Springfield Armory is an Illinois-based gun manufacturer that was founded in 1974 by Robert Reese and his son, Dennis, after acquiring the machinery and inventory of a Texas company that had produced semi-automatic M1A rifles for civilians based on the U.S. military’s select-fire M14.
Along with producing M1A rifles, Springfield Armory developed its own line of 1911-style pistols based on the military’s Model 1911, and in 2001, the company began importing striker-fired XD pistols from HS Produkt, a Croatian manufacturer. Since then, the company has expanded to sell more rifles, including AR-15s, and pistols like the Croatian-made Hellcat.
It must be noted that Springfield Armory is unrelated to the historic arsenal of the same name in Springfield, Massachusetts, that stored and produced firearms for the military from 1777 to 1968, despite the Illinois gun maker’s logo, which consists of two crossed cannons and the phrase “since 1794” — a reference to the military arsenal based in Springfield and the year it began producing muskets. The Illinois gun maker states that its founders “rescued not only the name ‘Springfield Armory’” from the better-known arsenal, “but the philosophy that drove it for centuries.”
Today, Springfield Armory pistols are a popular choice among criminals. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) found that HS Produkt — the Croatian firm that produces pistols imported into the U.S. exclusively by Springfield Armory — was the fifth-leading manufacturer of traced crime pistols between 2017 and 2021 with 68,769 firearms, representing 5.3 percent of all recoveries across the country in that category.
It is unclear what measures Springfield Armory takes to secure its supply chain to prevent the products it manufactures and imports from entering the illegal market. For example, information is not publicly available on whether Springfield Armory requires its dealers and distributors to flag questionable customers or report the results of ATF compliance inspections and crime gun trace requests. A review of Springfield’s “dealer locator” found that the company currently permits dealers linked to previous reports of gun trafficking2See City of Chicago v. Westforth Sports Inc., https://everytownlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2021/04/Westforth-Complaint-Stamped.pdf. to sell firearms that it produces and imports.
When Illinois state legislators proposed a bill to require gun dealers to obtain state licenses in 2017, the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA), funded by Springfield Armory and another Illinois gun maker, Rock River Arms, reportedly agreed to drop its opposition to the bill in return for an exemption for Illinois-based gun manufacturers. After discovering the news — and that the IFMA had donated to so-called “anti-gun” politicians in Illinois — gun rights activists instigated a boycott. Springfield Armory quickly backtracked and released a statement reiterating that it is “wholeheartedly against this bill and will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the NRA, National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Illinois State Rifle Association and others to see it defeated as the unnecessary and harmful overreach that it is.”
Considering the lack of legislative or regulatory action in this regard, gun manufacturers should, at a minimum, adopt stronger public codes of conduct to hold their distributors and dealers accountable in securing supply chains.
In recent years, Springfield Armory has doubled down on assault weapons. The company produces AR-platform weapons as part of its “Saint” series, including “state-compliant”AR-15s that are slightly modified to remain legal under select state’ assault weapons bans but can be just as deadly. In the past, Springfield Armory also offered easily concealable AR-15 “pistols.”
After the 2018 Parkland shooting was committed with a Smith & Wesson AR-15, when Dick’s Sporting Goods declared that it would no longer sell such rifles, Springfield Armory announced that it would cut ties with the retailer just before the NSSF expelled Dick’s from its membership.
More recently, in January 2022, Springfield Armory began importing and selling to American civilians semi-auto “Hellion” bullpup rifles based on those used by the Croatian military — and the company highlights that “military pedigree” in its marketing materials to civilian consumers.
Pistols made and imported by Springfield Armory have also been used in several mass shootings, including the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August 2012 and the Seal Beach, California, shooting in October 2011.
Springfield Armory has helped popularize concealed carry. For years, the company has offered several compact pistols designed specifically for concealment, including XD-series models and now-discontinued “911” pistols for “[w]hen you have to be your own first responder.” Springfield Armory also followed Sig Sauer’s lead with the P365 by unveiling the Hellcat series of “micro-compact” pistols that hold over 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition while still being easy to hide in a coat or pants pocket.
To sell these firearms, Springfield has used advertisements depicting people in dangerous situations, including a mother and daughter walking alone in a dark parking garage and a man checking his surroundings while pumping gas. The company also hosts its own articles (as well as monthly gun giveaways) urging readers to carry guns every day (known as “everyday carry,” or EDC) and prepare for doomsday scenarios.
Springfield Armory is a major supporter of the NRA. The company offers discounts to NRA instructors and has taken part in NRA member recruitment drives, including the NRA’s “100K Challenge” in 2018 to sign up 100,000 new members. The company is also part of the NRA Foundation’s “Round-Up” program and donates firearms to Friends of NRA raffles.
In 2016, Springfield Armory joined the NRA’s “Golden Ring of Freedom” for donating over $1 million to the organization, and for his continued support of the NRA, the company’s CEO, Dennis Reese, received the 2020 Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award, which wasn’t officially presented until the 2022 NRA convention in Houston, Texas, because the 2020 and 2021 conventions were canceled due to the pandemic. As Reese stated, “From the earliest days of Springfield Armory to what it is today, our relationship with the NRA has been extremely important to me.”