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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…]