The Best Ammunition to Buy For Your M1A Rifle

July 29, 2009 by  
Filed under M1A Rifles

7.62_M118_Cartridge

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Anyone who is serious about shooting knows that your choice of ammunition is important, whether it’s in a hunting or competition scenario. While your choice of weapon is the primary concern, ammo is definitely a factor and can make a difference in the health of a firearm and in terms of accuracy. A gun as well made as the M1A rifle deserves to have some good quality ammunition fed into it. So how do you know what type of ammo you should use with your rifle?

Well, first off you have to know what size of ammo that you need. The M1A is designed to use ammunition of 7.62x51mm NATO standard. It can also use .308 Winchester ammo, since the two types are essentially the same. Note that you should not just assume any ammo that says “7.62” is going to work for you. There are 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54mm, which are used for other types of weapons. Also, .308 magnum rounds are different from .308 Winchester, and won’t work in the M1A.

Once you’re sure you’ve got ammo that will work with you M1A, then you need to figure out what you’re going to be using the weapon for. If you’re just going to the firing range to unload some rounds, then you’re probably not overly concerned about pinpoint accuracy. However, if you’re going hunting for small game or you’re target shooting in a competition setting, then you may want some top-quality ammo that will give you better accuracy.

When accuracy is the concern, then you have to consider the grain of the bullet. Grain is a type of measurement used for bullets. The larger the grain, the heavier the bullet is. Bullets that are too light are more susceptible to factors such as wind, while bullets that are too heavy are pulled more by gravity, and will be pulled to the ground faster. The M1A can use any grain from 147 to 180.

It’s not a huge issue for relatively short-range shooting or shooting at large targets; so casual shooters can safely ignore grain as long as they’re within the right range. For tournament level shooters, Springfield Armory recommends 168-grain bullets manufactured by a match grade ammo company. 168-grain is also recommend for deer hunting, but a larger grain is better for bigger game, such as moose.

Another consideration is the actual type of bullet casing. Hollow point rounds are known for their improved accuracy, and many hunters also recommend them because they can cause quick and humane kills. The other common option is full metal jacket ammunition, the main advantage of which is that it has less chance of misfiring. The relatively new ballistic tip ammo attempts to combine the advantages of both, but is more expensive.

Finally, for the health of your firearm, it’s important not to use soft-tipped bullets. The problem is that the soft parts get shaved off the bullets and end up in the gun’s inner workings, and this can then jam up the whole gun. Stick to using bullets that are standard full metal jacket, hollow point, or ballistic tip.

  • Any grain from 147 to 180 is usable.
  • 168 grain is recommended for best accuracy
  • Use FMJ, HP, or “ballistic tip” type rounds (Hsoi: i.e. plastic tiped bullets; note that the term "Ballistic Tip" is a registered trademark of Nosler, so it shouldn't be used as a generic term for "plastic tipped" bullets)
  • Avoid soft points. The lead can shave and wind up down in the action and jam it up.
  • Avoid steel-cased ammo (not necessarily SAAMI spec)
  • Avoid Hornady TAP (not sure why this)
  • Avoid Cavim ammo as it’s not very accurate and varies in size

For hunting

  • Winchester Silver Tip is OK to use (I'm not sure if they differentiate between Winchester Super-X Silvertip and Winchester Supreme Ballistic Silvertip, and/or if it matters. The Silvertip is an aluminum cap whereas the Ballstic Silvertip is a polycarbonate tip. Don't know if it matters, and it probably doesn't.)
  • Hornady Ballistic Tip (technically Nosler makes Ballistic Tip, as it's their registered trademark. Are they meaning A-Max or V-Max? I don't know, but you get the idea.)
  • Winchester Failsafe (Winchester doesn't make this any more, replacing with the XP3 line.)
  • 168 grain for deer
  • 175 grain for moose
  • Moly coated bullets are OK to use but when you start to use them you must stay with them. You will have to clean the gas port more often. SAI does not recommend. If you do use them, it will gum up fast, and you’ll have to clean often and clean well.
  • Tracer and armor piercing ammo is OK, as long as it’s NATO spec.
  • Frangible ammo is too light, won’t work.

