Bob Reese was an Illinois soybean farmer with an enduring passion for firearms. At some point after World War II, he bought military surplus items including firearms parts. There was a strong public demand for the M1 Garand rifle. Bob Reese served the non-competitor market demand by welding cut M1 Garand receivers back together to help meet this demand. Shortly thereafter, he decided to manufacture new M1 Garand receivers. In 1974, Bob Reese purchased Springfield Armory, Inc. from Elmer Ballance to take over the production of the commercial M14 rifle, the M1A. Bob Reese, his wife and their sons, Tom, David and Dennis, have built the business into an American success story. Starting out in the barns of the family farm and growing to forty employees by 1986, firearms manufacture and assembly have been done in its Geneseo, Illinois factory for decades now. In addition to the M1A, Springfield Armory, Inc. of Illinois has made the M1911 pistol, M1 Garand, SAR 48 and BM 59 rifles, and the M60 machine gun. The M1 Garand and BM 59 receivers were made by Springfield Armory, Inc. and assembled with surplus parts. BM 59 rifles and parts are still available through its sister company, Reese Surplus, Inc.
The M1A receiver design was further changed prior to serial number 030100 to include a small hemisphere on the outboard side of the rear sight pocket right ear for use of a ball bearing to engage a detent on a newly designed match windage knob. This windage knob allowed ½ minute of angle sight adjustments by allowing eight “clicks” per revolution of the knob. Original USGI NM sights used a more delicate fine thread on the windage knob and rear sight base to effect ½ minute windage adjustments with four “clicks” per revolution.
Springfield Armory, Inc. 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. Some Springfield Armory, Inc. receivers have a ridge on the bottom right hand side that may slightly interfere with the fit of some stocks. This ridge has been identified on M1A rifles from serial number 000049 until somewhere between 034XXX and 043XXX. This bottom side ridge was removed from the design as part of the changes made for economic reasons. It meant two less machining cuts but it has the benefit of better fit with the various stocks. Prior to the May, 1986 ban on new manufacture machine guns, Springfield Armory, Inc. had a Full Auto Department that manufactured and assembled select fire M1A rifles.
Springfield Armory, Inc. M1A rifles with serial numbers under 084000 were reportedly made prior to the September 13, 1994 effective date of the U. S. Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Springfield Armory, Inc. sold stripped receivers manufactured prior to September 13, 1994 as well. If the stripped receiver was not assembled into a complete rifle by September 13, 1994 it was considered a post-'94 ban firearm by the BATF. During the ten years of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, specific features could not be added to M14 type rifles assembled for civilian sale after September 13, 1994 within the United States. These federal restrictions were automatically repealed by the sunset provision (automatic expiration of the law absent further Congressional action) of the same law on September 13, 2004. State and local laws are still in effect though. Certainly, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban had no adverse effect on the popularity of the M1A. M1A serial number 166761 was built on August 26, 2004, just before the repeal of the ban.
As of February, 2004, Springfield Armory, Inc. M1A receivers are made by Alphacasting, Inc. in St-Laurent, Quebec, Canada for Springfield Armory, Inc. Alphacasting, Inc. makes the M1A receiver by the lost wax investment casting method. In business since 1991, it is a precision casting firm that makes parts from aluminum, bronze, and many grades of carbon and stainless steels. At Springfield Armory, Inc., all basic rifle assemblers have a minimum of two years experience assembling rifles before they are allowed to assemble rifles on their own. A rifle is test fired with five rounds for function and has to function through all five rounds or it doesn't get shipped. If it fails for any reason, it gets torn down and rebuilt. Then the rifle is tested for five rounds again.
Illinois M1A Models
In the late 1990s Springfield Armory, Inc. bought the parts from some Israeli Defense Force M14 rifles. The parts from these rifles, including the Harris bipods, Israeli Military Industries stocks and scope mounts and Nimrod 6X range finding scopes, were assembled on to commercial Springfield Armory receivers with heavy weight match grade barrels. They were sold as a limited run model in 1999. The M25 rifle recognizes the service of the late retired 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. Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock passed away in 2000.
In 2003, Springfield Armory, Inc. produced a run of 500 Vietnam Commemorative semi-automatic M14 type rifles. M1A rifles have been exported to Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and United Kingdom for sale to private individuals.
