The Springfield Armory M1A is one of the most forgotten battle rifles of the 20th century. It was adopted by the U.S. military in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the M-14. However, its service was overshadowed, in part, by the adoption of the M-16 at the outbreak of the Vietnam War. Despite controversy on how the M-16 was pressed into service, the M-14 has seen a resurgence in military service. It is also gaining popularity in the civilian market.
Known for its accuracy, the M1A is often used in precision shooting competitions as well as hunting. Newer carbine versions have even pulled the M1A out of the designated marksman rifle (DMR) roll and into more of a fighting rifle application.
Let’s look at some key things to keep in mind when buying and setting up an M1A. We’ll also help you find the best scope for M1A to suit your shooting application.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time for the details, here are our best rated M1A scopes:
Springfield Armory M1A & Loaded M1A Options
- Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45×56 (34mm Tube)
- Nightforce 5.5-22×50 NXS Riflescope
- Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50mm Riflescope
- Primary Arms Silver Series 4-14×44 R-Grid 2B FFP Riflescope
Springfield Armory M1A Scout – Best Scopes for M1A Scout
M1A SOCOM 16 Options – Best Red Dot for M1A
Best M1A Scope Mounts
Table of Contents
- A Brief History of M1A…
- M1A vs. M1A Scout vs. M1A SOCOM
- Which Type of M1A Scope to Choose?
- Best Scope for M1A on the Market Review
- Springfield Armory M1A & Loaded M1A Options
- 1 Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45×56 (34mm Tube)
- 2 Nightforce 5.5-22×50 NXS Riflescope
- 3 Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50mm Riflescope
- 4 Primary Arms Silver Series 4-14×44 R-Grid 2B FFP Riflescope
- Springfield Armory M1A Scout – Best Scopes for M1A Scout
- 5 Burris Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm Scope
- 6 Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32mm Scout V-Plex Scope
- M1A SOCOM 16 Options – Best Red Dot for M1A
- 7 Aimpoint T2 Micro
- 8 Trijicon RMR
- Best M1A Scope Mounts
- 1 Midwest Industries 30mm QD Scope Mount
- 2 Burris Optics XTR Signature Rings
- 308 vs. 6.5 Creedmoor
- Zeroing Your M1A
A Brief History of M1A…
The development of the M-14 (which is the military version of the M1A) was heavily influenced by the M1 Garand. After the United States emerged from World War II and the Korean Conflict, the Department of Defense saw a need for a modernized replacement for the M1.
The M-14 was the answer. This rifle would upgrade the M1’s gas system, have select fire capabilities, and allow for 20-round detachable box magazines. The new weapon would also retain most of the aesthetics and action of its predecessor.
The most notable change was the adoption of the smaller .308 WIN cartridge. This was largely due to NATO’s desire for an easier recoiling cartage than the previously employed .30-06 Springfield cartridge.
As another military action loomed on the horizon in Vietnam, the U.S. military pressed the controversial M-16 into service, sealing the fate of the M-14/M1A.
Since the 1960s, there has been a new-found appreciation for the M1A as a viable option to fill battle rifle and DMR rolls. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan opened a need for a military rifle that could engage targets at ranges far outside the M-16/M-4’s maximum effective range.
Some units still had access to M-14s and began using them on the battlefield. Noticing the effectiveness of the M-14 in a DMR roll, the Enhanced Battle Rifle (EBR) was introduced. The EBR was extremely modular and allowed soldiers to adapt the rifle to the specific needs of a mission or the environment different theaters demanded.
M1A vs. M1A Scout vs. M1A SOCOM
There are three main versions of the M1A rifle – the standard M1A, the M1A Scout, and the M1A SOCOM 16. Each version has specific applications that should be noted before you purchase.
The Standard M1A
The standard model M1A has a 22-inch barrel with a 1:11 twist rate. This is the most accurate version, and it has no problem reaching targets up to and beyond 1,000 yards.
