Educate me on the M1A


June 10, 2003, 04:24 PM
I'm interested in picking up an M1A to add to the shooting collection. I'm traditionally a bolt-action shooter and have a couple of Remington 700s that will group 0.5" with match ammo when I do my part (more typically, I get 0.75") shooting prone. I'd like an "accurate" M1A, but understand that the "typical" semi-automatic is less accurate than the "typical" bolt action. I'd like to be able to shoot MOA, if possible. I'm not a competitor ... just a like to shoot precisely. What should I look for, and what should I expect to pay? Are the synthetic stocks more likely to be accurate than wood? Is it difficult to change the stock on an M1A? Should I consider buying wood, and then upgrading to an H.S. Precision or MacMillan, etc?

Also, I'd like to be able to mount a scope. Both my 700s wear Leupolds (a Mk4 on one, and a Vari-X III LRT on the other, both with mil dots). Tell me about mounting scopes on the M1A. Special mounts needed, I presume? I'm more interested in quality mounts than choice of scope at this point.

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Steve Smith
June 10, 2003, 04:33 PM
Most important question when deciding whether you want a top notch M1A: How much are you willing to spend?

Go to this guy for work: (clint Fowler)

Go by his suggestions for parts. Most likely he'll say Kreiger 1:10 barrel, McMillan stock.

June 10, 2003, 05:09 PM
Steve's right (again). How "accurate" is accurate to you? To get a "loaded" SA M1A down to MOA for me would have meant replacing the ... well everything that wasn't the reciever or bolt. That includes most of the trigger as well. Add a little tweaking and welding of the gas cylinder, new piston (changed from the stock issue to a "NM" piston), bedding (and rebedding every couple of years), the McMillan stock, and a Krieger barrel and I'm looking at close to $2000...for a $1300 rifle (yeah...I kinda over paid for this one. But I was younger, inexperienced and madly in love...go figure :banghead: ) according to Fulton Armory's Clint McKee. To make the price even more outrageous, I had just found a scoped ADL in 30.06 that got .5MOA with handloads for about $300. The M1A was pretty much shooting minute of pie plate at 100yds.

'Course the National Match and Super Match are usually closer to MOA / sub MOA than the Loaded, but you're sill looking at $1500 to $2000 + base price easily for a used rifle.

A few more answers to your questions: the stock is pretty simple to change out... don't have to worry about the torque being 65 in/lbs like the 700. Mounting a scope on the M1A I had would have been pointless, however Scott Duff is pretty well sold on the Brookfield mount. Again, pricey but I can't complain after the Badger Ordnance mount/rings I have on my VS.

There are sub MOA M1A's out there but after the experience I had, I'm not going to be looking for one in the near future. Too expensive and labour / upkeep intensive for MOA groups.

My 2 cents.


June 10, 2003, 06:38 PM
I have an M1A that I bought used back in the late 1980s. It has a synthetic stock, some glass bedding, and weighs about 10 pounds.

I have no idea how many rounds went through this rifle before I got it. It was a competitive shooter's extra rifle so it might not have been used much.

Using reloads in Lake City brass, running at 2.550 fps, with 147 grain Winchester boat tail bullets, pulled from ammo that was being broken down, I was able to shoot some nice groups from prone. At a match I fired two sighters that touched at 200 yards. Unfortunately, they were on my neighbor's target.

At the range with the light behind me and the target lit up by the low sun, I shot a three-shot one and three quarter inch group. Under MOA! I would have shot two more rounds, and probably enlarged the group, but someone showed up at the range and I had to move back to the benches.

Some M1As will really shoot.

Also they have what I call, "a real rifle feel." The M1 has it too, but I prefer the M1A for match shooting.

June 10, 2003, 07:05 PM
I recommend you get a copy of Scott Duff's book on the M-1A/M-14 first. It gives tips and tricks for getting the most out of an M-1A. I am barely competent with tools but was able to do many of the modifications myself.

GI and after market parts are readily available via the internet from places like Fulton Armory, Chestnut Ridge Supply, and US Armory.

The best scope mount is by Brookfield Precision. Some people like the ARMS #18.

June 10, 2003, 07:49 PM
Good info so far; thanks. I'll look for a copy of Duff's book. In answer to your question, Steve, I have some time to do some research, but would go $2K for the rifle sans scope.

echo3mike, I have Badger Ordnance bases/rings on both my 700s. Am willing to pay for what works. I'll check out the Brookfield Precision.

But more generally, is wanting an M1A capable of MOA accuracy reasonable, or should I figure on 1.5 MOA? Generally speaking, good bolt guns should be expected to go sub-MOA either out of the box or with a little work. What's average for the M1A?

Is there someone who specializes in selling accurized M1As already set up, or should I expect getting an M1A close to MOA to be an ongoing project?

