[Review] Springfield M1A Loaded Precision (Part 1)

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Up until now, my “precision” rifle has been a Mosin. I know, I know… Tom, that is not what anyone would consider precision (you know except for some old guys in “wars past” before all these new fangled rifles, with their new fangled composite plastics, and new fangled optics were available).

One of my good friends was a defensive marksman (graduate of schools like GPS Defense, etc), and most everything I know about precision rifles (which is admittedly very little) comes from him.

My pre-deployment was centered around door-kicking skills rather than sitting far away and sending a care package (or drawing pictures of bushes and rocks and curvy roads). While we did some “surveillance and reconnaissance” missions, and had either an M40 or M82, my primary skill set as a Corpsman was not focused on skills with those long range weapons. My on-the-job training (on our first S&R mission) consisted of one of the Marines explaining to me that they could teach a monkey to shoot, here was a thing called a DOPE book (but don’t worry about it), and if we needed to engage, and oh never mind, f&#! it, just let the spotter take over. Which was fine with me as I had Motrin to inventory and silver bullets to polish, both of which were super critical tasks while laying for three days in a shallow grave dug in the 130 degree desert under some camp netting while fending off Solifugae attempting to infiltrate the leg of my pants.

Pretty basic. But shoots well right out of the box.

Pretty basic. But shoots well right out of the box.

I was definitely interested when I was informed I would be sent an M1A Loaded Precision. I had heard of the M1A and always thought of it as a relic from wars long past but never really understood what exactly it was, which meant it was time to consult the internets. Turns out I was completely wrong. It is really nothing more than Springfield’s proprietary title for the civilian version of the M14-patterned rifle.

Construction

I suppose it is a bit worth it to highlight the history for those that are unfamiliar (I know I certainly was). The M1A is the semi-automatic civilian version of the M14 which itself was the replacement for the M1 Garand (my understanding is that the U.S. military was looking for a full auto capable rifle with a detachable magazine). It was developed with the lofty goal of replacing the M1 rifle, the M1 Carbine, the M3 and the M1918 BAR in an effort to reduce the logistical requirements. It ended up ultimately failing at this task, but did find a niche being converted to the role of a sniper and designated marksman rifle. The M14 is apparently the longest “in service” infantry rifle in the U.S. Military (and also ironically was the second shortest “standard” service rifle). This is a mere glance—there are a ton of variations and a lot more history behind the evolution of this platform.

The Springfield M1A Loaded Precision is the rifle I was sent to review. It has a medium-weight premium air-gauged National Match barrel (National Match being Springfield’s branded designation for components tuned for competition—or so is my understanding) and a National Match 2-stage trigger (tuned for 4.5-5.0 pounds). It also has a National Match front sight blade and “non-hooded” National Match rear aperture.

Not a bad looking rifle in my opinion.

Not a bad looking rifle in my opinion.

The stock, while not noted in the literature, I am 99.99% sure is the Archangel Adjustable Precision Stock. It has adjustable length and comb height as well as a bottom picatinny section for mounting a bipod (or whatever). It comes in black (the one I have) and Flat Dark Earth.

Technical Specifications

  • Caliber: 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Win)
  • Magazines: 1 – 10 Round (parkerized)
  • Barrel: 22 inches (55.88 cm), 6 groove, 1:11 Twist, Carbon NM Medium Weight, Premium Air Gauged
  • Front Sight: National Match .062 inch blade
  • Rear Sight: NM Grade (Non-hooded Aperture 0.0520), Adjustable 1/2 MOA Windage and 1 MOA Elevation
  • Trigger: 2 Stage, National Match Tuned, 4.5-5.0 lbs
  • Length: 45 inches (114.3 cm) Adjustable to 46.25 inches (117.47 cm)
  • Weight (with empty magazine): 11.25 lbs (5.1 kg)

Observations

Okay, so the M1A is heavy. Like obnoxiously heavy. Makes my old beater Mosin feel like a 10/22. That is probably the worst thing I can voice about it.

Immediately out of the box I was putting rounds down range and accurately hitting targets with the iron sights. The farthest I got on the first day was a little over fifty yards, and I was consistently on a twelve inch paper target (not a tight group by any means). At that time I had the rifle resting on my GR2 ruck since I did not yet have a picatinny adapter for my Harris bipod. I did try it out with a GripPod which was okay, though the rifle seemed a bit tippy when I left it on it’s own.