The M1A Scout
The Scout rifle is a shorter version of the M1A with an 18-inch barrel. This model promotes accurate shooting beyond the maximum effective range of the AR-15. However, shooters may struggle with consistency at 1,000 yards.
With a shorter barrel, round velocity and stability degrades beyond 800 yards. However, shooters gain maneuverability in tight quarters. The lighter weight also makes the rifle easier to haul when hiking long distances.
The M1A SOCOM 16
With a 16.25-inch barrel, the SOCOM 16 version is the shortest variation of the M1A. The SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is the civilian representation of the carbine used by some Special Forces units.
The point of the M1A SOCOM 16 is to have a rifle that is small enough for close quarter combat (CQB) applications without sacrificing power to effectively reach 600 yards and beyond.
If you are more concerned with consistent, long-range accuracy, then the standard M1A is your best bet.
However, if you prefer to run a DMR or carbine style rifle, then either the Scout or SOCOM will work best.
Which Type of M1A Scope to Choose?
Any time you purchase a new rifle, the question of which scope is best for your rifle always comes up. The answer to this question varies based on how you plan to use your rifle.
For the standard M1A, a high-power optic will work best, especially for shooting at distance.
The Scout and SOCOM 16 models have a Picatinny section just forward of the action. For CQB applications, you can use this section to mount a red dot for quick target acquisition that also allows you to co-witness the iron sights.
There are a few scope offerings with extended eye relief that can be used for the Scout model M1A. These scopes work better than a red dot if you want to stretch the rifle’s legs.
Best Scope for M1A on the Market Review
If you’re looking for specific optic recommendations for your M1A, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve listed some of our favorites here and divided them into categories for the 3 major configurations Springfield Armory offers.
Naturally, this list is not designed to be all inclusive. Instead, you can use it as a jumping off point to find the right optic for you.
Springfield Armory M1A & Loaded M1A Options
1 Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45×56 (34mm Tube)
If you’re not familiar with Schmidt and Bender, you’re definitely missing out. S&B is one of the top scope manufacturers in the current market. They have spent decades perfecting their optics, and that can be seen in the PM II High Power.
This first focal plane (FFP) 5-45x56mm scope is a top-notch option for anyone looking to shoot long distance. The glass clarity and brightness is challenged by few other scopes.
The military has also seen value in the PM II. In 2011, S&B was awarded the Precision Sniper Rifle (PRS) scope contract.
S&B offers 3 different reticle options for this scope to ensure maximum flexibility. The PM II High Power benefits from low profile turrets, which helps prevent snagging during hunting or tactical applications.
One major concern with this scope is the high-end magnification. 45x magnification can be excessive in some shooting situations. The extreme power can also increase the mirage effect when shooting long range.
2 Nightforce 5.5-22×50 NXS Riflescope
Nightforce is another top scope manufacturer and a direct competitor to Schmidt and Bender. The Nightforce NXS narrowly lost to the PM II High Power in the PSR program. However, the NXS is being used as a sniper scope by several government and law enforcement agencies.
The NXS continues that trend with an extremely clear and bright view from the 5.5-22x50mm image.
Pairing this optic with the standard length M1A and you have the perfect set-up for an elk hunt in the mountains. It also works well for a number of tactical applications.
The NXS is consistent with its zero hold, as well as its clarity through the magnification range. Nightforce offers several reticle options to choose from, including BDC designs that use Mil Dot and MOA measurements.
These optics have a high length of elevation travel with 100 MOA worth of adjustment. This is definitely the top competitor to the S&B PM II High Power.
3 Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25x50mm Riflescope
The Viper PST Gen II is the newest version of Vortex’s best-selling line. Vortex offers 4 reticle options to meet your preferences and to keep pace with more expensive manufacturers.
In addition, the Viper PST Gen II is offered in 4 different magnification ranges. This ensures you have exactly what you need for your specific shooting environment.
This scope has fiber optic turret rotation indicators to help you get back to zero in low light scenarios. The turrets also have a low-profile design and are super easy to adjust.
The illuminated reticle is an added touch that shows Vortex’s ability to think through their products. Reaching 1,000-yard targets will not be an issue with this scope on your M1A.
