Some time ago, I wrote an article comparing the Springfield M1A Scout Squad and the M1A Match/Loaded rifles. So this time, I decided to see how the M1A Loaded and the M1A Standard Issue stack up.
The M1A is available in four different models: M1AThe Standard Issue, M1A Loaded, M1A Scout Squad, and the M1A SOCOM 16. Each is built around the M1A action, which is a gold standard in the precision rifle world. But each also brings its own unique flavor to the M1A rifle. So, let’s get going and find out how the M1A Loaded vs. the Standard Issue Rifle compare.
Background of the M1A Rifle
Most people know the history of the M14 rifle, which was developed from the M1 Garand. It had a very short run as the US battle rifle from 1957 to 1964. It was considered heavy and unwieldy, was nearly impossible to shoot effectively on full auto, and was not well suited to the jungles of Vietnam. It was replaced after only seven years.
The semiautomatic National Match M14 was a very popular rifle among those who were lucky enough to shoot one. So much so that Springfield Armory released it to the civilian market in 1971. They kept almost all of the traits and features that made the M14 National Match so popular. The only major change was in the manufacturing process.
The original M14 National Match rifle had a forged receiver. This was necessary to provide adequate strength under fully automatic fire. However, forged receivers are expensive and difficult to manufacture. Since the M1A is a semiautomatic rifle, it didn’t need a forged receiver. So Springfield Armory built it with a cast receiver. That also helped keep the price down.
The M1A National Match was an immediate success on the commercial market. It lived up to its reputation for accuracy and dependability, and sales were strong. Springfield Armory has built on that success over the years and introduced variants of the M1A. Shorter barrels, different muzzle devices and sights, and options for stocks have provided a nice range of M1A configurations for people who want something other than a National Match rifle.
The M1A Standard Issue Rifle
Springfield Armory calls the M1A Standard Issue the classic, the ultimate icon, the legendary hero. Other than not having a cutout in the stock on the right side for the selective fire switch, it could be the M14. The M14 may not have had a long career, but it was so well engineered that it replaced the M1 Garand, BAR, M1 Carbine, and the M3 SMG in the Army inventory.
Although it’s a ‘mass produced’ rifle, Springfield Armory hand fits all M1A rifles at the time of assembly. It has a 22” carbon steel barrel with 6-groove 1:11 rifling. The muzzle device is a flash suppressor. The front sight is a National Match 0.062” blade. The rear sight is a military aperture sight with MOA adjustments for windage and elevation. No tools are needed. It can be had with either a walnut stock or synthetic stock in black or Desert FDE.
It features a 2-stage trigger. The safety is a small tab at the front of the trigger guard, just as the M14 had. Even though it is the Standard Issue version of the M1A, it is still a very well-made rifle. It’s accurate and powerful whether you are punching targets or using it for hunting.
If it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles the M1A Loaded comes with, it’s because it doesn’t need them. If you are buying the Standard Issue version, it’s because that is what you want. There is only around a $100 difference in price between the Standard Issue and the Loaded with a traditional stock.
The M1A Loaded Rifle
The M1A Loaded rifle has everything the Standard Issue does and more. You can get it in the same familiar configuration as the Standard Issue with either a walnut or synthetic stock. You can also get the Loaded with an adjustable synthetic precision shooting chassis. The chassis allows you to customize the fit for LOP and cheek rise. It also adds almost two pounds to the weight of the rifle and 1 to 2 inches overall length, depending on the stock adjustment.
The Loaded features a National Match tuned 22” medium-weight carbon steel barrel. Rifling is 1:11. It comes equipped with a flash suppressor unless you live in California, which fears and bans the evil of flash suppressors, in which case it comes with a muzzle brake.
Both front and rear iron sights are National Match quality. The front sight is a blade, while the rear is a .0520 aperture with .5 MOA per click adjustment for windage and elevation. The 2-stage trigger is National Matched tuned to a 4.5-pound pull.
M1A Standard Rifle vs M1A Loaded Rifle
In most ways, the two rifles are similar. The action, front sight, and flash suppressor are the same. You get a better trigger with the Loaded, and an upgraded rear sight. You also get the National Match tuned barrel. But other than different options for a precision chassis, they are the same rifle. That is reflected in there being only around a $100 to $300 difference in the MSRP between the two, depending on which stock you go far.
Of course, if you are building a match-grade precision rifle, it makes sense to start with the M1A Loaded since you already have a better trigger, barrel, and iron sights. And really, you could start shooting matches with the M1A Loaded right out of the box.
Size and weight are close enough to be the same between the two in the standard stock versions. The Loaded is around four ounces heavier than the Standard Issue. Ballistics are also comparable since they share the same barrel length. The NM-tuned barrel will turn out more consistent performance from any given ammunition load.
