The M1A and the AR-10 are both very popular rifles and widely used for hunting and competitions. Both weapon systems feature somewhat similar platforms, but there’s still some room for discussion and debate about which one is the best.
Here, we will try to evaluate the similarities and differences between the AR-10 and M1A rifles. We will also learn about the different models available today and the pros and cons associated with them. This article will help you clear out your doubts about these systems, eventually helping you choose the best rifle for your use.
What is the M1A?
The M1A is a civilian version of the popular M14 rifle, used by the U.S military during the Vietnam and Cold Wars. The M1A was designed by Elmer C. Ballance of the Springfield Armory Inc., in 1974. The major difference between the M1A and the M14 is the selector switch.
The M1A is a semi-auto, whereas the M14 is a fully automatic weapon. The M14 was designed as a battle rifle, to have good mid-range accuracy and durability. The M1A retains these same properties of the M14 system. The M1A fires the 7.62x51mm(.308 or 30 Cal) cartridge. The M1A is still in production, so there’s a good chance you might see it quite often.
The M1A became quite popular among the masses due to its durable construction, magazine capacity(20 rounds), and the caliber, which is powerful enough to hunt large animals humanely. Plus, its platform was already accepted by the military and battle-tested, so there weren’t any doubts about its quality.
Since the very beginning of the M1A, it had been developed and distributed under various models. Not many .308 caliber rifles perform as reliably as an M1A rifle and none have its versatility. The M1A variants are classified by the difference in their barrel lengths(16/18/22 inches), stock, finish, and intended use.Remaining factors like caliber, receiver, bolt, rod, and magazines are the same.
Note: M21 Tactical and M25 White Feather models have been discontinued.
M1A Standard Model
The M1A standard model, as the name suggests, is the basic ‘full barrel length’ variant of the rifle. It features a 22-inch long barrel, which allows you to squeeze all the power out of every round. The standard model is used for long-range precision shooting, especially in competitions. In other words, the standard model is an exact semi-auto replication of the M14 service rifle.
The standard model is further available in match and super-match variants, which are generally used for shooting competitions. The standard model can be used for long-range power and precision. Plus, the other aftermarket upgrades will help you improve its weight, accuracy, and function. The M1A standard uses a two-stage trigger, which lets you take precise shots, no matter the range.
On the other hand, the standard has a 1:11 twist rate, which is not very good for heavy grain bullets. However, the M1A standard is still a durable option due to its structural and functional resemblance with the M14.
Socom 16 Model
The SOCOM 16 Model of the M1A was introduced back in 2004. Its purpose was to provide shooters with a more compact, lightweight rifle, shooting the same 7.62x51mm caliber ammo. So the SOCOM 16 version was undoubtedly designed for tactical use. If you’re wondering, SOCOM stands for Special Operations Command. So the name is an introduction to this rifle.
The SOCOM is the most compact, lightest, and shortest of all M1A models. It features a 16-inch barrel with a different gas system retainer and muzzle break, allowing the length to be kept as short as possible without compromising accuracy. This model has also the lightest recoil of all the M1A models.
This rifle is exceptional for self-defense and three-gun competitions, as it packs the punch of the 7.62 caliber in a more compact body and offers good control. Additions such as polymer-based stock also help in cutting down the weight of this rifle. The only downside is that the SOCOM uses a different gas system and doesn’t accommodate modifications easily.
Scout Squad Model
The Scout Squad Model is a perfect combination of weight, compactness, and function. It is exactly midway between the SOCOM and the standard version. It features an 18-inch barrel which delivers optimum power for use in a variety of different activities. It is the perfect blend of size and barrel and is an exceptional scouting rifle.
It has the ruggedness and reliability of the standard M1A and the control of a SOCOM model. In other words, this rifle is an all-rounder. It is fairly open to modifications so you can upgrade it to your specifications. In our honest opinion, this is by far the best M1A model to use.
What is the AR-10?
The AR-10 rifle was developed by Eugene Stoner in 1955 and was manufactured by Armalite. For those who want to know, the AR in AR-10 stands for Armalite Rifle, named for the company which originally manufactured it.
The AR-10 was intended to compete with the other platforms (including the M14, which eventually won) as a replacement for the WWII breed of rifles, specifically the M1 Garand. The AR-15 is an advanced version of the AR-10. Unfortunately, the AR-10 couldn’t succeed in military trials as the barrel ruptured while testing. But it was the predecessor of the AR-15 platform, which dominates the market today.
The AR-10 was a comparatively lightweight rifle of its time, which, coupled the powerful 7.62 caliber, provides an easily customizable platform. Only 9,900 AR-10s were originally built, but as more and more people began to use and like the AR-15 platform, AR-10 rifles once again filled the shelves as a .308 alternative.
The AR-10 is available in a couple of different variants, with the major difference being the receiver platform. The rifle was designed decades ago, so it was obvious for the manufacturers to make some changes in the retro platform with newer models.
DPMS Oracle .308
As the name itself suggests, this model of the AR-10 is based upon the DPMS receiver. DPMS is an extremely popular make for the AR-15, and it has also taken over the market for the AR-10. The DPMS Oracle .308 is lightweight and it is quite easy to source aftermarket accessories for it, obviously due to the fact that the platform is widely used by AR-15 users.
