Review: Springfield M1A — When a .223 Just Won’t Do

By Wilburn Roberts published on in Firearms, Reviews

Some time ago, I began upgrading my on duty gear by a great degree. During the war on terror, and the war on drugs, peace officers often faced heavily-armed felons willing to shoot it out with peace officers. Working in a rural environment, where every household it seemed had a scope-mounted rifle, also colored my choices. The primary focus was people passing through, and I worked a pipeline of drug smuggling.

Springfield M1A rifle with Hornady ammunition

Springfield and Hornady make a great combination.

The dynamics of the incidents I survived were little different than those faced by urban officers, and the rifle never came into play. Just the same, it would not have been wise to not be prepared on a level playing field. In common with Washington State Police at the time, and the LAPD a little earlier, I began with a Winchester .30-30 WCF rifle in the trunk. Later, I tried the SKS rifle and then the Colt HBAR. Each had its points.

While I subscribe to the one-shot one-hit paradigm sometimes one doesn’t do it and sometimes the shot misses. Having to work a bolt or lever is ridiculous when quality self-loading rifles are available. The availability of a hard hitting .308 caliber self-loader made for the ideal patrol rifle.

Although I have long been retired, if I were back in the saddle today and working the same area, I would deploy the Springfield M1A .308 rifle. This hard hitting rifle is hell on barricades and would be a good roadblock gun. The .223 rifle’s frangible bullets make it a good urban choice but not so good for rural use. If humanely putting down large domestic and wild animals that have ran afoul of trucks and cars are a duty—common in rural areas—the .308 looks even better.

The SOCOM is a fast handling and effective .308.

The SOCOM is a fast handling and effective .308.

The 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge will successfully engage subjects behind cover or while wearing heavy body armor. The .308 will cut through two vehicle doors, and still exhibit excellent wound potential. I once personally experienced a .45 ACP bullet bouncing off tempered door glass when it hit the glass at a severe angle. On another occasion, a .41 Magnum 210-grain load penetrated a door, struck the heavy metal backing of a 1970s Chrysler front seat, and bounced upward and through the roof.

This should not occur with the .308 Winchester. The .308 beats all handguns, .223 rifles, and shotgun slugs for penetration and accuracy. Pistol caliber carbines are a poor choice for police work, but I suppose they are a useful expedient for half-trained individuals.

The history of the M1A is interesting. The U.S. Army adopted the M14 rifle after the Korean War with the rifle officially adopted in the later 1950s. It was in some ways an historic upgrade of the successful M1 Garand rifle but with a 20-round box magazine. The M14 is chambered for the .308 Winchester. The .308 Winchester 7.62x51mm NATO is a rimless .300 Savage or a short .30-06 Springfield depending on your source.

The M1A is enjoyable for shooters of all ages.

A young shooter enjoying the M1A.

This was a rifle that was termed a battle rifle in the day. Heavy but powerful, the M14 was designed for European warfare, and to handle human wave attacks as we faced in Korea. The AR-15 rifle replaced the M14, but that is another story. In the early 1960s, Springfield Armory—the military branch not the modern company that bears the name—produced a number of match grade M14 rifles. These rifles were match-type rifles without the selector switch or the possibility of being converted to fully automatic fire. They used Garand internal parts hence the M1A designation.

This is the rifle the Springfield Armory M1A1 rifle is based on. With good accuracy, real power, and a 20-round magazine, the rifle gives a trained shooter many options. Lets face it, when intervening cover of even moderate resistance is present, the .223 simply doesn’t cut it. Structural members, or even heavy glass, will defeat the .223 but not the .308.

Tactical Matters

If you love the AR-15’s ergonomics, the M1A may not endear itself to you at first. The safety is located in the front of the trigger guard and must be pressed forward with the firing finger, and while it works fine with practice it requires acclimation. The magazine change is also different. The rearward rocking motion, after insertion, locks the magazine in place. To remove the mag, the magazine release is actuated, and the magazine rocked forward.

Springfield M1A
Manufacturer Springfield, Inc.
Caliber 7.62 NATO (.308)
Overall Length 38 to 41 inches, Scout and SOCOM rifles
Weight 9.2 pounds
Sights Military post and aperture
Capacity 10- or 20-round box mag
Trigger 5- to 6-pound, two-stage military

Optics

One of my M1A rifles is fitted with the EOTech HWS. This red dot is among the finest and most proven ever fielded. It makes for fast hits and excellent accuracy. I have learned to use the chin weld versus the cheek weld and visibility is excellent. The other rifle is fitted with a Leatherwood Hi-Lux riflescope. This scope features a long eye relief, as the scope must be mounted ahead of the receiver. For precision shooting, this is the ticket. Then again, the EOTech also is very accurate. The rifle has many choices, but be certain to get the mission down pat before you purchase expensive optics.

Ammunition Choices

When I have the time to load, the Hornady 155-grain A Max and 40.5 grains of H4895 for 2,400 fps is a great overall loading. Accurate, and with a bullet well suited to taking medium game, I like this combination. For serious deployments, the Hornady Black is a good choice. This loading uses the 168-grain A Max. This has been an accurate combination that I find ideally suited to many tasks. Remember, garbage in garbage out. Feed your rifle good stuff.

What is your favorite load for the M1A? Do you use it for hunting, self-defense, or target shooting? Submit your answers in the comment section.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (36)

  • Steve K

    |

    Wouldn’t an AR-10 be a better choice? Same ergonomics as an AR-15 but in .308. The M-14 is a fine rifle but the AR-10 in carbine version would be a better choice for a patrol rifle.