The Springfield Armory, Inc. lists the following rifle model names and product numbers in its 2004 catalog:
Standard M1A (MA 9102, 9104, 9106)
M1A SOCOM 16 (AA 9626)
Scout Squad M1A (AA 9122, 9124, 9126)
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 (SA 9502)
The MA 9103 Collector Edition M1A was a standard model with a USGI chromium plated barrel and USGI birch stock. The AA 9104 M1A Bush was a variation of the Scout Squad model. The Collector Edition and Bush models were offered for sale in 2002 and 2003. The standard model M1A has a 1:12 twist four groove molybdenum-chromium alloy barrel with standard size rear and front sights and either walnut or synthetic stock. When available, Springfield Armory installed USGI chromium plated barrels on the standard model. During times of scarcity, such as 1978 to 1986 and beginning in 2004 around receiver serial number 162XXX, Springfield Armory installed Wilson Arms commercial manufacture non-plated standard contour barrels instead. In the past, Hillside Manufacturing did the barrel machining for Wilson Arms. Today, Springfield Armory, Inc. buys the barrel blanks from suppliers then finish machine the barrels itself.
New in 2004, the M1A SOCOM 16 has a 16.25 " 1:11 twist six groove non-plated molybdenum-chromium alloy barrel and black hand guard and synthetic stock. 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 with a combination muzzle brake and gas cylinder lock assembly. The visible portion of the operating rod is stamped SOCOM 16. The front sight is an XS Sight Systems 24/7 stripe post. The pre-production design gas cylinder plug was flush with the gas cylinder end. It was removed and installed with a hex head wrench. Between February and April, 2004 the gas cylinder plug design was changed. Production models of the SOCOM 16 now use a gas cylinder plug that can be removed and installed using a M14 combination tool. 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. Each has an 18 " 1:11 twist six groove non-plated molybdenum-chromium alloy steel 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 barrel and it is available separately. Before 1994, the 18 " barrel M1A model was known as the M1A-A1 Bush. The M1A-A1 Bush model was available for purchase as early as 1981.
The following rifles are offered with either molybdenum-chromium alloy steel or stainless steel six groove barrels. The loaded standard M1A has a 1:11 twist medium weight match barrel, National Match modified flash suppressor, 0.0520 " 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-fitted operating rod, match-modified operating rod spring guide and National Match hooded rear sight aperture (described above as part of the M14 NM rifle modifications). 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 heavyweight 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 made to fit the barrel’s larger diameter at that area. The buyer also has the choice of an oversized walnut or a McMillan fiberglass stock. The Springfield Armory, Inc. M21 is the rear lugged Super Match M1A with a walnut stock that has an adjustable cheek piece. The M25 rifle offered by Springfield Armory, Inc. has a rear lugged receiver, McMillan fiberglass stock with adjustable cheek piece, low profile custom muzzle brake, Krieger 1:10 twist heavyweight barrel and no iron sights. The M25 must be scoped to sight a target.
M1A Receiver and Parts Production: Gray-Syracuse, Inc., Valley Ordnance Co. and Hillside Manufacturing
H. P. Gray founded Gray-Syracuse, Inc. in 1943 as a business to produce investment castings. Its first plant was located in Syracuse, NY. The company purchased a sand casting facility in Manlius, NY was purchased in 1953 and converted it making parts by investment casting. In the 1960s, the company expanded its customer base to include the atomic energy, space and aerospace industries. In 1975, the company moved its operations to a new, larger facility in Chittenango, NY. Gray-Syracuse was purchased by ESCO Corporation in 1987.
Gray-Syracuse made the raw M1A castings for commercial M14 type rifles from some time before 1976 until some time after July, 1996 but before February, 2004. The raw castings and certification papers for each production lot were sent to Valley Ordnance until July, 1996 when they closed down. Valley Ordnance would then send the receivers on to Springfield Armory, Inc. At some point between M1A receiver serial number 030061 and 052122, the pour lot number is made a part of the raw casting. This number is found on the underside of the receiver just behind the left leg. Typically, this is denoted by the letter A or I followed by a number, e.g., A178. All castings that went through Valley Ordnance had letter A prefix numbers for the pour lot.
