What’s it to be?
The M1A or the AR10?
The origins and capabilities of these two iconic rifle platforms are steeped in history. Both have their staunch supporters, but for anyone sitting on the fence, is one that much better than the other?
In my comprehensive M1A vs. AR10 comparison, I will be taking a look at two weapons that have proved their worth in the field. I’ll start with a brief history of both before getting into comparisons that should keep those campfire and range conversations bubbling.
So, first up is…
Springfield Armory introduced the M1A in 1974. This was the civilian version of the 1954 designed M14. The M14 was originally designated as the replacement for the M1 Garand and other weapons of that era.
It was Eugene Stoner’s AR10, introduced in 1955 and manufactured by Armalite, that was the competitor to the M14. However, due to barrel rupturing issues during testing, the AR10 did not pass muster. From there, history was made with the M14 initially replacing the M1 Garand as the US Military’s rifle of choice.
While the AR10 was controversially overlooked for the M1 Garand replacement, this did not stop Stoner and his team. They continued development and had huge success. This is seen through the fact that the AR10 was the forerunner to the highly popular AR15 platform that many civilian shooters rely on today.
Popular Examples of Both M1As and AR10s
Before getting into feature comparisons, let’s have a look at a popular choice from each weapon platform with the M1A up first. Designed by Springfield Armory, the company offers a variety of different models. These range from the 16-inch Taker design right the way up to their 22-inch Loaded models.
The battle rifle version chambered in .308 Win I tested sits nicely in the middle. It is a Scout Rifle model that comes with an 18-inch barrel…
Springfield Armory M1A Scout Rifle – .308 Win-Model No: AA9126
Springfield’s trademarked M1A Scout Squad rifle combines the best of both worlds. Shooters get the reliability and field-proven power of the original M1A rifle. They then add to that the ease of handling and the QTA (Quick Target Acquisition) of a scout-style rifle.
Built for speed and accuracy
The scout squad rifle from Springfield has been designed for speed and accuracy. From its two-stage 5 lb NM (National Match) trigger to the included iron sighting system, the ease of handling is yours.
Along with all of the standard M1A features, this rifle assures that quick, accurate shots are yours. The scout squad also adds a specially designed, proprietary muzzle break to mitigate felt recoil.
There is an included forward scout-style Picatinny rail. This is ready to accept both-eyes-open, long-eye-relief optics to help maximize performance. Examples are any standard red dot or holographic optic that suits your style (and your wallet!)
A quality barrel is yours
Weighing in at just 8.8 lbs, it has an overall length of 40.33 inches. That includes the 18-inch 1:11-inch right-hand six-groove carbon steel barrel. Next up is the sighting system. This consists of a rear, aperture-style sight that is adjustable without tools for windage and elevation and a front National Match .062-inch Blade sight.
Included in the purchase are a 10-round magazine and a heavy-duty rifle bag. The bag features a padded foam shell, adjustable interior Velcro straps, and a muzzle protector. This ensures your rifle and any mounted optics are protected during transportation.
If weapon maneuverability is what you are after, this .308 Win Springfield M1A scout squad rifle offers that and some.
- Built on Springfield’s proven M1A platform.
- Quality 18-inch barrel.
- Designed for speed and accuracy.
- Two-stage NM trigger.
- Proprietary muzzle break.
- Effective fixed front/rear sighting system.
- Forward scout-style Picatinny rail.
- An investment to consider.
PSA Gen3 – PA10 – 18-inch Mid-Length .308 WIN – 1/10 Stainless Steel Classic EPT Rifle
As with the M1A, the AR10 rifle platform comes in a variety of flavors. The difference is that various manufacturers offer their version of this rifle. While the build, features, and prices vary considerably, this particular model is both popular and very keenly priced.
Enhanced durability and improved function
This is PSAs (Palmetto State Armory’s) Gen3 version of their well-received PA10 rifle. With that comes improvements to make this an even more effective weapon than previous versions.
The build includes a black nitride stainless gas tube that resists high heat and corrosion more effectively than previous models. The result is a rifle that gives enhanced durability and improved functionality.
While there are various PA10 Gen3 models to choose from, the one I tested is their 18-inch barrel version. The dimpled barrel is made from robust 416R stainless steel, takes .308 Win cartridges, and has a 1/10 twist rate. It should be noted that all Gen3 PA10 models have a dimpled barrel that makes gas block replacement easy.
Precision machined upper and lower
The Upper is precision machined from forged 7075-T6 aluminum. From there, it is black anodized hard coated to MIL-8625 Type 3 class 2 spec. It also comes with enhanced dual retention anti-slip and anti-rotating handguards.
Moving on to the mid-length gas system. This has been paired with a PSA classic mid-length handguard, front sight base, and an A2-style muzzle device.
As for the Lower, this is machined and spec’d exactly the same as the Upper. It comes with an EPT (Enhanced Polished Trigger), a PSA classic M4 stock, and a PSA Classic A2 Grip.
