This rifle is the grandchild of the M1 Garand, the rifle that won WWI. Its father, the M14, had a short but notable service period in the US Military from 1959 to 1970. It was replaced by the M16 service rifle, a lighter weapon with a smaller cartridge.
The M14 proved highly reliable during the Vietnam War, firing the 7.62 x 51mm NATO round, which packed a punch. After the retirement of the M14, Springfield arms developed the civilian version, called the M1A, which grew in popularity very quickly, especially with match shooters looking for an accurate and versatile rifle.
The M1 and its descendants are beautifully crafted weapons, so much so, the Marine Corps Silent Drill team still performs with these hand-polished weapons.
Background – Excellent Lineage
The M1A, manufactured from 1974 to present, has become legendary and has a pedigree that spans back to the 1930’s when the US Government was researching and developing the next generation battle rifle, the M1 Garand. The M1 chambered the highly popular and diverse .30-06 Springfield round and saw a long and respected service life from WWII up to the Vietnam War. Even old “Blood and Guts”, General George Patton, had an opinion about the M1 calling it “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”[
The M1A’s big brother, the M14, took over the roles of 7 famous weapons of WWII, to include the Enfield, the Tommy Gun and the M3 “Grease Gun”. So where does the M14 stop and the M1A begin? It can be tough to tell. The rifles are nearly identical but have a few notable differences. The M14 is a military grade weapon, capable of select fire modes of semi and auto. The M1A is the civilian version that fires semi-automatic only. M14s were also built with mil-spec steel receivers manufactured with the expensive “drop forge” process. The M1A has also lost its bayonet lug, thanks to assault weapons bans of the past. The M1A also has a sleeker and slimmer stock than the M14. There are several manufacturers out there that build M14 clones, but Springfield’s M1-A is the only real McCoy.
|Cartridge||7.62 mm x 51mm NATO, .308 Winchester, 6.5 mm Creedmoor|
|Use||Civilian, some military and police|
|Weight||7.8 – 11.6 lbs (depending on variant)|
|Total Length||37.25’’ – 44.33’’ (depending upon variant)|
|Barrel Length||16, 18 and 22”|
|Operation||Gas Operated with rotating bolt|
|Muzzle velocity||2,800 fps|
|Max effective range||600 yds|
General Review – The Test of Time
There are three main applications for the M1A, and its many variants – home defense, big game hunting and target shooting. The Standard M1A is probably not the first choice for many home defenders. It’s heavier and has a longer barrel than the weapon of choice – the AR-15. Springfield Arms does offer the M1A in a 16’’ barrel variant. It’s lighter than the Standard and the shorter barrel makes it easier to wield and bring to bear on an intruder.
The .308 (7.62 x 51mm) round packs a punch, and the bad guy is not going to notice the slight drop in muzzle velocity with the shorter barrel. In close quarter combat, it’s accurate and reliable and provides a lower than average recoil (thanks to a built in muzzle break) in a compact rifle package. The weapon is easy to clean, with battlefield style take-down. The trigger group and stock removable are ridiculously easy and it just takes seconds.
At the range, the M1A provides a time proven, tough-to-beat platform for highly accurate target shooting. You will get tighter groups on paper than many cartridge/rifle platforms. The rifle was designed with balance and ballistics to reach out beyond 500 yards. It’s crazy accurate and a flat shooter inside of 300 yards.
The .308 is one of the most popular big game hunting cartridges in use around the world. Whether you are tracking Rocky Mountain Elk in the high country of Colorado or spot and stalking Impala in the Serengeti, the M1A is the perfect solution. The best experience you can get shooting the M1A is sighting along the barrel and aiming with the durable and easy to adjust iron sights. More conventional hunters will equip their rifle with a scope that can be easily attached to the barrel rail.
Cost – Not the Cheapest but Worth It
If I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t spend a single sentence talking about cost. Since I don’t, let’s look at what it costs to purchase and shoot the M1A. The M1A, and its variants, are listed by retailers at a low of $1,200 for a Standard Model up to as high as $2,800 for the deluxe Super Match with all the goodies. The price to shoot it is also a consideration. A box of 20 .308 (7.62 x 51mm) can range in price from $13 up to $20 – that’s in the .32 cents/round range for bulk ammo purchases. Compare that to another common file cartridge, the 5.56mm (.223) at .18 cents/round. On thing that is impacting the cost and availability of the .308/7.62mm round is that the surplus market has dried up a little in recent history.
Models – Practical to Tactical
The M1A is a great design in itself, but there are several variants available to suit your likes and needs. The variants are based off the 3 barrel lengths that Springfield Arms offers in the M1A – 16, 18 and 22’’. The SOCOM 16 sports the short 16’’ barrel perfect for speeding up your muzzle rotation as your acquire your target. This is the lightest and easiest to handle M1A in the group.
Mount a tactical red dot scope on it and keep it in your closet for a quick but powerful response to any home intruder. A muzzle break manges kick well enough and recoil does not become a problem when you are in a rapid-fire situation. Right in the middle, you have the 18” barrel, Scout Squad. With a barrel 4” shorter than the standard barrel you lose a few feet per second in muzzle velocity, but your target will hardly notice it. This well balanced rifle is the one in your locker that you’ll find yourself taking to the range every time.
If you want to get the most performance out of your .308 round then you’ll want to go with the standard 22” barrel offerings. The Standard Model is essentially a semi-automatic version of the M14, made famous in the jungles of Vietnam. Throw on a match grade barrel, and choose from wood or synthetics stocks and you will be the envy of all the target shooters at the range.
The M1A Loaded model comes with all the goodies that are desired by competitive match shooters. The rifle can also be purchased in the 6.5 Creedmoor chambering, which provides for a flatter shooting trajectory past 300 yards.