June 10, 2003, 08:25 PM
You need to check into and dig around a bit... lots of great info on these rifles.

June 11, 2003, 12:02 AM
Definately check out

A 1 minute M1A is not a pipe dream but, compared to somthing like a bolt gun, there are just a lot of parts and peices interacting to help or hurt the cause. Fine tuning the interaction of all these parts is where the battle is. If you get a gun that, by chance, all comes together nicely, that's great. Problem is not all come that way. I think you're odds are probably better with somthing from Fulton Armory than Springfield.

Also to get top notch accuracy out of an M1A you need a bedded reciever. No biggie except that to do a through cleaning on the gun you need to remove the action from the stock and every time you do it it breaks down the bedding. Hard core service rifle shooters will only do a through cleaning once a year at the end of the shooting season and will re do the bedding at the same time.

I've always though mounting a scope on the M1A was kinda hokey. All the mounts put the scope up too high for a cheek weld so you have to put a riser pad on. However springfield does have a variant that completely does away with the iron sights and has a base that bridges to the location of the rear iron sight. It also has an adjustable stock that solves the cheek problem.

SA does make a Scout model with a shorter barrel and a scope mount on the barrel, forward of the action. Typical glass mounted are long eye relief "scout" scopes (leupold M8 2.5x for example), or some sort of low/no power CQB scope (i.e. Aimpoint Comp).

Aside for service rifle competetion I dont see the utility of a highly accurate (and likely high maintenance) M1A, particularly if you've got good bold guns. Better to have a blaster that you can run loads of cheep surplus ammo through withough worrying about screwing up a fancy barrel and big dollar gunsmithing.

June 11, 2003, 12:37 AM
The way I see it, my M14 will be my Main Battle Rifle... as if I will ever see battle, but still, that's the purpose I have in mind when I think of my M14 - besides highpower competition (AKA, learning to shoot).

Maybe I've read too many of Fred's articles ( Fred's Articles Online ( ) in shotgun news, but this rifle is designed for BATTLE, and as such it can - stock - easily hit a man-sized target at 300+ yards, over and over.

That's why you have that 20 round mag sticking out the bottom... to fire again, and again if necessary - quickly. In battle.

Personally, I am having a great time building my M14 from the receiver up. There aren't that many parts, and I'm learning a ton in the process of researching and buying the parts. For me, the journey is part of the process... for others who want immediate gratification (or don't want to muck around), there is always the option of buying a stock M1A off the shelf.

If you are looking for M14 stocks, check out the site I just hooked up for Karsten:

Karsten's Custom Camo

Steve Smith
June 11, 2003, 10:21 AM
$2K might do it, depending on how far you want to go. I know Sven has more in it than that, but he is literally building the DREAM Highpower M1A. I'd suggest you give that Clint Fowler a call. His prices are not out of line. Discuss just how much you want to spend and what you want the rifle to do. You may be able to save some bucks by finding a used Standard M1A and just have it bedded, but that is a long way from a match grade gun like Sven's.

Making an M1A shoot like a bolt gun takes lots of money and a lot of knowledge on the builder's part.

June 11, 2003, 12:17 PM
Sven, for my summer project I'm going to take the same path you're on. Howabout a cheat sheet: parts list, smiths, sources, gothcas, etc? :D


June 11, 2003, 12:52 PM
You'll get your sub-MOA M1A/M14, as long as you have the patience and budget for it! ;) (my "hokey" Armscorp M14NM)

June 12, 2003, 08:24 PM
I've always though mounting a scope on the M1A was kinda hokey.

Hokey?? Hokey?? Damn, I wish I had the eyesight to see the front sight:banghead:. Then I'd be out there with all the fighter pilot types shooting 'naked eyes'.

But, more seriously, $2000 could do it if you shop patiently. There are NIB preban Super Matches out there; Springfield guarantees < 1 MOA with them (of course, that's 'when they were new'). I've seen them in the $1600 range; add a McMillan from Tactical Stocks and you'll hover at 2G's. (Check with John at Tactical first; he was having some problems filling orders. I don't know if that's been resolved. I don't know what the problem was either, but he's good to his word, and has a very good rep.)

Scoped, my preban Super Match bedded w/ McMillan, is consistently .6 MOA (at least to 300yd) with my own reloads. I use an ARMS #18 base and 22 rings. (NO MATTER WHAT YOU HEAR OR READ, LAP THE RINGS--I found out the hard way how little the ARMS guarantee is worth after a metal burr gouged my Nightforce NXS) I will have to admit though, that I've R&R'd the scope > 60 times, and it stays zero'd, and I mean within .25MOA of its' zero.

One question off the top of my head--are you set on the M1A because of the bug, or are you looking for an accurate gas rifle? If you're only interested in an accurate gas rifle, I'd suggest popping for an Eagle AR-10 lower and shipping it to George Gardner at GA Precision. He'll get you shooting .5's for ~ $1500 total cost, no scope.