Customize to your shooting style…
This quality AR10 build also features a forged receiver set designed with a relief cut geometry. Should shooters wish, that allows for the use of a wider variety of aftermarket BCGs (Bolt Carrier Groups). The included carbine length buffer tube has a short, heavy buffer which is coupled with a standard PA10 buffer spring.
Getting back to the BCG, PSAs PA10 rifles are equipped with a Toolcraft 9310 steel bolt assembly. To increase durability, it comes with extra-strength extractor springs. The 8620 carrier is also nitride treated. It also features a nitride-treated gas key and has been properly staked with grade 8 fasteners.
As for the charging handle, this is honed from tough wearing 7075-T6 aluminum. That means thousands upon thousands of rounds will reliably feed. As for the included EPT fire control group, this comes with a 4.5 lb trigger pull. You also get 1 x 20-round PMAG magazine with purchase.
The best of all worlds…
Those shooters looking for an affordable, durable, and accurate AR10-style weapon will find this PSA model fits the bill.
- Improved PSA Gen3 version.
- Ready to withstand whatever you put it through.
- Toolcraft 9310 steel bolt assembly.
- Tough-wearing charging handle.
- PSA classic mid-length handguard.
- Front sight base.
- A2-style muzzle device.
- Very keen price for what is offered.
- There are better triggers out there.
What’s the Difference Between an M1A and an AR10?
Next, let’s take a look at seven comparisons between the two platforms…
Design and Handling
The ergonomics of the AR10 stand out over that of the M1A. It could also be said that the AR10 feels easier and more natural to handle. Therefore, if you are a novice shooter, it would be wise to initially go for the AR10 over the M1A.
This does not mean experienced shooters should discount the M1A platform. It does have a more complex design and will take some training to get used to. However, once mastered, it is a very efficient and effective rifle platform. Some would argue that in qualified hands, it is superior to the AR10.
Both the M1A and the A10 are gas-operated, and scopes can easily be added. But when looking at M1A vs AR10 mounting options, the AR10 platform makes scope addition far easier. This is because it includes a very solid scope mount as part of the receiver. There is also a longer included rail on which to attach other accessories.
As the M1A is an iron sight rifle, users will find it more time-consuming to install an optic mount and a chosen optic. This work is certainly doable; it is just not as straightforward as when mounting an optic on your AR10.
The most popular caliber for both the M1A and AR10 is the .308 Win (7.62×51 Nato). These rifles have long proven their worth with this hard-hitting round. The 6.5 Creedmoor is another cartridge used by both. On top of that, AR10 shooters utilize the .243 Win, .300 Win Mag, and the .338 Federal.
In terms of applications, it is the .308 Win used with either rifle that hits the spot. It is an ideal round for battle, hunting, and self-defense purposes.
Both weapon platforms offer good accuracy. The AR10 is easier to handle, and therefore accuracy might come more quickly. However, master the M1A, and it will be as accurate as you need.
If it is real competition accuracy you are after, then match-grade ammo is the way to go. Using top-quality ammo with either weapon will achieve sub-MOA (Minute Of Angle) groups.
It is also the case that both rifles are capable of reaching long distances out to 1,000 yards. It goes without saying that accuracy over those distances takes some skill and lots of practice. That is, regardless of whether you are using the M1A or the AR10!
Weight, Magazines, and Durability
Weight-wise, there is a slight difference between the two rifle platforms. Various M1A models come in between 7.8-11.6 lbs (without loaded mag), and the AR10 between 7.25-8.19 lbs (without magazine).
As for the magazines, both platforms have magazine-fed operations with a detachable box magazine, but only the AR10 is equipped with a drop magazine. This gives it greater versatility as magazines are interchangeable.
When looking at durability, the majority of M1A parts are based around the battle-proven M14 rifle. This makes it highly robust and ready to perform regardless of the conditions you find yourself in. As for the AR10, the build is also solid and should not let shooters down.
Those shooters who are into customization and aftermarket upgrades will find the AR10 offers far more than the M1A. This is due to the popularity of the AR platform in general. These add-ons are also far cheaper than those available for the M1A.
From stock replacement to adding rails and mounts, the AR platform wins hands down. Modifications to the M1A can be carried out, but more time, effort, and investment is required.
Because the AR platform is far more popular than the M1A, it means that basic AR10s are cheaper than the standard M1A. However, going for a mid to top-of-the-range AR10 will easily cost as much and very often more than the M1A.
The AR10 vs. M1A discussion really depends upon what your personal preference is. Experienced shooters looking for a highly durable, powerful, and field-proven rifle will be right at home with the M1A. All of those attributes and more are exactly what the…
On the other hand, those looking for an easy-to-use, highly customizable rifle will benefit from the AR10. It is reliable with a performance to match. A good example of this platform is the very keenly priced…
Still undecided? If you are a committed shooting enthusiast and have the means, save those $ and purchase both!
As always, stay safe and happy shooting.