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The M1A is a classic battle-tested American rifle, which finds its use in competitions and hunting to this day. The M1A is among the oldest breed of firearms still in use by shooters today, which also means that M1A requires a bit of old-fashioned field stripping for cleaning and maintenance. Servicing your M1A regularly will ensure that you can pass this legacy on as an heirloom to your future generations.
Here, we’ll learn about the steps, tips, and tricks involved in properly disassembling and then reassembling an M1A rifle for cleaning and maintenance. We will also take a look at some good M1A servicing and cleaning kits available in the online marketplace.
Comparison of the Best M1A Cleaning Kits
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Three Main Groups of an M1A
Like most other rifles, the M1A can be seen as a combination of three different groups. These include the trigger housing group, the barrelled receiver group, and the stock group. Their names are almost self-explanatory, but let's elaborate the point for the sake of simplicity.
First of all, the barrelled receiver group of an M1A includes the action of the rifle. The parts include the receiver, sights, bolt carrier group, gas system, and the barrel. This is the primary component of the M1A and is the part where all the action happens.
Next comes the trigger housing group. This part includes the trigger assembly and the trigger guard. The trigger assembly itself is a combination of many parts such as springs, sear, and hammer. It can be seen as the on/off switch for the rifle.
Finally, we’ll consider the stock group. This group is comprised of the stock, which holds all the three groups together. The stock helps with holding and handling the firearm and is also useful for mounting different accessories such as slings, lights, lasers, bayonets, and bipods. Stocks can be made from wood, polymer, or fiberglass composite. But that’s a topic for a different discussion.
M1A Disassembly: Step-by-Step Guide
The disassembly of the M1A starts by separating the three housing groups of the rifle. Proper disassembly and cleaning of the M1A requires proper tools or preferably, a proper and complete kit. After we learn these steps, we will review the best M1A servicing kits on the market. Apart from that, keep some basic items such as cleaning solvents, rags, and wet and dry cleaning swabs on hand.
NOTE: Before you strip your M1A rifle, make sure to follow the basic safety rules for the firearm. Ensure that the rifle is unloaded and the chamber is clear. Wear proper eye protection and other protective gear that might be necessary(apron, surgical gloves etc,.).
Once you separate the three housing groups, work only on them one at a time and keep the others set aside. Also remember the proper position of the bolts, pins, and other small components you take out of the rifle. Always treat your firearm as if it is loaded, even if it's not.
Remove the magazine (which you might have already done) from the rifle and close the bolt. To do this, pull the charging handle backward and allow it to move forward freely as it snaps onto the receiver and closes the ejection port. This step ensures that there’s no tension in the bolt carrier spring and the parts are at ease.
Your next step is removing the trigger housing group. You might want to grab a punch which fits the hole on the rear of the trigger guard. Insert the punch in this hole and pull the trigger guard up, so it opens up like a hinged door. This might require you to apply some pressure, so don’t hesitate. Be careful while opening the trigger guard. Once it has been released, pull of the trigger housing group from the receiver.
Now, separate the barrelled receiver group from the stock group. In order to achieve this, you must lay the firearm on a flat surface with the sight facing down. Make sure to do this on a smooth surface and ensure that the sights do not get damaged. Now grasp the top grip of the forend and try to pull the action out of the rifle. You can alternatively give a thump to the rifle so these two groups separate. However, thumping is generally required if you have a match-grade firearm which has been glass bedded or has undergone similar treatment.
Part 2 - Disassembly of the Barrel and Receiver Group
Once all the three housing groups of the M1A have been separated, your next step is to disassemble the barrel and receiver group. The barrel need not be unscrewed from the receiver since it helps with cleaning. The parts you have to disassemble here are the operating rod spring, guide, and rod and bolt from the receiver. The sights over the top can be left intact unless you really want to meddle with them.
Next, remove the operating rod spring and operating rod spring guide. Place your receiver upside down (sight down) on the table and gently pull the operating rod spring and spring guide to relieve pressure on the connector lock. Now, pull the connector lock toward the side of the rifle where the operating rod handle is located. Slowly remove the rod spring from the action of the M1A. Make sure to carry out this process with patience and precision as the spring is under tension and may fly out.
Once the recoil spring is removed, the op rod can be removed from the receiver. To do this, slide the op rod back toward the receiver until its guide lug aligns with the assembly notch in the receiver. Now, rotate it upward, pull it out, and you’re good to go.
Now all that remains in the receiver is the bolt. To remove it, just slide it forward and pull it up to the right. This might require slight wiggling, but make sure not to apply much pressure, forcing the bolt outwards, as this may result in deformation or damage to it. Remember that the bolt doesn’t require cleaning from the inside. Plus, it should not be done, as the reassembly requires special tools and must only be done by a Springfield technician.
Reassembling the M1A is following the exact reverse procedure of the disassembly. But before you start assembling your M1A, make sure that you have thoroughly cleaned all the required parts. The major parts which require cleaning are the barrel, receiver, trigger assembly, and bolt. If you have disassembled the trigger assembly, it will take some more time to pack it back. Remember not to open up any parts you’re not sure about putting together again.