There’s a few other things in the posting, but it’s a bit redundant. Their terms are a bit informal so it’s difficult to know exactly what’s what, especially regarding hunting ammo. The key thing seems to be that you can NOT use anything with an exposed soft point. The reason is any exposed lead will shave off, get down into the action, and jam things up. I have read of people using exposed soft points in their M1A’s “without any problem” but why risk any problems?

So, what's on your mind? Have something to add? Feel free to comment below!

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Comments

48 Responses to “The Best Ammunition to Buy For Your M1A Rifle”
  1. Benjamin says:

    Feel free to delete this if I’m wrong, or once you change it…

    but you stated “Note that you should just assume any ammo that says “7.62” is going to work for you.”

    I think you meant to include a “not” in there…

    Even the AK 47 fires a 7.62

    Let me know if I’m misunderstanding here

    Ben

    Reply to comment

    m1arifles Reply:

    Hey Ben,

    Thanks for pointing that out. It was a typo. It’s been fixed. :)

    Reply to comment

  2. Mike says:

    The exclusion of Hornady TAP is without merit for SOCOM and Scouts. I know this came from Springfield but check the below link. I have used the 110 gr TAP with good results on two range visits with my Scout Squad. It may be there is concern related to full size M1A however

    Reply to comment

  3. SgtWaggoner says:

    Military Surplus, brass cased 147 grain 7.62 X 51 non-corrosive FMJ is my favorite to use in my M1A Socom 16. It’s a blast, pardon the pun.

    Reply to comment

  4. Jack says:

    I’ve never had a problem with Federal 150 gr soft points as far as reliability goes.

    Reply to comment

  5. Chas Piette says:

    ” … while bullets that are too heavy are pulled more by gravity, and will be pulled to the ground faster.”

    As Galileo demonstrated at Pisa, the force of gravity is independent of the weight of the object on which it is working. A heavier bullet has a lower muzzle velocity and thus travels slower and takes a longer time to reach a given target. This allows the force of gravity more time to work on the bullet which results in a greated drop.

    Drop = [second integral} 32.2 ft/sec^2 = 16.1 (ft) x time (in seconds)^2

    Reply to comment

    Bob Reply:

    Chas: You are correct on the action of gravity. All objects, regardless of their weight, fall to earth at the same rate. If you hd a 100 ft. tall tube and evacuated all the air from it and then dropped a bowling ball and a feather at the same time, they would both hit bottom at the same time.
    The reason a heavier bullet “seems” to drop faster is that it has a slower velocity and will take longer to reach the target and thus drop more than a lighter bullet, but not because of their weights, because of the time they have to fall before hitting.

    Reply to comment

    Johnny Reply:

    An easy way to explain this, is to say: Look at this as a race against time. All things being equal, as they are with gravity, a “flat shooting bullet” is a fast bullet that has a low retard coeficent, giving it a higher break velocity. The faster the Mv and the slower it losses speed/energy, the more distance it covers in the short time it has before it is pulled to the earths surface.

    Reply to comment

  6. ReaperM1A says:

    Another consideration, if you do get Mil surplus, make sure it is treated. That discoloring around the neck of the casing tells you that it has been treated. If I remember correctly it is a tempering that they put the brass through so that it is more “flexible” so it doesn’t rupture in the chamber. That is always a big thing about .223, but same thing goes for all mil-spec ammo.

    Reply to comment

  7. spanky says:

    Hey whats the problem with steel cases, I shoot em through mine without any problems, it’s cheap for sending down range and it’s military spec.

    Reply to comment

  8. Jack says:

    Just purchased a Springfield Armory M1A. Should arrive at my local FFL on Tuesday. I have purchased a number of different types of ammunition to try including some military surpplus stuff. I know you can’t always make a sound decision about which one is best but I figured I could weed out a couple of the ones not to buy again. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for this discussion. I have been shooting a pistol for a number of years but never a rifle except a .22 so advice and shared expertise is much appreciated.

