How to Clean and Properly Maintain an M1A

| Last Updated:
August 4, 2023

Cleaning and maintenance of your firearm is an important task, one that must be carried out regularly, as this affects accuracy and the overall life of the firearm. Some weapons are easy to disassemble and some aren’t.

For this discussion, we will be talking about the disassembly, cleaning, maintenance, and reassembly of an M1A rifle. This comprehensive guide is a mix of text and videos to help you properly service your M1A.

Step 1: Disassembly 

The M1A can be traced back to the M14 and M1 Garand operating systems, so it has a different procedure for disassembly. Before you start stripping your rifle, make sure you have the right amount of space and tools on your work space For this part, the most important tool you need is a screwdriver. Please check out the video below to get a better idea of what exactly needs to be done.

Note: Remove any add-ons like scopes, lasers, light, or slings before starting disassembly.

Completely disassembled M1A (Source)

  1. Pull out the magazine and finger-check the chamber for safety. 
  2. Invert the rifle, wedging it onto a piece of wood or rubber so the rear sight doesn’t bear pressure. Now, use the screwdriver to pull open the trigger guard. Once done, pull the entire trigger assembly out of the stock.
  3. Slap the buttstock against a padded surface while maintaining this inverted rifle position. This will separate the barreled action from the stock.
  4. The next step is to remove the guiding rod and spring by pushing it a bit forward and releasing the takedown pin. Make sure to control the spring as it will be under pressure when removed.
  5. After this, you need to remove the operating rod and the bolt from the receiver. Remove the bolt with ease and don’t apply pressure, as it may cause damage.

The video below will briefly guide you through the process of disassembling the M1A rifle. You will get visual guidance on how to strip different parts and the precautions to take. The bolt is often the most difficult part to remove from the M1A, so the video will thoroughly guide you through this. 

Step 2: M1A Cleaning

The first step in the maintenance of the M1A rifle is cleaning. Make sure to have the right tools for this job. You can also check out the complete cleaning kits reviewed in this article.

Before you start cleaning, make sure to keep some sort of cleaning solvent and/or aerosol spray beside you. Plus, a few other things like a couple of clean cloth patches, a chamber brush, cleaning rod, and solvent wipes.

Cleaning Kit (Source)

  1. The first step is to clean the chamber with a ratcheting chamber brush. Use a screwdriver, or punch, to rotate the brush several times, so the grime and dirt are loosened. If the brush is difficult to remove, you can use a cleaning rod to push it out.
  2. To clean the barrel, the cleaning rod needs to be inserted from the muzzle end. Run a solvent soaked patch or swab through the barrel using the rod, and draw it out from the breech end.
  3. Now use a bore brush, pushing it back and forth 15-20 times, so the grime loosens further. Once this is done, run a few solvent soaked patches/swabs through the bore.
  4. Now, insert a dry patch through the bore using the cleaning rod to check if there’s still any dirt or grime. If the patch comes out dirty, repeat the above steps.
  5. Lastly, clean the receiver with rags and solvent and make sure to check every corner, as the M1A has many crannies. You can also clean out the trigger mechanism with a brush and aerosol spray without disassembling it.

Note: Do not disassemble the trigger mechanism, as it is not required, and will be a real pain to reassemble.

To learn the process in detail, check out the video below. You will learn the proper way of inserting the brushes and guide rods inside the breech and bore to clean the M1A.

The video will also show you how to clean the trigger assembly without stripping it. If you have questions about cleaning the gas system, the video will help you out with that, as well.

Step 3: Lubricating Your M1A

Once you have cleaned all the components of your M1A, the next step is to lubricate them. A rifle has many components which rub against each other for operation.

Proper lubrication is essential to keep them running flawlessly and to prevent any unnecessary wear on the rifle. The essentials needed for lubrication are gun grease, gun oil, and a small brush for applying grease.

  1. Apply some grease on the operating rod track with a small painting brush. Use a swab to remove any excess grease.
  2. Now apply some grease on the inside of the receiver. This is the part where the bolt moves, so it is necessary to add a thin layer of grease here. Don’t apply excess grease, as it will splash out when the rifle cycles. Plus, it will also create cleaning issues.
  3. The bolt lug contact point and locking recesses must also get a thin layer of grease for flawless operation.
  4. Add some grease to the roller bearing of the bolt and its sides. Next comes the trigger group. Apply some grease on the hammer hooks and the trigger sear. That’s the end of the greasing process. Now we’ll begin with oiling.
  5. Add some gun oil to all the pivots, pins, and springs of the weapon, such as the hammer pins, operating rod, recoil spring, and spring guide. Wipe out the excess oil after applying it to each component.

