The M14 rifle was designed in 1954. It was introduced in 1957 and had a very short run as the U.S. battle rifle until 1967. The Springfield M1A was introduced in 1971 and is still going strong.
What are the differences between the two rifles?
Well, the short answer is one was selective fire, and the other isn’t. But there’s more to it than that. How much more?
Well, that’s what I’m going to go through in my in-depth look at What Is the Difference Between M1A And M14?
A Little History
The M1A is, of course, a direct descendent of the military M14 rifle. To understand the differences between them, we should first take a look at their history.
Development of a rifle to replace the M1 Garand began immediately after WWII. The M1 Garand was leagues ahead of the basic infantry rifles issued to troops of every other country involved in WWII.
But it wasn’t perfect…
Drawbacks included the 8-round en bloc clip and the inability to shoot it in a fully automatic mode. Although, to be honest, I have owned and shot several Garands, and I can’t imagine shooting it full auto. Still, that is what the Army wanted.
Winchester, Remington, and John Garand himself, still working for Springfield Armory, all worked to develop a conversion that would bring the Garand rifle to the desired configuration. The changes included adapting it to use a 20-round box magazine.
Attempts to modify the M1 Garand weren’t successful, and they had to go in another direction. Springfield Armory designed an entirely new rifle that shot a new cartridge that was based on the .30-06 Springfield. It was shorter but produced almost the same ballistics because of the new Olin ball powder. After much testing, the new rifle and new 7,62 cartridge were adopted and went into service in 1959.
The Army hoped that the new M14 rifle would replace the M1 Garand, M3 submachine gun, the M1918 Browning automatic rifle (BAR), and M1 carbine. It was supposed to provide an all-around battle rifle while reducing logistics for ammunition and parts.
Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that way…
The M14 was intended to be a jack of all trades, but it turned out to be a master of none. The 7.62 cartridge was too powerful to serve in the SMG role, but the rifle was too light to serve as a light machine gun. It was practically impossible to control it when firing full auto, so most M14s were modified to semiautomatic only.
In the end, the Army concluded that the M14 was “completely inferior” to M1 Garand as an infantry weapon. I don’t know if I would go that far, but by 1965 it was being replaced by the M16. Nevertheless, the M14 didn’t disappear from the military roster altogether. It went on to become the basis for numerous sniper rifles, such as the M21 and M25.
Not everything was bad about the M14 rifle. It was simply being asked to do more than the design could deliver. The reality was that it is a very nice rifle. The action, which is based on the M1 Garand, is smooth and reliable. It has good lines and ergonomics. And it shoots a very powerful and accurate cartridge.
National Match M14 Becomes The M1A
Despite its shortcomings on the battlefield, it became evident that the M14 was basically a very good rifle. This is confirmed by the fact that between the years 1962 and 1967, over 11,000 National Match M14 rifles were built. This was carried out by Springfield Armory, Rock Island Arsenal, and TRW. They quickly became highly regarded as accurate competition rifles.
The folks at Springfield Armory were well aware of this, being both designers of the M14 and producers of the National Match rifles. In 1971 they began offering a civilian version of the M14 to the commercial market. They called it the M1A.
Initially, the M1A was only offered in the National Match configuration. However, as the gun’s popularity grew, SA began developing other models. M1As can now be had in model lines that include Standard Issue, Scout Squad, SOCOM 16 (which includes the very cool Tanker model), and the Loaded precision rifle line.
What Is the Difference Between M1A And M14?
The difference between the M14 and the M1A that is most readily apparent is that the M14 is a military rifle that is selective fire. The M1A is a civilian rifle that is available in semiautomatic only. Granted, as was previously mentioned, the military fitted the most M14s with a selector switch lock.
The lock prevented the selector switch shaft from rotating to turn the sear to allow automatic operation. The M14 is a relatively light rifle shooting a full-power 7.62 NATO cartridge at a cyclic rate of 750 rpm. That made it impossible to control, even with a bipod. Nevertheless, the rifle was selective fire.
