Springfield M1A Review

I wrote this review in part because I couldn’t find any recent testimonials or unbiased information on Springfield’s M1A rifle. I heard good things about it, but I have to admit the purchase was something of a gamble. It worked out for me, but you may need more information before choosing a rifle for purchase, so hopefully the review will help you learn more about this popular product, and you can use this information to make an informed purchasing decision.

Unexpectedly, the review has become fairly popular, if only due to the shortage of information about Springfield’s most famous product. I live here in the Golden State so the review is written with California readers in mind– but good luck to you all.

The Springfield M1A is, in a nutshell, a high-quality reproduction of the U.S. M14 rifle used in the early years of the Vietnam war. Though criticized for being outdated (compared to the then-revolutionary AR-10 and HK G3 designs) before it was even introduced in 1957, the M14 remains in service today with certain U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine units, and M14 variants are still present in the inventories of several countries around the world, a testament to its usefulness. The Springfield M1A capitalizes on the popularity of the M14 type by using GI parts and specs.
M-14 Rifle.
Springfield M1A Springfield M1A
The M-14 saw service in Vietnam from 1957 onwards until its replacement. The M14 national Match (Accursed) was the sniper rifle variant, later renamed the M-21.

Production of the M14 ceased in 1964 but a further variant was the M14A1 which came close to being a light machine-gun. The M14A1 had a pistol grip, a folding fore-hand grip about half-way down the forestock, a folding bipod, a shoulder strap, and a sleeve was fitted over the muzzle to act as a compensator when firing fully automatic. This helped to keep the barrel down and prevent climb.

The M-14 was adopted in 1957 as the successor to the WWII M-1 Garand, and was basically an evolution of that rifle.

The main and more obvious improvements were the gas system and magazines. On the M-1 the magazine was fixed and had to be loaded using a charger. On the M-14, detachable 20-round box magazines were used. The normal M-14 fired semi-automatic only. A slide-on bipod could be provided, and the rifle fitted the M-76 grenade launcher which was slipped on to the flash suppressor and secured to the bayonet lug.

The M-14 weighed 5.1-kg (11.22 pounds) with a full magazine and cleaning kit carried. It had a maximum effective range on semi-automatic without the M-2 bipod of 460-meters. When the bipod was added this range increased to 700-meters.

A special suppressor was fitted to the muzzle of the sniper rifle which did not affect the performance of the bullet, but reduced the velocity of the emerging gases to below that of sound. This made location very difficult as the target heard only the crack of the bullet and no shot from the rifle.

springfield m1a for sale springfield m1a for sale

Vital Stats

Part No. 9106-CA
Cost: $1030 and up wholesale, $1300 and up at retail
Length: 44″ (112 cm)
Weight: 9 lbs. (4.18 kg)
Stock: Synthetic Fiberglass or American Walnut
Trigger: Two-Stage military, 5-6 lbs.
Barrel: 22″ (55.9 cm) Springfield chrome-lined, 1-12 twist
Sights: Military aperture, front blade

Sights

The rifle has an excellent sighting system. Unlike standard open rifle sights, the M1A has a “peep” aperture in the rear which is aligned with the front blade to produce an intuitive sight picture:

The point of impact is at the top of the blade when aligned using the common “navy hold.” Other aiming techniques include the “six-o’clock hold,” the “frame hold,” and the “line of white hold” depending on personal preference. Regardless of hold, your eye will be focused on the front blade, making the rear aperture and target blurry. This is proper technique.

The sights have adjustments for elevation and windage in 1 MOA increments (i.e. 1″ at 100 yards, 2″ at 200 yards, etc.). A National Match aperture is available separately, which has adjustments of 0.5 MOA by means of a rotating hood over the peephole. Stock bedding, special barrels, and ammunition can increase accuracy dramatically. The thing I wish for most is a metric conversion set with dial-a-range like more modern designs.

Ammunition

The M1A uses standard NATO 7.62x51mm rifle ammunition, known as M80 Ball in the U.S. This type is often identified as “.308 Winchester” because it is based on that cartridge, but these are two slightly different types of ammunition. Included in the box is a note that says something like “Danger: your rifle has been headspaced for military ammunition. Do not attempt to use civilian ammunition. Use only high quality military surplus ammunition of commercial manufacture.” Take a look here for a more in-depth article on the slight difference between “.308″ and 7.62mm– there doesn’t seem to be any.

Performance

m1a rifle m1a rifle

The M1A outperforms any other rifle that I’ve tried, though I’m by no means an expert. It has the most firepower of any legal battle rifle available in California. It is accurate with metal sights and reliable with ordinary mil-spec ammunition. I would expect nothing less from a G.I. rifle. Admittedly, the recoil is greater than the 5.56mm round. It’s not terrible, but followup shots do take effort, at least more effort than with an AR-15 type.

You can spray and pray if you don’t mind punching holes in everything that’s in the general direction of the target (see video). Accessories like a shooting jacket and support glove might help in the accuracy department.

Note: the M1A is large, heavy, and unwieldy. To answer some emails I’ve received, it is not a defensive weapon. Let me say that again: this is not a “home defense” weapon. The rifle is designed as an battle rifle for offensive (and certainly outdoor) use, so if you don’t currently own any firearms, you’re probably better off selecting one of the many excellent tactical shotguns or pistols available today.

