Is the M1A the best rifle to have sitting in your gun safe? Ever since there have been rifles and humans, there has been discussions about what is the best rifle to have when you are thrust into a survival situation. That situation might just be a government fallout, natural disaster, or the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). Either way, you need a rifle that will take you thru that situation and give you a fighting chance to survive.
So what attributes make a good rifle to rely on? For starters there are many of you that will feel that they already have the best survival rifle already. Just hear me out. A must is a semi automatic rifle that has the ability for you to shoot a single round for deer hunting or get you past an hour long shoot out with people trying to take your resources. For this, you need a semi auto over any other form of repeating rifle. Lever action, bolt action, pump, and single shot rifles all fall short here.
Second, you need to be able to come back on target after your first shot. I know that you are the best shooter and its one shot one kill right. Well trust me, as a military combat veteran, it doesn’t always work that way. Follow up shots are a must, whether you miss or acquire another target.
Touching up on the last requirement of being able to make follow up shots, your go to rifle needs to contain a box magazine. This is a requirement and not optional. The reason is the ability to reload fast and carry your ammunition in a way that you can make that reload fast and consistent. This also allows you to share your ammo with other people in your party if you find yourself in this situation. Box magazines come in all shapes and sizes. Since we are discussing the M1A, we will limit this to those magazines. I rely only on one brand of magazine for my rifle, checkmate steel magazines. These come in all capacities. No, I’m not talking about 100 round magazines. Keep these limited to two sizes. Standard twenty round magazines and a couple five round magazines. The five round magazines are for hunting before a “without rule of law” (WROL) situation. Once fish and game are no longer an issue, stick with the 20 round magazines. I like steel magazines only. The reason is they are easy to repair compared to plastic. Steel will last forever, be bent back into shape, and have been proven where polymer magazines are new to come about. M1As are picky when it comes to magazines. Spend the money and buy a good set of magazines. There is no reason to spend $1,500 on your rifle to go cheap on the accessories. At a minimum you should have 10 magazines. With everything, more is always better.
Next I want to talk about the bullets themselves. There are discussion boards that talk about 5.56 vs .308 vs 7.62×39, and you can read until you die. Without going into a deep discussion, let me talk to you about why the .308 is the best round. In North America, there is not a single animal that cannot be taken with this round. This is not to say that you cannot take them with an AR-15 or AK, but I would feel much better hunting with a .308. Looking at what hunters use right now, why would your even consider elk or moose hunting with that small of a round. In the south, wild boar will be a huge part of the diet when there are no longer grocery stores to go to. You should not risk an animal getting away from you if you wound them when you and your family are relying on the meat.
Moving on, knockdown power or penetration is another area that the .308 will be able to win. The military uses the 7.62×51 for their crew served weapons. This gives the soldiers the ability to shoot thru cover and concealment. The extra mass of the round allows it to not be deflected as easy when passing through leaves and small brush. This could be the difference between a hit and miss. Lastly, when it comes to ammunition, you need to be able to find it and purchase it at a good price. With the ammunition shortage that has happened, I have still been able to find some .308 ammo on the shelves. While the .223 shelves have been empty, there are some instances where you are able to find .308. The times you do find .223, the price is just as much as what you can find .308 ammunition for.
Moving on to the reason that the M1A is now the best rifle to have, lets talk about proposed bans. The assault rifle has come under sustained fire ever since its been around. This has not been more tested than now. With the few mentally ill people going on shooting sprees, some members of congress feel that the American people should not have the ability to defend themselves. This has been shown with Dianne Feinstein and her many assault weapons bans that she has tried to pass lately. Looking at what she wants to ban, you never know if you will be able to keep your rifle in the future. Lets just say that she gets her way and is able to pass the bill someday. What is left to own? The FAL is out, since it has a pistol grip and box magazines. The AR platforms are out for the same reason. The AK formats are in the same restrictions. The HK91, Galil, SCAR, and nearly every other [.308 detachable magazine] option are eliminated. This is why the M1A is the best rifle to have in your possession today. Proven, reliable, and possibly safe from the government.
JWR Replies: Although you’ve constructed a bit a of straw man argument, a lot of your points are valid.
The core premise of your letter–the potential advent of new firearms laws–is what led me to diversify my collection to include some Pre-1899 guns, which are not even considered firearms under Federal law. (They are entirely outside of Federal jurisdiction.) A scoped Mauser Model 1895 bolt action shooting a cartridge like 7×57 Mauser or 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser can be quite potent and very accurate. To own one that is in the same category as a black powder muzzleloader in the eyes of the law is a great advantage.
Of all of the .308 semi-autos I’ve ever owned or shot, the one least likely to be banned is the M1 Garand (yes, some have been made in .308), since it uses a top-loading 8-round en bloc clip rather than a bottom-loading detachable box magazine. But I’m not going to sell off any of my other .308s out of fear of them being banned. I will not compromise when it comes to my Constitutional rights, and I will not comply with any law that is plainly unconstitutional. However, I am quite pragmatic about choosing the right time to “lock and load.”) Claire Wolfe was prescient, in her most famous quote: “America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.” So it indeed might be wise to have some pre-1899s and other legislatively resilient guns, just in case. Presumably we’ll be able to leave these out in plain view while some other guns in our collections disappear for a while.