accuracy with M1A's and other 308's


June 29, 2004, 05:17 PM
Hey, I just had a question I've been wondering about for a while now. It seems to me that if you spend enough money, you can get an M1A to shoot 1/2 MOA. This is as accurate as a match grade .308 bolt gun, so the question is, if you have the cash, why would you ever go for bolt when you could have semi-auto? Especially in the police/military sniper role. Additionally, how is it that the M1A is capable of such great accuracy if you cannot free-float the barrel, which is supposed to be one of the most important accuracy improvements you can make? Thanks in advance for any help.

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June 29, 2004, 05:28 PM
If you find an M1A that regularly shoots 1/2 MoA, then count yourself lucky. You might get an occasional 3 or 5 shot group that size, but not consistantly. A sound rifle with a good barrel and professional work will probably shoot 1 MoA. In either case, be prepared to put down $$$$ to get there.

A well built M14 shoots like it does because everything returns to the same position with each shot. The stock doesn't move and the barrel is pulled downward with the same uniform pressure.

In my opinion, there are few snipers that would benefit from a 1/2 MoA over a 1 MoA rifle (especially police sharpshooters that won't shoot past 75yds). If you have a 1/2 MoA requirement, then I hope you're a genius at doping the wind. On the other hand, the M14 isn't the easiest rifle to get a scope firmly mounted onto. The mounts are more of an afterthought than a design objective.

The bolt gun is a better scoped rifle and will cost you less to get the same accuracy or better. I love the M14, but it's definitely got some limitations.


June 29, 2004, 05:29 PM
Read these threads on The Sniper's Hide:;f=4;t=002419#000000;f=4;t=002371#000000

This is as accurate as a match grade .308 bolt gun, so the question is, if you have the cash, why would you ever go for bolt when you could have semi-auto? Especially in the police/military sniper role.

As far as police depts go, money is an option. Most don't have the money to spend $2500+ for a match quality M1A. a Remington 700PSS and Leupold scope can be had for $1300 or so. Target reengangement with a second shot isn't an issue for PD because they're not supposed to miss.

As far as military, they have the gunsmiths to maintain and accurize the M14, but they understand that a bolt gun is the best no-nonsense platform. A semi-auto action just has too many parts that need to be maintained as opposed to a bolt gun.

June 29, 2004, 05:36 PM
Thanks for the info, I was under the impression that mega-bucks M1A's were supposed to be 1/2 MOA just like bolt guns, but it didn't make any sense that all these guys were still out there using Reminton 700's, Winchester 70's, etc. if the M1A was just as good. So I guess it's just like I expected, you trade (albiet a small amount) of accuracy for a gain in firepower.

BTW, if you're interested in an M1A that can mount a scope properly, check this out:



June 29, 2004, 06:23 PM
My buddy has an UNFIRED Springfield Armory Supermatch M1A sitting in the safe. He's had it for a couple of years now.

I beg him to take it to the range because I would like to see what it'll do. He asked me if I want to buy it if he decides to sell it.

I thought about it and I'm still not sure. I could build one hell of a nice bolt action for that kind of coin and still have money left over.

If that M1A was mine I would be shooting it. No safe queens here. :D

June 29, 2004, 11:46 PM
From what I've seen as far as M1A accuracy goes... you may be better served with an AR-10T or SR-25. My buddies M1A National Match is a pretty decent shooter, but I swear you have to have a wierd head shape to shoot that thing when it has a scope! ;) I sure can't anyway... it always feels awkward.

He and I were out doing some long range shooting over the weekend and my Rem 700 can outshoot his M1A by a long shot (pun intended! ;) )!

Nando Aqui
June 30, 2004, 07:51 AM
I have several .308 rifles, including a 1-yr old stock M1A, loaded, SS barrel that will do 5-round, 1" groups with Aussie and just slightly better with better ammo. There are ways of making them more accurate, but I don't know about 1/2". Visit / M14/M1A.

As far a semi-auto goes, the best I have seen that is reasonable (around $1000 most places) is the DPMS Panther LR .308. I have one and it consistently shoots 4-round groups under 3/4" and I have had several 3-round groups of 3/8” and 1/4" shooting Federal GMM and my reloads.

I ordered mine, through the local gun shop, from Clark Custom Guns and opted for a Williams Set Trigger, which is great, by the way. This DPMS .308 will shoot practically as well as m Rem700PSS.


P.S. The 10-round plastic mags are not very good (although mine are getting better with time) and DPMS is coming out with steel mags soon.

June 30, 2004, 04:42 PM
Battle rifle's design priorities are not about accuracy.

They're intended to provide the rifleman with reasonable accuracy, with more priority assigned to maintainability, reliability, and a higher sustained rate of fire than is practical with a boltie.

Of course, just like anything else, you can coerce it to do something it wasn't designed to do, but there are consequences, in that it will no longer be all that great at the things it was originally designed to do in the first place.