Assembly of Barrel & Receiver Group
If you have separated the barrel from the receiver, put it back on by tightening it over the threading. The gas system components and the sights have to be placed back if they were removed while disassembly. Assembling the barrel and bolt receiver group requires putting back the bolt, operating rod, guide, and spring in place.
Step 1: Replacing The Bolt
Putting back the bolt requires a bit of maneuvering, similar to what is required for pulling it out. To put it back, hold the bolt by the roller and locking lug and place its rear end inside the receiver bridge with the firing pin tang pointed downward. Turn the bolt a bit so it fits inside the receiver with ease. Once it reaches its position, slide it all the way back to the rear end of the receiver.
Step 2: Replacing The Operating Rod
After the bolt is seated in place, line up the rod with the retaining lug in the rear and the disassembly notch in the rear side of the receiver and guide it into the track. Once these parts align perfectly, push the operating rod forward until the bolt is closed. When done the right way, the rod should move freely and the bolt should move with it.
Step 3: Replacing The Operating Rod Spring Guide
After the bolt and op rod have been installed, insert the leading edge of the recoil spring into the recoil tube. Push the spring all the way inside the tube, and apply some pressure on it, so the locking connector aligns with the guide. Push the connector lug out to make room for the guide, push the guide inside, and lock it in place. Make sure to apply some pressure, and be careful or the spring may fly out.
Step 4: Assembly Of The Three Main Groups
Now the major and most technical part of assembling the M1A is complete. All that needs to be done now is to combine the three main groups we stripped in the first place. Place the barrel and receiver group (sight down) on a flat surface, and align the stock ferrule with the barrel band. Now, lower the action into the stock so that they fit snugly.
Next, pick up the trigger assembly and push it right down the stock. Make sure to properly align the guides on the trigger housing with the grooves in the stock. Finally, push down the trigger guard so it snaps into the stock, and you’re done. Cycle the action to check if everything works normally.
M1A Complete Disassembly and Reassembly Video
Taking instructions from a text is sometimes a bit difficult. Especially when you have to strip down and put together a complex system like the M1A. So we have included a video to demonstrate how to disassemble and reassemble an M1A rifle.
The video will clearly outline the necessary tools you require for servicing the M1A. It will explain, in detail, every step of disassembling and reassembling the rifle, whether it is the trigger assembly, gas system, sights, or other parts that can be opened up. You’ll get insights on some smart tips and tricks that’ll make the job easier. A very important and complex part to service in the M1A is its gas system. So the video has a detailed demonstration of how to work with it.
Best M1A Cleaning Kits
Due to the mechanism and type of ammunition it uses, the M1A requires regular cleaning. Since you now know the proper process of disassembling and reassembling the rifle, you need to find the right cleaning kit to properly care for your weapon.
Disassembly of the three housing groups of an M1A doesn’t involve any special tools, so it quite easy to clean the rifle. Having a good cleaning kit will make the job even easier. Here, we’ll review the best M1A cleaning kits which have been handpicked based upon their quality and usefulness.
What’s better and more reliable than having a standard issue GI cleaning kit for your M1A? The same kind soldiers used back in the day. This cleaning kit from John Masen has a combination tool handle, cleaning rod sections, bore brush, patch loop, and cleaning pouch. The rod sections can be easily tightened together to form a cleaning rod for the barrel.
The combination tool aids with cleaning the bore and other areas with ease. The compact pouch makes the entire kit fit into a pouch the size of a marker pen, so it is easy to carry and store. The kit, however, has no storage space for patches and swabs which might be a drawback for some.
This buttstock cleaning kit from Springfield Co. is an amazing toolkit for your M1A. The kit includes cleaning rod sections, a chamber brush, patch loop tip, a .30 cal bronze bore brush, combo tool, dual reservoir oiler, and a convenient pouch to keep everything together. The combo tool helps with the cleaning and maintenance of the rifle. The brushes along with the patch loop tip and the cleaning rod, allow you to clean the bore with ease.
As an extra, the kit includes an oiler which can be used to store and apply grease to different parts of the rifle. All of these components can be easily stored inside a cotton pouch which can easily fit inside the stock of your M1A rifle. Considering its price, and the manufacturer, this is probably the best pick on our list.
This kit from Springfield Armory is a more organized and manageable solution compared to the compact field-based cleaning kits. The kit includes all the components available in a compact kit, such as a combo tool, cleaning rod sections, bore and patch brushes, and an oiler for applying grease to different parts.
It also includes some extras, like 100 cleaning patches, so you don’t have to bother cutting up rags or buying them separately. All of these items come stored inside a plastic case with Springfield Armory imprinted on it. This is more like a kit you keep in your house, rather than the one you can carry inside your stock. However, the carry case has its own benefits.
The disassembly and assembly of an M1A might seem a very complex task, but with the right tools and information, it is as easy as stripping an AR. The M1A is divided into three housing groups, namely the trigger housing group, the barrelled receiver group, and the stock group. The M1A has to be cleaned regularly to maintain its performance, which is where having a good cleaning kit comes in handy.