The Springfield Armory M1A is one of the most forgotten battle rifles of the 20th century. It was adopted by the U.S. military in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the M-14; however, its service was overshadowed, in part, by the adoption of the M-16 at the outbreak of the Vietnam War. Despite controversy on how the M-16 was pressed into service, the M-14 has seen a resurgence in military service as well as popularity with civilians.
Known for its great accuracy, the M1A is sought after for precision shooting competitions as well as hunting. Newer versions have even pulled the M1A out of the designated marksman rifle (DMR) roll and into more of a fighting rifle application with the carbine models. Let’s look at some considerations on buying a M1A, setting your rifle up, and the best scope for M1A that will work best for you.
Table of Contents
- A Brief History of M1A…
- M1A vs. M1A Scout vs. M1A SOCOM
- Which Type of M1A Scope to Choose?
- Best Scope for M1A on the Market Review
- Springfield Armory M1A & Loaded M1A Options
- Springfield Armory M1A Scout - Best Scopes for M1A Scout
- M1A SOCOM 16 Options - Best Red Dot for M1A
- Best M1A Scope Mounts
- 308 vs. 6.5 Creedmoor
- Zeroing Your M1A
A Brief History of M1A…
The development of the M-14, or M1A, was heavily influenced by the M1 Garand. As the United States immerged out of World War II and the Korean Conflict, the Department of Defense saw a need for a rifle to replace the M1 with a more modern version. The M-14 would upgrade the M1’s gas system, have select fire capabilities and allow for 20 round detachable box magazines; however, it would retain most of the esthetics and action of its predecessor. In addition, the most notable change from the M1 was the adoption of the smaller .308 WIN round. This was largely in part by NATO wanting an easier recoiling cartage in comparison to the powerful .30-06 Springfield round. As another military action was inevitable in Vietnam, the U.S. military pressed the controversial M-16 into service sealing the fate of the M-14/M1A.
Since the 1960s, there has been a new-found appreciation for the M1A as a viable option to fill battle rifle and DMR rolls. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan opened a need in the military to have a rifle that could engage targets at ranges far outside the M-16/M-4’s maximum effective range and was not a cumbersome bolt action. Some units still had access to M-14s and began to employ them. Noticing the effectiveness of the M-14 in a DMR roll, the Enhanced Battle Rifle (EBR) was introduced. The EBR was extremely modular and allowed Soldiers to adapt the rifle to the specific needs of a mission or the environment that the different theaters of operation demanded.
M1A vs. M1A Scout vs. M1A SOCOM
There are three main versions of the M1A rifle; the standard M1A, the M1A Scout, and the M1A SOCOM 16. Each of these versions will have specific applications that should be noted before you purchase.
Understanding the rifle’s application will help you understand which of the M1As will best suit you. If you are more concerned with consistent, long range accuracy then the standard M1A is your best bet. However, if you are interested with a DMR or carbine style rifle then the other two offerings will be the direction you will want to go.
Which Type of M1A Scope to Choose?
One of the biggest questions that always surfaces is which scope is best for your rifle. Again, depending on the application of the rifle will determine the type of scope you should get. For the standard M1A, a high-power optic will work best; especially for shooting at distance.
The Scout and SOCOM 16 models have a picatinny section just forward of the action. For CQB applications, the picatinny section can be used for a red dot for quick target acquisition that will also allow you to co-witness the iron sights. There are a few scope offerings that have extended eye relief and could be used for the Scout model. These scopes would be a great option in lieu of a red dot should you want to stretch the rifle’s legs.
Best Scope for M1A on the Market Review
This section will provide you with different options for scopes. These recommendations will be divided into categories for the 3 major configurations that Springfield Armory offers. Naturally, this list is not designed to be all inclusive but will help in providing you with a jumping off point.
Springfield Armory M1A & Loaded M1A Options
1 Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45x56 (34mm Tube)
If you are not familiar with Schmidt and Bender, you may be missing out. S&B is one of the best scope manufacturers in the current market. They have spent decades perfecting their optics and that can be seen in the PM II High Power. This first focal plane 5-45x56mm scope will be the best option for anyone looking to shoot long distance. The glass clarity and brightness is challenged by very few other scopes. The military has also seen the value in the PM II by awarding S&B with the Precision Sniper Rifle (PRS) scope contract in 2011.