GripPod wasn't the best option for this rifle...

GripPod wasn’t the best option for this rifle…

Since then (and with the help of optics and a legitimate bipod) I have gone a bit farther. With consistent ammunition, the rifle hits consistently.

The trigger was super consistent right around 4.5 lbs (using my Lyman trigger gauge). It was very crisp with no slop.

The safety sits just ahead of the trigger guard which took me a little to get used to, since I’ve generally had a side selector switch on my rifles…

I found the recoil to be exceptionally light, compared to my “precision” Mosin… 😉 I figured I would feel a bit more of a thump, but the stock that it comes with, coupled with the overall weight, does a great job of mitigating that force.

Super comfortable to shoot. The stock was just naturally ergonomic for me, and allowed me to adjust it to how I needed it to be.

Super comfortable to shoot. The stock was just naturally ergonomic for me, and allowed me to adjust it to how I needed it to be.

This was also the first rifle that I’ve owned that I could adjust the comb on the stock. And let me tell you—what a huge difference. Being able to set the rifle up to match my cheek weld specifically was a totally revolutionary idea to me. The stock also has a cut out at the rear which allows the shooter to brace with their support hand (something that was pointed out to me after a few trips).

I did find the ten round magazine it came with to be a little annoying to get seated until I had practiced it a couple of dozen times. Getting the correct angle was initially challenging.

Conclusions

I suppose you can consider this rifle to be a “modern classic”, though for me, there was nothing classic about it. It shot very well and I plan on putting it through it’s paces and seeing what I can really do with it.

From the right.

From the right.

From the left.

From the left.

I do think that the “Loaded Precision” package had a lot to do with my positive experience, so take that how you will. And after reading a number of forums and posts it seems like most people end up making modifications similar to what the Loaded Precision comes with.  Honestly I’m not going to do much other than paint it up and put some on some optics.

I do plan to take it out and coupled with a ballistics calculator and gear, play around with it to see just how far I can shoot it accurately. Be on the lookout for an article later this year.

One of the things I really appreciate about being a writer for The Firearm Blog is getting to put hands on weapons I would otherwise have not given a second look at, or even consider as something to add to my ever growing collection. The M1A is one of those. It is fun to shoot and has started a bit of a bug in me to explore this “precision” thing.  Now to start saving up for glass…

[NOTE: This is part one of a three part series.  I will be going through the process of learning the basics of precision shooting with the uber lofty goal of putting rounds from the M1A on steel at 1200 yards.  Can it be done?  Apparently some shooters have.  Let’s see if this untrained monkey can perform such a feat…]



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • UCSPanther

    It may be heresy, but I think an M1 Garand would fit quite nicely into such a stock.

    • TDog

      I wouldn’t call that heresy at all. The M1 Garand knows who it is – the clothing don’t make the man, so to speak. 😉

  • Steve

    To comment on your mention of the weight issue – the ‘modern’ M1A/M14 is heavy. As it was issued, it was only 9.2 lbs unloaded w/cleaning kit; the G3 and AR-10 were a hair lighter. For comparison, a SCAR 17 is 7.9 lbs.

    Once you start adding precision stocks or aluminum chassis systems, you can QUICKLY eclipse 11-12 lbs… which is a big reason I sold off my M1A/M14 collection for a SCAR 17S.

    Having gone full circle with the platform – I believe the two best (most fun/versatile) M1A/M14 configurations were the original wood-stock 22″ rifle, and the chopped 18″ “bush” rifle that Springfield sold. Once you modernize it, it becomes a total bench rifle unless the government is paying you to sling it.

    Another random fact I’ll throw out for fans of the modernized version – the M1A/M14 is the most painfully unpleasant rifle I’ve ever shot suppressed…

    • Vitsaus

      Good points, people rarely consider these things when talking about the M1A.

      • Dracon1201

        You’re right, they’re usually blinded by nostalgia and history. This has been an issue in every related discussion I’ve been a part of.

    • ostiariusalpha

      The Artillerie Inrichtingen AR-10 rifles weigh 7.3 lbs unloaded. That’s lighter than the SCAR by a noticeable amount.

      • Steve

        I’ll gladly trade that half pound for never having to clean my rifle. Joking to some extent… but the SCARs ability to have the internals appear cleaner than before you shot it boggle my mind, every time.