    Reply to comment

    M1A Rifles Reply:

    AWESOME!! Which one did you pick up? Match, socom, scout?

    Got any pics?

    Reply to comment

    Jack Reply:

    I got a standard Loaded model. I figured it would be quite a while before all the nifty upgrades the National Match rifles have would make much of a difference in my shooting. ;) Walnut stock and blued barrel/reciever. I think it is in today but the dealer is down at the Minnesota/Green Bay football game tonight so will have to wait til tomorrow. I am very excited.

    J

    Reply to comment

    M1A Rifles Reply:

    NICE! You’re going to love it! Let us know how the first day at the range goes.

    Also, send some links of some pics when you get a chance.

  9. John Carty says:

    With respect to the ammo comments, jacketed lead-tipped hunting loads are perfectly alright. They feed well in the magazines and, unless you allow the points to get beaten up, they fire accurately. What you don’t want to use are CAST LEAD bullets, that is bullets without copper or other jacketing. These bullets, while cheap and easy to make are bad news for a gas operated arm such as an M1A/M14, M1, FAL or any other. What happens is that the gas port in the barrel shaves lead off the bullet with each shot so that eventually it gums up the action within the gas cylinder. This won’t destroy the rifle but it will render it inoperative until the fouling is cleaned out and that can be a time consuming process.

    Other than that you pretty much can’t stop an M1A. There is an amusing video on Guns&Ammo.com where two of their rifle experts drag an M1A behind a jeep for about ten miles through mud, dust, rocks and asphalt, blast it with a garden hose (probably unnecessary) and then fire three rounds without incident. The only downer to the movie is neither “expert” had the balls to fire it from the shoulder, so they rigged up this lanyard system. Some experts.

    Reply to comment

  10. rick Wadlingtonj says:

    Can anyone tell me which nato counries made corrosive 308 ammo? I’ve been told that somewhere there is a list of countries and the dates they stopped using corrosive primers. Can someone email that to me, Please! rwadlington@bigfoot.com

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply to comment

  11. CJGarvin says:

    Thanks for the heads up about not using moly coated bullets in your M1A. This only confirmed what happened to me on the range. First let me say, I have had the privilege as a Marine Infantry Sergeant to shoot the M-14. Though the M-14 has a more solid feel when shooting, the M1A is not far behind. Now that I’m out of the Corps, I own a SOCOM 16. After nine years in the bush in various climes and places, including South Africa, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia where the rifle was propped next to my head while laying in the rack when off duty, the habit has not left me, and for some reason I still need to have my rifle within arms reach. Old habits die hard. Nevertheless, getting back to the moly bullets. In other M1A’s, I have always used Federal American Eagle 150grn FMJ BT with GREAT results in both accuracy and reliability. For some reason I thought I’d try the Black Hills Moly 168grn Match ammo in my SOCOM 16. NOT GOOD. The round seemed too slick for the rifle’s gas system and it kept double-tapping rounds on me with each pull of the trigger. This has never happened before in both civilian or military versions. I thought it was a SLAM FIRE issue, so I drove the rifle to Springfield Armory in Geneseo, IL because it was on my way to a business trip in Chicago (I live in St. Louis) and had a tech inspect and shoot it in his lab. Result: No problems when shooting standard military ammo. By the way, you have set an appointment to visit Springfield Armory for security reasons. They do not have a store front. Anyway, they are extremely nice and when the tech heard me say I was taking it deer hunting, he gave me two 10 round magazines and an OD military sling. Just thought I’d pass this experience along to those thinking about moly bullets.

    Reply to comment

  12. Mitch says:

    Just a comment… the article states 168g for deer. Though there’s not a great deal of difference, but a 150g projectile in .308 is more than sufficient for white tails. Anything larger in a .308 destroys too much meat and just makes a mess. The article also states that bullets weights of 147 to 180 grain work best in an M1A. Any ideas, comments, experience or suggestions about using Remington’s Managed-Recoil Ammunition at 125g? Mike said he used 110g, but I haven’t found any rounds that light for a .308. Thanks.