One reason is that you could easily get both a quality pistol and shotgun for less than the cost of one M1A (see FAQ). At a stretch, you could get a Mini-14 (see FAQ) or M1 Carbine and use it with home protection in mind. However, if you are looking for a multipurpose rifle for all seasons, the M1A is the one for you. Most people refer to this as a “battle rifle” for its medium weight and large caliber compared to today’s typical lightweight 5.56x45mm assault rifles.

Maintenance

Unlike other pieces of sporting equipment, a rifle, and the M1A in particular, is designed to last a lifetime. I recently discovered that my barrel is a 1961 Winchester– 40 years in storage (probably never taken out of the factory packaging) and it works great. With proper care, replacement parts, and the included Davidson’s Guaranteed lifetime warranty, this rifle could outlive you easily, perhaps even your child should you one day transfer it to him or her. The first thing you need is a cleaning kit and supplies. You need the Otis 7.62mm rifle cleaning kit available from Otis and also Tetra Gun or Hoppe’s cleaning supplies.

I recommend Hoppe’s No. 9 Benchrest copper solvent for bore cleaning, and Tetra brand grease and gun oil for lubrication. A complete set of replacement springs couldn’t hurt either. The Otis kit has a flexible steel cable encased in plastic to prevent damage to your M1A’s rifling. Unlike the GI cleaning kit, the Otis cleaning kit is designed to clean from breech to muzzle, which prevents dirt and debris from entering the rifle’s receiver. In addition, the Otis kit cleans extremely well– the chrome-lined bore becomes a mirrored surface.

Safety and Handling Info

Most importantly, when manipulating the operating rod handle with a loaded magazine or chamber, move your hand out of the way of the operating rod after releasing it, and keep your hand and especially fingers out of the path of the operating rod. If you are unlucky enough to have a “slam fire” happen when your thumb is near the action, the force of the operating rod handle moving rearward can supposedly cut your finger off, and can definitely open up the palm of your hand in an extremely ugly fashion, requiring stitches and scarring you for life.

In the unlikely event that the rifle does not fire when you pull the trigger, keep the rifle pointed downrange for several moments (the manual specifies 10 seconds) to ensure that the round in the chamber isn’t just a case of delayed ignition. Resist the temptation to immediately pull back the operating rod handle, as the aforementioned hazard may make you a very unhappy person if you lose the use of your right hand for a month or more (it works on so many levels). Remove the magazine and pull the operating rod handle back.

If the rifle is jammed, the manual says to use a rubber mallet to hit the operating rod handle downward, while of course warning others around you and keeping as much of your body clear of the rifle and especially the muzzle as possible. Standing on the operating rod handle will also work, but is not recommended for safety reasons.

Make sure the ammunition you use is the right kind. In this case, “7.62x51mm NATO” is what you say to a salesperson. Please purchase only from a reputable dealer or person, such as Cheaper Than Dirt or another online vendor that knows the ins and outs of ammunition.

Most places will call it “.308 Winchester” ammo even if it’s mil-spec. NATO ammo is always marked with a cross enclosed in a circle on the bottom of the case, along with the manufacturer’s initials and the year of manufacture, e.g. LC 64 for Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, 1964.

Like you should do with any firearm, wear safety glasses at all times when disassembling this rifle. The operating rod spring is under tremendous pressure and when you release the connector lock, the operating rod guide will shoot out like an arrow if your other hand slips. If anyone is in the room with you, they should wear safety glasses too.

After re-assembling any firearm, always check for correct operation of all mechanisms and especially safety features before firing.
It is advisable to transport the rifle with the action open in a car trunk or a case in the vehicle. Yes, you could simply put it on the passenger seat with a loaded magazine next to it (in California), but the rifle isn’t very easy to load and manipulate in a car if you get carjacked or robbed, is it. If you really want to carry something on the passenger seat, try a Mossberg 500 with “cruiser” grip and 18″ barrel, as seen in Training Day.

All reputable ranges require that you transport the weapon to the firing line with the action locked open, magazine removed, and muzzle pointing upward, and often require a plastic flag to go in the action during a cease-fire. Make sure you read the rules for any range you go to, especially the rules on rapid fire, before you start blasting.

Don’t take my word for it. As the computer adage goes, Read The Fine Manual that comes free with the weapon to familiarize yourself with its features, safety device, and maintenance procedures. Note that my disclaimer in the legal section removes me from liability in the event of your injury or death after using this information, assuming I don’t purposely mislead you.

Conclusion

Springfield’s M1A is an excellent rifle. It is accurate, reliable, and powerful. While newer designs offer lighter weight, lower cost, and other improvements, the M1A is a practical and potent addition to any collection. Despite high recoil and a truly deafening report, its out of the box accuracy, legality in almost all states, and relatively inexpensive ammunition make the M1A one of the most interesting rifles available; it is famous for reliability and durability as well.

Its potential for upgrades and add-ons make it a logical choice for match shooting, as evidenced by its presence at the National Matches each year. It’s worth the money and effort to acquire, and it is quite possibly the only mainstream 7.62x51mm semi-auto that is legal for purchase in states with assault weapons bans. However, several cities and some states such as New Jersey may classify the M1A as an assault weapon.