M1A Origin Story, Gritty Reboot Edition

Written by Fred Mastison
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M1A Origin Story, Gritty Reboot Edition

April 28th, 2019

4 minute read

One of the most iconic rifles to grace American ranges is the Springfield M1A. The M1A is the semi-auto version of the classic M14. To better understand the love affair with this gun we need to look at its history. In 1957 the M14 replaced the M1 Garand after extensive competition during previous years. The military was looking for an improvement on the Garand including a detachable magazine and full auto capability. Due to the accuracy and reliability of the rifle it was soon being modified for specialized work. In 1969 Rock Island Arsenal converted over 1400 National Match M14s to be used as sniper rifles during the Vietnam War. The modifications included the addition of a Leatherwood 3-9x scope and providing match grade ammunition to the shooters. This version was designated the M21 and it remained the US Army’s primary sniper rifle until 1988. Even after its retirement, the M21 kept finding its way back to war. In small circles it was reissued during the Gulf War and was seen being carried by several elite units throughout the military.

Fast forward to today and we find the M1A is still a popular rifle in the shooting industry. Like many of its WWII cousins, it has seen its share of small improvements based on the evolution of manufacturing processes. Competitions around the country see enthusiastic shooters unpack their M1As and get ready to be serious competitors in precision matches.

Springfield has the distinction of allowing civilian shooters an opportunity to own their very own semi-auto version of the M14. In 1974 they began manufacturing what would be labeled the “M1A.” It would be a civilian version of the M14 and would be so close to the M14 that Springfield initially used surplus G.I. parts to build their guns. Eventually they began to make all the parts themselves and in doing so were able to improve accuracy. In fact, until the very late 1990s the rifle still had the cutout in the right rear of the stock for the full auto selector.

Over the years Springfield has revisited the M1A with success. The masterminds at Springfield have once again turned to the M1A with a plan to improve an already exceptional gun. Their latest offering is the Springfield Loaded M1A. It is a mix of classic old with modern improvements that are game changing. The improvement in this version of the M1A is the Springfield PAS – Precision Adjustable Stock. The nature of the original M1A made scoped shooting a challenge without some (usually home-made) stock modifications such as cheek risers. The PAS solves this and brings more to the table. The PAS is adjustable not only for cheek weld height but in length of pull as well. All adjustments can be done without the use of tools and are small enough to provide serious personal fitting of the gun. Another improvement in the stock is the inclusion of a picatinny rail under the handguard. This makes mounting a bipod or other kit a breeze. At the rear of the stock sits a specifically cut notch for helping the shooter stabilize the rifle. With the new they mix the best of the old; the new M1A keeps its match grade sights with a 1/2 MOA for windage and 1 MOA for elevation on the rear sight.

The original M14 was not designed with optics in mind. The accuracy of the rifle, however, soon began to call for the inclusion of glass and attempts at mounts were made. Springfield’s modern answer is the 4th Generation Steel Scope Mount. This mount is not only rock solid, but installation on the rifle is a breeze.

The new offering from Springfield has caught the eye of law enforcement as a counter sniper platform. As agencies cover large events across the country they are always on the lookout for dangers posed by gunmen. The M1A’s accuracy combined with a semi-auto function and magazine feed allows it to fit this niche quite well. The additional fact that the M1A pushes out a 7.62mm round makes it a valuable tool for defeating barricades and other factors that might stop the popular 5.56mm round. The final piece of this puzzle is that an agency can get into a Loaded M1A for significantly less than most other precision rifles. While some would argue that price should not be a factor, the brutal reality is that it is.

The Loaded M1A combines the old with the new in a seamless fashion. Springfield has put together a rifle that has exceptional extra features without the match-shop price tag. It is an accurate and reliable rifle that will serve any shooter for years to come. From recreational shooting to competition, the Loaded M1A is a solid addition to the Springfield line.

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Fred Mastison

Fred Mastison

Fred Mastison is a national magazine contributor, professional firearms & combatives instructor and executive protection provider and trainer. He is also the host of the weekly firearms podcast Center Mass. He has written over 600 articles for 27 different magazines. He is a reserve police officer and has been training in firearms & close quarter combatives for over three decades. Additionally he has almost 40 years in the martial arts and holds advanced degrees in multiple arts. He currently holds 17 separate law enforcement POST course certifications around the U.S. and is a certifying instructor for law enforcement firearms instructors in handgun, patrol rifle, shotgun and sub machine gun. In addition to training in the US, Mr. Mastison has divisions in Germany, Ireland and Mexico.

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