Tag Archives: Springfield Armory

Springfield Armory’s Forgotten AR-15: The XM15

Despite what several gunwriters are claiming, the Springfield Armory Saint is not their first AR-15 rifle. Their first was the XM15, introduced circa 1982-83. However, Springfield has very good reasons to try to sweep the XM15 under the rug.

Springfield Armory XM15 wood furniture
Here’s a vintage 1980s gun magazine advertisement promoting the Springfield Armory XM15 and its optional wood furniture.

It appears that in 1983, Springfield (or their fraternal sibling Rock Island Armory, Inc.) wrangled a ~$900,000 FMS contract for 2,000 “M16-type” rifles to El Salvador. For those who don’t remember, RIA specialized in Title 2 NFA items, while Springfield focused on Title 1 firearms. Dennis Reese was president of Springfield, while his brother David was president of RIA. This 1984-vintage Washington Post article notes the Springfield rifle contract, along with some other questionable FMS contracts to El Salvador.

Colt caught wind of the XM15 contract and unleashed their lawyers against Springfield and their parts suppliers. Springfield Armory and Colt ultimately settled the suit in September 1984. While the majority of Colt’s patent rights should have already expired by the early 1980s, Colt’s argument was that Springfield and its suppliers were using Colt’s proprietary engineering drawings to manufacture the parts. It is my understanding that Springfield was permanently enjoined from selling their existing XM15 rifles. Moreover, Springfield could not use Colt’s proprietary drawings and information in the future manufacture or sale of AR-15/M16 rifles, unless Colt was later determined to have lost its trade secret rights.

While the decision in Colt Industries Operating Corp., Firearms Division v. Springfield Armory, Inc., 732 F. 2d 168, (Fed. Cir.) was unpublished, you can find mention of the suit in a series of related cases involving one of Springfield’s suppliers, Charles Christianson. Christianson fought back against Colt for several years, with one appeal even hitting the US Supreme Court.

CHRISTIANSON v. COLT INDUSTRIES OPERATING CORP., 609 F.Supp. 1174 (1985)

CHRISTIANSON v. COLT INDUSTRIES OPERATING CORP., 613 F.Supp. 330 (1985)

CHRISTIANSON v. COLT INDUSTRIES OPERATING CORP., 798 F.2d 1051 (1986)

CHRISTIANSON v. COLT INDUSTRIES OPERATING CORP., 822 F.2d 1544 (1987)

CHRISTIANSON v. COLT INDUSTRIES OPERATING CORP., 486 U.S. 800 (1988)

CHRISTIANSON v. COLT INDUSTRIES OPERATING CORP., 870 F.2d 1292 (1989)

CHRISTIANSON v. COLT INDUSTRIES, 766 F.Supp. 670 (1991)

Christianson appears to have been sourcing his parts primarily via Colt’s Philippine licensee Elisco, as well as certain Colt subcontractors within the US. However, I also have circumstantial evidence that the South Korean licensee Daewoo was one of Springfield’s other suppliers. According to an old GAO report, Daewoo allegedly tried to sell 12,500 spare parts worth ~$127,000 to an undisclosed US company in 1983. The GAO stated that this sale was halted due to legal action by Colt against the US company.

In 1989, Dennis Reese plead guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy, and filing false statements regarding their FMS contracts with El Salvador. There were accusations that Reese had conspired with a US military adviser (Col. Juan Lopez de la Cruz, US Army) and bribed him to the tune of ~$70,000 to help grease the skids for a $3.7 million contract. They reportedly falsified claims for $94,600 in sales commissions to a pair of Salvadorans, who then kicked back the majority to Reese. Reese also told the Defense Security Assistance Agency that the Greek Portuguese-vintage HK G3 barrels they were selling were of US origin. Reese was granted immunity to testify against the Col. Lopez; however, the latter was ultimately acquitted.

