Analyzing Accuracy: M1A – Informational Guide

The M1A is a fairly popular civilian rifle, especially among the ‘old-breed’ of shooters. The rifle features one of the most reliable operating systems of all time and is widely used for hunting and competitions. But the M1A is not dead accurate right out of the box. There are some tweaks that have to be made to improve its overall accuracy.

Here, we’ll evaluate the accuracy of a normal M1A rifle and what changes can, and should, be done to make it more accurate. We will also outline and review some of the best aftermarket upgrades on the market so you can choose the right ones.

M1A Accuracy Upgrades Comparison Chart

Product

Our Rating

Price

Sage Intl - Springfield M14 Enhanced Stock Chassis

Pro Mag - Springfield M14 Archangel Precision Stock Adjustable

Federal - Lake City 7.62x51mm Nato 149gr Xm80 Fmj Ammo Can

Federal Premium Vital-shok Nosler Partition Centerfire Rifle Cartridges - .308 Winchester - 150 Grain

M1A Overview

The M1A is the civilian version of the popular M14 rifle used by the military during the Vietnam war. Both these weapons were designed in 1974, by Elmer C. Ballance of the Springfield Armory Inc., with the major difference being the selector.

The M14 can be fired in semi and full-auto modes, whereas the M1A is solely a semi-automatic rifle. The term "M1A" is a proprietary title for Springfield Armory’s M14-pattern rifle. The M1A is available in multiple variants which include, Loaded, Match, Scout, and SOCOM. 

Springfield Armory M1A - Old-School (Source)

SOCOM 16 (Source)

The M1A is built on the M14 platform, which was a battle rifle. Hence, these rifles are sturdy and reliable, especially over a short range. The M1A is still widely used for hunting, shooting competitions, and bench rest shooting.  

How Accurate is the M1A?

The M1A fires the 7.62x51 caliber and has a magazine fed, semi-automatic operation. The rifle was designed for battle, except for the fact that Springfield converted it to semi-auto for civilian use. You can expect to shoot two-inch groups at 100 yards for a new M1A rifle with iron sights straight out of the box.

The M1A chambers the powerful .308 round and is extremely accurate at mid-range (300-500 yards) which makes it exceptional for hunting. Plus, the magazine fed operation makes it ideal for use in rural areas with big animals, and people carrying scoped elk rifles at an arm’s length.

M1A used in a competition (Source)

The M1A is sold in multiple variants. Its Match variant is also widely used for shooting competitions, and the latest SOCOM range has also proved its metal. Since the platform was designed for combat and has been successful in this use, there’s no point in doubting the reliability of the M1A.

However, the catch here is that the M1A is a robust, reliable, and accurate rifle, but does require quality upgrades to elevate its performance. The combination of caliber, accuracy, reliability, and capacity, make the M1A an exceptional weapon for self-defense, hunting, and competitions.

How to Improve M1A Accuracy

The M1A is a reliable and accurate rifle in its own dignity, but it sure needs some upgrades to enhance its capabilities. Making adjustments and/or replacements to the stock, barrel, and gas system largely affect and improve the accuracy of the rifle. Plus, the kind of ammunition you shoot is also a decisive factor.

Here, we’ll learn about some of the major adjustments which will turn your regular M1A into an unmatched and accurate rifle.

Glass Bedding or Replacing the Stock

Glass Bedding refers to the process of filling the gaps and crevices between your receiver and stock with epoxy resin. The epoxy resin is transparent and looks like glass, hence the name. This prevents the functioning parts (action) from deformation/flexing under the stress from recoil.

Glass bedding improves the overall accuracy of the rifle and also prolongs the life of the stock. Bedding increases accuracy in part by relieving stress on the action, since it rarely fits flush over the stock. Getting your rifle some good glass bedding costs around $100-150 from a gunsmith or you can do it yourself for $30-40, however it is not recommended.

Glass bedding a M1A (Source)

Glass bedding is an important upgrade, especially for Woodstock-based long range hunting rifles like the Winchesters and Springfields. Glass bedding is good in every way for your rifle, but only when done right.

Improper spreading of the epoxy can result in choking the screw holes and protrusions (even sweeping into the trigger), which in turn will not let the action match properly with the stock, so it is always a better option to let an expert do it.

Furthermore, replacing the stock is also an alternative or addition to glass bedding. Having a good stock will also improve the accuracy of your rifle.

Unitizing Gas Cylinder

Unitizing may be a new term to some people. In layman terms, unitizing refers to joining/welding the gas cylinder to the barrel band, or the shoulder milled on the barrel and the gas cylinder. The idea here is to coalesce the gas cylinder to the stock so it doesn’t move or shake, thus affecting the accuracy of the rifle.

Additionally, it turns the gas cylinder into more of a free-floating mechanism, which doesn’t touch the barrel and thus doesn’t affect barrel harmonics.Unitizing also helps if you tend to sling up the rifle when you shoot. Most match-grade shooters, especially with bolt action rifles, tend to unitize their gas cylinders to improve the overall accuracy.

If done properly, a unitized gas cylinder will improve accuracy on a non-bedded rifle given that the front band is aligned with the stock ferrule. You should reach out to a gunsmith to unitize the gas cylinder of your M1A rifle. It’s not going to cost much and the professionals will take care of the alignment.