        • CommonSense23

          You have never shot them suppressed have you.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Why would you clean an AR-10?

          • The Brigadier

            Here he goes with his joke again just to get a rise Steve.

    • Most of the modern chassis stocks are on the heavy side, and you can add all sorts of additional weight that makes it a bench rifle for all but the young guys. The lone exception is the lightweight Blackfeather “RS” imported from Canada. As for suppressor use, you can deflect the gas/debris blown back by using a GI M3 breech shield. Easy fix, and it will make the experience more pleasurable.

  • Lance

    Good rifle design which is why after many years the US Army and Navy still use M-14s from a DMR to a watchman’s rifle on a ship you see why many still like them.

    • CommonSense23

      Yeah, no, the navy and army still use them cause they are cheap. We get it. You don’t know anything about the military.

    • Steve

      The Army is using the M14EBR (6200+ pc.), but just about everyone else has dropped it, from what I’ve been seeing:

      USMC M39 EMR (~700 pc.) was dropped for M110.

      The Navy is more-or-less dropping them, aside from a very small number (~250) of the Mk 14 Mod 2 rifles (which are probably getting replaced with M110 or Mk20 SSR). The Mk 14 Mod 0/1 rifles (~1000/~500 pc, respectively) are probably still in inventory but no longer used.

      USCG (HITRON) has (had?) the M14 T (~500 pc.), which is basically a 22″ barreled Mk 14 Mod 0.

      USAF EOD borrowed 4 rifles from the Navy.

      The only modernized version produced in any numbers to be worth discussion (at this point) is the Army DMR rifle. Most of these modernized M14’s were produced in numbers below 1000. At those amounts, you should consider it an experiment and not a regularly issued rifle.

    • Dracon1201

      It’s what they had sitting in the armories. It’s not a choice of preference, it’s one of cost savings and necessity.

      • Ben

        That and how difficult and politicized military procurement is for non-SOF, especially for the Army.

  • John

    I would LOVE one of these, however, the stainless “Match” version comes in over $3000 and that’s too rich for my blood. Still looking for a .308 RPR but the stork hasn’t come to my house yet.

    • Steve

      Don’t get into M1A/M14s if you think $3000 is a lot…

      The last LRB-action rifle I sold, without optics, went for around $7500 and I was taking a serious loss.

      • iksnilol

        Why so much moneyfor those rifles?

        I mean, they don’t shoot *that* well.

        • Steve

          The parts add up – especially the NOS USGI parts, and the newer upgrades. $700 stocks and premiums paid for discontinued replica parts; I sold one discontinued EBR stock for almost $3000, at one point.

          They *can* shoot wonderfully, especially if you only compare them as an open-sight rifle (due to the massive sight radius). Match rifles need to be babied, for the most part. Especially the gas system. Pick up a match shooters M1A by the gas cylinder and watch their face sometime…

          • iksnilol

            I shoot with a bone stock Sauer STR 200 which I bet with the appropriate ammo can outshoot any M1A variant. Simply the action of the M1A isn’t really suitable for a precision rifle.

          • Steve

            You’re comparing a bolt-action target rifle to a semi-auto military rifle…?

          • iksnilol

            Yeah… considering it costs twice as much and claims to be a precision/competition rifle.

            I dislike ARs but the action is way more suitable for precision work than the M1A.

          • Dracon1201

            Agreed. Even a homebuilt AR10 for less than half of $3000 will outperform an M1A, if you want a semi auto comparison.

          • iksnilol

            I mean, I don’t even like ARs but I’ll rather “put up” with a superior rifle for less money.

          • Steve

            To each their own… the AR-10 vs. M14 thing has been beat to death on every forum remotely related to firearms. I’ve owned both in the past, and neither now. The M14 was the better base rifle in my opinion. Modified, with money being no object, I’d take a M110K1.

            On the topic of the STR 200… you’re gonna need to try a little harder if you want to make a reasonable comparison. The M14 was designed to shoot minute-of-torso, and quickly.

          • Doc Rader

            “Minute of Torso” wins the comment section for today.

          • iksnilol

            The M14 was made to shoot minute of torso. The “Loaded PRECISION” model was made more for target and comp use.

          • Dracon1201

            You got that right. I say they can pay thousands of extra dollars for something they spend the rest of their lives justifying, but I’ll take the less expensive (and superior) option and spend the rest on training and ammo to run it 20x better than that one guy chasing groups with $9000 in hardware.

