A History and Evaluation of the M14 and M1A – Part 2

M1A -SOCOM Scout Squad

We recently covered the first part of the M14 rifle’s history in part one of this blog series. Today, we’ll cover the second part, as well as provide an evaluation of its modern counterpart, the M1A.

The M14 was manufactured in relatively small numbers, but has had a great impact on warfare and is revered by riflemen.

But the M14 rifle is unobtainable by civilian shooters since the rifle is a fully automatic battle rifle. Colt offered copies of the AR-15 in semi-auto versions as the Colt Sporter fairly early on so the market was there.

The M14, however, was also manufactured in a National Match version without the fully automatic trigger action. This was termed the M1A.

M1A Squad Scout
The M1A Squad Scout is available with wood furniture. Note the scope-mounting rail.

An Evolution in Design

Using an M1 Garand trigger action in simple terms, the M1A was a rare bird at first. In 1974, Springfield Armory was founded and the product was M1A rifles.

These rifles were manufactured in some cases from surplus parts and then from modern, newly manufactured receivers, stocks and barrels.

The rifle features a 22-inch barrel with flash-hider, a great set of sights, a 20-round box magazine, five- and 10-round magazines, and the rifle is available in National Match versions.

The M1A is alive and well and while it isn’t a “real” M14, it is perhaps the rifle the M14 should have been. A semi-automatic battle rifle makes sense. The M1A is a great target rifle. The M1/M1A type rifle needs proper lubrication to run well.

If properly lubricated and fed good ammunition, the M1A is a reliable firearm.

Cream of the Crop

I am not exactly going out on a limb here, but those that have not fired the type extensively as I have may take exception with what I am about to say.

The M1A, in my opinion, is a more reliable rifle and more robust in long term service than either the M1 Garand or Armalite AR-15 type.

The rifle may not be quite as accurate in the standard versions as the AR-15 types, but a National Match rifle is plenty accurate and needs to take a back seat to no rifle.

There are a number of very attractive variations of the rifle that make for excellent close-quarter battle rifles. There are even shorter CQB versions.

The Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine did not work out—it was perhaps the last gasp of the bolt-action rifle—and the Tanker Garand was less than ideal.

The M1A SOCOM, with a 16-inch barrel, and Scout Squad, with an 18-inch barrel, each make excellent close-quarters battle rifles. The rifle is well-made of good materials. The locking lugs settle in tightly. I have examined a number of M14 clones.

Some are pretty poor. The Chinese-made M14s is actually a solid rifle, but it requires a good bit of modification to make it serviceable. The Springfield M1A is a tighter rifle with a better build quality.

M1A -SOCOM Scout Squad
The M1A in its SOCOM and Scout Squad versions is a first-class emergency rifle.

Customizations and Calibers

A great advantage of the M1A over the Garand is the ease with which optics may be mounted. The M1A Scout, as an example, features a mount in front of the receiver for mounting long eye relief scopes and suitable low-riding red dot sights.

The choices are wide-ranging and make for excellent all-around utility in the game field, for personal defense and tactical use. My personal rifle is fitted with the XS front dot sight, an excellent option for 24-hour use. The rifles are enjoyable to fire.

A real sense of accomplishment is part of the chore of mastering the rifle. With time and effort, the M1A will respond well to a trained marksman. As for tactical use, the .308 is the ideal rifle.

Let me stress that the 5.56mm is fine for most uses—but not all. The 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge will successfully engage subjects behind cover or 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 of a tempered glass door 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, the . 223 rifle and shotgun slugs for penetration and accuracy. Pistol caliber carbines are a poor choice for police work, but I suppose a useful expedient with half-trained personnel.

With a properly trained individual, the .308 is a great rifle. In some ways, it is similar in performance (but better) to the .30-30 WCF rifles once issued to the LAPD, Washington State Patrol and others.

Hornady ammo
Hornady ammunition offers excellent wound potential.

M14 and M1A: Conclusion

As for myself, it is highly unlikely I will be involved in a defensive situation or one in which I would confront felons behind cover. The M1A is, first and foremost, a great recreational rifle.

Most of the loads I use are a mix of Hornady A-Max or Interlock and H4895 powder. I load the Hornady Black loads in a magazine for “just in case” use.

Ultimately, the M1A is an important part of my shooting life and a great addition to anyone’s battery.

Thoughts on the M1A? What’s your favorite type of rifle? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (6)

  1. I have only had hands on with a handful of SA M1A rifles. The common element with all of them is they were unreliable. One sent back to SA did return in working order. Magazines are the issue. 10 round mags fail to feed. GI Surplus, scarce today, worked well. If you want a .308 self-loading rifle, I suggest the Ruger SFAR.

  2. I want to know if there is any way to buy a M14 rifle? I shot expert with this weapon in the service and loved it! My drill instructor could not believe how fast I got to the bull with it! When in Nam I even asked to carry one but my company would not allow it. I would love to actually own my own!

  3. How can one discuss the history of the m1a/m14 and not mention the EBR and it’s ise in the modern war on terror?

  4. This is my favorite platform…2 SOCOMs, 2 base models, a Scout Squad and a CQB. The article did miss weight…these are heavy weapons in any configuration and the weight of loaded mags adds up too. It can be an issue for smaller or lighter individuals.

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