You gotta love a well put together MIA. Too bad that Springfield Armory doesn’t seem to be up to the task.
The M1A, my favorite battle rifle, but is probably the worst as far as scoping goes. Scopes of conventional eye relief have to mount very high for the ocular to clear the rear sight assembly, this makes for funky stock welds and other problems. As well the side position on the receiver of the scope mount generally has the ocular too far back and close to the eye, causing grief when shooting from all positions even when cantilevered rings are used to move the scope forward. This problem is compounded by the short mounting “pads” of the ARMS #18. Which also happens to be one of the best scope bases otherwise IMO. The Brooks style mounts have a solid rail to mount on but are heavy and bulky and start you down the path to a M21 clone.
There’s no doubt in my mind that an optic makes it easier to get good hits fast in the 300-500 yard slot that we seek to control with rack grade weapons and ball ammo. It becomes painfully clear (or not so clear, a funny ) as the ranges get 300 yards and out and the targets are of realistic color and pattern, such as those shot during our Wyoming Rifleman Challenge. Throw in a blowing dust cloud, 100 degree temps boiling a thick mirage and then have the shooters “watch and shoot” for a series three second exposure.
So far in my experience the most practical of the scoping options for the M1A is the forward mounted Intermediate Eye Relief (IER) scope. Springfield Armory sells a satisfactory mount and Leupold and Burris make decent scopes. The scope mounts low with the ocular just even with the ejection port and with the right rings about 1/8″ above the upper hand guard. This leaves the receiver open for quick cleanings or stripper clip top offs as well as trouble free ejection. The eye relief is fine with a full field of view from all positions.
I had my doubts about the Springfield Armory forward scope mount at first, it’s clam shell design clamps around a standard contour barrel and that just doesn‘t seen to be the road the accuracy IMO. While a concern it wasn’t enough to keep me from mounting one up when it came my way. I prepped the mount by chasing the screw holes, degreasing them and a drop of red Lok-Tite in each. I also cleaning the surfaces coming into contact with the barrel to degrease them and put a few drops of red Lok-Tite on both parts. Placed the mount in rough position and snugged the screws.
Getting the scope mount square to the receiver was a concern, what I ended up doing was using my scope reticule leveling tool, that is held in place by a rubber band and indexing off the top of the rear sight ears. I got it were I wanted and tightened everything in typical alternate fashion. I added the proper size hex head wrench key to my butt stock cleaning gear and also check the screws at every cleaning on the bench . The mount has never shifted as far as I can tell after several thousand rounds. This can probably be attributed to the generous girth and the length of the mounting screws. Something I did notice after a few hundred rounds was that the back edge of the mount had the finish worn off by the motion of the operating rod. No metal just the finish, so I beveled it back a bit. And hit it with some marking die to see what was going to happen next, nothing happened. I still check the mount at every cleaning but no longer expect to find it falling off.
I have IER scopes mounted on M1A’s in both Warne and Leupold QD rings and have found that both work fine. Something I did with both is lap the rings before I mounted up the scopes. I lap all my scope rings just to take any bind out of the mounting process and to help with repeatability should the scope have to come off and be remounted.
The downside to the forward IER scope is that it’s limited to 2-3/4 power magnification with no provisions, as issued, for come-ups past battle sight zero. Of course this is a real drag for the rifleman wanting to control that 300-500 yard slot.
Compensating for range is handled to my satisfaction by adding a Butler Creek elevation knob, about $25 from Brownell’s. In my experience the knob provides repeatable, precise elevation control. The laser engraved index marks are a bit over 1 MOA in value and definitely close enough to be used with ball ammo rule of thumb come-up’s for good work to 500 yards. You will be on at 600 with the rule of thumb come-up but high and you will shoot over at 700. No big deal just don’t come up the whole rule of thumb come-up. It’s easy to simply computer print the come-ups on a large mailing label stick it to the stock and cover with clear packing tape. The 2-3/4X magnification and NATO spec ball cone of fire start making 600 plus shots an iffy thing anyway when you factor in holding off for the wind. We goof around with this 500 yard plus shooting and I have tuned the data but I really consider the rig to be a solid 500 yard rifle in practical terms. With match ammo and some more magnification the IER scoped M1A could very well be stretched to 700 yards if the wind wasn’t too awful wild.
So far all I’ve done about wind compensation is holding off, using the size of the target, reticule sub tension values and rule of thumb NATO ball hold-off values . It works good enough, but gets twitchy past 500 yards.
When the IER scoped M1A is used 500 yards and in, the rifle/scope combo has proven to be a solid performer in my experience and I’m pleased with it so far. I have to say, I don’t really believe we have the right scope yet. The right scope would [be an IER with] a straight, mil-spec 30mm tube, luminated reticule, MK4 M3 style knobs and mil dots. – Dennis Ross, President, Wyoming Rifleman Association
I’ve noted some discussions regarding the Springfield Armory products. Before buying [an M14 clone], folks should take a serious look at what the guys at Smith Enterprise have to offer. I’ve had several Garands rebarreled there, as well as some scope mounts installed on an M1A. Good folks doing good work! See: http://www.smithenterprise.com/products02.html – Dutch in Wyoming
JWR Adds: In addition to Smith Enterprise, there are also high quality M14 clones and receivers built by Fulton Armory (http://www.fulton-armory.com/), LRB (http://www.lrbarms.com/pages/1/index.htm), and several other vendors. OBTW, Smith Enterprise also make the excellent Vortex series flash hiders that I’ve had installed nearly all of my bolt action rifles by Holland’s of Oregon.