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Thread: N and NM Serial Number Prefix and Where the Pistol is Made

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  1. #1
    Join Date
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    As questions about N and NM serial number prefixs and "Where is my pistol made?" are frequently asked, I figured a "sticky" on this topic would be warranted. A fellow member, Cliff731, did such an excellent job addressing another member's questions recently that, rather than write my own post, I plagiarized Cliff's post, only editing it slightly to address general questions rather than to a specific individual.

    Thanks, Cliff, for being a sleep-deprived chatterbox!

    Tom


    i've been saving money for a mil-spec for a long time. i've posted threads about my enthusiams. however, i was very disappointed when i saw "Brazil" engraved on the frames of mil-specs at my local gun shop.
    This comes straight from Deb/Vicky at Springfield... if > 50% of the work is done on one of their pistols in Brazil, then somewhere on that pistol it will be marked "Brazil". Should > 50% be done in Geneseo, IL, then it does not require a "Brazil" marking.

    That is where the "MADE IN BRAZIL" rollmarks come from... placed above the serial number. That is one variety of markings that will show up on Springfield's G.I., Mil-Spec and Loaded pistols.

    Another is the "Geneseo IL USA" found just above the serial number. There's essentially two common variants of this... for example, in the Mil-Spec line, if it has a N serial number prefix, you will find "IMBEL BRAZIL" or "FI BRAZIL" laser etched in two places. The locations are the bottom side of the dustcover and underneath the right grip panel on the frame. If you find a NM serial number prefix, those markings are usually always absent and the "GENESEO IL USA" rollmark still appears above the serial number on the frame.

    Understand this part- ALL Springfield Armory 1911A1 pistols start their life in the forge presses of IMBEL in Brazil. There the frames, slides and barrels are forged... regardless of what markings are later applied or where the majority of the work is done.

    on the Springfield Armory website, "Brazil" does not appear on the image they have of the pistol. i am very upset that a company who claims to be "The First Name In American Firearms" has chosen to out-source the production of an American icon for an increase in profits. i have no doubt that cheap foreign labor has substantally increased their profits. yet, the price of their product has not declined.
    See above... all SA 1911A1 pistols start as frame, slide and barrel forgings made by IMBEL in Brazil. It's been like that since day one for Springfield Armory... hence, there really isn't any outsourcing that was done to reduce labor costs. Springfield's higher line of 1911A1 pistols are all finished (> 50%) in Geneseo, IL. That's not changed. Doubt it ever will.

    IMBEL is a major arms maker... world class. The Springfield 1911A1 pistols that are marked "MADE IN BRAZIL" are equal in quality to any done in Geneseo. One of the best made and fitted Mil-Spec pistols I've seen lately had the "MADE IN BRAZIL" rollmark. This reflects a very highly skilled and competent workforce... I doubt that IMBEL is using cheap labor (for Brazil).

    Why does Springfield do this? It's simple... they simply cannot produce as many 1911A1 pistols in Geneseo, IL, as the market is demanding.

    this is another example of taking jobs out of American hands for money. i for one, am ashamed that the so-called American company (the Reese family) has tricked the American consumer into thinking that their product is produced and manufactured in America by Americans. the image of the mil-spec on their website has no engravings that say "Brazil."
    Please consider this... Springfield hasn't ever said that their line of 1911A1 pistols was exclusively "made in the U.S.A."... not ever. They've never advertised that or made such a claim. The Springfield and IMBEL relationship has been an upfront fact since SA went into the 1911A1 business.

    I'll venture a guess that the workforce Springfield has at their Illinois facility hasn't ever been reduced... likely it's grown. In essence, Brazilian labor hasn't taken any jobs away in Geneseo... it's added to them by virtue of Springfield's increased sales. Even if the pistol is made in Brazil and completely finished there, it still must pass thru the Geneseo facility.

    Regarding the photos you commented on, those are "stock" photographs that illustrate a "typical" model of that pistol. These photos are re-used on a continuous basis each year.

    While it's reported that all G.I. pistols are likely being finished in Brazil, I believe you'll still see Mil-Spec pistols show up with "Geneseo IL USA" on them. I have one... made in February 2007... a parkerized Mil-Spec with no "IMBEL" or "BRAZIL" on it anywhere (has NM serial number prefix).

    i'm not prejudice against Brazil or her people, or her industry. i'm just angry that a so-called American coorporation would out-source production (taking away American jobs) for profit rather than keeping the authentic history of America alive.
    Again, I believe a careful examination of all the facts will reveal that there hasn't been any "outsourcing" of any production that was previously done in the U.S.A., other than having IMBEL supply an increasing quantity of finished G.I. and Mil-Spec pistols to meet demand.

    About the history part... I'm not quite sure that applies. Springfield Armory USA has no connection at all to the original Springfield Armory owned by the U.S. military. The latter is on the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts and was closed in 1968. The former is in Illinois and began in 1974 when the Reese family obtained the rights to the Springfield name. They're very clear about this fact... and have never claimed to be the "original" Springfield Armory. They do have the name... and rightfully claim to preserve the heritage. It's savvy marketing... which in its self is as American as apple pie.