Valley Ordnance Co. had re-welded over 50,000 destroyed M1 Garand receivers when the owner, Melvin Smith, determined that there was a viable market for a civilian version of the M14 rifle. He contacted Winchester to inquire about the machine it had used to make the receiver barrel threads but he was informed that most of its M14 machine tools were going to be sold. Melvin Smith purchased this equipment at government auction so that he could produce civilian M14 receivers and parts. Most of the equipment used by Valley Ordnance to make M1A receivers had been used by Winchester to make USGI M14 receivers. Valley Ordnance made operation of the fixtures on the machine tools was made as simple as possible. This minimized the risk of machining errors. Some of the machinery and operations are described as follows:
1. Operating rod channel machine - This was a single spindle mill. Valley Ordnance employees made cutting tools for this machine.
2. Brown & Sharpe spline mill - This 1936 machine was highly sophisticated for its time. It was used in M1 Garand production at Winchester. This was a single spindle mill used to cut the bolt raceway inside the receiver.
3. Circular cut end mill - This machine was used to make the circular cut at the inside rear end of the receiver. A separate machine tool was used to cut the firing pin recess on the inside rear end of the receiver.
4. Elevation serration machine - A receiver was placed under a cutter (similar to a gear cutter) then rotated under the cutter to make the elevation knob serrations.
5. Beretta headspacing machine - Winchester did not include a receiver headspacing machine in the government auction of M14 project machine tools. Mr. Smith purchased a receiver headspacing machine from Beretta in Italy. The Beretta headspacing machine had been used in BM59 production. Valley Ordnance modified it for the M1A receiver. However, during Springfield Armory, Inc. production of its BM59 receivers, this machine was used to headspace the commercial BM59 receivers as a special assignment to Valley Ordnance. The operation of the headspacing machine is described as follows. The operator's left hand worked the cutting tool and the right hand ratcheted movement of the receiver by manipulating a fixture. Some timing was involved but the operator could easily hold within 0.001 " on the tolerance. The cutting tools were sharpened by the employees using a Bridgeport mill and a surface grinder. The headspace machine cutting tools were bought ten at a time.
6. Rear sight pocket milling machine - This was a Bridgeport mill. It was used to machine the flat surface between the rear sight knobs and behind the stripper clip guide.
7. Receiver scope mount groove milling machine - This was a Bridgeport mill. Separate single pass cuts were made for the horizontal and vertical grooves.
8. Receiver heel stamping machine - The receiver heel markings were made with a pneumatically operated machine using straight dies and a rolling fixture. The receiver was held by the fixture and rolled on a radius while the pneumatically operated ram holding the die stamped the heel. The first die stamped U S RIFLE and 7.62-mm M1A for receivers just under serial number 063000 or US RIFLE M1A for receivers over serial number 063000. The die was then changed so that the machine could stamp the brand name. Then the third die was installed in the machine to stamp the individual serial number.
Once this equipment was set up in his shop, Melvin Smith designed improvements into the civilian version of the M14 receiver. These changes included increasing the thickness of the receiver bridge, changing the operating rod rail to better support the operating rod and prevent automatic fire, removal of small amounts of material for better clearance, and relocating the operating rod dismount notch. The receiver design was approved as a Title I firearm under the 1968 Gun Control Act by the Department of the Treasury. Melvin Smith signed an exclusive contract with Elmer Ballance for Valley Ordnance to supply M1A finished receivers to Springfield Armory, Inc. These receivers were investment cast of certified AISI 8620 alloy steel.
When Springfield Armory, Inc. had USGI M14 chromium plated barrels, its workers would often gage the chambers and group them into lots dimensionally. Based on the findings, it had Valley Ordnance cut the M1A receiver headspace to better fit the USGI M14 chromium plated barrels in its inventory. As an example, Springfield Armory, Inc. would request Valley Ordnance make 100 M1A receivers headspaced to – 0.003 ” from blueprint zero. Thus, match grade and some standard model receivers have a number on the bottom surface. The numbers will range from 1 to 5. The numeral 1 means the receiver is headspace to 0.001 ” longer than blueprint zero. If the receiver is marked with the number - 4 this means the receiver is headspaced to 0.004 ” shorter than blueprint zero. This manufacturing practice resulted in improved accuracy because of the tighter headspace.
