes-Barre, PA (March, 1974 American Rifleman). Mr. Balance also states that he never made or converted any M1A or M14 type rifles to select fire (Tim Strait’s discussion with Mr. Balance on October 25, 2003).
From Poyer and owners of various model Texas M1A ™ rifles it has been determined that there were three barrel stampings for the Texas company. The marking L H Gun Co, S. A. TX 78226 was found on the first rifles. From a photograph, the barrel marking changed to RT. I BX 2I0 DEVINE TEX. In June, 1974 Springfield Armory, Inc. moved production back to San Antonio
(Poyer). The last Texas M1A ™ rifle barrels were stamped 12106 RADIUM SA TEX 78216. From a L. H. Gun Co. brochure, the original M1A ™ prices were as follows:
Standard model with fiberglass stock $200.00
Standard model with walnut stock $225.00 or used walnut stock $215.00
Standard model with beech stock $215.00 or used beech stock $200.00
M1AE2 with birch stock $250.00
M1AE2 with bipod $275.00
Match grade model with walnut stock $250.00
New issue bayonet $5.00
The new owners of Springfield Armory, Inc. transferred production from Texas to Geneseo, Illinois in late 1974 (Poyer). The best evidence seems to indicate that transition from Texas to Illinois of assembled M1A rifle serial numbers occurred around the 0027XX to 0028XX range. The owner of M1A serial number 002734 was told by Springfield Armory, Inc. Customer Service that his rifle shipped from Geneseo, Illinois on April 28, 1975 (bigmc at BattleRifles.com). Geneseo Ill is electropenciled on the barrel of M1A ™ serial number 002734. An M1A ™ with serial number 0028XX has been identified with the 12106 RADIUM SA TEX 78216 marking (reply to the author from the seller at GunsAmerica.com). The unassembled receivers left over from the Texas company were used to begin production of the M1A ™ in Illinois. According to Poyer, Match grade barrels installed on Illinois M1A rifles in the mid-1970s were made by Numrich Arms (West Hurley, NY). When the Texas company receivers had been used up Valley Ordnance (Wilkes-Barre, PA) continued to supply the raw castings for the Illinois company.
The M1A receiver design was changed prior to serial number 030100 to include a small hemisphere on the right ear outboard side for use of a ball detent with a match windage knob (author’s collection). According to Tim Strait who performed warranty work for Springfield Armory, Inc. in the 1980s, Springfield Armory made further changes to the receiver geometry around serial number 040000. The chamber was moved very slightly forward to improve accuracy and increase bolt lock up time (Tim Strait).
Some Springfield Armory, Inc. receivers have a ridge on the bottom right hand side that may slightly interfere with the stock fit. This ridge has been identified on M1A ™ rifles from serial number 000049 until somewhere between 034XXX and 043XXX (Quagmire from BattleRifles.com and author’s collection). This bottom side ridge was removed from the design as part of the changes made. Springfield Armory, Inc. used to include "7.62-mm" as part of the receiver marking. This marking has been identified on M1A ™ rifles from serial number 000049 until a serial number somewhere between 062857 and 063112 (BattleRifles.com). The "7.62-mm" marking was dropped because Springfield Armory, Inc. began making the M1A ™ in different calibers (e-mail reply from Springfield Armory, Inc.).
Springfield Armory, Inc. M1A ™ rifles with serial numbers under 084000 were reportedly made prior to the September 13, 1994 enactment of the U. S. Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (Ted Brown). The reader is advised to contact Springfield Armory, Inc. for serial numbers just above or below 084000 to confirm the date of assembly. Springfield Armory, Inc. sold stripped receivers which are post-'94 ban if assembled after September 13, 1994. In the late 1990s Springfield Armory, Inc. bought two hundred Israeli Defense Force M14 rifles. The parts from these rifles were assembled on to their commercial receivers with match grade barrels and sold as a limited run model in 1999.
The M25 White Feather rifle recognizes the service of Gunnery Sergeant USMC, (Retired) Carlos Hathcock. Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock was a sniper who served his country admirably in the Viet Nam War. He is credited with ninety-three confirmed kills. He wore a small white feather in his cover (Marine term for hat) while in the field. Hence the rifle name, White Feather. Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock passed away in 2000. In 2003, Springfield Armory, Inc. produced a run of 500 Vietnam Commemorative semi-automatic M14 rifles. M1A ™ serial number 162078 is a SOCOM 16 model that was seen at the 2004 SHOT Show by the author. M1A ™ rifles have been exported to Canada and United Kingdom for sale to private individuals.
Current catalog numbers are listed with the rifle model names:
Standard M1A (MA 9102, 9103, 9104, 9106)>M1A SOCOM 16 (AA 9626)
Scout Squad M1A (AA 9122, 9124, 9126)
Bush M1A (AA 9104)
Loaded Standard M1A (MA 9222, 9226, 9822, 9826)
National Match M1A (NA 9102, 9802)
Super Match M1A (SA 9102, 9802, 9804, 9805)
M21 (SA 9121, 9131)
M25 White Feather (SA 9502)
All current Springfield Inc. receiver castings as of 1990 come from Alpha Casting, 391 Ste-Croix, St. Laurent, QC, Canada.