    Reply

  • Sam

    |

    When we (my trainee and me – I was a TO) arrived at the scene, all traffic on both sides of the freeway was stopped. The CHP officer was on foot, his motorcycle laying nearby, with his baton (aka night stick) in his hand as he was being chased by the bull. Apparently, he had used his baton on the bull, which is probably why the bull was aggressively chasing him (it’s not a good idea to smack a bull with a baton). Unfortunately, I didn’t have my M1A with me, and the 12 gauge had only 00 buck in it (no slugs, which were preferred), but 00 buck would have been too risky with so many bystanders. Fortunately, and having done this before, I knew a well-placed slug from my .45 would do the trick – and it did.

    Reply

  • Sam

    |

    The M1A is a dandy rifle. But because I worked as a peace officer in a big-city environment the M1A was not practical to be routinely deployed. The only time it was actually deployed was during a particularly violent riot situation that occurred sometime ago.
    However, there were other situations where my M1A would have come in handy. Even though it was a big-city environment there were several meat packing houses in the area, and occasionally some of the steers (and even bulls) would get loose and threaten anything – or anybody – in their path. So we had to rely upon our 12 gauge or.45’s to do the job, for public safety. One of the more interesting times, a very big (and very mean and agressive) Brahma bull was chasing a CHP officer around an 18-wheeler, on a major freeway during rush-hour traffic, so I had to very carefully dispatch the bull – safely – using only my .45 pistol.

    Reply

  • Bob Shirley

    |

    The AR-10 is inherently more accurate, lower weight and less maintenance.

    Reply

  • Damian

    |

    I have the SOCOM CQB model with an EOTECH halo sight and leatherwood hi lux LER scope i switch out for longer range shots .I love this rifle the brake on the barrel reduces recoil by over 50 % and has the recoil of a standard AK but with 308 win power and very accurate out to 500 meters with the 16.25 inch barrel on a bipod .IU was able to hit steel gongs easily at 500 meters all day once the scope was set up .If you want a short compact heavy duty rifle for any SHTF get the socom you wont regret it.

    Reply

  • Gary Johns

    |

    A good hard hitter for ARs,.223 77grain otms ! ARS are faster, better,and you have so much more ammo in the rifle and on your person!

    Reply

  • OldGringo

    |

    I will never bad mouth the M1A. My comment is carried one in the Army Military Police long ago (M14). Shot expert with it every time I touched it, same with Garand and M16. However, it is heavy and slow to move in brush or close quarters. I once put 7 mags full auto thru one as fast as I could do so. Lots of lightning going down range,,,,LOL. IN civilian law enforcement I carried a mini 14, then later went to the mini 30. Shot one huge deer mini 30 and learned that full penetration similar to a 30-06 is guaranteed. As this author says, you simply cannot get much penetration with a 55 grain bullet, duh? A good compromise is an AR or Minie 30 in 7.62 x 39, with 150 grain bullets. If you check online, people have been killing elk with the little SKS for decades. Certainly not for me, just know it was common in Colorado before the big AR boom.

    Reply

    • Damian

      |

      Agree OLD GRINGO how can you knock such a great American icon of a rifle like the M1A.only the people cannot afford them ever knock them and they most have never shot nor held 1 even .So they just talk crap about their puny AR rifles even in 7.62 AR rifles are an outdated POS they been looking to replace for 5 decades .An M1A will never be outdated or not fancy .It is the ICON of mil-type weapons made in AMERICA

      Reply

    • John

      |

      “.only the people cannot afford them ever knock them…”

      My, how elitist of you. I guess us poor peons will have to make do with our ARs.

      Reply

  • Jim Hovater

    |

    Why must your Leatherwood scope get mounted ‘forward of the receiver’? Neither of mine are. One uses a G,G&G mount. The other one a Brookfield Precision mount.

    Reply

    • Damian

      |

      I have the socom CQB SCOUT rifle there is a way to scope it with a regular mount but i like the scout mount look instead and if it works why replace it with a mount and scope that hooks to the receiver and rear sight i can still use my open sights with the scope on and i can still speed load with 7.62 nato stripper clips.That is 2 reasons why i use the LER scope .And i hate AR rifles hated my M4 while serving in the army cav and by no way easier to clean .

      Reply

  • Leon

    |

    for a semiauto .308 I’ll take a DPMS-pattern AR, easier to clean than a Garand-style action, same as a M16 / AR15, just bigger, and 25-rd mags are available for it, as well as adjustable LoP stocks

    Reply

  • HW Stone

    |

    The M1A has a lot going for it, but it is the last breath of an old technology, and older design. It is good, it lasts a long time, but the sight mounting is less than optimal, and ease of model feature change is costly and difficult.

    I still like it, but I strongly suggest comparing it and the features with the AR10 before you buy either of them.

    And a fair number will go with the M1A, the same way some people just prefer an old jeep over a modern computer driven “even more capable” Jeep made now, and some will look at Hummers, instead, just for that edge of ability.

    Think it through, people. Think it through.

    Reply

    • Damian

      |

      AR RIFLES suk period .I will take the .308 MIA.JMHO after two tours in the sandbox and seeing the old M14’S broke out and scoped and how they performed against the M16 and M4’S.Keep those plastic toys .

      Reply

Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

%d bloggers like this: