Want to get an M1A... What do I need to know?


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Rmeju
May 4, 2012, 08:57 PM
Graduating law school, and I thought I'd buy myself a present (I know one of my gifts will be a safe, so I'm looking forward to filling it)

I want to get this rifle for plinking/target shooting. If I get good enough with it, perhaps I'd compete with it.

Used ok.

The only real 'must' is that it has to have a wood stock without too many dings/blems. I don't want any camo/synthetic/etc. Also, not looking for the SOCOM-type bells & whistles, although I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to NM trigger and barrel. Might buy a scope later, but don't need one just yet.

What should I expect to pay? What should I be looking for when buying a rifle like this?

Thanks in advance for any help!

ETA: Should I beware of the non-Springfield mfgrs (Norinco, Polytech, etc)? Also, what do I get with the "loaded" version, and is it worth it?

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W.E.G.
May 4, 2012, 09:07 PM
At least get the National Match model if you have any serious thoughts of competing.

Some 12-year-old with an AR15 will probably still beat the pants off you in a paper-punching contest, but you'll have fun.

Rmeju
May 4, 2012, 09:15 PM
Haha. I'm definitely not too proud to lose to a 12 year old! If I compete, it will definitely be for fun, and to challenge myself, not because I have any serious expectation of taking home any grand prizes.

If I buy the non-'loaded' version, will my equipment realistically be holding me back?

TurtlePhish
May 4, 2012, 09:19 PM
With normal, non-NM parts they have a realistic level of accuracy of around 1.5-2MOA.

Squeaky Wheel
May 5, 2012, 12:05 AM
Be aware that 308 ammo is not cheap. Factory loads are roughly $1.00 per cartridge. However, the M1A is a very fine rifle and is a lot of fun to shoot.

Rmeju
May 5, 2012, 12:23 AM
I'll be reloading. I probably should have mentioned that.

Solidgun
May 5, 2012, 12:25 AM
I don't see how one can compete with the standard model when dime size accuracy is needed.

I have run into problems with off brand mags, so replaced all with factory mag....which is $45 a piece.

It is heavy. Most people scoff, but if you have carried them all day, you know what I am talking about.

Make sure you get quality grease.

Auto426
May 5, 2012, 01:08 AM
There are only a handful of M14/M1A manufacturers out there. Springfield is the most popular, and the cheapest currently available in the US. There's also a few boutique manufacturers like Fulton Armory, LRB, Smith Enterprises and a couple others. Their guns are typically a good bit more expensive than Springfield's, but they use better quality parts and their fit and finish tends to be a little nicer. Many people also insist on using surplus G.I. parts whenever possible, but the supply of those seems to be drying up and the prices keep climbing.

If your just looking for a fun gun to go out and shoot then the Springfield is probably the best choice. They have a lifetime warranty and are pretty good about honoring it if problems do arise.

P-32
May 5, 2012, 02:11 AM
Rmeju, I started out shooting a M-14 in competition before the AR was figured out. This is what I would do if thinking about shooting a M1A in competition. I would get at least a loaded model and shoot it till it won’t shoot anymore. You should be close to needing a new barrel to use your increased skills by then any ways. There are a few good gun plumbers out there who can build you a rifle. My first new Navy National Match M-14 had a heavy wood stock which I really liked. When it got shot out I was handed a M14 built with a camo McMillan fiberglass stock. This rifle really shot well but it was also double lugged. If I ever have a M1A built, it will have a McMillan fiberglass stock and lugs along with a top shelf barrel. I also think Clint and his Fulton Armory are a bit overpriced. There are guys out there, your research, who would build a better match tuned rifle for about the same money or even a little less.

But just so you know, reloading for a AR is about the money reloading for a M1A.

B!ngo
May 5, 2012, 02:49 AM
Rmeju, congrats on graduating law school. A major life accomplishment. I recommend you splurge and buy a beauty. Yea, you probably have a bunch of debt but you've earned it.

madcratebuilder
May 5, 2012, 07:10 AM
If I buy the non-'loaded' version, will my equipment realistically be holding me back?

