Traditional Firepower in the Modern Age: The M1A Lineup
February 27th, 2021
9 minute read
Built to fight tyranny around the globe, the U.S. military’s M14 is an icon of both freedom and craftsmanship. While the original military M14 is not available to civilian shooters, the Springfield Armory M1A rifle is the readily available, civilian-legal alternative.
As a semi-automatic sibling of the M14, the M1A rifle chambers the .308 Win. cartridge (and 6.5 CM in some variants) and feeds from a detachable magazine. It is gas-operated with an op rod and roller cam bolt for smooth and reliable functioning. While variants exist in other calibers and styles, the classic M1A Standard Issue provides the closest look and feel to the traditional M14.
In this article, I provide an introduction to the M1A line. I start with the Standard Issue and then move to other M1A rifle versions including the popular National Match and SOCOM16.
M1A Standard Issue
Without a doubt, the Standard Issue is my favorite version of the M1A rifle. With a full 22” barrel and walnut stock, this rifle has the classic look I love. The distinctive flash suppressor makes the gun instantly recognizable. While I enjoy shooting a modern sporting rifle like the Springfield SAINT, the traditional feel of the wood-stocked Standard Issue M1A is a real joy.
The Standard Issue rifles come standard with a two-stage National Match tuned trigger, a National Match front sight and a military-style rear aperture sight. These combine to help you make tight groups downrange. Chambered in .308 Win., Springfield Armory includes a 10-round box magazine with the rifle.
While I prefer the walnut stock, Springfield offers two additional versions of the Standard Issue M1A that sport a composite stock. These rifle stocks are available in either black or desert FDE. In addition to providing color options, the composite stocks lighten the weight of the M1A Standard Issue by 11 ounces. If you are carrying a rifle all day, that is a weight savings you will feel.
If you like the appearance of the Standard Issue rifles but would like improved shooting performance, the M1A Loaded rifles might be right for you. Springfield offers these guns with features that can improve your shooting performance without crushing your budget.
For the traditionalists, Springfield offers a walnut stock version of the M1A that checks all of the boxes for the classic look. However, the rifle features:
- Match-grade aperture rear sight
- National Match front blade sight (0.062”) for precision, long-range shots
- 22” National Match, medium-weight, air-gauged barrel
- 2-stage National Match trigger (4.5-5.5 lbs.)
- Traditional long-slot flash suppressor
- .308 Win chambering with a 10-round detachable magazine
If you prefer a black stock, Springfield Armory also offers the gun with a composite stock. Other than the stock, the rest of the features are the same as the walnut-stocked rifle.
M1A Loaded Precision
If you desire a serious long-range M1A but you also want to keep the package affordable, the Loaded Precision models could be exactly what you need. These guns offer the same features as the standard M1A Loaded but with an adjustable stock.
For these models, Springfield Armory mates the M1A Loaded to the composite Archangel Precision Adjustable stock. The Archangel stock lets you adjust the gun’s fit along two axes for optimal stability and comfort when you are behind the trigger.
You can precisely set the height of the cheek piece and the length of pull with this stock. Rather than clumsy spacer pads, both of these adjustments are made with precision click wheels integral to the stock.
The cheek riser has 1.75” of travel and each click adjusts the height by 0.05”. For the length of pull, you can adjust the stock from 13.5” out to more than 14.8”. I found that once the stock is dialed in, my ability to make shots skyrockets.
In addition to the fitment adjustments, the stock also offers a forward Picatinny rail which can be used to add a bipod or other accessory. Additionally, there are QD sockets on both sides of the stock at the fore end and at the rear. It is my personal belief that (almost) every rifle should be equipped with a sling, and this stock makes it easy.
As an added bonus, the stocks come in either black or Desert FDE colors – the choice is yours.
One more twist in the M1A Loaded Precision line is the introduction of a second caliber. While the standard .308 Win cartridge is still available, Springfield Armory gives you the option of a rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The 6.5 Creedmoor guns have all the same features including your choice of stock colors.
M1A Scout Squad
While the classic M1A rifle is a phenomenal gun, there are circumstances in which you might want a more compact package. Enter the M1A Scout Squad.
This M1A variant blends the scout rifle concept championed by Jeff Cooper with the performance of the legendary Springfield Armory gun. In general, Cooper advocated for a handy rifle in a respectable cartridge with iron sights and a forward mounted optic. His concept involved a great more detail than my generalization, but the gun should be reasonably accurate and fast to bring to action.
I think Springfield Armory’s implementation of the general principles is spot on. Part of the Scout Squad’s design includes a shortened barrel: 18” long with a 1:11” twist. This helps make the gun handier in close quarters and easier to bring onto target. It also reduces the weight of the gun to just 8.5 pounds with a black synthetic stock.