4 Primary Arms Silver Series 4-14×44 R-Grid 2B FFP Riflescope
Primary Arms has found the perfect balance between performance and price. Their scopes continuously challenge the quality of more expensive optics. The company has also led the market in innovation, particularly with their reticle designs.
Built like a juggernaut, the Silver Series R-Grid is shockproof, waterproof, and made with high quality 6063 aircraft grade aluminum.
As mentioned, the R-Grid 2B reticle pushes the envelope in innovation. It features a Christmas tree reticle with precise holdovers. The design also allows for ranging with .1 MIL subtensions. The scope will stay ‘true’ in all magnification settings and offers some serious bang for your buck.
The best scope under $300 is hands down the Primary Arms (PA) 4-14x44mm R-Grid 2B FFP scope.
For budget-conscious shooters who need a quality optic, this scope is it!
Springfield Armory M1A Scout – Best Scopes for M1A Scout
5 Burris Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm Scope
Burris is an optics manufacturer that sometimes flies below the radar. They have made several viable scope options that have been direct competitors to higher end models.
This low power variable optic (LPVO) is perfect for the M1A Scout in several ways. First, it allows for fast target acquisition in CQB engagements.
This scope, while slightly magnified at its lowest setting, will allow for shooting with both eyes open using the Bindon Aiming Concept.
Next, the magnification range maxes out at 7x, which allows you to make accurate long-range shots over 800 yards with the BDC reticle. An LPVO like this one can help you tap into the capabilities of the M1A, whether you’re hunting, competing, or using it for tactical shooting.
Finally, and probably the most important, this scope has extra long eye relief, allowing 9.5 to 12.3-inches of offset. Couple the long eye relief with low-profile Burris XTR signature rings, and you have a comfortable combination.
6 Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32mm Scout V-Plex Scope
The Crossfire II is another example of Vortex marrying quality with price.
Vortex again makes the list with another quality, budget option. The 2-7x32mm scope is similar to the Burris Ballistic Plex scope, but it comes in about $50 cheaper.
Some highlights of this optic include the 9.45-inch eye relief, a sturdy aircraft-grade aluminum body, multi-coated lenses, and a nitrogen-purged, shock-resistant construction.
While this is an awesome optic, the Vortex Crossfire II does have some deficiencies.
First, the Crossfire II Scout has a second focal plane (SFP) reticle. This means BDC marks are only relevant at one magnification. Manual holdover estimation is required for long shots.
Next, although the scope offers generous eye relief, it has little flexibility. However, for shooters on a shoestring budget, this scout scope is a good offering.
M1A SOCOM 16 Options – Best Red Dot for M1A
7 Aimpoint T2 Micro
Aimpoint is one of the best red dot manufacturers on the market today. Their designs have been copied by nearly everyone in the industry, although few can hold a candle to Aimpoint’s original offerings.
The T2 Micro is Aimpoint’s newest offering, and it has revolutionized the red dot market. A perfect red dot for the M1A SOCOM 16, the T2 Micro is one seriously tough optic that can handle anything you throw at it.
At 3.7-ounces, the T2 is recognized as the lightest and smallest tubular red dot available. The ACET (or always on) technology provides a run time of over 5 years.
One of the best features is the T2’s ability to co-witness with iron sights. This provides a valuable redundancy that magnified optics can’t offer.
8 Trijicon RMR
The smallest and lightest optic on this list is the Trijicon RMR. This model has become one of the most popular options available due to its versatility.
The RMR can be used as a primary red dot, an off-set secondary red dot, or even a pistol red dot.
Trijicon has pushed the limits of red dot technology by making the toughest, open emitter style red dot available. It pairs nicely with the SOCOM 16. The small design and light weight also makes the RMR desirable to co-witness the iron sights.
The RMR is available in several different dot sizes. The 3.25 MOA size works particularly well for rapid target acquisition and CQB engagements.
In addition, the optic provides more than four years of continuous run time before you’ll need to change the batteries.