And besides, these are EBR's, "bullet hoses" designed to mow down hundreds of nuns and children in mere seconds. You don't even have to aim. I guess the bullets are heat seeking, or something. :neener:

June 30, 2004, 04:58 PM
Despite my original question, I guess what I'm really concerned about is whether the bolt-gun is now obsolete if we can have semi-autos shoot just as accurately. Maybe the M1A can't do it, but what about the AR-10/SR-25 and the PSG-1? Aside from the cost, is there any reason to get a bolt gun when you could get one of those instead... or do bolt guns still hold the advantage when it comes to absolute first shot accuracy? Thanks for all the responses,


Sucks being in Kali where I couldn't get an AR-10 anyway, but it's still good to know what I might be missing out on if I "settle" on an M1A.

Mark whiz
June 30, 2004, 06:16 PM
I love my pride & joy M1A Loaded Standard. :D

But it AIN'T a benchrest gun - and it never will be. And the odds of ANY semi-auto rifle obtaining that type of accuracy is slim & none.

Like geekWithA.45 said - it was designed for a totally different reason than a bolt gun.

But that doesn't diminish the personality of the M1A or the wonderful sound of American steel when that bolt racks into battery!!!!!!!! :what: Argh Argh Argh!!!! :D

The Mousegun/Spacegun just doesn't have the same personality as the M1A. But that's just my opinion. ;)

Harve Curry
June 30, 2004, 06:42 PM
Well to add to the discussion I have a Savage 99A lever action 308win. that shoots 3/4", 3 shot groups at 100 yards.
LC brass, IMR-3031 powder, 150gr. Hornady bullet.
This is a rifle that wedge locks from the back of the bolt and has a forearm screwed to the barrel.
model 70 Win , 30-06 I have shoots 1.5" groups.
German Saur , 30-06 that shoots 5 holes into a dime.
FN/Fal 308 , 3"
M1 Garand, H&R, 4" - 5"
SKS 1.5"

Das Pferd
June 30, 2004, 07:08 PM
To answer one of your original questions, there are a couple advantages to a semi automatic rifle in the police/military sniper role. One is follow up shots. The follow up shot is much faster with a semi-auto rifle. Second is the lack of movement associated with reloading a semi auto gun. Lets say you are in the prone position when you take a shot. With a semi auto you do not need to move your arms to reload like with a bolt action. The motion could give you away.

There are disadvantages to it as well. I would say that a comparable bolt action rifle in terms of accuracy will cost less. If you are really a sniper in need of concealing if he was ever there, the semi auto throws brass that you may have to find. There is also the sound of the action cycling when using a suppressor. The bolt action will be quiter with a suppresor because of the action.

June 30, 2004, 09:24 PM

To answer your question about semi autos being as good as bolties, the answer is, probably never. The bolties improve more or less at the same rate as the autoloaders. I suppose you could compare a modern autoloader to a turn of the century boltie, and win, but a modern bolt action rifle will have it's advantages:

-Inherently simpler design,
-Fewer moving parts overall
-Fewer parts that actually move during the firing cycle...reciprocating masses are complicated.

In other words, whatever accuracy improvements you could make to an autoloader can still be applied to a boltie, and the boltie will still come out ahead, thus, they'll never really be "obsolete".

The modern autoloader in good condition has more accuracy than most shooters can use, and much more than is needed for any realistic practical application.

Well, OK, I take that back. If I needed to save a friend from the gallows by shooting the rope from 300 yards aways, I guess I'd _need_ the boltie. Or a closer hide. But whatever. :neener:

June 30, 2004, 10:05 PM
Thanks again for all your responses guys, it's been helpful. I guess "bolties" aren't obsolete after all. One other thought... I have a Jewell trigger in my HS Precision .308, and man, let me tell you, it's nice. I've never felt a better trigger, and I doubt you could put a trigger like that in a semi's action... and even if you could it probably wouldn't be safe.


Bill St. Clair
June 30, 2004, 11:46 PM
In Affordable Accuracy (, Bill Johnson reports on fire lapping, trigger jobbing, and barrel bedding a Springfield Scout Squad M1a and a Remington 700, both in .308. He brings the M1a down to 0.82 MOA and the 700 down to 0.67 MOA. Jeff Quinn wrote ( that the Savage Model 10FP-LE2 .308 bolt gun fired 1/4 MOA out of the box (for $578 retail plus a scope)

July 1, 2004, 12:28 AM
Thanks for the link, it was a good read. I just bought a SA M1A scout so I guess I'll be lapping the barrel and bedding the stock. Lapping the barrel sounds like a pretty standard procedure, but how does one go about bedding the stock? Can I just pick up some of that Brownell's bedding compound and do it myself with the "stock" stock? And what about with my aluminum chassis HS Precision Rem700 rifles, is there any advantage to applying bedding compound to the rifle when you attach the action to the aluminum stock chassis? Thanks again for any help, I'm learning lots of good stuff here.


