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

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Rmeju, May 4, 2012.

  1. Rmeju

    Rmeju Well-Known Member

    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?
    Last edited: May 4, 2012
  2. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. Rmeju

    Rmeju Well-Known Member

    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?
  4. TurtlePhish

    TurtlePhish Well-Known Member

    With normal, non-NM parts they have a realistic level of accuracy of around 1.5-2MOA.
  5. Squeaky Wheel

    Squeaky Wheel Well-Known Member

    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.
  6. Rmeju

    Rmeju Well-Known Member

    I'll be reloading. I probably should have mentioned that.
  7. Solidgun

    Solidgun Member

    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.
  8. Auto426

    Auto426 Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. P-32

    P-32 Well-Known Member

    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 ½ the money reloading for a M1A.
  10. B!ngo

    B!ngo Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Well-Known Member

    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.
  12. Squeaky Wheel

    Squeaky Wheel Well-Known Member

    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.
  13. Welding Rod

    Welding Rod Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
  14. Redlg155

    Redlg155 Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. Rmeju

    Rmeju Well-Known Member

    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!
  16. Welding Rod

    Welding Rod Well-Known Member

    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.
  17. Peter M. Eick

    Peter M. Eick Well-Known Member

    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.


    Here is the national, same setup.


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

    rehorne Well-Known Member

    Go over to the M14 Firing line. More info than you will ever want to know!
  19. Jason_G

    Jason_G Well-Known Member

    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.

  20. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    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.

    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.
    Last edited: May 7, 2012

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