Gather up the gun grease and gun oil for lubricating the rifle. This video will show you how and where to apply the grease and oil to prevent unnecessary wear to the rifle. It will show you the important points where lubrication is most required. Once finished, inspect the rifle carefully for all wear points to ensure they have been lubricated.

Step 4: Reassembly

Once the rifle has been properly cleaned and lubricated, it's time to reassemble it. We will follow the exact reverse of the disassembly procedure to keep it simple.

M1A (Source)

  • Begin the reassembly by inserting the bolt back inside the receiver. This might take some effort and meddling, but make sure to do it carefully or you may end up damaging the bolt.
  • Once the bolt is pushed back into the receiver, line up the retaining lug of the operating rod with the disassembly notch on the receiver, and slide the rod forward into the track. Once done properly, the operating rod will move to and fro with the bolt. Check this using the charging handle.
  • Now, the front of the recoil spring can be inserted into the operating rod by inserting the guide into the front end of the receiver and locking the pin into place. Watch the video below to see this in detail.
  • Now revert the action and place it upside down. Align the stock and push it over the action, so both these parts couple and seat perfectly.
  • Line up the guide and grooves of the trigger group and receiver, then slide it inside the receiver. Close the trigger guard, and push it down to lock it in place.
  • Cycle the gun, check the safety mechanism, and ensure that everything is working properly. If it is, you’re done with the reassembly of your M1A rifle.

Watch this video to properly understand the reassembly of the M1A rifle and guide yourself through this procedure. The video will explain the proper way to insert the bolt and to line up different components for assembly. Reassembling the M1A doesn’t require any tools and can easily be with done with bare hands.

Review of the Best M1A Cleaning Kits

Now that you know the proper disassembly, cleaning, lubrication, and reassembly procedures for the M1A rifle, you must be able to understand the need for a proper toolkit for the job.

Having a tool kit for maintenance of the M1A ensures that you don’t have to gather the necessary tools in bits and pieces. To help with this, we have handpicked the best M1A cleaning kits on the market. So take a look at them and choose the one which suits you.

1. John Masen - M1/M14 Mil-spec Cleaning Kit

This cleaning kit from John Masen is inspired from standard mil-spec kits issued to GIs. This cleaning kit is compact enough to be stored inside the stock of your M1A. It includes a combination tool handle, bore brush, patch loop, cleaning rod sections, and all parts are packed in a cloth case.

The sections are made from steel and join together to form a cleaning rod. However, it doesn’t include a chamber brush. The kit can be used with other 30 caliber rifles as well, so it is a worthwhile investment. The kit cleans well, is easy to carry and use, and is quite versatile.

2. Springfield Armory Buttstock Cleaning Kit

No products found.

This buttstock cleaning kit has been manufactured by the Springfield Armory Inc, so there’s no doubt in its capability, as the M1A is manufactured by the same company. This kit includes cleaning rod sections, a chamber brush, grease pot with applicators, bore brush, and the GI multi-tool.

Overall, it is a complete cleaning and disassembly kit for the M1A, manufactured with high-quality materials. The kit will fit inside the stock easily and the only thing you might have to spend time on is assembling the cleaning rod. The price of this cleaning kit is exceptional and since it contains all the necessary components, it an amazing deal.

3. Springfield Armory M1A Cleaning Kit

No products found.

This cleaning kit is just an advanced package of the above-mentioned kit by Springfield Armory Inc. The kit includes cleaning rod sections, a multi-tool, chamber brush, bore brush, and grease container, along with an oiler and 100 cloth patches for cleaning, all stored inside a plastic case. The plastic case with a carry handle makes it easy to carry and store. This kit will eliminate the need for buying separate patches or a storage case.


Proper cleaning and maintenance of a rifle are essential to maintaining its accuracy and service life. The M1A might seem difficult to disassemble at first, but with the right tools and a good guide on hand, it takes only a few minutes to service it. Before you start disassembling your rifle, make sure you have the proper cleaning kit and knowledge to get the job done with ease. 


Ankit Kumar is an engineer turned writer who specializes in topics related to firearms, gun safety and weapon tech. His passion towards enrolling in the Army drifted his interest towards light and heavy firearms. He’s a qualified competitive air rifle shooter and an avid nature lover. His other areas of expertise include survival, prepping and firearms/ammo storage. When he’s not writing, he’s either learning a new skill, trekking or enjoying a long drive.

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