July 1, 2004, 01:18 AM
Here's a link to larryw's M1A Bedding Project ( Lots of good info there, and I also recommend Duff's book as mentioned in the page.

Bill St. Clair
July 1, 2004, 07:07 AM
Mr. Johnson concluded that bedding the action of his M700 made "absolutely no improvement in accuracy", though it helped the M1A a lot. Fire lapping was the easiest fix for both, and is easy to do if you reload. Cabelas sells the lapping kit he plugged, David Tubb's Final Finish System (, for $28 plus shipping.

If it were my M1a or Remington 700, I'd do the lapping myself, but leave the trigger job and bedding to a professional. Actually, I probably WILL fire lap my M1a and Marlin 444P at some point in the not too distant future. It's just too easy and too cheap to not do.

Marshall Stanton wrote a great article about handloading for the 444 Marlin, including that fire lapping produced incredible accuracy improvements in his Marlin:

July 1, 2004, 11:27 AM
I don't know a lot of match shooters that have fire lapped their barrels. Maybe that's the norm in benchrest, but for the M1A, I'd be surprised if you saw much difference on paper--too many bigger fish to fry. Simply bedding the rifle is a step in the right direction, but there's a lot of other significant stuff on the rifle that generally needs some swapping/fitting and close attention (gas system, suppressor, oprod fit, gas piston selection, etc). The barrel is seldom the limiting factor for accuracy.

If you really want to see consistantly good shots over a long period of time, you should have the rifle worked over by a professional--and get the full package.

Sam Adams
July 1, 2004, 03:33 PM
Is bedding the M1A necessary if you get a synthetic stock from someone like Fred's ($80 for "presentation" grade)? My understanding is that the fit is much tighter, eliminating the need for glass bedding - but if I'm wrong, please let me know.

July 1, 2004, 03:56 PM
Well the GI fiberglass ones are fairly tight but I'd still bed the action and reinforce the forend by glassbedding in 2 layers of fiberglass auto-body cloth. At the some time it also helps to fill in the selector switch cut-out.

I own an 80's production NM M1-A that has a douglas premium a.g. barrel

It's mechanical accuracy is most likely under 1MOA but that, 1 MOA, is the best I can manage with the peep sights and ammo it likes.

When mounting a scope unless you add some sort of cheek rest you lose any chance for a good cheek weld to the stock.

July 1, 2004, 04:02 PM
It is possible one could find a stock that would fit a rifle so well that bedding would not help. Kinda "luck-of-the-draw" there.

It is possible to get semi-autos like an M1A to shoot as well as a bolt action rifle. But it is hard and it is hard to keep it shooting that way. That is a big reason the AR-15 (and rifles based on that action, AR-10/SR-25) have become so popular in high power competition. Almost anyone can gunsmith an AR to shoot well. Not all gunsmiths can make an M1A or Garand shoot well.

As far as free floating the barrel, although it is not possible on an M1A, there are techniques a gunsmith can apply to remove or reduce the external pressures on a barrel, which is the goal of free floating. Since it can't be free floated, it does make it that much harder to make it shoot 1/2 MOA.

If you have the funds, the AR-10/SR-25 platforms are good semi-auto precision rifle candidates. My lean is still toward bolt action rifles for that though.

Still, I will never sell my 1/2 MOA M1A.

July 2, 2004, 09:12 AM
Wow, this is alot of work to make a semi-auto shoot like a bolt gun! Me, I'd go with the bolt action if I lived in a state unfriendly to the AR-series of rifles.

My personal "precision" rifle is an out-of-the-box match-spec Armalite AR-15. It is too easy to use. Clean regularly, keep lubed, shoot. (Actually, I don't keep it as clean as perhaps I should.) Taking it apart does no damage to any bedding surfaces for it has no truly bedded surfaces.

My dad's M-1 Garand, on the other hand, doesn't get taken apart very often for fear of damaging the bedding. Although I am beginning to think the barrel is shot out on that one.

And a boltgun? Bah. No need to take the action out of the stock regularly. Dirt-simple and reliable. Cheap to make shoot well too.

July 2, 2004, 02:52 PM
As others say here, do you want an accurate bench rifle or highly accurate rifle long range, or a battle rifle with potential to extend your operating distance and keep hitting down there in semiauto?

You can drop a lot of money to try to get an m1a to shoot like a good bolt, but simply stated - why? It wasn't intended for that and all the money you get down there will never get you quiet on par in most instances.

I have a NM barrel and gear m1a, and she is solid. However I don't consider it to be the most accurate rifle, but it is accurate and fun as heck.

In most all cases it is the operator that can improve the hits, not all the doodads one trys to add.

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