    One last thought... Springfield could produce their 1911A1 pistols entirely in the U.S.A. if desired. This would require that they forge (or contract to a domestic supplier) all frames, slides and barrels. You might feel better about the pistol... but you're sure going to pay more for it... and their production quantity would no doubt decrease too.

    My apology for a somewhat long and rambling "explanation"... but my coffee driven insomnia does make me a bit talkative...

    Cliff

    "All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope".

    - Sir Winston Churchill
    Last edited by by a moderator; 27th April 2008 at 07:51.


  2. #2
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    Hi

    The only thing I would add to the excellent post above is this:

    The work being described for the "> 50%" is the final fit of the pistol.

    All of the parts in the pistol are imported in finished form from Brazil. On a 1911 the final fit is not a trivial thing, but the amount of "tweaking" done is quite small. Even on a "US" production line pistol, 90% of the total work on that pistol is done in Brazil.

    Bob

  3. #3
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    Bob,

    All of us who "hang out" in the Springfield section of this forum owe a huge debt of gratitude to You and also to Tom for the superb work you do and your time contributed.

    That's "non-compensated" time too, just in case anyone is wondering. Therein, we can all get a visual image of how significant your efforts are to making this forum a better place... especially this part of it!

    I do want to add a bit more regarding those markings... so not to be remiss in omitting some further information. Here goes...

    The "IMBEL" laser etched markings apparently come in at least three variations... at least that's what I'm looking at right now.

    • I have a parkerized Mil-Spec, N serial number, made in April 2002. It's marked "FI BRAZIL" in a single line, bottom of dustcover.
    • A parkerized G.I. model, WW serial number, made in December 2004, is laser etched "IMBEL BRAZIL", also in a single line, same location- bottom of dustcover.
    • Another G.I., this one Armory Kote OD, WW serial number, production date is August 2006, is marked by laser etching on the the dustcover underside with two lines... the first is "IMBEL" and immediately below is "MADE IN BRAZIL".


    For the curious, all three of these are rollmarked "GENESEO IL USA" above the serial number.

    But wait... there is another variant that preceded all these!

    It's not my Springfield, but this is a Super Tuned model, sort of like a Mil-Spec on steroids... something beyond a Loaded... checkered front strap and MSH... but without front cocking serrations if I recall correctly. The one I saw and examined was made in January 1997 and would have looked something like this...


    Note where the "FI BRAZIL" marking is at! It's on the right side of the frame towards the front... not the bottom dustcover area. Did you also see the "READ MANUAL" on the barrel hood?

    I doubt we've yet uncovered all the variations of these Springfield markings!

    "All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope".

    - Sir Winston Churchill

  4. #4
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    Hi

    You're the one doing all the heavy lifting on this one

    I'm sure that if we get into the sub variants of serial number starting letters combined with models combined with different years - we're going to have a lot of variations.

    Just for the record:

    According to the ATF numbers Springfiled "made" 7,153 pistols in 2006. That's the total number that did not need to have "made in Brazil" markings on them. The number is for both production pistols and Custom Shop product. According to industry publications their total sales in 2006 were over 125,000 pistols of all types.

    I believe that 1911's are roughly 1/3 of Springfield's total sales. That would put the number around 40,000 pistols. More or less you can say that including custom shop product 20% of the 1911's are *not* marked "Brazil".

    So many numbers, I think my head is turning to mush ...

    Bob

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_guns
    ...So many numbers, I think my head is turning to mush ...

    Bob
    Thanks, Bob... I do appreciate your kind words... and yes, that's a huge number of 1911A1 pistols! Just the Geneseo combined production and custom shop output would be almost 30 a day based on a 5 day week with about two weeks downtime during the calendar year for holidays.

    I cannot imagine that their "fitting" techniques or methods have changed drastically in the past decades gone by. A visit to their Geneseo facility to see Springfield 1911A1 pistols assembled and finished would beat a trip to Disney's place on my list!!!

    "All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope".

    - Sir Winston Churchill

  6. #6
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    Hi

    My *guess* is that roughly 1/3 of the 7,000 pistols made in IL are Custom Shop output. That would make the output of the custom shop about the same as the total production at Wilson and larger than any of the other semi-custom guys.

    Bob

  7. #7
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    It's also worth noting that Imbel was making quality 1911 pistols looong before Springfield contracted them.

  8. #8
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    Hi

    Based on the Imbel product they brought in in the early 1980's - both outfits (Imbel and Springfield) have come a *long* way since then.

    Bob

  9. #9
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    I hope I haven't missed this, but is there a specific date when the "N" numbered guns ceased being assembled in Brazil, and the "NM" numbered guns started being assembled in Illinois?

  10. #10
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    Hi

    The definition of "assembled in Brazil" is pretty elastic. I suspect that some of the pistols fail inspection in the US and are re-assembled here even today. That makes defining a "cut off" pretty futile.

    Bob

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