M1A Loaded Vs Standard Issue Comparison Chart
|Action||Gas-operated. Rotating bolt||Gas-operated. Rotating bolt||Gas-operated. Rotating bolt|
|Stock||Walnut or Synthetic||Precision Adjustable||Walnut or Synthetic|
|Barrel||22″ NM Medium Weight, 6-Groove Carbon Steel, 1:11||22″ NM Medium Weight, 6-Groove Carbon Steel, 1:11||22″ 6-Groove Carbon Steel, 1:11|
|Front Sight||National Match .062″ Blade||National Match .062″ Blade||National Match .062″ Blade|
|Rear Sight||Match-Grade Non-Hooded .0520 Aperture, 1/2 MOA Adj. for Windage & MOA for Elevation||Match-Grade Non-Hooded .0520 Aperture, 1/2 MOA Adj. for Windage & MOA for Elevation||Military .0690 Aperture, MOA Adj. for Windage & Elevation|
|Trigger||4.5 pound, 2-Stage, NM Tuned||4.5 pound, 2-Stage, NM Tuned||2-Stage|
|Muzzle Device||Flash Suppressor||Flash Suppressor||Flash Suppressor|
|Overall Length||44.33″||45″ – 46.25″||44.33″|
|Weight||9 lbs 8 oz||11 lbs 4 oz||9 lbs 3 oz|
Mounting Optics on an M1A
Mounting an optic is equally challenging on both versions of the rifle. Because of the top-configured rotating bolt action, a conventional scope mount won’t work. Springfield Armory produces an M1A-specific mount. Another option is the very nice mount from Sadlak. Either will work well and add a couple of hundred dollars more to the price of your rifle.
Both require the removal of the stripper clip guide from the receiver of the rifle. It requires a punch and some disassembly of the rifle, but it isn’t especially complex. Springfield Armory produced a video giving you step-by-step instructions on the process.
Applications for the M1A
If you ask me, you don’t need a reason to buy an M1A. It’s such an amazing rifle that you don’t need any further justification for buying one. But it also has plenty of applications as well.
Long Range Shooting
If you are buying an M1A for precision long-range shooting, either for competition or as a hobby, the Loaded is the rifle for you. Any M1A is accurate and consistent. But once you start shooting at ranges of 800 to 1200 yards, the National Match components of the M1A Loaded are going to demonstrate their value.
M1A Standard Issue Rifle
The M1A Standard Issue is no slouch at long-range shooting. Along with target shooting, it makes an excellent hunting rifle. The .308 Winchester cartridge has more than enough horsepower for a medium-sized game. And with the right load, it will take big game out to 400 yards. Couple that accuracy and power with a rifle that was designed to stand up to combat, and you have a great field rifle.
M1A Loaded Rifle
- National Match tuned trigger, barrel, and sights
- Options for adjustable precision shooting chassis
- Overall length makes use in the field difficult
- Mounting an optic is complicated
M1A Standard Rifle Pros & Cons
- Excellent iron sights
- 2-Stage trigger
- Heavier than an AR10
- Mounting an optic is complicated
- Overall length makes use in the field difficult
Need to Compare other Popular M1As?
Then take a look at our informative comparisons of the M1A Scout Squad Rifle vs M1A Match Rifle or the M1A Scout Squad vs SOCOM 16 CQB, plus a general overview of the Best Springfield Armory M1A Models. You might also enjoy our reviews of the Springfield M1A Socom 16 CQB Rifle, the Springfield Armory M1A Tanker, the Springfield Armory M1A Super Match, or the exceptional Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad Rifle.
Or, if you need some accessories, our reviews of the Best M1A Magazines, the Best M1A Magazine Pouch, the Best M1A Flash Hider, the Best M1A Stocks, the Best M1A Cleaning Kit, the Best M1A Bipods, the Best Ammunition for M1A Rifle, the Best Scout Scope for M1A, or our comprehensive Archangel Springfield Armory M1A Precision Stock Review are well worth looking at.
Or, to find out more about your M1A, check out What’s the Difference Between M1A and M14, or our comprehensive guide to Hog Hunting with your M1A Rifle. Alternatively, if you’re struggling to decide on the right scope mount for your M1A, our Bassett vs Sadlak M1A Scope Mount comparison could come in very handy. And finally, to perplex your shooting buddies, ask them the most interesting Facts About M1A Rifles in 2023.
The M1A is an excellent and iconic rifle. But, in terms of which is the best option for you and your shooting style, the answer is either; basically, you can’t go wrong with whichever model you choose.
Until next time, be safe and happy shooting.