By David Tong
Dennis Reese owns this well-known commercial firearms manufacturer. The company started business in the mid-1970s. They are famous for their production of U.S. military classic handguns and rifles, using the trade name “Springfield Armory,” after the now defunct government arsenal of the same name.
Over the years, their product line has included the P-9, a pretty well turned out replica of the Czechoslovakian CZ-75 pistol that was the darling of IPSC competition shooters in the 1980's and early 1990's; the SAR-48, which is a semi-automatic version of the FN-FAL battle rifle, so named after the “T-48” prototypes that unsuccessfully competed against the M14 rifle in the mid-1950's and the “M6” survival rifle, a peculiar looking, stack barrel combination rifle/shotgun.
However, the company is best known for two products, the M1A semi-automatic rifle and the first quality replica of the M1911A1 .45 service pistol that competed directly with Colt.
My experience with Springfield products goes back to 1978, when I purchased my first M1A. I never could justify buying a surplus M1 Garand and bypassed it in favor of the M1A, as they could be had brand new for about the same money as a worn WWII rifle.
I had owned a succession of bolt-action military rifles, so it was interesting to own a self-loading rifle with a trigger pull easily superior to any of them. The sighting equipment, a finely click adjustable unit with protective ears, was likewise a huge improvement over the open barrel sights of the bolt guns.
Finally, the weight and gas operation of the rifle made recoil something that could be easily tolerated, not simply endured. I shot it a bunch and enjoyed it every time I took it out.
Now, some are probably thinking, “he just wanted something to pull the trigger as fast as he could.” Well, no. Ammo was just as expensive then to a young college student as it is now in our post-Obama world, relatively speaking. I also was aware that barrels live much longer when you don’t do stunts like that, so actually hitting what I shot it made way more sense and the M1A doesn’t disappoint in that regard.
About the same time, I owned my first Colt Government Model .45 and worked for one of the foremost gunsmiths who specialized in that pistol. By 1986, when Springfield Armory introduced its “G.I.” Model 1911A1, for the princely sum of $239, a figure about $130 less than a Colt, I snapped one up and wasn’t disappointed. That pistol had wonderful frame to slide and barrel to slide fits, so uncharacteristic of the Colt product of that era, plus its trigger pull was more predictable in quality. Shot that one a lot, too, and was never disappointed.
I had a P-9 “IPSC” model with internal barrel porting, in .40S&W. The all steel construction, decent single action release and reduced muzzle flip of the design were all nice, but I sold it to concentrate on the .45 1911 I preferred.
Springfield 1911 number two came along in 2004 and it again was a G.I. WWII replica that was a little more authentic. This was because it had the original pattern vertical slide cocking serrations instead of the 1986 model’s angled ones.
It also featured the “ILS-Integrated Locking System,” which consists of a small screw that blocks movement of the mainspring and prevents the pistol from being loaded or fired. This is a well-executed and nearly invisible modification that complies with jurisdictional requirements for states that require trigger locks, and it comes with every new 1911 sold by the Company.
The second M1A came along in 2004 and it was a very early, 4 digit serial, constructed mostly of original U.S. military surplus parts. Those parts included the entire trigger group (including drawing numbers) and a G.I. “N.M” marked air-gauged barrel with correct drawing numbers visible under the retracted operating rod.
To that rifle, I added a National Match type gas piston, new G.I. walnut stock and handguard, TRW one-piece forged operating rod and NM sights front and rear. Off the bench I could shoot roughly 1.25” – 1.5” five shot groups at 100 yards. I participated in several club high power matches with it. Suffice to say the rifle was far more capable than I.
About three years ago, I briefly owned one of the “Service Model” XD pistols, with thumb safety, in .45ACP. I liked it for its light weight, it’s relatively easy to load magazines and good ergonomics for what might have been a clumsy package to wield with my average sized hands. I never could get along with the stock trigger release on this one, though, as the striker fall always caused front sight movement during dry firing practice. Being unsure of just who could provide proper attention to it, I sold it.
I had an opportunity to fire one of the newer XDM pistols in .45 as well. The company claim of “match grade barrel” and trigger reset distance improvement were enticing, but again it didn’t work out in my hands, even though it was better than the first generation gun.
The latest test mule is one of the new “Range Officer” 1911's, which is a near-match-quality pistol. It has a fitted match grade stainless steel barrel, superior attention to tolerances and a slide serial numbered to the frame. Trigger pull is outstanding for a stock service pistol at four pounds and crisp. I’ve not shot that one much, but I plan to.
The Company has also built perhaps the best version of the 1911 to serve law enforcement, ever. Their “FBI Professional” model is a civilian replica of the pistol the company sells to the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and it is the equal of any custom, hand built combat handgun. I suspect that it has a protracted break-in period, however. It is absolutely the tightest 1911 I’ve ever handled in terms of tolerances removed from that august old platform. It reeks of quality, as its $3,000 MSRP price tag suggests.
In every instance, I have been quite pleased with the attention to detail, patient and pleasant customer service and lifetime warranty that accompanies the purchase of a new Springfield product. I haven’t had the opportunity to test that warranty, either. Little wonder that companies that typically offer them usually do so in confidence of their quality control protocols!
Copyright 2012 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.