Review: Inside the Springfield M1A

I recently had the chance to test out the the Springfield M1A. It’s a great platform and as most of you probably know, it’s the civilian variant of the United States military’s M14. 

The M14 is a proven weapon system that holds up to the harshest of environments and is a rifle I’m very fond of. I fell in love with the sniper variant I used in the SEAL teams and the M14 made a mockery out of the SR-25 that ultimately replaced it. It was specifically superior to the SR-25 in the reliability and durability categories.  So, before I even opened the box, I’ll openly admit that I was already biased towards platform.

In the SEALs we have an advanced sniper training cell and after returning from Afghanistan in 2002 I was assigned to the cell as an instructor.  My primary role was helicopter and urban sniper training.  The cell also ran a great trip twice a year that took place at Bull Hill Ranch in Washington State. Bull Hill is high in the mountains up along the Canadian border, during hunting season we would take these trips as an opportunity to hunt big white tail deer and give the guys a live moving target to stalk.

Quite a few of us, including my good friend John, would always take our M14’s up to Bull Hill to hunt with. We trusted the system and it was a straight out killer out to 800 yards with proper optics. 

The wooded terrain high up in the mountains was gorgeous and held some great high angles that we used for training. Gravity works differently on the ballistic curve if you’re outside the normal horizontal plane and this was a great training environment to teach high angle shooting. The surrounding area, high angles and open space allowed us to take deer at great distances. The last buck I shot before transferring was taken at 460 yards but guys had taken deer out to 800. 

My overall impression is that Springfield continues to deliver a solid rifle that lives up to the legacy of their brand. Other than the heavy rail system (an easy fix) and my recommendation of a standard off-the-shelf adjustable rear stock, this rifle is good to go right out of the box and an excellent value for the MSRP. Whether you’re a hunter or collector, the M1A is a fine platform that will make a solid addition to any collection. 

— Brandon Out

Kit Up! contributor Brandon Webb is a former SEAL, sniper instructor and author of 21st Century Sniper: A Complete Practical Guide.

  • Moondog

    Have they solved the M1a/M14s bedding problems?

    • Brandon Webb

      Hey Moondog-
      I can tell you that the rifle I shot was solid but I only put 100 rounds through it. I’ll ask this specific question to the folks at Springfield and try and get you an answer back ASAP.


    • Brandon Webb

      I just sent them an email. Will advise.


  • Stefan S.

    Sorry, but the SA M1A is good but with a cast receiver not so much. Go with an LRB forged receiver (as per the original GI specs) with all GI parts. More expensive but doesn’t have all the issues the SA has. But don’t ask me go see the M-14 TFL or the M14 Rifel Association. I am not knocking SA, their warranty is top of the line. Just that they use many cast parts. I own 2 LRB’s and 2 SA. The LRB’s are safe queens. The M1A’s are my daily use rifles. To make a SA M1A great, take off EVERYTHING except the receiver, and put on a Kreiger barrel, GI parts, and a nice walnut stock. Now the M1A is acceptable.

    • Loren

      I hear you talking, but you haven’t said anything.

  • Slainte

    Nice write up! Love a M1A/M14!

    One question, set up with a stock & scope for correct eye relief…

    Brian, what works for you with this system.


  • Slainte

    Per eye relief – meant to ask about: stocks – aluminum sage type drop in or bedded mcmillian style, mounts – steel 3 point mount to reciever style or rail style like SA pictured or larue. Scopes are another article! What I mentioned is the hardest question to answer for a M1A owner because this rifle is tough to set up for a scope for any precision work. Any insight would be much appreciated.

  • Brandon Webb

    The scope that came attached to this M1A was a Leupold 3.5-10 power LRT mil dot reticle. I’m not a big fan of Leupold because they had some QA issues with their military scopes. I’ve had the glass inside become loose….not good.

    Schmidt and Bender makes some of the best precision scopes in the world but you’ll pay $5000 plus. For the money a mil spec Night Force variable power with a mil dot reticle is the way to go.

    • Moondog

      Leupold also has some QA issues with their Benchrest target scopes, changing POI. But Leupold will tell you they have a first class warranty. That does a whole lot of good in the middle of a match.

  • Johnny Quest

    Smith Enterprise does the best M14 type rifle work, period. Perhaps that is why they do the majority of DoD work. Ron makes parts to keep the system up and running, with a new barstock receiver on the way.

