Springfield Armory released the M1A National Match rifle in 1971. It was virtually an exact copy of the M14 National Match rifles manufactured in the 1960s. Since then, SA has added numerous models and configurations to its M1A line of rifles. One of those is the M1A Scout Squad rifle, which has become one of SA’s most popular M1A models.
If you are in the market for your own M1A, you will have to decide which model and configuration you want. Or, more accurately, which model and configuration is best suited to the kind of shooting you want to do with it?
To help you out with that, I’m going to compare the M1A Scout Squad rifle against the M1A National Match rifles.
Well, something like that, anyway…
Comparing M1A Scout Squad Rifle vs M1A Match Rifle
The very first thing we need to sort out before going any further with this discussion is this. Springfield Armory has discontinued the M1A National Match Rifle. But don’t panic; you can still get everything you could in the National Match and more.
SA just felt that the name National Match wasn’t broad enough to describe their line of precision shooting rifles. Now, if you want a National Match rifle, you can find what you are looking for in the Loaded M1A rifle line.
Background of the M1A Rifle
As I mentioned, Springfield Armory released the M1A in 1971. It was a true civilian copy of the M14 National Match rifles, which were also semiautomatic. The M14 was developed from the M1 Garand and shares the same type of gas-operated, rotating bolt action. Unlike the M14, the M1A has a cast receiver instead of one that is forged. This helped reduce the cost when building the rifle and helps keep the price of an already expensive rifle a little lower.
Springfield’s National Match M1As were an immediate hit on the commercial market. The rifles were solid and accurate. Likewise, the .308 Winchester cartridge was accurate and delivered almost the same power as the .30-06 Springfield it was developed from. It also had the advantages of fitting a shorter action and using less propellant. That delivered good performance with less recoil. It became a common sight at Camp Perry and other precision shooting venues.
Springfield Armory knew they had a hit with the M1A. Being a business first and foremost, they began adding to the M1A line of rifles. The M1A is now offered in four models; the Standard Issue, which is as close to a G.I. M14 as you can get without it being selective fire; the SOCOM 16 tactical rifle with a 16.25” barrel; the Scout Squad ranch rifle, and the Loaded precision shooting model. For this comparison, I am going to focus on the Scout Squad and Loaded models.
The M1A Loaded Rifle
The M1A Loaded rifle is available in two primary configurations. You can get it in the same familiar form as the National Match with a standard walnut wood or black synthetic stock. You can also get the Loaded with an adjustable synthetic precision shooting chassis. The adjustable stock gives you better control to customize and adjust LOP and cheek rise to fit your body. It also adds almost two pounds to the weight of the rifle and 1 to 2 inches overall length depending on the stock adjustment.
Once you choose the stock, everything else on the rifle is the same. The 22” medium-weight barrel is made of carbon steel and features 1:11 rifling. It comes equipped with a flash suppressor. If you live in California, where flash suppressors are considered evil, the CA Compliant version comes with a muzzle brake.
The installed iron sights are both National Match quality. The front sight is a blade, while the rear is a .0520 aperture. The rear sight is .5 MOA, adjustable for both windage and elevation.
I’ll talk about scope options in a moment…
The trigger is SA’s excellent National Matched tuned 4.5-pound, 2-stage trigger. The M1A Loaded comes competition ready right out of the box. Of course, you are free to add anything else you like, or that fits your needs. Given the weight of the rifle, one of the best bipods for M1A is something to consider.
The M1A Scout Squad Rifle
The M1A Scout Squad rifle is essentially a ranch rifle. It is 4” shorter than the Loaded with the wooden stock. On the other hand, it’s only about five ounces lighter. Its heritage as a combat rifle shows. It’s a very solid rifle that is tough enough to bounce around in a truck or be carried on horseback or a 4-wheeler all day.
The 18” carbon steel barrel has six grooves and is cut to 1:11 for good performance from its diet of .308 Winchester. A muzzle brake sits at the end. The iron sights consist of a National Match front blade and a military aperture at the rear. The rear sight is MOA adjustable for windage and elevation. The trigger is a 5-pound pull, 2-stage. A Picatinny rail is mounted just in front of the receiver.
The Scout Squad is not as high speed as the Loaded, but it’s neither meant to be nor needs to be. This is a working rifle as compared to a precision shooting rifle. It’s meant to be hauled around and used on whatever varmints you might encounter. True, it runs about a pound heavier than your average AR10, but it is a very well-made rifle.
|M1A Scout Squad|
|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||18″ 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||5-pound, 2-Stage|
|Muzzle Device||Flash Suppressor||Flash Suppressor||Muzzle Brake|
|Overall Length||44.33″||45″ – 46.25″||40.33″|
|Weight||9 lbs 8 oz||11 lbs 4 oz||9 lbs 3 oz|
M1A Scout Squad Rifle vs M1A Loaded Rifle
To be honest, you are comparing apples and oranges when comparing these two rifles. True, they are both M1As, but they are built for very different purposes. The first question you must ask isn’t about either of the rifles; it’s about what you want from your M1A.
The M1A Loaded has all the features that have made the M1A a competition champion for over 50 years. The National Match tuned trigger, sights, and barrel give it the edge in precision shooting out to 800 yards and beyond. The 22” barrel gives the bullet plenty of spin and velocity to keep it running flat and true.