Earlier receivers machined by Valley Ordnance Co. were given a lot of hand grinding and polishing by Melvin Smith. Specifically, these areas were: 1) the exterior heel corners on the sides 2) the flat surface aft of the operating rod channel 3) the top surface of the left receiver wall from the stripper clip guide to the barrel ring 4) the vertical surface on the right side behind the stripper clip guide all the way back including the windage knob ear 5) the left side of the barrel ring forward of the horizontal scope mount groove 6) the magazine well aft of the feed lips and 7) the top surface of the barrel ring after all machining operations that located off the barrel ring had been done. This cosmetic detailing is evident as late as M1A serial number 057969. Note that the hand polishing served to enhance the aesthetic appearance but did not add to the functional ability of the M1A receiver. As Melvin Smith moved to semi-retirement the receiver surfaces noted above were finished by machine. For example, the magazine well on M1A receivers was cut and broached by machine tool after Mr. Smith purchased Hillside Manufacturing.
The receiver heels were stamped and numbered by Valley Ordnance Co. with the exception of custom serial numbers. Custom serial numbers were available through Springfield Armory, Inc. in the 1980s. Valley Ordnance shipped custom serial number receivers to Geneseo, IL without a receiver heel serial number. However, to comply with BATF regulations, Valley Ordnance identified each of these receivers before shipping by stamping the letters VO followed by a unique sequentially issued number that was recorded like all other serial numbers at Valley Ordnance. The VO series numbers were first placed on the side of the receiver legs on earlier receivers, then on the bottom side of the receiver on the flat behind the legs on later production custom serial number receivers.
Before Melvin Smith’s involvement with the M1A, Hillside Manufacturing (Dallas, PA) was a subcontractor to Valley Ordnance for portions of its manufacture of the Eagle Arms 9 mm and .45 ACP Carbines. The two companies manufactured and assembled the carbines from scratch. When Melvin Smith contracted with Elmer Ballance for the M1A, Hillside Manufacturing became a subcontractor to Valley Ordnance for that project. Melvin Smith bought Hillside Manufacturing (Dallas, PA) upon retirement of the original owner, William Croughn, in about 1990. Dallas, PA is about ten miles from Wilkes-Barre, PA. Prior to the change in ownership, Hillside Manufacturing was a subcontractor to Valley Ordnance for M1A receivers and parts but also made parts for companies like Piper Aircraft and Mack Truck. Hillside Manufacturing did the rough machining work on the M1A castings from before 1976 until 1996. After the change in ownership, Hillside Manufacturing was almost 100 % dedicated to M1A receiver production due to high market demand. The Valley Ordnance scope of business remained this way until Melvin Smith passed away.
During the entire time Valley Ordnance was in operation, there were no CNC machine tools in its facility. All of the machine tools were single operation units and were set up and operated manually. Valley Ordnance always did the finish machining on the receivers. Valley Ordnance also did some development work on the Springfield Armory, Inc. M1 Garand receivers prior to 1987 but no production was done.
Since Hillside Manufacturing did not have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), it was limited in the amount of machining that it could perform on the raw castings. Otherwise, the BATF would have considered Hillside Manufacturing to be a manufacturer of rifle receivers, which are regulated the same as completed firearms. Hillside Manufacturing did machine the receiver heel surface, windage knob detents and ball detent hemispheres, and bored and threaded the barrel ring. The receiver heel surface had to be precisely machined and tolerances held closely in order to produce consistent heel stampings at Valley Ordnance. In the early 1990s, Hillside Manufacturing bought and installed three CNC Moog Hydrapoint Model 83-3000 CNC machining centers for M1A receiver work. Before then, it used Moog Hydrapoint NC tape operated machining centers.
Hillside Manufacturing and Valley Ordnance worked together on an experimental project in 1991 to machine two M1A receivers from AISI 8620 alloy steel billet. This was done solely as a study to see if machining from billet was economically competitive with investment casting. The rough machining was done at Hillside Manufacturing and the finish machining was performed at Valley Ordnance. Disposition of these two receivers is unknown.
