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For the Love of Competition Rifles Semi Auto

How to Customize Your Springfield Armory M1A

by Eric R. Poole   |  September 24th, 2013 20

“Have your way with it,” said Officer Avery. This local police officer had just stopped by my shop and dropped off his new-in-the-box Springfield Armory M1A with no budget restrictions. “Build it as if it were yours.”

This former Marine Corps scout/sniper had once trained on the military’s select-fire version, the M14. It served him well then and, until recently, was his agency’s standard-issue long gun.

Law-abiding citizens have even more options when it comes to giving their semi-auto M1A a makeover, and as a factory-certified armorer I just love working on and building up these rifles. So now what? If you are one of the thousands who bought an M1A from Springfield Armory in the last few years, you might be considering this very question. If you did buy an M1A, sales figures indicate that you probably picked up either a no-frills standard model with 22-inch barrel and composite stock, SOCOM 16 or a more radical SOCOM II with 16-inch barrel and a VLTOR quad-rail fore-end. Maybe you bought one to get ahead of possible gun restrictions, or maybe you just wanted the proven performance of America’s timeless autoloading .308. Whatever the reason, if you’ve got a collection of MSRs, it’s incomplete without at least one M1A.

When comparing the M1A with the typical .308 AR-type rifle, you have to agree that it’s a great buy. A standard model goes for $1,600 at retail, and the SOCOM 16 starts at $1,900. For a little less money than your average .308-based AR, you get all the battle-proven reputation of the M14 and an aftermarket ready to personalize your M1A at affordable increments.

Before working on any project, I take an accuracy test as a baseline for performance improvements. Since I would end up comparing this rifle’s performance with a scope in the end, I fitted the standard configuration with Springfield Armory’s 4th Gen M1A scope mount with front and rear Picatinny rail sections. Two large thumbscrews attach this mount to the left side of the receiver.

For consistency, Hornady ammo was selected to print five five-shot groups at 100 yards. Average sizes measured roughly 1¼ inches for each 150- and 168-grain load. Not bad for a “standard” M1A.

In taking Avery’s rifle to the next level, I would give it an FDE-colored Troy BattleRail and a new tan-colored McMillan adjustable M3A stock. As some say, tan is the new black.

The Troy BattleRail for the M14/M1A is the ultimate optic-mounting solution for the person who doesn’t want an aluminum chassis for a stock. This rail also works with both traditional wood and fiberglass stocks. In my experience, simply adding a BattleRail to an M1A will usually produce improved accuracy because the user benefits from a more solid optics-mounting platform and one that’s inline with the barrel. If you decide to perform regular preventative maintenance to your rifle, it can be field-stripped without having to compromise the optic’s zero. Once mounted, the BattleRail stays with the barreled action.

But this isn’t the case with Avery’s build. In the spirit of the Marine Corps’ DMR, I would turn to McMillan for a new adjustable M3A stock that would have to be fitted and glass bedded. Given time, I could have done this all myself, but few gunsmiths can glass-bed an M1A better than the Springfield Armory Custom Shop. I also asked the Custom Shop to install its National Match barrel, give the trigger an NM tuning, then put it all together.

McMillan stocks are not drop-in pieces of colored fiberglass, and they come available in three options at different price points: flattop with no inlet ($338), basic inlet with the action outlined and the barrel channeled ($390) and full inlet with action and barrel inlet and molded-in color ($548).

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