However, the US Justice Department was not finished with the Reese family. In 1990, David Reese and RIA were indicted by a Federal grand jury over the illegal manufacture and transfer of machine guns. The Feds alleged that RIA had sold 148 M60 with serial numbers recycled from transferable Title 2 weapons bought from John Stemple and Kent Lomont. The following link is one of the court decisions resulting from the RIA indictment:
U.S. v. ROCK ISLAND ARMORY, INC., 773 F.Supp. 117 (1991)
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RIA Ad - November 1982
This RIA advertisement ran in a popular gun magazine’s November 1982 issue.
RIA Catalog - 1982
Here’s a page from a 1982 RIA dealer catalog showing off their XM15 rifles, uppers and other parts.
Springfield XM15 Ad - April 1983
This is one of the first Springfield Armory-branded advertisements for the XM15. It appeared in a gun magazine’s April 1983 issue.
Springfield XM15 Ad - September 1983
Note that the prices have changed in this Springfield Armory advertisement from the same magazine’s September 1983 issue.
RIA Catalog - 1984
This 1984-vintage dealer flyer from RIA notes their settlement with Colt over the XM15.

A Brief History of FBI Semiauto Pistols

After the Miami/Dade Shootout of April 11, 1986, the FBI was not completely satisfied with the commercially available pistols in 9x19mm and .45. Until a suitable semi-auto service pistol could be selected for general issue, individual agents were would still be issued S&W Model 13 revolvers.

In August 1987, the FBI formed its Weapons Evaluation and Selection Advisory Group, composed of 13 firearms instructors and a gunsmith from the FBI Academy and eight Field Division. Their task was to evaluate samples of nine different pistols in 9x19mm and .45 Auto. These included the S&W 645 and SIG-Sauer P220 in .45, as well the Beretta 92F, Glock 17 and 19, ITM AT84 (a Swiss CZ75 clone), Ruger P85, S&W 459, and SIG-Sauer P226. The ITM AT84 was quickly rejected as it lacked a decocker for its conventional DA/SA lockwork. On a scale of 750 points, the evaluators rated the S&W 645 as the best overall (730), followed by the SIG-Sauer P226 (710). The remainder of the field scored as follows: S&W 459 (705), Beretta 92F (690), SIG-Sauer P220 (665), Glock 17 (620), Glock 19 (620), and Ruger P85 (575).

This was followed up in September 1987 by the FBI Firearms Training Unit’s (FTU) Wound Ballistics Seminar, which included Dr. Martin Fackler and other outside experts on wound ballistics. The workshop’s report established the importance of adequate penetration and the size of the permanent “crush” cavity in determining handgun cartridge effectiveness. This would ultimately kick-start the development of the FTU’s famous series of gelatin tests using various barrier media (light/heavy clothing, auto glass, sheet metal, wallboard, and plywood.) The seminar’s general recommendation was that there would be no significant difference between 9mm subsonic JHP loads like the 147gr Olin Super Match (OSM) and commercial .45 Auto JHP. However, the .45 Auto would be preferred over any lightweight/high velocity 9mm JHP load. In .45 Auto, preference was given to the Remington 185gr JHP load.

In May 1988, another weapons forum was held by the FBI to establish the ideal characteristics for a general issue semiauto pistol. This forum was not limited to the FBI, but also included representatives from Federal, state, and local agencies, as well as the US military.  Around August 1988, agents were authorized to carry personally-owned semi-auto pistols in 9x19mm, which was expanded later that year to .45 Auto pistols. In both calibers, these choices were limited primarily to models from S&W and SIG-Sauer. Even with personally-owned pistols, only FTU-approved ammunition could be carried.

The FTU’s unit chief John C. Hall introduced the 10mm cartridge into the FTU’s gelatin testing trials using his own Colt Delta Elite. However, the full power 10mm loads like the Norma 170gr JHP were quickly dismissed from consideration for adoption. The FTU had reportedly developed its mid-velocity 10mm load by December 1988. On the basis of the early testing of the mid-velocity 10mm load, FBI Director William Sessions approved the 10mm’s adoption for use in the Bureau’s future issue pistol in February 1989. Basically, the FBI and FTU had advocates for both the 9x19mm and .45 ACP, and the choice of 10mm had the political advantage of splitting the difference. It could potentially satisfy agents who blamed the failure in Miami on the 9mm cartridge, and would never trust it even with different ammunition. The mid-velocity 10mm’s ballistics were close enough to the .45 ACP, yet it was not burdened with the negative connotations of the .45’s mythology. There was talk that the Director Sessions and other FBI leaders feared that Congress would balk on funding new .45 Auto pistols for the FBI when the US Army had just dumped the .45 for new 9mm pistols. Again, the FBI never adopted the full power 10mm as general issue. I’m not even certain it was ever authorized for individual agents with their SAC’s sign-off. (Previously, a SAC could authorize an individual agent’s use of a FTU-approved .357 Magnum load instead of their general issue .38 Special load.)