          • Edeco

            Yup, compared to AR’s the M1A for precision seems like a round peg in a square hole.

          • Bill

            I’ve shot both, and the Rem equivalent, they are all equivalent, when set up appropriately. I think the SIG-Sauer I shot was the equivalent of yours, with a US model number that I don’t recall. The Match variant M1as are extremely accurate.

          • iksnilol

            Rem equivalent?

            How would you define extremely accurate? Is it sub-MOA? sub half MOA?

          • Bill

            Sorry, Remington 700 equivalent, which is pretty much the de facto standard in US policing, excepting departments with Sauer-sized budgets. The SSG 3000 and Blaser 93 are the 2 high-end guns I’m most familiar with, and those weren’t mine. Police precision shooting is well served by sub-MOA rifles and glass, as the shots are typically at short ranges, I believe the average is around 40 yards, though shooters are typically prepped for far longer ranges and tiny targets, such as a hostage-taker’s eye socket or ear canal. I’m confident that it’s completely different for our military who will engage at longer distances and may shoot larger targets in an anti-materiel role.

            The M1A has the benefit of a lot of upgrading techniques gleaned from match shooting. I’d be thrilled to have one, but would half to sell part of the farm for glass.

          • iksnilol

            Ya can’t call a Remington 700 equivalent with an SSG 3000.

            I mean, sure, after several modifications it might shoot as well. But by then you’re out of more money and the SSG still has that smoother action with the shorter throw.

          • I still have one of those discontinued, 1 of 25 ‘DOT MATRIX’ EBR stocks…

  • CommonSense23

    If you are going to do a accuracy/precision test. Please shoot 10 round groups.

    • Paul White

      or at least tell us what size groups you shoot, and how many rounds per group

      • CommonSense23

        Which is pretty useless info with 3 or 5 round groups.

  • ARCNA442

    When I read a review of a “precision” rifle, I expect to learn more about it’s accuracy than that it can consistently hit a 12″ target at 50 yards – especially when it is a rifle with such a contentious history as the M14/M1A.

    • Most likely we’ll setup a standard procedure for testing accuracy in the not so distant future.

    • lol

      Ditto, its a bit like test driving a Ferrari 458 in the dealership parking lot.

      • Bill

        And with all due respect to the author, having the lot boy drive it. A precision rifle needs a precision operator. I should know, I’m not one.

        • Doc Rader

          No worries. We all have to start somewhere, and my hope with a future article is to show the progression from barely trained monkey to better trained monkey… 🙂 And to highlight the dead ends and rabbit holes I should have avoided.

          Maybe I can sweet talk Phil into sending me off to a week long class or something…

          • Bill

            You also need to sweet-talk him into maybe 3k worth of glass, a Kestrel, and beaucoup ammo. Plus give up smoking and anything with caffeine. If you have anything like high blood pressure, propranolol helps level out your pulse rate, but you’ll be banned from competitive shooting in the Olympics, and probably everywhere else.

          • Doc Rader

            I was just joking with a buddy about doing a spoof review about putting a $3k Nightforce (or something) on a Mosin. 🙂

          • Bill

            Hey, with duct tape you can mount anything to anything. I’ve got a B______l that’s got the optical clarity of a chocolate malt.

          • iksnilol

            What’s the problem with doing that?

          • The glass I can get and a Kestrel—ammo not so much.

          • wzrd1

            I do believe that if one is taking such drugs, one is unlikely to be competing in the Olympics.
            I’m taking metroprolol and amlodipine. Needless to day, I don’t think I’ll be competing in any Olympic event.

          • Bill

            I found out by being prescribed propranolol for borderline hypertension, when I still had the physical prowess of a minor god and could leap low fences in a single bound and was cycling centuries. Apparently it gets prescribed off-label for a lot of stuff, including reducing nervous tremors in people with stage fright. I never noticed any effects at all, and stopped taking it after my second heart attack in favor of something else. If I could have all that time back I spent trying to avoid heart attacks by staying in shape….

          • wzrd1

            I was hypertensive from my 30’s, but was in fine fighting shape, even deployed a to Iraq and Afghanistan, dodging RPG’s easily.
            I stayed in shape, but wasn’t treated for my hypertension for four years, while I was taking care of my dying father. Got treatment for a year and a half, relocated and couldn’t get a refill from my doc at home from Christmas week until this past Thursday.
            Boy, but I feel like crap!