S&B also offers 3 different reticle options for this scope to ensure flexibility for the market. The PM II High Power also benefits from low profile turrets that is extremely helpful in preventing snagging while using the optic on a hunt or in tactical applications. One major concern with this scope; however, is the high-end magnification. 45x power magnification may be too much for some and could increase the mirage effect when shooting long range.
2 Nightforce 5.5-22x50 NXS Riflescope
Nightforce is another top scope manufacturer that is a direct competitor to Schmidt and Bender. The NXS narrowly lost to the PM II High Power in the PSR program but is being used as a sniper scope by government and law enforcement agencies. Known as one of the toughest line of scopes, the NXS continues that trend with an extremely clear and bright view from the 5.5-22x50mm image. Pairing this optic with the standard length M1A would be a perfect addition for an elk hunt in the mountains or in tactical situations.
The NXS is very consistent with its zero hold as well as clarity through the magnification range. Nightforce offers several reticle options to best suit your preferences in using mil dot or MOA measurements. It also has a very high length of elevation travel with 100 MOA worth of adjustment. This is definitely the top competitor to the S&B PM II High Power.
3 Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50mm Riflescope
The Vortex Viper PST Gen II is the newest version of one of their best-selling scopes. Vortex offers 4 options of reticles to meet your preferences and to keep pace with high-priced options. In addition, the Viper PST Gen II is offered in 4 magnifications ranges to ensure you have exactly what you want and need for the specific environment you plan to use this scope in.
This scope has fiber optic turret rotation indicators to assist the shooting in moving back to zero as needed in low light scenarios. The PST Gen II also has low profile target turrets that are still easy to grip and turn. The illuminated reticle is an added touch that shows Vortex’s ability to think through their products even though many may not use the feature. Reaching 1,000-yards, or further, will not be an issue with this scope on your M1A.
4 Primary Arms Silver Series 4-14x44 R-Grid 2B FFP Riflescope
The best scope under $300 is hands down the Primary Arms (PA) 4-14x44mm R-Grid 2B FFP scope. PA has work tirelessly to find the balance between quality and price. Their scopes continuously challenge higher priced optics on glass fidelity and quality. In addition, PA has cornered the market in innovation with their reticle designs. Built like a juggernaut, this scope is shock proof, waterproof and is made with high quality 6063 aircraft grade aluminum.
As mentioned, the R-Grid 2B reticle pushes the envelop in innovation. The Christmas tree type reticle has precise holdovers and allows for ranging with .1 MIL subtensions. The scope will stay ‘true’ in all magnification settings and is the best bang for the buck. For those who are in needed of finding a quality optic while being mindful of their budget, this scope is it!
Springfield Armory M1A Scout - Best Scopes for M1A Scout
5 Burris Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm Scope
Burris is one of the many optic manufacturers that flies below the radar for some people. They have made several viable scope options that have been direct competitors to higher end models. This low power variable optic (LPVO) is perfect for the M1A Scout in several ways. First, being a LPVO allows for very fast target acquisition for CQB engagements. This scope, while slightly magnified at its lowest setting, will allow for shooting with both eyes open using the Bindon Aiming concept.
Next, the Burris 2-7x32mm magnification can be increased to 7x power allowing for accurate long-range shots over 800 yards while using the BDC reticle. Having a LPVO can be extremely useful in stretching the legs of this rifle in a competition, hunting or tactical application. Finally, and probably the most important, this scope has a very long eye relief allowing 9.5 to 12.3-inches of offset. Couple the long eye relief with low profile Burris XTR Signature rings and you will have a comfortable combination.
6 Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32mm Scout V-Plex Scope
Vortex again makes the list with a quality, yet budget, option. The 2-7x32mm scope is very similar to the Burris Ballistic Plex variable scope but for about $50 cheaper. Vortex has made a name for itself as being a competitively priced optics manufacturer while not sacrificing quality. The Crossfire II is another example of Vortex marrying quality with price. Some of the highlights of this optic is the 9.45-inch eye relief, aircraft grade aluminum body for rigidity, multi-coated lends for a clear and bright image, and a nitrogen purged, shock resistant construction.
While this a great competitor to the Burris 2-7x32mm, the Vortex Crossfire II does have some deficiencies. First, to achieve the long eye relief, the Crossfire II Scout has to be in the second focal plane. This does not allow for a BDC reticle and manual holdover estimation will be required for long shots. Next, even though the eye relief is 9.45-inches, you will have little flexibility in that relief unlike the Burris offering. However, for those who are budget conscious this scout scope is a good offering.