    Reply to comment

    CJGarvin Reply:

    I would steer clear of a managed recoil round for the M1A. The rifle’s gas system is designed for a full power military charge within SAMMI specs. The chemistry of the powder has to be right or it will not cycle the rifle’s action properly and it could jam, creating a potentially dangerous situation regardless of the ammunition manufactures claims.

    However, the managed recoil would be nice in a bolt gun.

    I guess it’s a matter of choice, but it sounds like you’re trying to make a 308 into a 270 with those bullet weights.

    147 to 150 grain is the optimal load if you’re not doing sniper work. I like Federal’s 150 grain soft point deer load that’s has the same velocities as their American Eagle 150 grain FMJ, so I don’t have to adjust my scope. It’s all about the math.

    Reply to comment

  13. gadsden says:

    Why do snipers want a 180 grain bullet? or heavy grain? doesnt it drop more making shots harder? thanks

    Reply to comment

    Mitch Reply:

    Yes, a 180g. round will drop more, but its more predictable. It’s not affected as much as lighter bullets by wind, temperature and humidity. Some say that a heavier bullet will also “fly” better due to its aerodynamic shape. Another advantage with a heavier bullet is that once it gets out there, say 800 yards, it retains more “knock down” authority. In other words, you may have to hold a little higher, but you won’t have to be as concerned with drift and other factors, and when it does hit the target, it’ll pack a bigger punch.

    Reply to comment

  14. CJGarvin says:

    For the 308, police snipers generally use a 168 grain BT and military snipers use a 175 grain boat tail. After 500 yards, the 175 grain round will pass the 168 grain bullet. For the same reason if you throw a wiffle ball and a baseball side by side, the one with more weight will go farther even though the initial velocity was the same. Therefore, to answer your question, no, more weight actually makes the shot more predictable because the bullet is not affected by the wind and everything Mitch said.

    I have heard that some people hand load 180 grain and even 190 grain for the M14, but snipers and armors concur that this shortens receiver and chamber life in your rifle due to gas build up to push that load.

    For the 30’06, 180 grain BT is used. The 300 Win Mag uses the 190 grain BT for sniper work.

    Reply to comment

  15. NewM1Aowner says:

    Hello, I will be picking up my new M1A standard loaded next week and I just want to make sure that using Federal 150gr FMJBT will be fine. Has anyone ever used HSM 308 168gr matched ammo?

    Reply to comment

  16. spanky says:

    New Owner, 150 gr full metal jacket boat tail from federal is a great round the rifle will love them. The 168 gr boat tail hollow point is a highly accurat round with a scoped rifle you should be able to hit dollar coins at 200 yrds with some practice. The ammo you chose is expensive but if you can afford it the rifle deserves it. I hope you enjoy your rifle as much as I have it will be a life time companion for years to come.

    Reply to comment

    NewM1Aowner Reply:

    Is there an ammo you can recommend other then the Federal?

    Reply to comment

    CJGarvin Reply:

    Not for the Federal 150 gr FMJBT, however, for the 168 gr, Black Hills is very nice.

    Reply to comment

  17. CJGarvin says:

    You can buy all the Federal or Black Hills ammo you want online at Midway USA. It’s the only place I found where you can get American Eagle in great supplies.

    Reply to comment

  18. Mitch says:

    Welcome “NewM1Aowner”,
    I agree with CJGarvin on the Federal 150 gr. FMJBT, but isn’t HSM re-manufactured ammo? I bought some HSM to try in my DPMS LR-243, but haven’t used it, yet. I did just order some Winchester 7.62 NATO (.308), 147 gr. FMJ,#Q3130, for my M1A from Midway USA. It’s on sale ’til the end of the month.

    Reply to comment

  19. Bob says:

    Have an early M1A with all G.I. parts except the receiver bought in the late 70′s. Just love it and now it has a companion: a SOCOM 16. Great shooting guns. Question: does anyone know of some good handloads for these M1A’s? With ammo prices high and going higher I thought I would try reloading. I’ve heard about “don’t use slow-burning powder” and wonder if anyone has some good bullet/powder combos worked out that they could suggest.