Possibly. I would recommend the loaded model M1A. You get a better quality barrel, NM prepped trigger group, NM sights. Two of the first upgrades you would want to do is have the gas cylinder unitized and add a NM op-rod spring guide. Little over $125 for these two mods.

Magazines are available in several sizes, 5, 10, 20,and 25 round. CMI makes USGI mags and cost $27 from 44mag.com.

Match grade is $1+ and surplus is .50+ a round.

The M1A has a mild recoil for a 7.62 cartridge and is easy to shoot with iron sights. 1 moa accuracy is possible.

You should pick up a usgi extractor and keep on hand, the oem SAI extractor is known to be problematic.

Do some research here.
http://www.m14tfl.com/upload/

Squeaky Wheel
May 5, 2012, 10:48 AM
I'll be reloading. I probably should have mentioned that.

I had the same plan when I bought my new Springfield M1A. Once I got my M1A and started shooting it, I was surprised at how hard my M1A was on my brass. I started researching and found more bad news. The M14/M1A extracts the casing while the case is still expanding and contracting and this further weakens the case. From what I read -- many M14/M1A reloaders only get about 5 reloads per case. All of this put the ammo cost out of my budget and I sold my M1A since I couldn't afford to feed it.

Not trying to be too negative though -- I had great fun shooting it while I had it. The rifle feels fantastic in your hands, has great balance, and has terrific sights. It's not the best rifle for scope mounting though.

Welding Rod
May 5, 2012, 02:49 PM
As far as brass abuse, I find my Standard stretches brass like crazy, but not my Loaded or SM. Even my Socom isn't too bad. Evidently the Standard has a substancially looser chamber, even though the tags on all of them claimed essentially the same headspace.

The rifles have been admirably accurate, although all the sights have needed a little more adjustment to get zeros than I would have liked. My Socom 16 (which is not an accurate gun) shot way too high to even be able to get a zero and had to go back for a new taller front sight - which has worked fine.

I like M1As, but like with a Ruger, I would NEVER buy one without being able to give it a good hands on inspection first. If you order one, I would make it clear to the vendor that you will reject it if you find any QC problems when it shows up. Just like Ruger, they make a great gun that is a great value IF you get a good one, but they put out some problems too.

Their warranty is really good. IME they are good about sending out Fex Ex to pick up your gun, fix it, and send it back at no charge. However that is still very inconvenient and I would rather just have a gun that is right to begin with.

My SM had horrendous slop in the oprod to reciever fit and a circumferencial gouge in the chamber that was marking a ring in my brass. The Socom shot outside the limits of the sights, and the Standard stretches brass like crazy. The Loaded has been fine.

They all have great trigger break with no creep.

Honestly while I have been impressed with SAI customer service, due to my last experience (with the quite expensive SM which presumably is an example of their most carefull workmanship) I don't think I will be buying another SAI. I would rather just pay more and hopefully get a gun that is right to start with. That $2,700 gun was a significant financial stretch for me and was intended to be a once in lifetime kind of thing and wow, how disappointing. It is somewhat better after the warranty work (they polished the chamber and installed a new oprod) but I am still not impressed.

I think I will try LRB or maybe Fulton next time if I sell off one or more of the SAIs and decide to buy another M14 type platform.

Redlg155
May 5, 2012, 05:15 PM
I currently own a M1a Scout with walnut furniture. I've owned 2 others but sold them for various reasons, but always came back to the M14 type platform.

As with any weapon, there is a lot of snobbery that goes along with the more expensive models. You can say milspec this or that, but unless you have a geniune US Govt issue M14, then you have have a clone.
The good thing about Springfield is that you have a lifetime warranty. Not many, if any of the higher priced clones offer the same.

As for AR15 vs M1a accuracy, I would put my scout with iron sights against any off the rack AR 15 with iron sights and milsurp ammo. I bet we get the same results.