The standard model M1A has a 1:12 twist four groove chromium molybdenum barrel with standard size rear and front sights and either walnut or synthetic stock (springfield-armory.com). When available, Springfield Armory installed USGI chrome plated barrels on the standard model. During times of scarcity, such as 1978 to 1986 and soon after 2003, they install commercial manufacture non-plated standard contour barrels instead (Tim Strait). According to one of the Springfield Armory, Inc. production floor employee at the 2004 SHOT Show, they buy the barrel blanks from suppliers such as Wilson then do the finish machining themselves.
New in 2004, the M1A SOCOM 16 ™ has a 16.25" 1:11 six groove twist non-chrome plated chromium molybdenum barrel and black hand guard and synthetic stock (2004 Springfield Armory product catalog). The synthetic stock has a steel hinged butt plate. The hand guard is cut out to accommodate a Scout Squad scope mount. This model has a retuned gas system and proprietary design gas cylinder plug and combination muzzle brake and gas cylinder lock assembly (author’s observation at the 2004 SHOT Show). The visible portion of the operating rod is stamped SOCOM 16. The front sight is a XS Sight Systems 24/7 Stripe Post. The new design gas cylinder plug is removed with an Allen head wrench. After the gas cylinder plug is removed the combination muzzle brake and gas cylinder lock assembly can be unthreaded from the barrel.
The Bush and Scout Squad models are similar to each other (springfield-armory.com). Each has an 18" 1:11 six groove twist non-chrome plated chromium molybdenum barrel and synthetic stock. The Scout Squad has a scope mount installed on the barrel and is also available in a walnut stock. The barrel scope mount will fit on a standard model M1A ™ and it is available separately. Prior to 1994, the 18" barrel M1A ™ model was known as the M1A-A1 Bush ™.
The following rifles are offered with either chromium molybdenum or stainless steel six groove barrels (springfield-armory.com). The loaded standard M1A ™ has a 1:11 twist medium weight match barrel, National Match flash suppressor, .0520" non-hooded rear sight aperture and National Match front sight, National Match trigger group and either walnut or synthetic stock. The National Match M1A comes glass bedded in an oversized match grade walnut stock with all of the features of the loaded model plus a National Match gas cylinder, match operating rod and spring guide and hooded rear sight aperture. The Super Match M1A may have a standard receiver, a rear lugged receiver or a double lugged receiver. The barrel will be a 1:10 twist heavy weight Douglas barrel unless the customer selects another brand barrel. Regardless of the barrel make, the operating rod will slide through an oversized operating rod guide. The buyer also has his choice of oversized walnut or McMillan fiberglass stock. The M21 is the rear lugged Super Match M1A with a walnut stock that has an adjustable cheek piece (springfield-armory.com). The M25 White Feather rifle has a rear lugged receiver, McMillan fiberglass stock with adjustable cheek piece, low profile custom muzzle brake, Krieger 1:10 twist heavy weight barrel and no iron sights. The M25 White Feather must be scoped to sight a target. While much has been written discussing the merits of chromium molybdenum versus stainless steel for barrels the best evidence seems to indicate that both are equal in accuracy with throat erosion occurring slightly faster in the stainless steel barrels. The advantage of the stainless steel barrel is better weather resistance.
Rock Island Armory - Rock Island Armory did select fire conversions on semi-automatic Springfield Armory, Inc. M1A ™ rifles. These conversions are stamped "R I A" on the receiver just to the rear of the rear sight base.
From the (1986) Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons - First Edition is a discussion of the owners:
About the Reese family, who own and operate Springfield Armory and a sister corporation Rock Island Armory. Bob Reese, the patriarch of the clan, farmed for decades in the community bordering the Mississippi River. Throughout, he had a continuing interest in firearms. Sometime after WWII, he bought some war surplus items and began to dabble in wholesale military parts. When the demand for the old military M1 rifle could not be answered among shooters and collectors, he began to weld together parts of receivers that had been cut in two, providing the basis for reassembling rifles. It wasn't long before he decided that it was simpler to machine a new receiver than attempt to weld together sections....Out of all this came Springfield Armory and its sister corporation, Rock Island Armory. The latter firm bears absolutely no connection to the government's Rock Island Arsenal located a few miles up the river.
The Rock Island Armory, however, is devoted largely to supplying overseas military customers, while the Springfield Armory aims its efforts at the civilian and law enforcement markets. Bob Reese serves as Chairman of the Board, while son Dennis is President of Springfield Armory and another son Tom, is Vice President. A third Reese son, David, is President of Rock Island Armory. The sons keep the day to day business running, while the senior Reese and his wife, Carol, reside in the old family farmhouse. Originally, all of the arms work was done in the farm's barns, but a modern factory is now located in downtown Geneseo, employing some forty people who machine and build the various firearms for which the firm is being noted. The fully automatic weapons are tested safely on the farm in a deep canyon. Tom Dillon is one of forty employees who build the guns for the sister corporations Springfield Armory and Rock Island Armory. Bob Reese maintains a machine shop on his farm and putters with some of the war surplus armament he has imported from around the world, the vast majority of the gunmaking is accomplished in the modern plant in Geneseo. Duke Ballengee is in charge of manufacturing and oversees the building of an entire line of weaponry steeped in nostalgia. In addition to the SAR 48, the Illinois firm turns out M60 machine guns, several variations of the M1 and M14 rifles and a reproduction of the Beretta BM 59. Plans are in the mill for further expansion and other firearms.