    Reply to comment

  20. Greg Kipp says:

    I have a batch of unfired LC NM Ammo,
    M852 16 Boxes M118 27 Boxes MX852 35 Boxes. mfg 1971 I test fired this out of an Armscorp NM M1A at 200yds prone, group size 1in. with m118
    Still have original wooden crate etc. Looking to sell it to a competitor
    Any question simply email shooter50bmg@yahoo.com
    I feel $25.00 a box is fair seeing its now about $40.00
    Semper Fi
    Greg

    Reply to comment

  21. davidcurtisa says:

    I purchased 500rds of FED Gold Match 168 Gr for an advanced sniper course but need 175 Gr for the longer shots. Can any one tell me how well M118LR 175 Gr does in an M1a since thats the tool I chose for this course? Oh and go to ammo man i go that ammo for $550.00 about 20 bucks a box!

    Reply to comment

    GHOST 0309 Reply:

    Hello Dave, I am an 11B specialist in the U.S. Army and have owned my M1a for several years now. I have put several different types of ammo through my M1a including M118 LR 175 Gr BTHP. And needless to say I do not fire anything else out of my rifle. My rifle straight from the factory was shooting 1.36 moa with 168 Gr, but when i put the 175Gr through it, it dropped my moa down to .75 moa at 100 meters(zero). So I hope this will help you.
    Let me know how you do at the comp.

    Reply to comment

  22. Mat says:

    Hello! Does anyone have any thoughts on how well/poor Prvi Partisan .308 BTHP 168 gr. performs in a Springfield Armory M21 Tactical Rifle?

    I am taking a precision rifle course and am looking for good match ammo to bring to the course. I have shot Fed Gold Match, Fiocchi, Black Hills and Federal American Eagle through it with very good results from all. Fiocchi seems to shoot best. But, a fellow shooter today just mentioned the Prvi Partisan and I thought I’d see if anyone here has had any thoughts on performance of Prvi Partisan out to 500 yds?

    @davidcurtisa – Thanks for the tip on Ammo Man. I am browsing the site for ammo now. :-)

    — Mat

    Reply to comment

  23. Glenn says:

    I have a Socom II and would like to know what grain bullet to use? I am thinking 150 gr FMJ. I am trying several different types of ammo but thought that someone might know. Thanks for the advice.

    Reply to comment

  24. Henry says:

    I have a Springer Loaded version w/carbon steel barrel and it like American Eagle A76251M1A ammo. Sub MOA with iron sights.

    Reply to comment

    Jack Reply:

    You’re gonna find that there are a lot of people that say that is impossible, but I do it all the time with my M1A Standard.

    Reply to comment

  25. theburren says:

    I called SA today to confirm that the Matchking moly coated 168gr bullets I ordered last year were usable. The tech confirmed what was stated above, reiterating that since the moly will coat the barrel, once used if you return to non-moly you will lose some accuracy–

    Would have been nice to read in the comments/ reviews on Midway prior to buying:)

    Reply to comment

  26. Greg says:

    I have fired thousands of rounds through my M1A using Moly/danzac/etc with no issues as descibed above. I loaded all rounds fired without any double taps or accuracy problems, If I switched to uncoated ammo for any reason I cleaned the entire system starting with kroil and ending with aquafied ammonia then lightly recoat the rifling with kroil and 1 dry patch before firing.
    Using LC match ammo[uncoated] after 3 shots the barrel was properly fouled and was ready to compete. With my testing I came to the conclusion it was a waste of time for me to coat my bullets for the M1A as the barrel cleaned easily and accuracy was excellent.
    With the 50bmg it was extremely hard cleaning the barrel using monolithic solids, I tested every lubricant on the brass bullets under the sun, Some worked ok and made the barrel cleaning easier and some did nothing, I ended up cooking the brass bullets for thebest results.
    SEMPER FI

    Reply to comment

  27. bud says:

    I bought a M1A loaded with a NM .308 SS barrel. All the books say use GI spec quality 7.62. What’s the real story, .308 or 7.62?