Rmeju
May 5, 2012, 05:30 PM
I can't thank you all enough for the info. I think this should be enough to at least get me started looking into how to make an intelligent purchase. Special thanks to Madcratebuilder & Welding Rod for especially helpful posts (not to diminish any of these comments, which have all been excellent!)

FWIW, I do own an AR (Bushmaster, had it for about a decade) which I like to shoot and reload for. Same for an M1 & AK. I've been wanting to get into 308 for awhile, and I just love the character of the M1A.


One more question for any of you still reading. In the Army, I had checkmate mags for the M9, which were absolute junk... and just to be clear, I'd be worried about offending junk by lumping the two together. I wasn't exactly comforted by this knowledge when I was on patrol in Baghdad. Frankly, I'm scared to buy any magazine from Checkmate... but you guys really seem to know what you're talking about. I hear they're OEM for SAI, but they're standard USGI for the M9 also, so I'd at least want to double check with you guys to make sure the M1A mags are actually ok first.

Again, thank you to everyone for taking the time out to help me with this. I'm really excited!

Welding Rod
May 5, 2012, 05:37 PM
I have had perfect luck with OEM SAI and CMI (20 round) mags.

In fact the only malfunctions of any kind I can remember ever having with any M1A is with my SM which would not always go fully in to battery when I first started shooting it. I was shooting the Federal AE 168 OTM M1A load that mic'd out OK in headspace dimension on a RCBS Precision Mic, but still wouldn't always allow the bolt to fully rotate into battery without a hit to the back of the op rod handle. No marks on the bullet ogive either.

Peter M. Eick
May 6, 2012, 12:07 AM
If you want to compete, you probably want an AR.

I grew up competing with an M14 (borrowed) and later an M1A and when I had deliusions of competing again, I bought a Super and a National. Great guns, reliable, fun accurate and all that good stuff. Took them to the range and watched guys shoot AR's just as accurate with much less effort.

Basically the M1A is not a forgiving master (in my opinion) for real target accuracy. Can it do it? Heck yes! But it requires consistency and effort to wring the accuracy out of it. AR's seem to be accurate with a lot less effort.

Just as an example of what the Super will do off the bench at 100 yrds. Each target is 50 shots.

http://eickpm.com/picts/sm_targets.jpg


Here is the national, same setup.

http://eickpm.com/picts/nm_target.jpg

I don't shoot the national as well. My eyes are going unfortunately.

rehorne
May 6, 2012, 04:10 PM
Go over to the M14 Firing line. More info than you will ever want to know!

Jason_G
May 6, 2012, 04:29 PM
One more question for any of you still reading. In the Army, I had checkmate mags for the M9, which were absolute junk... and just to be clear, I'd be worried about offending junk by lumping the two together. I wasn't exactly comforted by this knowledge when I was on patrol in Baghdad. Frankly, I'm scared to buy any magazine from Checkmate... but you guys really seem to know what you're talking about. I hear they're OEM for SAI, but they're standard USGI for the M9 also, so I'd at least want to double check with you guys to make sure the M1A mags are actually ok first.

The Checkmate M14 mags are the gold standard.

As per the M9 mags, IIRC, the issue was the rough parkerized finish didn't play nicely with Iraqi baby powder-fine sand.


Jason

Cosmoline
May 7, 2012, 07:26 PM
I just got a Squad Scout and had a lot of fun with it, even if it is going back to Springfield right now to address a QC issue*. M1A's are real easy to spend a lot of money on to wring another quarter inch off the group size! And I'd agree if you're after tighter and tighter groups, go with the AR platform from a top maker. Also I would not recommend it as a scoped beast. It's big as is, and the irons are amazingly nice. I'm a lover of iron sights and these are among the very best I've ever used. Both intuitive and precise. Mine seemed to give between 3" and 2" groups at 100 yards depending on the stock it was in. I plan on bedding it down and hope for 1.5" with match grade. Beyond that it's wasted on me anyway.

