by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

M1A
Springfield Armory M1A.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Firing behavior
  • Loading
  • Sights
  • Sight history
  • Front sight
  • Cocking effort
  • Operating rod handle is for show
  • Scope base
  • Summary

There was lots of interest in the new Springfield Armory M1A rifle. It’s a nice-looking lookalike. It’s a decently powerful springer. It’s an underlever, and yes, there are folks who like that feature over all the others. It has other features that I’ll get into today, Like I said at the end of Part 1, velocity testing will have to wait for Part 3.

The trigger

The trigger is two-stage and not adjustable. There are no screws in sight when you peer deep inside. Stage one on the rifle I’m testing is heavy and a bit creepy. Stage two is hard to feel, with the result that at present the trigger feels like a light single-stage trigger. I think as the rifle breaks in the first and second stages will become more distinct.

M1A trigger
The trigger blade is bare, without any adjustment.

The trigger pull is 3 lbs. 9 oz. for stage one and 4 lbs. for stage two. That’s how close the two are. I think many will see this as a single-stage trigger. Stage two is very crisp and positive.

By the end of today’s examination I was already feeling a distinct separation between trigger stages one and two. I probably fired a dozen shots today, just getting familiar with the rifle, and no more than 20 from when it came out of the box.

Firing behavior

The rifle fires with a slight shudder from the mainspring. It isn’t offensive and doesn’t need quieting, in my opinion.

Loading

Today while I cocked the rifle I watched the place that opens for loading and could see the sliding compression chamber move quickly to the rear to compress the mainspring as the upper handguard slides to the front to reveal the loading port. I stress again that the area for loading is small and may not suit all people.

M1A port opening
As the underlever is pulled down the upper handguard slides forward and the sliding compression chamber goes to the rear.

M1A loading port
When it’s all the way open the M1A loading port is small.

Sights

Now we come to the most interesting feature of all — the sights! The sights on an M1 Garand and an M14 are the most pleasant sights to use of all those on any battle rifle, in my opinion. And you get a set just like them on the M1A airgun.

They are a peep sight in the rear that adjusts for both windage and elevation. I was going to report that the adjustments felt mushy, but that was before I noticed the screw on the right side. When it was checked with a screwdriver it was not quite tight and tightening it snug rendered both adjustments clearer and crisper. It’s just past finger-tight, so don’t crank on it. When I do the accuracy test I plan to do a special “boxing” of the sights to see how well these adjustments really work. I will explain what boxing means when I get to that report.

M1A rear sight
The rear sight on the M1A pellet rifle adjusts in both directions — just like on the firearm.

M1A rear sight screw
Tighten this one screw that looks like a nut on the right adjustment knob and both sight adjustments get crisper.

Sight history

The M1 Garand went through many different designs of rear sights. The Lock Bar type that was used throughout World War II had a locking bar on the outside of the right side adjustment knob that controls elevation. After the war the bar was eliminated and the adjustment became just a knob. 

When the M14 came along the sights continued to refine. The Army liked this type of sight and only changed when necessary due to the different design and construction of the M16.

The one drawback I find with the pellet rifle rear sight is there are no directions on the adjustment knobs. You have to remember that for the elevation knob on the left side, turning counter-clockwise raises the peep and therefore the impact of the pellet. Turn the windage adjustment clockwise to move the peep and the pellet impact to the right.

Front sight

Most American battle rifles have front sights that are protected from damage by “ears” on either side of the central post or blade. On the M1A the center is a blade. The manual shows to hold the front blade with its tip centered on the target, which is correct by the military manual. I shoot at black bullseyes, though, and a 6 o’clock hold is easier to hold precisely.

M1A front sight
The front sight is a blade, protected by a “ear” on either side.

Two more things to know about the front sight. It appears to be on a dovetail and can thus be tapped left and right for more windage correction. This is just an illusion given by the very detailed casting. The sight does not move in the dovetail.

The second thing is a problem with all front sights that have ears. Make darned sure when you sight on something that it is the front post you are holding on the target and not one of the ears. The peephole is small and it’s easy to make a mistake. The ears are bent out to either side to help you identify them through the peep.

I will say that the pull of this M1A is just 13-1/4-inches. That allows me to get far enough forward that I can see the entire front sight assembly through the peep hole.

That “thing” in front of the front sight is a replica flash hider. The real flash hider has slots that allow hot gas to escape out the sides as the bullet is exiting the muzzle. It hides the flash from the shooter in low light, to preserve his night vision.

Cocking effort

With the cocking handle extended on the underlever I measured the cocking effort as exactly 35 pounds on my bathroom scale. That’s what the description on the Pyramyd Air website says it should be. The underlever extension is an important feature that you want to use if you plan on doing a lot of shooting.

Operating rod handle is for show

The curved handle of the operating rod, or what many would call the cocking handle on the right side of the receiver is for show, only. It is spring-loaded to slide back and forth but it does nothing for the rifle.

M1A operating handle
The operating handle can be pulled back and will spring forward again, but it is non-functional.

Scope base

One last surprise today — the scope base. In Part One I said the rifle comes with the scope base, but a reader corrected me. The scope base is something you have to order separately. At this time it is called the M14 scope base and this M1A isn’t listed on the description page as a rifle that it fits, but it does. I mounted it to the left side of the receiver in about 5 minutes.

M1A scope base
The M14 scope base fits the Springfield Armory M1A pellet rifle.

Summary

That’s all for today. Next time we test the velocity and the time after that we start testing accuracy! Stay tuned!