The FBI’s solicitation for 10mm pistols was issued in May 1989, with the Request for Proposals released in June 1989. While 21 manufacturers had indicated interest, only two of these manufacturers actually submitted test pistols: Colt and S&W. Glock filed a GAO protest in August 1989, claiming that S&W already had an inside track on the contract, given their close relationship with the FTU. Indeed, S&W had begun fabricating prototype 10mm pistols in late 1988 at the FTU’s request, delivering them in February 1989 for the FTU’s gelatin testing. Glock also pointed to the short time between the release of the RFP and the deadline for submissions, which was originally one month. While the FTU pushed back the deadline by roughly 3 weeks, it was done at S&W’s request. In addition, Glock claimed that the requirements for a steel-frame DA/SA pistol were arbitrary. However, the GAO dismissed Glock’s protest on December 26, 1989.

With the GAO protest out of the way, the S&W 1076 was formally selected in January 1990. Field testing of production 1076 began in May 1990. The FBI Academy began issuing the 1076 to new agents in July 1990. However, general issue to field agents did not occur until December 1990. Alas, the issue was short lived. Due to serious malfunctions in the field and during range training, the S&W 1076 were recalled from service on May 31, 1991. The incident in the field had happened in all places, Miami FL. After an arrest, an agent attempted to unload his 1076, and could not rack the slide. Further examination noted that the trigger could not be pulled, nor could the hammer be cocked. As a result, the pistol would not have been able to fire if needed.

The issue tracked back to the FTU’s previous request that S&W to reduce the 1076’s initial takeup to suit the FTU “trigger-prepping” technique. (Ironically, Glock had pointed out in their 1989 GAO protest that this technique was flawed and unsafe.) S&W had modified the trigger hooks where they engaged the drawbar; however, the modified hooks could reportedly lock up the drawbar in such a way that would disable the pistol.

The FBI’s 1076 pistols were not returned from S&W until October 1992, as they required significant rework by the custom gunsmiths of the S&W Performance Center. However, by this point all official interest was lost in the 10mm pistol. While individual agents could keep their refurbished 1076 if they so desired, no additional purchases of the 1076 were ever made. In the interim, the FTU had already begun issuing 9mm SIG-Sauer P226 (2,000 in total) as a replacement, and later standardized the P228.

It is a myth that the FBI dropped the 10mm for the .40 S&W. For years, the FTU resisted approving a .40 S&W load for privately owned weapons.  Until a .40 load was approved, there would be no pistols allowed in that caliber.  The FTU ultimately selected a mid-velocity load using a 165gr JHP, instead of a clone of their mid-velocity 180gr 10mm load.   The earliest known gelatin tests of these mid-velocity loads were completed in August 1993.  However, it is unclear when it was actually approved for use.    The FBI finally issued a solicitation for .40 caliber Double-Action Only pistols in February 1996.  It would take until May 1997 for the FBI to announce the adoption of the Glock 22 and 23. The first Glocks would not be issued to new agents until October 1997.

As covered here at LooseRounds before, the FBI started justifying a return to 9x19mm as early as May 2014.  In July 2014, the FBI followed up with a presolicitation notice for 9x19mm semi-auto pistols.   The FBI issued the actual solicitation on October 7, 2015.   Glock was announced as the winner on June 29, 2016.

Going back to the 1986 and the Miami/Dade Shootout, the FBI’s HRT and SWAT had already been issued 9mm semi-auto pistols for several years. HRT kept their Wayne Novak-customized 9mm Browning Hi-Powers until  they were replaced by the .45 Les Baer SRP.  Awarded the contract in September 1994, Baer’s gunsmiths custom built the pistols using high capacity Para-Ordnance P14.45 frames.

In 1988, FBI SWAT switched from the S&W Model 459 to the SIG-Sauer P226.  With the HRT’s switch to .45 in the mid-1990s, SWAT expressed  interest in procuring a similar pistol, yet not a double-stack like the SRP.  The FBI released a solicitation for a single-stack, single-action .45 semi-auto pistol in July 1996, with the RFP issued a few months later in October.   Early in 1998, SWAT selected the Springfield Armory Bureau Model, now commercially known as the Professional Model.  Sources indicate that the HRT ultimately transitioned to the Professional Model as well as their limited supply of the Baer SRP began to wear out. There is word that even the Professional Model is on the way out as the Bureau transitions back to 9mm.