June 12, 2003, 08:49 PM
I have a 'NM' M-14 (minus the selector and trip) that was built up in EARLY 80's from all military parts . With the right loads I have shot MOA , but it usually shoots 1 1/2" at 100 (and 3-4" at 300!) I have a good old Leatherwood scope mount with a Leupold scope , BUT I prefer the irons and keep an ANPVS-2 mount on it for my cherry ANPVS-2 for nostalgia sake. This would take Charlie out at 300Meters in 67-68 and by G-d it will do so today! That said I shot a custom HK-91 in IPSC in 80's very succesfully although the pressure from Gunsight Boyz made me get this M-1A . Nowadays I prefer my Arizona Response System FNFAL's much better! :D

June 13, 2003, 01:02 PM
Perhaps I should qualify the "Hokey" comment before I needlessly offend any others.

Its clear, at least to me, that the Garand/M-14/M1A family of guns were intended to be an iron sighted, minute of commie weapon issued in bulk to hundreds of thousands of 18-year old GIs. Its really really good in that role. Better than current issue IMHO.

The desire to shoot these guns in service rifle has lead people to up grade them from minute of commie to sum-moa; which is fine but its clearly an up hill battle with this weapon system.

The desire to adapt these guns to old-mans eyes instead of 18-year old eyes has created a market for scope mounting; this is also fine but it is also an up hill battle.

Mounting a scope on one of these battle rifles is at the very least a round peg/square hole problem. Then to make the gun shoot well enough to due justice to a 10x scope is trying to force it through a triangular hole.

Sometimes it seems like shooters will behaive like those kids that take a perfectly good, comfortable, and econimical commuter car like a honds civic, and spend twice what the car is worth turning it into kind of "race car" that is uncomfortable, un-economical, and mostly useless for driving to work.

If you want a scoped, sub moa, 308, remington and winchester make excellant bolt rifles that will exceed the performance of a tricked out M-14 for less money. I think the original poster would be better served by a good scoped gun (which he has) and a good rack grade battle rifle. If he's just playing well than any thing goes.

I wouldent think to deny anyone their fun tinkering with their favorite gun to make it shoot better. But I still think its a little hokey to take an exceptional battle rifle and turn it into a average scoped gun. ;)

June 13, 2003, 04:02 PM
Call up George Gardner at GA Precision and pick his mind a bit about tuned/accurized semiautos.

He not only does the AR10s from Eagle/Armalite but he also does M14s as well. He builds a pretty good M25 from what I have read from others and consistently turns out remarkably well tuned accurized M14s. Like others mentioned, it will take more to maintain and keep that M14 shooting accurately. I often hear people mention that the M14s need to be rebed after about every 1500-1800 rounds depending on how the bedding was done.

The AR10 action has none of these quirks when it comes to maintaining the accuracy, in general they are relatively easy to get to the 1MOA or less barrier. It also seems like they are managing to produce such accuracy for a bit cheaper too.

My own AR10 A4 with chrome lined 20 inch non-freefloating barrel is hovering right at 1MOA for 5 shots with handloads. This is a pretty typical result for most AR10 owners by the looks of it once they go out and sample some of the better ammo out there. I'm going for a freefloated handguard soon and it will be likely if it becomes a more stable/consistent platform with less sensitivity to pressure on the forearm or sensitivity to barrel heat.

The AR10s can be a bit finiky with ammo though or may take some ironing out to get reliability to match their ability for incredible accuracy. My AR10 has been doing pretty good reliability wise, it just hates lead tipped spire points but so long as the bullets are pointy FMJ or Balistic Tips it does just fine.

I still want an accurized M14 though, I've got M14 mag tubes sittin around not being used and it's driving me nuts. The fact that the AR10 and M14 can share the same mags is pretty sweet really.

June 13, 2003, 06:59 PM
Why that goofy little threaded hole and those mounting bosses on the left side of the M14's receiver? Did Uncle Sam just put those there to shave off some excess weight from the gun?

These folks from the Vietnam War had no idea that they were supposed to be using just iron sights. Note the Leatherwood ART, as issued... :scrutiny:

June 13, 2003, 07:02 PM
Almost forgot, mounts....

The Springfield mounts are relatively JUNK(with exception of the unique rail they developed that bridges the top of the receiver, their side mounts are truely junk though). If you were to get a loaded package, take that mount and scope that they throw in at a relative bargin price and sell it off on Ebay for like 350-400 bucks.

Then take the money and get yourself a good mount such as the ARMS or the Brookfield mounts.

June 13, 2003, 07:16 PM

The existance of an afterthought scope mounting hole hardly makes the case for the rifle being built for optics. This rifle was also meant to be recharged with stripper clips - you can't do both.