Because the RMR is insanely popular, there are plenty of mounting options available.
Best M1A Scope Mounts
Finding the right hardware to mount a scope can be difficult. One of the better mount types available is the quick disconnect (QD) cantilever.
Midwest Industries 30mm QD Scope Mount is a great cantilever mount option. This mount is sturdy enough not to flex when firing .308 rounds. However, it is easily adjustable to ensure proper eye relief.
The ability to use QD levers allows you to quickly remove the optic if something goes wrong in the field.
1 Midwest Industries 30mm QD Scope Mount
If you have a Scout or SOCOM 16 rifle, you may want to consider low profile scope rings. The Burris XTR Signature are the rings that best suit these two rifles.
Burris offers these rings in 1-inch and 30mm. They also come in three different heights – 1, 1.25, and 1.5 inches.
2 Burris Optics XTR Signature Rings
308 vs. 6.5 Creedmoor
Originally, the M1A was chambered in .308 Winchester. This is basically the civilian designation for the 7.62x51mm M80 NATO round.
Most shooters agree that .308 is a versatile round with plenty of power and accuracy at longer distances. However, as 6.5 Creedmoor (CM) has gained popularity, Springfield has decided to offer an M1A version to accommodate this new round.
The 6.5 CM is basically a .308 that has been necked down from a 7.62mm to a 6.5mm projectile. This dramatically increases the velocity and improves ballistic performance over longer distances.
The 6.5 CM is more capable of consistent accuracy at ranges over 1,200 yards. Most .308 loads will top out at that distance. However, if you are still a fan of the .308 Winchester, the Loaded M1A version is the Cadillac of these rifles.
Zeroing Your M1A
To achieve accurate shooting with your M1A, you first need a precise zero for your iron sights and optic.
Zeroing an M1A is a similar process to sighting in an M1 Garand. However, if you are new to the M1A, it is slightly different from other military rifles. Here are the recommended steps on zeroing your M1A.
Zeroing M1A Iron Sights
- Start by shooting 3 to 5 round groups at a 25-yard target to ensure the point of impact is near your point of aim.
- All major windage movements will be made with the front sight post. Do so by loosening the Allen screw on the front of the sight post, and moving the front sight left or right as desired.
**Note: Moving the front sight to the left will move the round strike to the right and vice versa.
- Repeat the steps until you have zeroed at 25 yards.
- Once you are zeroed at 25 yards, move the target to 200 yards and fire another 3 to 5 round group.
- Triangulate the impact of the first group to a center-point and determine your adjustments. Apply those adjustments to rear sight using the right adjustment dial for windage and the left dial for elevation.
**Note: Moving the rear sight to the right will move the impact of the round to the left. Moving the sight up will adjust the impact of the round down.
- Fire another 3 to 5 round group and adjust as necessary.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until zero is complete.
Zeroing M1A Scope
- Set your target at 25-yards to ensure you are near your desired point of aim. Any major adjustments should be made at this point.
- Shoot at least 3 to 5 rounds before making adjustments.
**Note: Most scopes have 1/4 MOA/MIL adjustments. Be sure you understand the measurement and how to apply that to your adjustments to the 25-yard target.
- Once you are zeroed at 25-yards, move your target to the desired zero distance (100 or 200-yards).
M1A 100-Yard Zero
- Fire a 3 to 5 round group and triangulate the center of that group.
- Make adjustments in accordance with the elevation and windage measurements of your scope per the distance the strike of the round should be moved. You may need to refer to the scope’s user manual to ensure correct adjustment values.
- Repeat steps 1 & 2 until desired zero has been achieved.
The Springfield Armory M1A rifle is an icon. While its tenure as the U.S. military’s main battle rifle was short lived, it still made a lasting impression; especially on those who used it in combat.
Today, many are still finding the value in this rifle’s legacy and its ability to be an awesome long-range precision rifle or even a CQB carbine. Either way, the market has answered consumers calls for the best scope for M1A that will enhance this already great rifle.