But if you're after a lot of really fun old-school shooting from the stances, it's tough to beat. It's a combat design and doesn't need to be babied. Ammo is more expensive than 5.56 per round, but it's still possible to find nice surplus (just found a bunch of Radway Green) and Privi and others make cheap boxer-primed stuff.

*Machine marks in the chamber that appear to have been gumming up ejection. I will say they were incredibly fast and attentive. They had sent me a fedex number to ship it back to them within a few hours of sending the first email. I'm confident they'll fix the issue.

it has to have a wood stock without too many dings/blems.

Swapping stocks on these, absent bedding, is a one minute procedure. There's nothing to unscrew. And you can find real nice M14 wood stocks for good prices. If you're willing to spend a few hundred you can even get a primo tiger striped one.

dprice3844444
May 7, 2012, 07:31 PM
I had the same plan when I bought my new Springfield M1A. Once I got my M1A and started shooting it, I was surprised at how hard my M1A was on my brass. I started researching and found more bad news. The M14/M1A extracts the casing while the case is still expanding and contracting and this further weakens the case. From what I read -- many M14/M1A reloaders only get about 5 reloads per case. All of this put the ammo cost out of my budget and I sold my M1A since I couldn't afford to feed it.

adjustable gas plug saves on brass
http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=20456/avs%7CManufacturer_1=SCHUSTER/Product/ADJUSTABLE-GAS-SYSTEM

Jon Coppenbarger
May 7, 2012, 09:56 PM
If you buy new you will be getting sa made parts if you buy a springfield. If you buy a new springfield it comes with a life time factory warrenty and many think you will need it.
Now saying that I do have a super match with the springfield parts with the kreiger barrel and it works just fine.

I have seen some very nice match rifles built with gi parts at shows over the last few months that are a good deal.

The latest problems I have seen with the new ones are bad chambers, barrells installed with the barrel lug off center and the op rod not being capible of staying in its reciever track when racked or shot.
If you can take it out of the stock and inspect it you can see if assy. is straight. Rack it a few times and see if the op rod comes out of track. a new piece of empty brass in the chamber will tell you when closed if the chamber is pretty much ok.

Use the simple ideal when buying it that you should never see any problems and if you do just pass on it and if some of the known problems are not apparent then you should have a head start on it.

Jon Coppenbarger
May 7, 2012, 10:19 PM
Now usgi mags are the best as you know as long as they are in good shape and you do not pay to much.
Taiwan made mags never gave me problems as they were said to be made on usgi machines.
CMI I have not used but will most likely try some out some day.

get a case gage when you reload as if it will not go in the gage it wont go in your chamber. inspect your shot brass for case head seperation. Or with a clean chamber after you size your brass and just before you load it drop them in the chamber and just wiggle it with your finger and if it goes in and wiggles slightly and turn rifle up it should fall out on its own you are ready to load.
You will see a line form and thats normal in these guns but if you can feel or see any cracks toss them. Any of them you suspect but are not sure of you can use the old bent paper clip trick. just put a small hook on one end and run it inside the case at the bottom just past when the line forms on the brass and run it up the inside of the case. If you feel it catch toss it.

Bottom line make sure you always carry a broken case extraction tool with you on these.

They are great rifles and go enjoy yours as I do mine.

Jason_G
May 7, 2012, 11:52 PM
Now usgi mags are the best as you know as long as they are in good shape and you do not pay to much.
Taiwan made mags never gave me problems as they were said to be made on usgi machines.
CMI I have not used but will most likely try some out some day.

CMI are the current USGI mfg.

Jason

nathan
May 8, 2012, 12:46 AM
They are the way to go . THey llook classy cool, reminiscent of the Vietnam War era. As the Garand to the WW 2 to hell and back era. The 7.62 NATO ammo isnt cheap so as the .3006 so expect to spend some bucks . But what s not to like a M 1 A badxxxx rifle, its the coolest thing there is in MBR.