On the other hand, it’s long and heavy. You could use the standard stock configuration for hunting, but it wouldn’t be ideal. In contrast, the Scout Squad will produce groups that are almost as good out to 600 yards.
Add to that its shorter overall length and slightly lighter weight, and it has the advantage as a field gun. The shorter length makes it easier to wield in the brush. It also makes it easier to stash behind a truck seat, in a scabbard on an ATV, or next to your saddle. I owned an M1A Standard Issue, which also has a 22” barrel, and there were many times I wished it was just a little bit shorter.
One of the perceived advantages of the 22” barrel is better velocity as the bullet goes downrange.
But how much better is it?
Let’s take a look…
Shooting four different .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO cartridges from both an 18” barrel and a 22” barrel produced the following results.
|Barrel Length||Winchester 147 FMJ||IMI Samson 7.62 150 FMJ||Federal 168 Gold Medal||Winchester 180 PP|
|22”||2837 fps||2718 fps||2597 fps||2527 fps|
|18”||2739 fps||2595 fps||2523 fps||2411 fps|
|Difference||98 fps||123 fps||74 fps||116 fps|
There is a noticeable difference in velocity with the longer barrel. Noticeable but not great. Granted, some of the differences are great enough to possibly increase the accurate range of your M1A out of another one hundred yards.
Therefore, if you are planning to take shots out beyond 600 yards on a regular basis, then you would be better off with the Loaded M1A than a Scout Squad. However, you will no doubt be running a scope on your rifle in that case.
On the other hand, the difference in velocity is not great enough to offset the traits that make a Scout Squad attractive. Those being ease of storage and carrying, and maneuverability in tight quarters. And if it were me, I wouldn’t be mounting a scope on a Scout Squad. I would go for an LPVO instead.
Speaking of optics, what does mounting an optic on an M1A consist of?
Let’s find out…
Mounting Optics on an M1A
Mounting an optic on an M1A, any M1A, isn’t like mounting one on an AR or a bolt action rifle. The M1A action was never designed to accept a scope. The Scout Squad comes with a rail on the front area of the receiver. This makes it simple to mount an optic, although the optic sits quite far forward, a bit too far for some folks. However, you don’t even have that option on a Loaded M1A.
Whether you want to mount an optic on a Loaded M1A or don’t like the position of the rail on the Scout Squad, mounting an optic on an M1A requires some special fitting. Both Springfield Armory and Sadlak make excellent optic mounts for the M1A. But to mount them, you will have to remove the stripper clip guide from the receiver of your M1A. It’s not too complex an operation, and SA has produced a video explaining how to do it.
Applications for the M1A
It’s time to ask yourself that question I mentioned earlier.
What do you want to use your M1A for?
Until you answer it, you won’t know for sure which one is best for you.
Long Range Shooting
If the answer to your question is long-range shooting, whether, for hunting or precision competition shooting, the answer is the Loaded M1A. Even if you’re not going to enter competitions and just enjoy long-range shooting as a hobby, it’s your best bet. Once you get beyond 600 yards and start shooting out to ranges of 800 to 1200 yards, the National Match components of the Loaded are going to start to shine.
The Scout Squad was purpose designed to be easy to store and carry. That makes it an excellent gun for the great outdoors. Its 18” barrel makes it easy to swing and maneuver in brush or close confines. And though it’s not a match rifle, per se, it’s still an M1A. That means it is plenty accurate and powerful enough to bring down hogs and deer out to 600 yards.
The Pros and Cons of the M1A Loaded Rifle
- Highly accurate
- NM tuned trigger, barrel, and sights
- 22” barrel imparts higher velocity than a shorter barrel
- Slightly longer effective range
- Options for adjustable precision shooting chassis
- Overall length makes use in the field difficult
- Mounting an optic is complicated
The Pros and Cons of the M1A Scout Squad Rifle
- Highly accurate
- More maneuverable in close quarters and brush
- Excellent iron sights
- 5 lb. trigger
- Picatinny rail
- Heavier than an AR10
- Mounting an optic that doesn’t use the rail is complicated
Also, Considering other M1A Options?
Then check out our comprehensive comparison of the Best Springfield Armory M1A Models or the M1A Scout Squad vs SOCOM 16 CQB. Plus, our in-depth reviews of the Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad Rifle, the Springfield M1A SOCOM 16 CQB Rifke, or the Springfield Armory M1A Tanker.
Or, if you need to accessorize your M1A, then check out our thoughts on the Best Scout Scope for M1A, the Best M1A Magazines, the Best M1A Stocks, the Best M1A Bipods, the Best M1A Cleaning Kit, or our Archangel Springfield Armory M1A Precision Stock Review.
Plus, if you can’t decide on which scope mount to go for, take a look at our Bassett vs Sadlak M1A Scope Mount comparison. Or find out some interesting Facts About M1A Rifles or everything you could ever need to know about Hog Hunting with Your M1A Rifle in 2023.
I hope my discussion as to whether the M1a Scout Squad or the M1A Loaded is the better rifle has been helpful. It basically depends on what you will be using your M1A for; decide that, and the ultimate decision will be simple.
Until next time, be safe and happy shooting.