In terms of how they are built, the M14 receiver was drop forged. The M1A features an investment cast AISI 8620 alloy steel receiver. The M1A is made for the commercial market, so using a cast receiver makes sense. It delivers a good quality receiver but keeps manufacturing costs down, which in turn keeps the price down.
Drop forged receivers are stronger, but more complex and expensive to produce. But since the M1A is neither expected to withstand the rigors of war nor to be fired on full auto, a cast receiver is more than adequate.
Most M1As are more refined. For example, the Standard Issue M1A has the original 22” barrel and military sights. But other models of the M1A have different lengths of barrels. They also come with different sights such as Tritium night sights or National Match sights. Other refinements include two-stage triggers and precision shooting chassis.
Other differences are largely cosmetic. The M1A does not have a cut-out on the right side of the stock for the selector switch. It also does not come with a bayonet lug. Some models come with muzzle brakes rather than the flash suppressor of the M14.
Here is a table summarizing the key differences between the M1A and the M14:
|Receiver||Investment cast steel||Forged steel|
|Magazine||20-round detachable box magazine||20-round detachable box magazine|
|Stock||Walnut, synthetic, or aluminum||Walnut|
|Weight||9.5 pounds||8.5 pounds|
|Effective range||600 yards||600 yards|
What are the Similarities?
At its heart, the M1A is the M14 in spirit. Let me explain…
If you pick up a Springfield Armory Standard Issue M1A, you could just as easily be holding an M14. Both rifles are 44.3” long overall. The M14 weighs 9.2 pounds unloaded; the M1A Standard Issue weighs 9.3 pounds.
They both have military sights. They both have wood stocks. And both have flash suppressors. They use the same magazines and the same 7.62X51 NATO cartridge. They feel the same and have the same ergonomics.
Springfield Armory has worked very hard to ensure that if you are a purist and want the true feel of an M14, you can have it. Granted, SA produces different models and different configurations within each model line to offer many versions of the M1A. But no matter what you do to it, it is still the same hardware and gas-operated, rolling bolt action.
What is the M1A Good For?
If you want an actual selective-fire M14 rifle, you will have to go to a rare firearms auction. You will also have to plan on paying somewhere around $30,000 for it. But you can get an M1A for a couple of thousand dollars, give or take.
The M1A rifle really fits any occasion or use. If you want the look and feel of the original, the Standard Issue M1A will give you that. Dimensions, feel, ergonomics, sights, and performance are all the same. I have a Standard Issue. Other than a black synthetic stock, it is just like the original.
Want a tactical rifle that’s a little more up-to-date?
Then the SOCOM 16 is for you. A 16” barrel with an overall length of 37.2”. It also comes with a rail, a 2-stage trigger, and a muzzle brake. It’s even available in a CQB model with a telescoping stock and a pistol grip.
If you’re looking for something compact and tough to carry in your truck, on a 4-wheeler, or while riding a horse, the M1A Scout will meet the need. It has an 18” barrel and features a rail. It’s available with either a wooden or synthetic stock. Perfect for the ranch or hunting in heavy brush.
Finally, if you want the performance of a precision rifle, the M1A Loaded has all the bells and whistles. It features a precision adjustable stock, tuned 2-stage trigger, National Match sights, and a 22’ National Match barrel.
All are chambered for .308 Winchester. It is a versatile cartridge that is excellent for medium game like deer and black bear. It has plenty of power as a home defense cartridge. And its ballistics are well-proven in precision shooting.
Need to Compare an M1A to other Popular Firearms?
Then take a look at our comprehensive M1A vs AR10 comparison or our in-depth review of the Springfield Armory M1A Tanker or the Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad Rifle. Plus, if you need a quality scope mount that will work well on your M1A, our comparison of the Bassett vs Sadlak M1A Scope Mount is well worth checking out. Or maybe you want to know some more interesting Facts About M1A Rifles that you can impress your shooting buddies with?
Or, if you need some quality accessories, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best M1A Magazines, the Best Scout Scope for M1A, the Best M1A Cleaning Kit, the Best M1A Stocks, as well as the Best M1A Bipods you can buy in 2023.
The M1A is true to its roots from the M14. Just holding it is fun, and shooting it is even better.
Until next time, be safe and happy shooting.