Springfield SOCOM II quick review

Today I got the chance to look over and to shoot the SOCOM II rifle a close friend bought. Anyone who knows me , knows I am no fan of the M14/M1A rifle. I will not go into the many flaws it has here, but I will say despite my dislike for the rifle I always give them a fair try and never slam one unfairly just because I do not like them.

The rifle arrived  with the companies 10 round mag. Why not a 20 round mag? I have no idea. The mags when new cost double or triple a USGI  Ar15 mag and I know most buyers would want a USGI 20 round M14 mag to start with. Though I do understand legality can come into play depending where you live.

The stock is a nice touch, it fit well and tight unlike some cheap fiberglass types stocks I have seen with huge gaps. The grip and forearm had a sort of checkering though I felt that other then looks, it was not aggressive enough to be used for real grip.  One thing I did appreciate was the mag well had a nice angled bevel to help inserting and rocking in of the magazine.

After picking it up and handling it, I found the balance to be pretty nice it shoulder well and was short and quick when moving it around tight spots.


The SOCOM was also one of the first M1As I had ever held that the top handgaurd cover fit nice and tight and not rattle around loosely like it normally does on a M14.  On top of the rifle in front of the bolt is a short piece of rail for optics.  This is an idea spot for a T-1 or RMR. I don’t think I would mount something as big as a CompM3 or Eotech, but it is a nice set up for the mini RDS.  Having no optics on had to try out , I can not say anything about  if it would co-witness with irons. The rear peep sight is bigger then the traditional rear sight. i appreciate this since I have never found the normal small peep to be handy for me at close range or moving targets. the frnt sight had a tridium vial and the protective hoods on each side of the front post are nice and wide, protecting it but not so close to cause confusion at night or in a stressful situation.

After shooting it and checking zero, we proceeded to do some faster shooting. the muzzle brake did its job well. Using Federal gold medal 168 grain Match, the muzzle stayed flat and reduced recoil with not much flash at all. However, with lake city ball, the muzzle blast would peel paint from a wall and was loud enough to be a real distraction. The ports on the brake did direct the worst of the flash away from the line of sight enough to reduce it. No night firing was done so I can not comment on how bad it would be at night with Ball ammo.

The gun was very controllable during double and triple taps.  A number or shots were fired at a  IDPA target at 25 yards to test how controllable it was during rapid fire.  A few double taps even manged to cut into each other or a least touch because of the effective muzzle device. Double and triple taps easily stayed on the head while firing as fast as possible  even fighting against the 2 stage trigger.

After having some fun and getting a feel how the rifle generally handled, we decided it was time to test if for accuracy. Since we where not on a range that let us shoot past 25 yards we had to settle for the short range.  two  5 shot groups were fired using the before mentioned federal gold medal 168 match load.  No optics were used nor any kind of tripod/bipod. I know it is only 25 yards and open sighted, but I have to say, it shows some real potential.

5 shot group 168 grain match

Both groups are 5 round strings fired with the Federal gold medal 168grain match load. As you can see in the pictures 3 rounds went into the same hole in both groups. Considering both were shot pretty much off hand, thats not bad at all  even as close as 25 yards!!

Now the downside of the SOCOM II is it suffers the same things as all its other versions. A very slow reload. A safety that is not in a good spot at all. In fact. with the smaller trigger guard and the position of the safety, I found ever time I tried to put my finger into the trigger guard, my finger got hung up  between the two and I had to take a second to make sure I got it in where it needed. Sure this is a training issue, but its a issue that really should not even really be there. Other small issues to me are miner, like having to clean from the muzzle and the gun not having a bolt closure or a better safety but these are all personal, maybe other who love the rifle will train hard enough to over come them and perform beautifully with it.    It is a very accurate rifle from what I have seen and it handles great. Plenty of companies make a rail or a way to mount what else you need on a general purpose rifle so there should be no problem there, And you can replace the stock with a multitude of other options. If you want a battle rifle that is  not too long, this is a good choice and its not as pricey as  some AR10 type .30 caliber rifles though you do not have the versatility of the AR type rifles, you still get one nice sweet rifle that is superior to the normal M14/M1a