    A comment on bedding. With modern stock systems, bedding is an antiquated art and no longer necessary to obtain good battlefield accuracy. With the modern unitized gas system and improved components, a USGI fiberglass stock will suffice for a lighter rifle. Otherwise, Sage, Vltor, JAE, etc. make stocks that have the bells and whistles but can add a bit of weight.

    • Brandon Webb

      Good points Johnny Quest, especially on the bedding issue.

    • The JAE-100 is definitely one slick-looking replacement from base model:

    • Wyomarine0321

      I have a SA std grade M1A. Carried an M-14 in the USMC almost 40 years ago. Never failed to work.
      I glass bedded a G.I.synthetic stock, unitized the gas system, honed all the parts, installed a A.R.M.S. scope mount with a Schmidt&Bender 1.5-6x scope. With Hornady SST handloads I can shoot under a 1/2″ group, with an occasional flyer. Never jams and never fails to feed.
      I have watched my friends buy and sell many AR-10 platforms because they fail the reliability test. They just plain jam and stop functioning. Dirt kills them. Some with less than 100 rounds after cleaning.
      Time will show the M-14 to outlast all these new designs, they’re just sales gimmicks! New and improved my ass.

  • TT7

    For my money Fulton Armory is as good as Smith, a little cheaper and without the wait.

    • Johnny Quest

      Not wanting to get into a debate, and acknowledging Walt and the guys do good work, but SEI does the gov’t work save for some in house USMC and Crane stuff. Ron is the M14 go to guy. Unfortunately, it seems the M14 will be retired permanently as more Stoner based 7.62mm rifles come on line. It is difficult to argue the ease of modularity with that system.

      Brandon, it is interesting your take on the reliability and durability of the M14 over the SR25 based on personal experience. Many pundints crucify the M14 on various forums in favor of the AR10 system. I often wonder how many have actually had both rifles in the dirt and water as a comparison.

      • Brandon Webb

        I’ve fired 10’s of thousand of rounds through both and have seen some major QA issues with the AR platform ,bolts cracked, internal parts falling apart, and other nasty stuff…. A major reason that guys overseas took their NF scopes off the SR25 and put them on the FN SCAR Heavy.

  • Marauder

    I love my M1A. It bagged me a nice 8pt this past November. It was only about a 100 meter shot but the round went right where I put my sight post. The only problem is my non-hooded match rear sight is to damn small and hard to see through. Trying to find a .0595 aperture to replace the .0520, any suggestions?

    • RustyShovel


      “It was only about a 100 meter shot….”

      I’ve gotten so used to Internet bravado that I was shocked to see a modest appraisal of distance. On the internet, every shot taken seems to be “about a 1000 yards.”

      Thank you.

    • The same friend I referenced below had the same complaint. He just ordered a new aperture. I’ll post here when he gets it and gives it a shot.

  • Brandon

    That was painful to read. The M14 is a great rifle but the M1A is a substandard copy. Every M1A I have owned over the last 12 years I’ve had to replace broken trigger groups, bolts or other parts with USGI parts. On top of that, they are still 2-3MOA rifles out of the box, in most cases, requiring quite a bit of work and money to get them close to shooting 1MOA (unless you go with their Super Match model).

    • Brandon Webb

      Damn…sorry to hear that. This was my first M1A outside of the M14. The one I shot was holding 1moa but that was the one they sent for me to test….I’ll make sure I pass that info on to the manufacturer’s rep at SF.

  • Thank you Stefan S. for the good info, very insightful, plus the fact I’m from Hempstead, L.I., N.Y.


  • Brandon Webb

    Night Force has a good option in their 4 power scope with an illuminated reticle. It’s a great scope for the money and you may be able to find a used one.

    Link is below.

  • RVN11B

    In my entire life I have handled and fired the M-14 rifle type three times.
    1. In 1970 at Ft. Jackson, SC during qualifications. Got Expert then and did love the experience. After that the only M14s I ever saw were either in the hands of snipers in country (RVN) or when I joined the rifle teams.
    2. In 1991 found and bought a Norinco M1A. Again it was a joy to shoot and deadly accurate. Unfortunately financial fiascos forced me to sell it. Man did that hurt!
    3. In 1998 I ordered a SA M1A Loaded, and have never looked back. Aside from some additional magazines the rifle is bone stock. Accuracy is constantly mind blowing. Even with my 60 year old eyes if I see it I usually hit it. Then again I don’t shoot much beyond 400 yards now anyway. But I still hit the target.