This one has a 16-inch barrel with a ten round magazine. The stock is made of polymer, which makes it light and easy to use. It also has a full, receiver-length, high profile Picatinny rail to let you mount scopes and accessories.
This rifle is good for casual use, like range shooting and short range hunting, but it is not as rugged as a battle rifle. So you’d probably have to make some upgrades to bring it to that level. The best part about the Oracle platform is the price. You can buy around three of these for the price of a standard M1A.
Brownells - Brn-10® Retro Rifle
This model is based on the original AR-10 .308 platform designed by Eugene Stoner in 1955. It is a tough and durable rifle which can be considered an exact replica of the original AR-10s designed for battle. It has an A2 front sight and adjustable rear sights, plus a 20 round detachable box magazine.
This rifle has a carry handle based sight, which reminds you of the old Vietnam war rifles. The forward assist and shell deflector have been removed to make it more uncluttered and simple. It has the distinctive flats and two stabilizing flanges at the rear found on early carriers, plus the entire bolt/carrier group is chrome-plated.
If you’re more inclined towards the “old is gold” or “original is better” idea, this AR-10 .308 platform rifle is for you. The only drawback of using this retro platform is the limited availability of compatible aftermarket upgrades and parts.
M1A vs. AR-10 - Similarities and Differences
The M1A and the AR-10 use the same caliber and their platforms were both designed for battle. Both these rifles are widely used and it’s quite hard to make a fair choice. To clear this haze, we’ll take a look at the similarities and differences between the M1A and AR-10 to get a better idea of their usefulness.
M1A vs. AR-10 Differences
- Aftermarket Upgrades
The AR-10 has more customization options and aftermarket accessories available, in comparison to the M1A. The obvious reason is the popularity of the AR-15 platform. You can customize your AR-10 by replacing stocks, adding rails, and making many other improvements.
The M1A, on the other hand, offers limited customization options. For example, adding a scope to the M1A requires you to add a cheek riser or even a new stock. Furthermore, you can also change the upper of your AR-10 to use a different caliber, but the M1A doesn’t grant that liberty.
- Drop Free Mags
Both the M1A and AR-10 have detachable box magazines, but the M1A lacks drop magazines, whereas the AR-10 has them. This makes the AR-10 somewhat more tactical and easy to use when compared with the M1A. Plus, the mags for the AR-10 are comparatively cheaper than those of the M1A.
- Mounting Options
The AR-10 accepts scopes very easily, whereas the M1A is more of an iron sight rifle and mounting a scope to it takes some effort. The AR-10 has a longer rail which lets you mount more accessories with ease.
A DPMS style AR-10 will cost you around three times less compared to a standard M1A rifle. AR-10 rifles are less costly and the reason for that is the popularity of the AR platform, which lets the manufacturers reduce their production costs. An M1A rifle will cost you upwards of $2000, not to mention the aftermarket upgrades which are required to improve the accuracy. Upgrades to the M1A are also more pricey when compared with the AR-10.
The M1A is the clear winner where durability is concerned, especially when compared with the DPMS receivers and polymer stock versions. It’s predecessor, the M14 is a reliable battle tested rifle, and the M1A carries its legacy.
M1A vs. AR-10 Similarities
Both the M1A and AR-10 shoot the same 7.62x51(.308) caliber. The .308 packs a lot of punch and is extremely useful for hunting big game. With the compact models of these rifles, you get a lot of extra power on a more lightweight rifle. Both these rifles are good for hunting and self-defense.
- Magazine Fed
Both these rifles are magazine fed, so you don’t have to carry stripper clips or ammo boxes. This not only saves effort but gives you a tactical advantage under certain situations. Magazine fed operation means you can quickly reload, which allows you to use these rifles for different purposes.
- Semi-Auto Operation
Both these weapons are semi-automatic, so you don’t have to retract the bolt manually after every shot. This also allows you to use these rifles for self-defense, as you can spray more rounds of a heavier caliber.
Top Pick Between M1A vs. AR-10
Let’s sum up the qualities of both these rifles. The AR-10 has more customization options with cheap and easily available aftermarket accessories compared to the M1A. While the M1a costs almost twice as much as an AR-10, not to mention that the aftermarket upgrades are also comparatively expensive.
The AR-10 offers ease of scoping and gives you space to install more accessories. You can scope an M1A but you also need to adjust the stock fit to get your head up to the scope.
On the contrary, the M1A is a reliable and battle-tested platform with its own perks. It is still a respectable rifle but needs to be upgraded in order to improve its performance, whereas the AR-10 performs very well, right out of the box.
After taking into consideration the customization options and upgrades, the AR-10 is a much better option. But conclusively, it's your own decision to make.
The AR-10 and M1A shoot the same 7.62 NATO caliber and are both good hunting rifles. The M1A works on an older platform, whereas the AR-10 offers a variety of easy customization due to its AR platform.
Both these rifles have different models to serve different purposes. They both are similar in terms of caliber, feeding system, and operation, but differ on price, the ability to customize, and availability of parts and upgrades.