Recognizing that the barrel length reduction can increase the muzzle rise of the .308 Win cartridge, Springfield Armory uses a proprietary muzzle brake that tames recoil without adding bulk.
For many people, the key thing that sets a scout-style rifle apart from other guns is the forward mounted optic. Springfield includes a Picatinny rail forward of the action for mounting a scope on the M1A rifle. A low-power, long-eye-relief scope mounts here for fast sighting.
Additional features include:
- Match-grade, two-stage trigger
- 10-round detachable magazine
- Military-type rear aperture sight (0.069”)
- National Match front blade sight (0.062”)
- Optional walnut stock
M1A SOCOM 16
For something even more compact, take a look at the M1A SOCOM 16 rifles. Set up for defensive work, the tactical rifles also work well for specialized law enforcement and military applications.
Springfield Armory dropped the barrel length down to 16.25” and added a specialized muzzle brake to compensate for any additional recoil you might feel. This makes the gun a bit handier when maneuvering. It also helps keep the gun tucked away in the truck until you need it – like when you come across a coyote stalking your herd or a rabid dog approaching your kids.
To get on target quickly, Springfield Armory combines a front tritium sight from XS Sights with a wide ghost ring rear. For improved precision, synthetic stocked M1A SOCOM 16 rifles have a forward Picatinny rail for mounting a scout scope.
The standard M1A SOCOM 16 rifle is equipped with a traditionally-shaped synthetic stock. However, you do have the option of a stock that adjusts to your body size in the M1A SOCOM 16 CQB rifle. The CQB version uses the Archangel CQB stock with a collapsible stock to fit your body. If this is your home defense rifle, you might need to make adjustments on the fly if you throw on a plate carrier.
For improved control of the rifle, the CQB stock uses an AK-style pistol grip. Further, it includes a Picatinny rail at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. For adding a light, bipod or other accessory, these rails are invaluable. The stock also has QD sockets for attaching a sling both fore and aft on each side of the gun.
Should you want to run a red dot sight, the CQB model also comes with a special mount for attaching the optic to the stripper clip guide. Without a doubt, this rifle provides the most flexibility in the line for tactical applications.
The final gun in this series is the M1A Tanker. With inspiration coming from the T26 Tanker variant of the M1 Garand rifle, this .308 rifle has many of the same features as the standard M1A SOCOM 16 but is fitted with a classic walnut stock instead of a synthetic one. For anyone who has an appreciation of history – like me – this gun will appeal to you.
M1A National Match
As the name implies, the M1A National Match is designed for accuracy. While it may look similar to the M1A Standard Issue, this rifle has a variety of enhancements to ensure you are hitting your target when the match winner is determined in fractions of inches.
Springfield Armory uses a glass bedded action for a precise fit with the walnut stock. When shooting the rifle, that solid platform is really shows in its performance.
The 22” National Match barrel is available in Parkerized carbon steel or in stainless steel. I generally prefer blued or black barrels. Nevertheless, that stainless model is downright sexy.
Springfield upgrades the rear sight to a match-grade aperture with a full hood. The sight has micro adjustments for both windage and elevation. Up front, the M1A National Match is fitted with a sharp 0.062” blade.
M1A Super Match
For the most accurate M1A rifle, Springfield Armory offers the Super Match. Where the National Match rifle is serious about accuracy, the Super Match is utterly devoted to it.
Springfield Armory opted to upgrade to heavy profile Douglas barrels on these rifles. Each is 22” long and is precisely button rifled. Rifling is 1:10” with a right-hand twist. According to the company, these are the heaviest barrels possible that are still match-legal. You can choose between carbon steel and stainless steel for your barrel.
Walnut stocks on Super Match rifles are oversized for increased rigidity. However, if you prefer a synthetic stock, Springfield Armory also offers a McMillan fiberglass stock as an option. Regardless of the stock you choose, Springfield glass beds the actions in all of these firearms.
Additional M1A Super Match features include:
- Chambered for the .308 Win/7.62 NATO cartridge
- National Match front blade sight (0.062”)
- Match-grade hooded rear sight aperture (0.0595”)
- 2-stage National Match tuned trigger
- 10-round magazine
Be it the classic design, reliable power or the match grade accuracy, the M1A line of rifles appeals to many shooters. Building on the heritage of the M14 and the M1 before it, Springfield Armory’s M1A rifle continues to serve the men and women of America with honor. I strongly encourage you to check one of these rifles out. Fair warning: you might find them irresistible.
Editor’s Note: Please be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in and discuss this article and much more!