M1A Receiver Production Flow – A combined total of seventy different machining operations were performed by Hillside Manufacturing and Valley Ordnance for each M1A receiver. Both companies used quality control procedures after each machining operation. For operations that were cosmetic in nature, one out of every ten receivers was checked dimensionally. For critical operations, e.g., receiver threads, every single receiver was checked for dimensional tolerance. The manufacturing cycle time for the M1A receiver at Hillside Manufacturing in 1976 was 1 hour 50 minutes. By 1996, the cycle time at Hillside Manufacturing had been reduced to 45 minutes by use of CNC machining methods. The following describes the production flow for receivers during the period of 1981 to 1996:
1. Casting – Gray-Syracuse pours the castings using certified AISI 8620 alloy steel. The raw castings and material certification paperwork are shipped to Hillside Manufacturing.
2. Rough machining – Hillside Manufacturing performs rough machining of the M1A receiver. The semi-finished receivers and certification paperwork are shipped to Valley Ordnance.
3. Finish machining and inspection – Samples of semi-finished receivers are pulled and sent to Springfield Armory, Inc. for the heat treating vendor (see subsection 5 below). Valley Ordnance performs the finish machining work and dimensional inspection of the remaining receivers. The finished receivers and copies of the certification paperwork are shipped to Springfield Armory, Inc. in Geneseo, IL.
4. Inspection and additional machining – Springfield Armory, Inc. inspects the finished receivers supplied by Valley Ordnance. Receivers that do not meet its standard are sent back to Valley Ordnance for destruction and recycling at Gray-Syracuse, Inc. Receivers that pass inspection are shipped to a heat treating vendor in the Chicago, IL area. If the receiver is to get a custom serial number, the heel is stamped prior to heat treatment. If the receiver is to be made select fire or lugged, this work is completed prior to heat treatment.
5. Heat treatment – The vendor performs the heat treatment procedure using the previously submitted semi-finished receiver samples from Valley Ordnance. The finish-machined receivers are then heat treated and shipped back to Geneseo, IL.
6. Coating, assembly, test fire and customer shipping – The M1A receivers are returned to Springfield Armory, Inc from the heat treating vendor. The receivers are phosphate coated. The receivers, stocks and other parts are assembled into complete rifles and test fired on site. Similar to what existed at TRW, the test firing facility was a water backstop. If the rifle malfunctions during test firing, it is rebuilt and retested. The rifles are boxed with a magazine, factory headspace tag, M14 manual, and sales literature. M1A rifles are then shipped to firearms distributors for delivery to individual FFL holders.
Every M1A receiver was given a final inspection at Valley Ordnance as part of the quality control program. The finished M1A receiver was placed on a magnetic base and compared using a Starrett dial indicator to a USGI Winchester M14 receiver or custom made gage blocks surface ground and hardened to the USGI receiver blueprint dimensions. The Starrett dial indicator, Winchester receiver and custom gage blocks were transferred to Springfield Armory, Inc. in 1996 along with the machine tools from Hillside Manufacturing and Valley Ordnance. Comparison of select fire M1A serial number 03006X to close up photographs of several USGI Winchester M14 receivers reveals nearly identical machining cuts on all surfaces. Springfield Armory, Inc. also performed inspection of finished M1A receivers. Any receiver deemed to have any machining errors, even minor cosmetic flaws, was sent back to Valley Ordnance for destruction. These less-than-perfect receivers, as many as 100 at a time, were destroyed by sledge hammer at Valley Ordnance then shipped back to Gray-Syracuse, Inc. for recycling back into raw castings. There are no “factory seconds” M1A receivers. M1A receivers are of good quality.
The busiest year for Valley Ordnance was 1994. This was the year the Assault Weapons Ban was passed and enacted. Valley Ordnance employees worked seventy to seventy-five hours to meet orders for M1A receivers. M1A receiver serial number 076539 was shipped to Springfield Armory, Inc. on January 07, 1994. Receiver serial number 088207 was shipped from Valley Ordnance to Geneseo, IL on December 30, 1994. Average weekly production was approximately 100 M1A receivers through Hillside Manufacturing and Valley Ordnance between 1976 and 1996. However, there were weeks where Hillside Manufacturing and Valley Ordnance produced 300 M1A receivers a week in 1994 but quality control was always held to the same high standard. The second busiest year was 1990.
Later on, Mr. Smith fell very ill and was hospitalized. He sold Valley Ordnance to Springfield Armory, Inc. He treated all of his employees very well. In response, he was loved by his employees. Mr. Smith was a U. S. Army veteran and had served in post-World War II Italy. At his funeral, his employees coordinated with the local VFW Post to give him a twenty-one gun salute using M1A rifles owned by Mr. Smith and the employees.
