Springfield Armory's War Daddy: The Illinois M-1 Garand

  1. Editor
    The company we know today as SA, who use the same name as the legendary Springfield Armory founded by the Continental Army, actually started in Illinois in 1974 with the production of a semi-auto version of the M-14 rifle (dubbed the M1A) and a new-production version of the classic 8-shot 30.06 brawler of World War II and Korea: the M-1 Garand rifle. Would you like to know more?

    The M-1

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    Author's 1943-made WWII-era Springfield Armory M-1 Garand. Not looking too shabby for a 82 year old gun

    In military speak; the M1 Garand is officially known as Service Rifle, .30 Caliber, M1, NSN 1005-00-674-1425. Between 1937 and 1957, at least 5,468,772 Garands were produced by five manufacturers for use by the U.S. military. The government, always tight with a penny, kept these in front line service until 1963 and then transferred them to reserve and National Guard where they were often seen giving hippies some love as late as the mid-1970s. The Army likes the M1 so much that they still keep more than 68,000 of them on hand for training and ceremonial purposes.

    Designed by John C. Garand (hence the name) over a ten-year period, this iconic gas-operated, semi-automatic, rifle with its rotating bolt and long-stroke piston extraction is fed by a unique enbloc clip that holds eight rounds of 30.06 Springfield ammo and a skilled rifleman could run up to 50 rounds per minute through his weapon when the chips were down.

    Out of production by the government since 1957 in favor of the M14, in the 1970s they made a comeback...

    Enter the LH Manufacturing

    The Springfield Armory, founded in 1777 by then-General George Washington to make cartridges and gun carriages for the Continental Army in Springfield, Massachusetts, by 1794 became an official U.S. arsenal. For nearly 200 years, the government-owned arsenal produced Springfield muskets, the 1903 Springfield rifle, and was the birthplace of both the M1 Garand and the M14. In 1968, the arsenal was closed by bean counter Robert McNamara and given to the National Park Service as a museum.

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    In 1974, the company known today as Springfield Armory, Inc. opened up shop in Texas under the leadership of Elmer C. Balance to produce semi-auto M14 style M1A rifles as well as M-1 Garands using new receivers and barrels and surplus GI parts. To keep these guns from being confused with GI Garands, they are devoid of government proofs or inspection marks and have a different serial number scheme. On the backend, the company was known as LH Manufacturing. Over the years, SA changed hands and moved to Geneseo, Illinois, where the new owners, the Resse family, kept up Garand manufacturing for another three decades.

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    An ad for Springfield Armory rifles about 1988. Note the FN FAL inspired SAR-48, the M-1 Garand (in three variants), and the M1A

    Variants of the SA, Inc. M-1s

    These guns were never massed produced on a large scale by the company. Your standard model was a spec M-1 in 30.06 with a 24-inch barrel, MOA adjustable rear sights, 2-stage military trigger and new walnut stock. While some guns were all new, many were made with stockpiles of USGI spec (and in many cases vintage) miscellaneous parts on a new receiver-barrel.

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    Briefly, (1980-87) a .270 Win version was made as was a .308 Win model. A 'Standard' model, aimed at bargain sales, was made with a camouflaged composite stock that was totally unlike any issued by the U.S. military. There were also National Match (heavy barrel), an Ultra Match (fiberglass bedded Kevlar stock, match barrel and sights) and an M-1D Sniper (M84 scope and flash hider) made as well.


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    Perhaps the rarest and most collectable of the breed was the Tanker, with its 18.25-inch shorty barrel.

    Production stopped on these guns overall in 1990, with the company emphasizing import of rifles made in Greece and Brazil (HK G3 and FN FAL variants) as well as their domestic M1A guns. However, they did reboot the line briefly from 2002-2008 following success of modern WWII era series and films such as Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, and produced small, specialized runs such as D-Day, Iwo Jima, and Medal of Honor models (typically limited to just 1945 guns each).

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    (Iwo Jima model)

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    (Special models such as this D-Day run shown above are extensively marked)

    Getting your own

    Today the company's rifle line is limited to the M1A series only, which, as mentioned above, is a totally different rifle platform, based off the military's M-14 and, while it has some similarities to the Garand, simply is not one.

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    GI Serial numbers stopped at 6,034,729, Springfield Armory, Inc. guns all ran higher than that.

    Numbers of completed SA, Inc. M-1s are not known but, in any of the more than one dozen variants produced since 1974, typical "street price" for shooter quality rifles runs anywhere from $800 (for basic composite stocked Standard models) to nearly twice that for Tankers and match guns and examples still NIB can go for very respectable sums.

    Still, if you are looking for a more modern take on the old War Daddy rifle, you would be ill-served not to pick a Springer M-1.

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