          • Only if I can go with:-)

  • J.T.

    This is a review?

    • Doc Rader

      More of a teaser to go along with the Springfield 2016 pre-SHOT release manifest. I’m planning on a much more detailed post later in the year seeing how far back I can take it.

      • J.T.

        If it’s just a teaser, then don’t call it a review. Say “Hey, we got this gun and are going to be doing a review. Here are some first impressions.”

      • wzrd1

        Halfway through the year or later, he should be able to pop 1K targets. 🙂

  • TheMaskedMan

    I love the M1A, but it’s way overpriced.

    • Come to Canada. We sell you $400 Norinco M305. You love.

      • Paul White

        yes, I would

  • 68Whiskey

    Did Patrick R. secretly write this?

  • DW

    Kinda want to see M1A pitted against FNAR.

  • It should be a good shooter as long as the M1A action is properly fitted into the ProMag Archangel stock. For those that are weight conscious, don’t ever expect the M14 type rifle to be light. The lightest complete barreled action including the trigger group weighs a little more than 6 lbs. The stock, mag, ammo, etc. all add weight.

  • Peace-full-one

    Have a loaded version for many years topped with Springfield ARMORY 4-16×56 scope..and have shot 2 3/4 in group at 200 yards with surp ammo and I’m not a regular shooter.

  • Bamboo

    Just got one last eeek. Haven’t even fired yet but I know I will love it. A squib load from a cheap round took out my 91A. Never again will I do that.
    I got this rifle because im in a wheelchair and I have a ATV chair that goes about anywhere. Im a chaplain in the 51st Mountain so I move from the rear. I have a shooters perch on my chair that locks in tight.
    Plan on doing some FTX with it next month. I have a 4th generation scope mount that im putting on it. Hopefully I can be a better asset to my unit and have fun with it as well.

  • jim

    I love my NM M1A. I purchased it before the Archangle stocks came with them. Yes it will take some time for you to get used to riding that horse.
    A rear (squeeze) bag might help your accuracy, and rather that resting the stock on the back of your wrist, try laying it into the webbing between your index finger and thumb with that hand splayed across your right shoulder. (or gripping a squeeze bag)

    You should be way more accurate than that at fifty, but really should be setting it up at 100 as a start. (IMO)
    A second rifle, a scout in a walnut stock, using irons, came out of the box doing better than you described…

    • The Brigadier

      Yes. The 168 gr. was the battle weight bullet and the 149 grain was only for training. It was cheaper to produce and had a little bit less recoil, which for training new recruits was beneficial. The 168 grain is the flattest flight round for this rifle regardless of the accuracy of the barrel.

      • wzrd1

        Any information on terminal ballistics at various ranges?
        As I recall, there was argument at the time over hitting the target vs eliminating a target.
        I’ll be honest, I’ve not researched that area, due to many, many, many distractions.
        I’d love to review such data!

  • CavScout

    If Troy has trouble accurizing the Springfield M1A, who would thing Promag managed? Everyone that started buying AR’s after 2010 now seem to be avoiding them at all costs now. They don’t want to be at the range with ‘just another AR.’ For precision rifle, I did the whole Rem 700 mid quality setup. Well I regret that now, and wish I had gone straight to a high quality AR-10, like the LMT ones. But with an M1A, as Savage would say, ‘accuracy’ is a journey instead of a destination.

    • wzrd1

      Nah, accuracy is the destination arrived at by the journey of many, many rounds fired.
      Practice with a good coach and accuracy will be arrived at in time.

  • tarnishedcopper

    Precisely what I was thinking ARCNA442! Heck with iron sights I can do better than that with my Mosin at 100 yards and beyond. What about those of us “Southpaws” who manage fine with a standard stock, but with a custom one like this would be out of the game? Is a left hand version of the stock available? Otherwise I’ll just stick to my 1903 Springfield.

  • I think of the M14 the way I think of a big block American muscle car
    produced before 1975. These vehicles were heavy, not overly complicated,
    and designed with the tuner in mind. Few unmodified versions can be
    found, even when new. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the original
    designs that can’t be addressed with balancing & blueprinting, tune
    your heavy metal M14 to meet your specific/anticipated needs.

  • And I bet those rifles were properly fitted to the stock as needed. That’s NOT a knock against the stock.