    Reply to comment

  28. Texan12 says:

    I just bought a brand new M1A. The rifle came with a flyer that discussed “slam-fire” which is when a round is discharged due to the closing of the bolt as a round is fed into the firing chamber. Additionally, the user’s manual discussed this issue as well.

    I have a friend who said his M1A slam-fired serveral times when he first bought it (he was shooting .308), but since he started using standard factory military 7.62 NATO, he has never had this issue.

    According to the manual and the flyer, your chances of a slam-fire increase when you use civilain ammunition because they have a more sensitive primer. It also mentioned that it is normal for an M1A to put a slight indentation on the primer when the bolt closes.

    When buying civilian .308 ammunition, how do I know if I’m geting a harder primer that can withstand the slight indentation? I’m shooting Remington UMC 150gr and haven’t had a problem yet. But when I go to buy rounds for shooting deer this Fall, I want to make sure I don’t buy rounds with a sensitive primer.

    Reply to comment

  29. Andrew says:

    Hello everyone. I have a standard M1A. And I am kind of at a cross roads between two types of ammo. Both beeing made from Federal. They are both Sierra Match King BTHP ammo. One being 168gr and the other being 175gr. I am looking at making shots from 1000 yds on in to 200 yds. The conditions for my hunting trips vary.

    I have shot the 168gr at 100 yds and I got .5 MOA. This was off a lead sled too. All in all I am looking for a good, all around ammo to stick with. I was happy with the results that 168gr gave me. But wondered if the 175 gr would work better. Also. Would the 175 gr over time be too harsh on the M1A gas system?

    I appreciate any help.

    Andrew

    Reply to comment

  30. Gary Samz says:

    Okay, time to play “teach the noob”. Up to this point I have been hesitant to buy .308 Win. for my M1A SOCOM 16 due to the owner’s manual stating 7.62mm NATO. Typically, “.308 Win.” labeled ammo is easier to find than “7.62X51 NATO” labeled ammo, in my area. Do I trust the .308 Win. in my rifle or stick with the specific 7.62×51 NATO? Is there any risk? Going by the article “The best ammunition…” article, it sounds like .308 Win. is okay to use. Please advise. Thanks.

    Reply to comment

  31. Mark Lay says:

    I just got an m1a. Most beautiful rifle in the world. I need to zero it. Help me. I want to get good with this firearm.

    Reply to comment

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  1. [...] think that they would be fine. I don't think springfield armory recommends soft points though. http://www.m1arifles.com/m1a-rifles/…our-m1a-rifle/ also shooting reloaded or remanufactured ammo will void all [...]

  2. [...] if you contact springfield armory they will say that there rifles are chambered for .308 winchester and can shoot that and/or 7.62 Nato when buying ammo I go by this site. http://www.m1arifles.com/m1a-rifles/…our-m1a-rifle/ [...]

  3. [...] go by this site. http://www.m1arifles.com/m1a-rifles/…our-m1a-rifle/ I don't use soft point ammo at all, I'm sure you could if you Really wanted to. But I am using [...]

  4. [...] Can't Use Commercial Ammo in M1A??? — ANSWERED – Response from SA "I have received the "official" word from Springfield Armory (via email) regarding commercial ammo that some other users have also received: "We would recommend 168 grain Federal Match or Black Hills ammunition for the best accuracy. You can use .308 factory ammunition made to SAAMI spec. You can also use 7.62 x 51 military surplus ammunition with the NATO stamp on it. You can use anywhere from 147-175 grain ammunition." As I am using a Springfield M1A, this response puts the matter to bed for me. But for what it's worth, this official response does contradict their own M1A manual. Thanks to everyone for contributing to this thread." http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=6&f=6&t=268417 The Best Ammunition to Buy For Your M1A Rifle http://www.m1arifles.com/m1a-rifles/…our-m1a-rifle/ [...]



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