In a world where so many products are churned out in mass production, James River Armory (JRA) produces handcrafted firearms built one at a time. James River Armory of Burgaw, NC is a company that takes great pride in the historic firearms they create. From reproductions to modern guns, JRA takes the time and effort to build pieces of history that folks can enjoy for generations. I had the honor to interview Mark Hartman, the owner of JRA, and he provided me with some great information about his company and its products.
The Beginning of JRA
Mark Hartman, the founder of JRA, has a great passion for two related topics: firearms and history. At the age of 14, Mark built his first firearm. After graduating from college, Mark felt the call of duty to his country and joined the United States Marine Corps. Soon he commissioned as an officer after completing Officer’s Candidate School.
James River Armory really got its start in the late 1990s building reproduction Civil War-era firearms. You might ask... why Civil War reproduction firearms? Mark participated in North-South Skirmish events, which is a type of team competition shooting that incorporates Civil War reenacting. At the time when Mark was active in the Skirmish scene, participants had few economically priced firearms from which to choose. More often than not, enthusiasts spent thousands of dollars on custom made Civil War-era style rifles.
From a cabinet shop Mark owned at the time, he started remanufacturing Italian muskets from European antique firearms manufacturers Euroarms and Armisport. He rifled the barrels of these smoothbore muskets and provided them with period-correct furniture. These newly converted, yet historically accurate firearms, provided a more economical option for folks who wished to experience Civil War reenacting and competition. Mark used his woodworking expertise and passion for guns as a springboard for his next move in the world of firearms.
Modern Reproductions and Restorations
Around 2005, Mark transitioned his firearms side business into a full-fledged manufacturing endeavor. JRA started by building classic US military firearms like 03 Springfields, M1 Garands, and M1 Carbines. Often, they made these firearms from parts or older rifles in various conditions. Sometimes JRA added new barrels to older, refinished receivers or used refinished components and an original receiver and barrel. Regardless of how JRA builds their rifles, they handcraft firearms to a level of quality even the most decerning collectors and enthusiasts appreciate.
In 2010 JRA ventured into a line of AK rifles. Despite what you’ve heard around the water cooler at the range, it takes a great deal of time and effort to build an AK properly. In fact, according to Mark himself, each JRA AK requires roughly four man-hours of labor.
Only a year later, in 2011, JRA got into the business of building the iconic M14 rifle. At a time when many M14 type rifles used cast receivers, JRA went the extra mile with forged steel receivers and match grade barrels.
James River Armory and Classic Firearms
When we need the best name in the industry for building historically accurate firearms, we turn to none other than James River Armory. Classic Firearms entered the business by selling historical, surplus firearms and JRA helps us maintain our historical roots. We seek out JRA when we need the finest reproduction firearms. James River Armory always delivers high-quality firearms whether they are AKs built from original parts kits or M1 Garands with match grade barrels. Currently, James River Armory consists of a dedicated team of around six employees with specific talents for bringing old guns back to life.
In the words of Mark Hartman, “We are really more of a salvage art company.” Truthfully, Mark is being overly humble. JRA does more than just salvage firearms. With every gun they hand-build they bring the past back to life. James River Armory takes the remnants of history and rebuilds them into high-quality firearms to be collected and cherished for generations to come. Shop all quality James River Armory firearms!