Which M1A Rifle Is Right For You?

Posted by Rob Leatham

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Apr 21, 2015 8:00:00 AM


A good design lasts forever.

Just look at the the 1911, Peacemaker and Double Barreled Shotgun. When it comes to the M1A Rifle Family, I see a design that falls right into this same category. 

Few .308 caliber rifles can perform as well an M1A™ rifle and none are as versatile. Whether it's a high power rifle competition or close quarters combat (CQB), there's one that serves any purpose.  Couple that with a classic design and quality materials and you've got a winner. 

M1A™ Rifle Variants are classified under three barrel lengths:

  • 16 inch barrel
  • 18 inch barrel
  • 22 inch barrel 

From there variants are comprised of different stocks, finishes, barrel weights and intended uses.

The trick is to decide which size suits you best.

Before we jump into some key differences let's first focus on the similarities between variants. 

What All M1A™'s Have In Common

  • Chambered for .308 Winchester /  7.62x51mm NATO cartridge
  • Same receiver (EXCEPTION: M21™ uses a rear lugged receiver) 
  • Same bolt
  • Same operating rod
  • Same magazines
  • With the exception of the M21™, they're all able to fit in the same stocks. 

One final common denominator is that they're easy to operate and maintain.

From here, rifle variants start being unique based on the intended needs of the owner.

Let's start from the shortest barrel length.  

SOCOM 16 Model - 16 Inch Barrel


The SOCOM Rifle is the shortest, lightest and most compact of all the M1A™ models.

If you're in pursuit of maximum compactness and portability, you'll want this rifle. There are slight differences in gas systems based on barrel weights and lengths. The SOCOM uses a different gas system retainer and muzzle break allowing the length to be kept as short as possible while maintaining accuracy. 

Surprisingly enough, I feel the SOCOM is the lightest kicking of any M1A™ rifle. The muzzle break really does its job by keeping the gun nice and under control during rapid fire and packs a huge punch in a small package making it an excellent choice for close range use.

This model comes with a "scout style" barrel mounted rail allowing for forward mounted optics with either an intermediate eye relief model or a non magnifying "red dot" style sight. This method of mounting allows easy access to the action on the rifle and many users prefer it due to the low mounting height. 

Mount a red dot sight on this rifle and you have an easy to handle, short range power house. 

SCOUT SQUAD™ Model  - 18 Inch Barrel


I own a lot of M1As. My favorite model? The Scout Squad™ M1A™

It's built with an 18" barrel and uses the same action / gas system as the full size M1A™.

As a matter of fact, with the exception of the 18" barrel and the SOCOM's barrel mounted rail, it is otherwise very similar to the 22" Standard M1A™.  It's 18" barrel maintains nearly all the power any .308 loading can develop but maintains the classic, iconic muzzle brake in a more compact package.

Cutting 4" out of the barrel may cost me a few feet per second, but not enough to notice and doesn't make me give up any accuracy either.

The midsize SCOUT SQUAD™ has for me that perfect blend of size and balance that just makes me want to pick it up and shoot it anytime I have one at the range.

It's my top choice for an all-around rifle.

M1A™ Standard Model - 22 Inch Barrel 


The 22" barreled models are the foundation of the M1A™ line with more variants available in this length than any of the other options. From the Standard Model to the super accurate National Match and Super Match Rifles designed for long range precision competition, "full length" barrel models squeeze the most out of the powerful .308 chambering.

The Standard Model is in every way possible, visually, operationally and mechanically, a semi-auto reproduction of the US Military's M14 rifle.

Add the loaded package to get a medium weight, match grade barrel or choose any of the stock finish options including wood or synthetic and you can have your M1A™ just how you like it.

When I want long range power and precision I will always reach for my Super Match which is the epitome of a long range iron sighted battle rifle. My first Springfield Armory® rifle was an M1A™ national match model, very similar to the Super Match. I won the Soldier of Fortune 3 Gun Championship with it many, many years ago and I still have that rifle in service today!

If I want to mount a scope and really take advantage of the down range ballistics of the .308 round, I would choose our new Loaded P.A.S. (Precision Adjustable Stock). It's adjustable stock will let me fit it perfectly to my build. Add the new 4th Gen steel scope mount and you will have a heavy duty, accurate, reliable package with time proven durability and power that no .223 / 5.56 can ever hope to match.

You can see more about that one in my Range Report on the M1A Loaded P.A.S.

More From Springfield Armory®

Take Advantage of the M1A Gear Up Program (Expires April 30, 2015)
Explore the M1A Rifle Series

Range Report - M1A Precision Adjustable Stock
NRA 2015 Annual Meetings and Exhibits Recap

Topics: Tactical Rifles

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual.  These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory®.