TexasPatriot.308
May 8, 2012, 01:44 AM
my latest is a Springfield Armory (the only way to go) standard loaded with walnut stock and California legal muzzle brake, paid $1500 friom buds gun shop. I love it. I want another one soon. I hate the cheek piece for a scope so will probably leave it open sights.

az_imuth
May 8, 2012, 08:04 AM
The price on a new Loaded/Walnut model currently seems to be around 1500 plus. Used M1A's are out there, but they don't seem to be very common, nor do they last very long. I was looking for a used one when I bought mine (several years back), but there just weren't any to be found so I ended up buying new. I went for the loaded/synthetic model (9226) and it has been a wonderful rifle. When I went to pick up my order the dealer offered to throw in a nice surplus walnut stock and 5 USGI mags for an extra 100, so I swapped out the synthetic stock right away. I don't think you'll be disappointed with an M1A and the lifetime warranty is definitely a big plus in my book.
http://i498.photobucket.com/albums/rr348/az_imuth/Old%20Album/983ae604.jpg

Rmeju
May 8, 2012, 10:51 PM
Thanks again to everyone who took a minute out of their lives to give me a little help!

I'm leaning heavily toward a Springfield National Match with a walnut stock.

Very excited!

Dean1818
May 9, 2012, 01:41 PM
Do any Of you hunt with your M1A?

Redlg155
May 9, 2012, 06:13 PM
The M1a is perfect for hunting. Tree stand hunting that is.

A couple of years ago I lugged around a M1a loaded with scope and bipod, bedded in a Troy industries stock and a Magpul PRS buttstock. After about a mile I decided to swap it out for my Marlin 1895 GS guide gun for the rest of the hunt.

I did however, harvest a spike while sitting in the tree stand with one. I will try out the scout the next season.

Cosmoline
May 9, 2012, 07:44 PM
The Scout style in the polymer stock is not too heavy, and shoots well enough with irons you could easily hunt out to 250 yards with it. In the little hiking I did with it, the only problem carrying it was the pokey magazine. I suspect that could be solved by one of the nice wide tactical straps that flips it sideways so the mag isn't jabbing at your vertebrae.

Jason_G
May 9, 2012, 09:44 PM
Do any Of you hunt with your M1A?

Yep.

Mine is a Loaded, and I hunt with it. Still/stand hunting for deer mostly, but walking the fields for hogs and other pest animals as well.

I'll give you the skinny on how it works for hunting (at least IME):

Pros:

.308 Win will put pretty much any game animal in North America down with a well placed shot.
The iron sights are unbelievably good, allowing easy adjustment for elevation and windage, with predictable results, provided you know how to use them. You can use irons out to distances at which many hunters probably wouldn't use traditional open sights.
The rifle balances nicely for most shooters, meaning a very quick sight picture.
Follow up shots (should you need them) are easy and quick.
It's a rugged, durable platform that doesn't mind the dirt, grime, etc., that can wind up in a semiauto action in the field/woods.


Cons:

The NM sights make seeing the front post pretty hard in twilight and early morning hours, which is often an active time for deer. Standard sights would probably be a little better, as the rear aperture is not as small.
The action is loud, and you really have to load from a magazine and let the bolt slam home to get the round chambered properly. Deviating from this can give you a risk for anything from a POI shift to a slamfire, depending on how you decide to deviate from SOP.
It's heavy. Not a biggie in my book, but then again, I'm also in the Deep South with pretty flat ground. I imagine it would suck to have to haul a 9-10 pound rifle up and down mountainous terrain on an elk or sheep hunt.
Not cheap or easy to scope. Can be done, there are lots of solutions that work well, but they take more effort and money than most hunting rifles would. I'm an irons guy, so this is no biggie for me, but many use glass, and this could be a major issue for some.


I will add that the M1A really needs a good sling. Either a quality leather M1917 style, or USGI style web sling are good to go.


Jason

TexasPatriot.308
May 9, 2012, 09:48 PM
My M1A is one of my favorite hog rifles (and I am overrun with them in my cattle pastures), so easy for follow up shots using my irons.

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