M1A SOCOM 16 Options - Best Red Dot for M1A
7 Aimpoint T2 Micro
There is no doubt that Aimpoint is one of the best red dot manufacturers on the market today. Their designs have been copied by nearly everyone in the hopes to ride their coat tails. The T2 Micro is the newest offering from Aimpoint and has again revolutionized the red dot market just as the Comp2 did in the past. A perfect red dot for the M1A SOCOM 16, the rigidity will handle anything you plan to throw at it.
At 3.7-ounces, the T2 is recognized as the lightest and smallest tubular red dot available. The ACET, or always on, technology will give the T2 a run time of over 5-years. One of the best features the T2 offers the SOCOM 16 is its ability to co-witness the iron sights enabling the shooter a redundancy that magnified optics cannot offer.
8 Trijicon RMR
The smallest and lightest optic on this list goes to the Trijicon RMR. This has become one of the most sought after optic available due to its versatility. This red dot can be used as a primary red dot, an off-set secondary red dot, or even a pistol red dot. Trijicon has pushed the limits of red dot technology by making the toughest open emitter style red dot that will be coupled nicely with the SOCOM 16. The small design and light weight also makes the RMR desirable to co-witness the iron sights like the Aimpoint T2 since it only weighs 1-ounce.
Sporting several different red dot sizes, the 3.25 MOA sized dot seems to be one of the more popular offerings for quick target acquisitions. In addition, the 4+ year run time on brightness setting 4 of 8 enables the owner to think of other things rather than battery life. Due to the popularity of the RMR, mounting options are abundant and you can easily find the perfect set-up for your needs. Definitely a great option in comparison to the T2.
Best M1A Scope Mounts
Finding the right hardware to mount a scope can always be difficult. One of the better types of mounts on the market has been the quick disconnect (QD) cantilever style mount. Midwest Industries 30mm QD Scope Mount is a great cantilever mount option. This mount is sturdy enough not to flex when firing 308 rounds but easily adjustable to ensure you get the proper eye relief on the M1A. Having the ability to use the QD levers also enables you to remove the optic should there be an issue and you need to use the iron sights.
1 Midwest Industries 30mm QD Scope Mount
If you decide that the Scout or SOCOM 16 rifles are more your style, then you may want to consider low profile scope rings. The Burris XTR Signature are the rings that best suits these two rifles. Burris offers these rings in 1-inch and 30mm as well as 3 different heights to ensure you have the correct check well with 1, 1.25, and 1.5-inch heights.
2 Burris Optics XTR Signature Rings
308 vs. 6.5 Creedmoor
Originally, the M1A was chambered in .308 WIN since that is the civilian designation for the 7.62x51mm M80 NATO round. Most would agree that 308 is a versatile round that can provide power and accuracy at longer distances. However, as 6.5 Creedmoor (CM) has gained popularity, Springfield decided to offer a version that will accommodate the new round. The 6.5 CM is basically a 308 that has been necked down from a 7.62mm to a 6.5mm projectile. This dramatically increases the velocity and allows the round to remain stable over longer distances. The 6.5 CM is more capable of consistent accuracy at ranges over 1,200-yards when most 308s will top out at that distance. However, if you are still a fan of the .308 WIN and want a precision option for the M1A, the Loaded M1A versions are the Cadillacs of these rifles. Springfield has offered the Loaded M1As in 7.62x51mm and 6.5 CM to allow you to not only have a M1A that is fully adjustable but also give you the caliber you prefer for precision.
Zeroing Your M1A
The most important piece to achieving accuracy is to ensure you have a precise zero for your iron sights and optics. It is always important to ensure your iron sights are zeroed just in case you should need to remove your optic. Zeroing a M1A is very similar to a M1 Garand. However, if you are new to the M1A, it may be a little different from other military rifles you might be familiar with. Here are the recommended steps on zeroing your M1A.
Zeroing M1A Iron Sights
Zeroing M1A Scope
M1A 100-Yard Zero
The Springfield Armory M1A rifle is an icon. While its tenure as the U.S. military’s main battle rifle was short lived, it still made a lasting impression; especially on those who used it in combat. Today, many are still finding the value in this rifle’s legacy and its ability to be an awesome long-range precision rifle or even a CQB carbine. Either way, the market has answered consumers calls for the best scope for M1A that will enhance this already great rifle.