The last complete finished M1A receiver made at Valley Ordnance Co., serial number 097726 (zero nine seven seven two six), was shipped to Springfield Armory, Inc. on May 16, 1996. Operations were shut down and the production equipment shipped to Springfield Armory, Inc. in Geneseo, IL on July 22, 1996. Employees from Valley Ordnance and Hillside Manufacturing went to Geneseo, IL to assist in setting up the newly acquired machine tools. This was a very thorough transition taking between four to six weeks which included instruction by the Hillside Manufacturing and Valley Ordnance personnel on all machining operations. Springfield Armory, Inc. graciously offered positions to employees from Valley Ordnance and Hillside Manufacturing with competitive wages as part of the transition. As of 2004, the M1A receivers are still machined at Springfield Armory, Inc. in Geneseo, IL in the same manner as was performed at Hillside Manufacturing and Valley Ordnance.
Match grade barrels installed on Illinois M1A rifles in the mid-1970s were made by Numrich Arms (West Hurley, NY). Hillside Manufacturing produced finished barrels from Wilson Arms supplied blanks from about 1978 until some time before 1990. Only Wilson Arms barrel blanks were used at Hillside Manufacturing. The 1.100 ” diameter barrel blanks had the rifling done but otherwise all other machining was performed by Hillside Manufacturing. This included cutting the external contour, cutting off the breech, cutting the feed ramps, chambering, drilling the gas port, grinding the operating rod guide, gas cylinder and flash suppressor lobes, cutting the gas cylinder and flash suppressor splines, threading the chamber end to mate with the receiver, and threading the muzzle end for the flash suppressor nut. The same machine was used to thread the barrel and the receiver. It was a Planomill thread milling machine. This was the same type of machine tool that was used for U. S. Government production of the M1 Garand and M14 receivers and barrels. Springfield Armory, Inc. bought the barrel making operation including all of the associated machine tools. Before 1990, Springfield Armory, Inc. also made non-plated barrels for the M1A.
The 22 ” long barrels were made in three grades, standard contour, standard contour National Match, and heavyweight National Match. None of the barrels manufactured at Hillside Manufacturing were chromium plated. A notable exception was a single run of a couple hundred M1A-A1 Bush 18 ” barrels made around 1980 or 1981. The rack grade standard contour barrels were supplied to Springfield Armory, Inc. during times when USGI chromium plated M14 barrels were not available. The dimensional tolerances were incredibly tight on the barrels. For example, the diameter of the gas cylinder lobes was held to within 0.0005 ” or one-half of one-thousandth of an inch.
The barrel crowning was done by hand. The barrels were lined up by the hundreds on a bench. Melvin Smith then used his steady hand and eagle eye with a portable electric tool and ball stone to machine the crown on each barrel muzzle moving from one end of the bench to the other. The barrels were not stamped GENESEO IL at Hillside Manufacturing. This was done at Springfield Armory, Inc. Some of the machine tools used in the barrel operation by Hillside Manufacturing and transferred to Springfield Armory, Inc. in 1996 are described as follows:
1. German made hydraulically operated tracer lathe – This lathe cut the external contour in one pass.
2. Cincinnati rise and fall horizontal mill – This mill cut the gas cylinder splines.
3. Ward turret lathe – This mill was used to machine the chamber to desired specification.
4. Landis cylindrical grinder – This grinder was used to obtain the final dimension of the operating rod and gas cylinder lobes after turning on the lathe.
By 1978, Hillside Manufacturing machined reproduction operating rods, trigger housings, flash suppressors, bolts, operating rod spring guides and barrels. No gas cylinders were made by Hillside Manufacturing or Valley Ordnance. It cannot be confirmed but most likely the trigger housing and flash suppressor castings for M1A parts were also produced by Gray-Syracuse, Inc. since Mr. Smith was loyal to his suppliers. The reproduction bolts, operating rods and trigger housings were stamped at Valley Ordnance. The operating rod spring guides were made from plate steel using a punch press with progressive dies. The operating rods were supplied to Hillside Manufacturing already welded together. Hillside Manufacturing machined the operating rods to final dimension. In the late 1980s, Hillside Manufacturing made fewer M1A parts as Springfield Armory, Inc. found other sources or did the work themselves.