Letter Re: Advice on M1A Rifle Scopes and Scope Mounts

Mr. Rawles,

Thanks for the great articles. I have been able to check out your web site for several months, and have recently been able to purchase thru private channels an M1A (Smith Enterprise receiver) battle rifle. It came with a McMillan fiberglass stock and two 20 round”W”-marked magazines. I have purchased four more of the same magazines through Cheaper Than Dirt, and wanted to know if you had any recommendations on scopes and scope mounts. There seem to be a lot of cheap import scope mounts, but many customer reviews are mixed. Also, with this type of weapon, a poorly made scope will show fast. Most US military scopes are designed around the .223 (5.56mm NATO) round. Any idea on where to start with this?

I should let you know that I have land that will be used for my retreat. I will be putting a cabin together come Spring of 2009, and the land is lightly treed rolling hills. I plan to use this firearm as a fixed defensive weapon, since it is fairly heavy compared to my other firearms. I have the heavy steel bipod for this, and with the soon to be compliment of six 20rd magazines and 22 stripper clips, this should make for a decent piece. I have seen Yukon night vision scopes, but have no idea about the quality. Any advice would help a bunch. Best Regards,- J.M.R.

JWR Replies: I recommend that you buy at least two more, and preferably four more magazines, to be ready for truly Schumeresque times. The original “W” stamped magazines were made by Winchester. But be advised that there have been some reports of faked “W” and “BRW S-1”–marked M14 magazines currently on the market. Because the markings on these replicas area almost identical to the originals, the only way to be absolutely sure that you are getting the genuine article is if you buy ones that are still in the original government issue VCI paper wrapper, with military contract markings. The good news, however, is that the functional reliability of the replicas is just as good as the originals. But collector-purists would be incensed to find that they bought fakes. (For details on M14/M1A magazines, see my FAQ on the subject.)

I highly recommend the ARMS #18 scope mount. The Springfield Armory (commercial) steel scope mounts are also excellent. In my experience, even their early generation (single thumb screw) mounts are “bomb proof” at holding zero. I’ve owned each, and I have no complaints about either of them. I’ve heard that Smith Enterprise M1A mount is also excellent, but I’ve never tried one.

Avoid the cheap imported M14 scope mounts .I have read that many of them have either inconsistent quality control (dimensional) problems, return to zero problems, or both.

For scopes, I recommend any of the following:

Leatherwood ART scopes.

Leupold Mark 4 (PR LR) 4.5-14×40 Mil-Dot scopes. (These require 30mm diameter rings.)

Trijicon Trophy Point scopes (with tritium-lit reticle)

AN/PVS-4 Starlight scopes, such as those remanufactured by STANO Components, Inc. (Get an original USGI M14 Starlight scope mount.)

I do not recommend most of the inexpensive starlight scopes made in Russia. They have notoriously uneven quality control and poor image quality. For more details on night vision gear, see this letter in the SurvivalBlog archives.