  • Brandon Webb


    I emailed all of your questions and concerns to Chad Dyer at Springfield to get an official response. I am seriously disappointed with the lack of attention and one liner response that didn’t answer my questions. Anyway….I’ll keep up the good fight here and keep the pressure on ’em…

  • John D

    here here I got mine glass bedded. The smith and old 101st WW 2 guy. the reciever was off the same with the last 5 or 6 that was 6 or 7 years ago. 75 and he went over everything. Sent back to SA they replaced and rebedded now a tack driver on a good day ( thats on me)

  • Joe Walters

    In 1967 I was the unit armorer with first avation brigade in Viet Nam.I was the basturd who had to hand out some of the first m-16,s AND take away the M-14,s from our guys.I will tell you that was one of the worst things I ever had to do.One E-6 Cryed , He was the one whos only word was Basturd.Joe Walters

  • Johnny Quest

    When Gene went forward in ‘redesigning’ or should I say updating his original AR10, it suprises me what you say about the bolts and internals. I know Reed would not put out an inferior product, but what you say is a concern. Most I have spoken to really like the M110. Other man’s are bringing some online with the Brits adopting an LMT version albeit in small numbers. So what does the future hold? Is the AR10 style rifle going to go the way of the M14 in favor of the SCAR-H?

    I often wonder what would have been if Clinton hadn’t cut up 750,000 plus M14’s out of inventory during his reign.

  • 1/2″ at what range? If you gave us a Minute Of Angle value instead of a group size at an unspecified distance we’d know whether or not to be impressed, because for all we know you shot that at 25 yards, making it a 2MOA group. Which isn’t impressive at all.

  • Andrew

    I installed a Karsten Kydex Cheekpiece, cost 60 big ones, drilled two holes in the standard USGI Fiberglass stock, and ran the two provided bolts, BAM! Instant adjustable cheekpiece. Literally took me 5 minutes to install. I run a Large (50mm) Objective bell optic in high mount rings (so I can still use my irons) on a Smith Enterprises Scope mount, and have no issues with eye relief or position behind the optic anymore. WAY cheaper than purchasing and bedding a Mcmillan (I picked up the Fiberglass stock stripped for 25$, refinished it with Krylon paint), and less 3rd Echelon level repair work than installing a Sage stock. Also, any competant gunsmith should be able to bed a USGI fiberglass stock, but I find the stock I have is more than tight enough for precision work.

  • ksavoy

    You cannot honestly compare a SA M-1A with a semi-auto converted M-14 that contains TRW components! I have first-hand knowledge of the quality control problems Springfield has been having recently: on a friend’s SA M-1A, the barrel was not properly indexed, the split stock and it continues to have gas system problems. As another data set, I shot a borrowed SA replica M-1 Garand last weekend and could NOT get it on paper at 100 yards (from a bench!), had a failure to feed (my first in thirty years) and was shocked to see a cast rear sight aperture. Save your money and get a real gun. I own a Harrington and Richardson M-1 Garand from 1953 that easily makes it into the bull at 300 yards, has never had a failure, and has never needed modification or repair; the definitive sweet shooter. I would never ponder owning a SA replica. They’re garbage, compared to the real thing.

  • Andy

    I’ve had, like many others, problems with QC. The well of USGI parts has run dry and Springfield is using substandard offshore cast parts.

    If you’re in the market for an M1A, shop for an older used rifle that’s built with good stuff.

  • H2O MAN

    I own a few civilian semi-auto M14s built for me by Smith Enterprise, Inc. … all but one of these modernized and enhanced M14s are tension bedded in SAGE EBR stocks. I had SEI use TRW GI, SEI and Chinese parts for these builds, the results are outstanding.

  • CavScout62

    I loved my issue M-14, it was a joy to shoot and I would have loved to make it mine. SA’s M1A however in my experience has been a real POS. I sold that thing and purchased an Armalite AR-10A4 SPR and it has been nothing less than spectacular in it’s performance, both from an accuracy and, reliability standpoint. As a disabled veteran (100%) I will never be able to serve again, (Plus I’m too old dammit!) but if I were able I would take this rifle as my weapon of choice and no other.

  • H2O MAN

    I recently moved my Crazy Horse MK14 Mod 0 type SEI barreled action out of a SAGE EBR and into a Rogue M14 bullpup conversion chassis. Sub MOA 18.0″ MK14 barreled action in a balanced package that’s just 28 & 1/4″ in overall length.

  • Infidel4LIFE

    Those SA rifles are built in Croatia. They must not be very good out of the box.

  • H2O MAN

    Bedding problems are solved when you put the action in a SAGE EBR chassis or Rogue bullpup chassis.