I think you also realize that those "folks" are snipers, not infantrymen. There was also a sniper fielded scoped M2 Browning during Vietnam. Are heavy machineguns also built to be scoped?

The exception usually proves the rule.

June 13, 2003, 09:37 PM
The desire to adapt these guns to old-mans eyes...

And now I'm an old man??

Actually, I remember a day back in '69 when my friend and I were in high school breezeway, lookin' at a banner that read, "Welcome, Class of '56", and I said, "Damn, why would a buncha geezers who are at least in their 30's wanna get together and rehash high school??" "30" seems like so long ago...


Think nothin' of it. I was just funnin', both this time and the other. The omission of inflection in email and print limits the ability to read intent, and I, at least, thank you for your consideration. (and us geezers celebrate etiquette in the young'uns, too;))

By the way, I've got better than 2500 rounds through my M1A Super Match. Aside from a McMillan stock that was bedded by George, it's OEM. That gun's still giving me .6MOA out to 300yd (that's as far as I shoot paper). The bedding still doesn't need a touch-up.

June 13, 2003, 11:38 PM
I appreciate you sticking up for Carnitas and all, and staying true to form by jumping into an argument, but you'll have to clarify what you meant by this:

The existance of an afterthought scope mounting hole hardly makes the case for the rifle being built for optics. This rifle was also meant to be recharged with stripper clips - you can't do both.

The issue M14's I've seen and held in military armories, as well as the later civilian M1A's, all had that scope mounting boss and hole. How is that an afterthought, especially when the previous M1 Garand and M1 Carbine had such trials and tribulations with their various scope mounting and ammo feeding schemes? The USGI M14's mount would be more of a forethought in that regard. Hardly an exception to the rule, they all had the mount holes. Unless they were really just a mount for an optional entrenching tool holster.

Of course, it wouldn't take much of a stretch to realize stripper clip loading was exclusive of mounting optics on the M14. But then there's that darned detachable box magazine, another quick 20 rounds if needed, and you didn't need to detach the centerline scope to insert stripper clips. Neat idea!

My line of argument is that M14 and M21-equipped snipers in the various branches of service would hardly call their scoped weapons "hokey". Nor is the scoped M14 variant a purely civilian invention for the shooter with aged eyes. Hence the M21 designation by the DoD.

Scoped M2's? You mean like the one Carlos Hathcock used? Hey, more power to the field expedient inventors. To carry it further, the 1903A3 was never intended to be scoped, but I have a genuine 1903A4 that for all practical purposes is a 1903A3, save for optics, mounts, bolt handle, and missing front sight. Not a typical infantry weapon either, but definitely an issue item, in a documented notable quantity.

Much like the current military practice of optics on all the M16 variants. It's the real thing, on the Table Of Allowances, and they aren't going away any time soon.

June 14, 2003, 12:49 AM
From what I understand, you don't see any bolt actions at the Camp Perry matches. Mostly gussied up AR15's now. Some M1A's and Garands. My point is that it's a different type of shooting. If you want an M1A, go buy it. If you want to win the Service Rifle matches you have to spend a ton of money. Either way, you'll enjoy shooting an M1A even if it doesn't drive tacks. And look into a Garand from the CMP. They're even more fun and not as much of the rent money. Make you crazy though. One isn't enough.

June 14, 2003, 01:58 AM
So the Springfield Armory M1A vs. Norinco M1A, what would you choose, considering there's about a $400 price difference?

June 14, 2003, 02:35 AM

and staying true to form by jumping into an argument
First, allow me to apologize for posting my thoughts without the official invitation to this thread that you must have received.

I was not sticking up for anything aside from an idea I happen to agree with, namely:

The M14 was not "designed" for a scope. It is a product improved M1, and the box mag makes standard scoping possible, hence some smart cookie added a $1 operation to the receiver production for optics mounting.

If you think that drilling some holes so you can screw on (?) an expensive, difficult to produce mount that doesn't return to zero is a sign of clever design, I can't argue with you. You probably drive a GM and think the original design of the M60 barrel clever.

The scope mounting hole and the lace up leather cheek rest does not strike me as a strong committment to optics. The fact that the example you give is not even an M14, but actually the modified for sniping M21 should also be a clue that scope mounting was a highly irregular thing.

The M16, by contrast, uses a simple, repeatable mount that costs a couple dollars to make and actually got a fair amount of use right from the start.

Do you really think someone thought through the whole scope thing and came up with that mount, rather than receiver bosses, a claw system or anything better than that B-Square looking doodad? It's really surprising that this method of scope mounting hasn't become a world standard, given its elegant simplicity.

(Easy, guys...Art)

Art Eatman
June 14, 2003, 10:01 AM
Let the Schumers and Feinsteins get all emotional about guns. You guys hadn't oughta.

:D, Art

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