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Springfield armory M1A.

Have you seen Springfield Armory's latest M1A rifle? Like its unjustly maligned inspiration, the U.S. military M14 rifle, you have to get acquainted with it personally and judge it on its own merits. We recently put more than 500 rounds through a new .308 (7.62mm NATO) M1A and fired it in several different environments. We cam away impressed.

An effort was made at first to approach this project with strict objectivity, but that's impossible, of course. For one thing, I carried and fired an M14 for three years in the Army, so I couldn't help but compare the offspring to its parent. But objectivity isn't where it's at anyway. No matter how you cut it, what you're getting is my opinion of the rifle. So I took the precaution of getting others involved, including some nonbelievers.

The workmanship of our test M1A rivals well-made sporting rifles and in fact is being offered with a riflescope and five and 10-round magazines so it can double as a hunting arm. That's right, a hunting arm! That's not so farfetched, as you'll see. Many shooters both here and abroad have long used the M1A in its military identity for big-bore competition matches--conventional bullseye contests and combat/action shoots. A good rifle is what you make of it--regardless of its configuration.

We ordered our test piece in standard dress but couldn't resist the temptation to add a National Match barrel and a new walnut stock. A company spokesman assured us, though, that the difference between their standard and match barrels is slight; match barrels receive only a bit more attention to give competitive shooters an edge. Otherwise, the rifle was standard: weight about 8-1/2 pounds with empty 20-round magazine and 44-1/2 inches long with 22-inch barrel and flash hider. The sighting system is strictly Garand: aperture rear and post front.

M1As coming off the production line today are still fitted with some government surplus parts, but most parts are newly made including investment cast receivers and operating rods. Metal parts have a Parkerized finish and all parts are engineered to interchange with original M14s. The M1A, of course, is strictly a semi-automatic arm.

We evaluated only a handful of the many M1A accessories available: a straight-line walnut "E2" stock, an M1A-Au "assault"-type folding buttstock with pistol grip, a military M14 technical manual and a black nylon rifle carrying case.

The M14's combination tool is a must-have item. It doesn't come as a basic M1A accessory but is carried by many military surplus stores and gun parts houses. It is the only tool specifically designed to take down the M1A's gas cylinder system. The tool is also fitted with a screwdriver for the rifle's rear sight screws, acts as a cleaning rod handle and can be used to assist in charging the magazine. The combination tool fits into the rifle's butt trap.

Standard factory M1As come with either a surplus GI fiberglass or wood stock, a solid fiberglass handguard, one 20-round magazine and a technical manual. Right down to its bayonet lug and military-slack trigger, the M1A is a close copy of the GI M14 which was adopted by the Army in 1957; M14 production ceased in December 1964.

Since first marketed under the Springfield banner 10 years ago, M1As have weathered their share of criticisms. If our evaluation piece is any indication, perhaps we can put a few minds to rest. Our rifle was fired in the wind and dust at Petersen's mountaintop ranch near Palmdale, Calif., in the sand and heat of San Bernardino County's low desert, and in the brush and grit of a wilderness area 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

We used three types of 7.62mm ammunition; 150-grain PMC M80 military jacketed, 150-grain Remington Pointed Soft Point, and 200-grain Winchester Silvertips. All performed equally well under all conditions, but the PMC cartridges were most compatbile with our particular rifle. Using iron sights, the M1A punched a 1-inch zeroing group at 25 yards. Best iron-sight group with the other ammo was 2-1/2 to 3 inches at 100 yards.

Though the rifle fitted tightly in all three stocks supplied, it had not received the treatment of National Match rifles: None of the stocks were glass bedded, no special work was done to the gas cylinder or flash hider, and National Match sights were not used on the test piece.

G&A Feature Editor Garry James does not count the M14 among his favorite rifles. But after burning a few rounds through the standard M1A, he did a turn-around. We installed the folding stock, and he emptied a 20-round magazine at a 5 to 10 mph moving target 75 yards away. Close examination showed 50 percent hits concentrated in a 5 by 7-inch area.

Put down Mr. James as an M1A believer. Also include a skeptical author/gun store owner who has since ordered an M1A for his personal battery.

Whether blasting a 100-yard gong or busting small desert rocks at 300 yards, the M1A turned in fine accuracy. As an added feature, it plops brass within reasonable reach of the shooter and does not scratch, dint, fold, spindle or mutilate its empties. Moreover, the bolt remains open after the last shot.

The M1A can be loaded in several different ways. With the magazine attached or detached, single rounds can be pressed into it effortlessly--all 20. For convenience or speed, a person can resort to five-round stripper clips.

With the magazine in the rifle, and the clip inserted in the cartridge guide just forward of the rear sight, 20 rounds can be quickly thumbed into the magazine. Or, with the magazine removed, it can be filled by using stripper clips in conjunction with a magazine filler device that slips onto the top rear portion of the magazine. Using either your thumb or the edge of the combination tool, cartridges can be quickly stripped into the magazine.

To fieldstrip, break the rifle into its three basic parts. First, remove the magazine and check the chamber to ensure that the rifle is unloaded. Then either turn the rifle upside down with the barrel pointing to your left (if you're right handed) or stand it on its buttplate and grasp the rear of the triggerguard.

Pull back and upward and remove the firing mechanism (trigger housing group). Grasp the upper portion of the barrel and lift the barrel and receiver group from the stock. Disengage the operating rod spring, and the arm is ready for most cleaning chores. Cleaning of the gas system is not normally necessary, but if it needs to be done, use the combination tool to remove the gas cylinder plug and follow instructions given in the technical manual.

Reverse the procedure for reassembly.

We found that the "E2" stock with its pistolgrips provided a rigid platform for either prone or offhand shooting, and the M1A-A1 folding buttstock was handy and did not detract from the arm's inherent accuracy. The nylon carrying case is an absolute must; I've been laboring under the impression that I could do without one until I tried Springfield's. I especially liked its handy cargo pockets. The technical manual is indispensible.

In summary, you can't go wrong if you purchase an M1A--if our experience is any indication. Suggested retail for the basic rifle with GI stock is $782.

For more information, contact Springfield Armory, Inc., Dept. GA, 420 West Main St., geneseo, IL 61254.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Rutledge, Lee A.
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Sep 1, 1985
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