  • Earl Rogers,Jr.

    I went in the Corp in 1956 and could hit at 500yard with my M1 and my PMI could hit in the 10 siting and we did not need a Scopes or Optic to do it.I have seem MARINES hit at 600 yard with M1 and M14 .

  • Curt Schneider

    does this weapon need to be broke in like a hunting riffle, I would think so but not sure

  • Shootall

    I got a M1-A years ago it was a SA . It has TRW parts and a bbl marked NM . It was the plain Jane mod. It has never failed except one time with a bad mag. all the rounds exited after the first round was fired . No I don’t have a clue how the bolt locked back and the weak feed lips let all the rounds lose. That mag is gone ( not a standard mag. read cheap). Anyway my son and I took it to the range. At that time I had a Winchester M1 that shot good and expected the M1-A to be good. We sighted in at 100 yards and both of us ran thru. a couple mags. Someone had placed clay targets on the berm at 300 yards we adjusted the sights to that distance . I shot under the first one corrected then hit the next 5 . Son hit the rest . Luck maybe but that gun has been a good shooter for a long time now.
    Break in mine didn’t as far as I could tell. But the more you shoot it the better you and the rifle will do. I also had a M1-A Socom 16 . Its not as accurate but still accurate enough. It is loud . It seems less quality in some respects ( apperance of parts ) . It worked well though. It was a good hunting rifle as I like a little weight in a rifle I shoot off hand. I wish I could tell of taking deer at long distances but the truth is most are with in 75 yards or less most under 50 yards. To be honest the Socom worked very well at short distances where a longer gun would have been harder to get on target.
    I have had good luck with the SA guns I have shot and friends have/do own but at the range have seen a few failures . I would like to shoot a higher end gun to compare . I have seen forged recivers for sale and parts kits maybe that would be a way to up grade .

  • I sold my last Rogue conversion kit, nice product – lousy company.

    All but one of my M14s are in SAGE EBR stocks, the one is set aside for a new Blackfeather stock heading my way from the great white north (

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  • Visit ‘H2O MAN’s addiction to M14s’ on facebook

  • Old Soldier

    I guess I’m showing my years, but I still like the look and feel of the old wood stock. It just felt right, much more so than the EBRs I got to play with in Iraq.

  • xcalbr

    I always admired the M14 design, being a owner of a M1A. I always believed the M14, as introduced in the 1960s, was obsolete by the time of its arrival, having already been surpassed by the FAL and the G3, though that does not mean it was a terrible rifle (on the contrary).

    Given the expense and expertise of “modernizing” a M14 (smith enterprises is lightyears ahead and untouchable albeit), one can assume it will be replaced by the outstanding SCAR H in “special” units, though the future of the DMR among rank and file troops remains uncertain.

    • Old Soldier

      I would not say that the Garand design was obsoleted by anything, including the FN and HK 7.62mm designs.

      For example, despite the unspoken consensus that 3-piece buttstock/pistol-grip/handguard designs are better, consider the benefits of the M14’s single-piece stock: the receiver is supported inside the stock instead of having the stock pieces cantilevered off the ends and the barrel is protected inside a rigid structure instead of being the source of rigidity. Remember being taught to use the sling with the M14? Remember learning how putting a strain on an AR’s sling will move the point of impact?

      Off-hand, the only intrinsic reliability benefit that the FAL, G3, AR10 and AK designs offer is protecting the bolt mechanism, but as one wag pointed out long ago a blow strong enough to bend an M1’s bolt or bolt handle would also cave in an upper receiver.

  • xcalbr

    “Many pundints crucify the M14 on various forums in favor of the AR10 system. I often wonder how many have actually had both rifles in the dirt and water as a comparison.”

    I would say they are being disingenuous. The AR10s that I have dealt with are rather finicky, not being as rugged or reliable as the M1A. Of course, the Ar10 would have better accuracy, but at some serious tradeoffs. LMT and Larue make outstanding AR10s, though I will infuriate many by saying the SCAR H is better than all of them, especially in terms of what you get for the money. AR10s are also not created on a common platform, which creates issues.

    I would crucify the M14 platform in favor of the original AR10, the FAL, or the SCAR H, though not with a new-style AR10.

  • D from A

    M-14 / M1A still rules in its class. Simple to operate, easily maintained and with a little tweaking, an excellent sniper rifle out to 800 yds.

  • More outstanding work from Dave Armstrong NAVSEA
    The M14 EBR – a Continuing Evolution

  • For those that are interested, here is the updated review on the Rogue bullpup conversion kit