Shimming

Shimming refers to adding a shim between the barrels shoulder and the gas cylinder. Shimming makes the front band of the barrel and the gas cylinder fit tightly. In short, it solves the same problem what unitizing does.

Shimming eliminates the problem of flexing and prevents the gas system from disturbing the harmonics of the barrel. Plus, it also ensures that you get tighter groups (almost 50% better) and your rifle is less prone to resetting to zero. Sometimes shimming is also needed to get the gas cylinder lock to index right.

Shimming helps reduce or even eliminate the movement of the barrel band and works exceptionally well if your rifle is already bedded. Shimming requires you to disassemble your rifle but is not as difficult as unitization.

If you know how to disassemble and clean your M1A, you can install a shim easily. Shimming is not the right alternative to unitization, but it still works well. However, you must consider unitization if you tend to use your M1A at competitions.

Ammo

The ammunition is one of the most important and basic factors related to accuracy, especially for the M1A. There’s a wide variety of ammunition you can choose to shoot. Ranging from match grade bullets to surplus for the M1A. But if you want accuracy, you must choose the right ammunition. Notably, the match grade bullets.

Cheap ammunition will perform badly. Plus, it also burns dirty, leaving a lot of grime and residue behind. This will not only necessitate cleaning of the barrel after burning through lesser rounds, but it will also leave residue in the barrel after every round you shoot, thus affecting accuracy.

Another important concern with ammunition is corrosion. Cheap ammunition tends to corrode the barrel, which will degrade the accuracy of the rifle. The M1A platform was designed for military use but it is also a fact that the military uses the best ammunition.

There’s no point in spending hundreds of dollars on other upgrades if you plan to use dirty ammunition. The best bet is always to use match-grade ammunition, especially if you have invested in upgrades.

One more thing you must consider is the bullet weight. The M1A works really well with bullets in the 140-150 grain range. So keep an eye out for that.

Our Recommendations to Boost Accuracy

Upgrading the M1A to improve its accuracy is partially related to modifications to the platform and partially to aftermarket accessories. As we have already discussed the modifications like bedding, unitization, and shimming, let’s take a look at the accessories you can buy to improve the overall accuracy of your M1A.

1. Stock: Sage Intl - Springfield M14 Enhanced Stock Chassis

The enhanced chassis-style stock from Sage Intl is an exceptional replacement to improve the accuracy of your M1A rifle. The stock has been CNC machined from a single aluminum billet, which speaks of its durability.

The stock is suitable for M1A rifles with standard or medium weight barrels. The chassis has a two-inch, vertically adjustable cheek rest and a six position telescopic stock for extra adjustments.

Additionally, the stock has five Mil-Spec 1913 Picatinny rails, a removable Kydex forend with a built-in palm swell, three ambidextrous sling mounts, and a soft one-inch recoil pad. The precision-machined receiver lug recesses also eliminate the need for additional bedding which also helps you reduce the overall cost for upgrading.

The stock is a bit on the expensive side, but considering its benefits and addition to accuracy, this is an amazing deal. The stock doesn’t accept rear-lugged receivers and might require additional gunsmithing. Plus, the stock is also a bit heavy.  

This stock from Pro Mag has been made from carbon reinforced polymer and features an extremely durable construction. The stock is adjustable for length as well as cheek rise. Plus, it also has a grip storage compartment to let you carry extra batteries or first aid. The stock has a Picatinny rail on the forend with an extended rail cover. The stock is also equipped with two standard sling swivel studs so you don’t have to do any drilling.

Plus, it also incorporates four integral steel inserts for ball-lock/push-button QD sling swivels. It will fit precisely with your action and will probably eliminate the need for any bedding, however, getting one is still a good idea.

This stock is quite lightweight and affordable, compared to its counterparts. So it is a good deal for the money. On the flip side, the stock will require some fitting to deliver optimum performance.

The Lake City 7.62x51mm ammunition from Federal is a deadly accurate and affordable choice for your M1A. It features FMJ bullets with a weight of 149gr which is good enough to take down even big game. This box of 200 rounds is an affordable choice for you, costing less than a dollar a round.

These cartridges feature boxer-primed reloadable brass cases, so you can reload your ammo in-house. The full metal jacket bullet is suitable for applications where terminal expansion is not required (like big game hunting). Plus, the non-corrosive primer doesn’t damage your barrel or degrade its accuracy.

This Lake City ammo is good for plinking and target practice at the range, as it not only compliments accuracy but is also cheap enough for practice.

The Vital-Shok cartridges are the premium ammunition for your M1A. These match-grade cartridges are a succinct combination of lethality and accuracy. The 150-grain, expanding bullet has high penetration and lets you take out big game with ease, even at long distances.

These bullets are exceptional for hunting and competitions. The casings are made from high-quality brass, so you can also reload your ammo in the future. They are deadly accurate and you won’t require more than one bullet for taking down a single target. Pertaining to its quality, these rounds are on the higher priced end, so these are obviously not good for plinking or practice.

Conclusion

The M1A is a durable and reliable rifle, often used for hunting and competitions. The M1A is quite accurate, but you still need to make some upgrades to enhance its accuracy. The very basic ones include upgrading the stock, glass bedding, unitizing gas system, and shimming. Plus, you should also use the right ammunition to attain high accuracy. 

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