by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

M1A
Springfield Armory M1A.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • Scoping the M1A
  • Receiver
  • The mount
  • Just starting!
  • Why
  • Get a longer scope
  • What you’re gonna do
  • The solution
  • Shim it
  • However
  • Too much parallax
  • Summary

Well, we shot the Springfield Armory M1A pellet rifle with its factory sights in Part 4. We learned that the rifle is not fussy about the pellets you choose and also it’s pretty accurate. Today we look at mounting a scope on the rifle.

At this point I usually just wave my hands and say a few clever things and poof! — the three hours of work I did to get the report together vanishes. Not today. Today you’re kneeling in the snow beside me, holding the hubcap of our Oldsmobile sedan so I can put the lug nuts into it. I told mom I would change the blown-out tire in four minutes and she’s timing me. Look sharp, Ralphie!

Scoping the M1A

The M1A underlever pellet rifle we are examining came with a scope base, and today we are going to mount it to the rifle. Then we will select a scope and mount it to the base. Like the Oldsmobile in the movie, A Christmas Story, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Some air rifles are easy to scope. They have bases built right into the rifle and they accept scopes with relative ease. If you doubt that you might want to review the 5-part series I did on How to mount a scope.

The M1A, however, is different. It does not naturally accept a scope and there are several things to be considered when you do mount one. This isn’t something you want to do on the phone with a salesperson as you are ordering the rifle either, because I’ll bet none of them have done what you are about to see!

Receiver

The special mount I’m installing fits several different air rifles. Let’s look at the receiver of this Springfield Armory M1A now and see where it fits.

M1A receiver
The special scope base for the M1A attaches to the two threaded holes in the rifle’s receiver indicated by the arrows. If you examine this picture closely you’ll notice that the top hole on the right is set back and not even with the hole at the lower left.

The mount

The mount for the M1A takes into account that the two threaded holes are not even. By “even” I mean both holes do not come out as far from the side of the receiver. The top mount hole that attaches to the top hole in the receiver has a long bushing that provides the standoff needed to keep the scope base aligned with the rifle barrel.

Please note that both those threaded holes are brass inserts that will strip out easily if you tighten the screws too much. This is not the time to be heavy-handed.

M1A scope mount
Looking at the back of the M1A scope base we see the long bushing (arrow) that provides the standoff for the upper mounting screw.

There is one more detail to note on the back side of the scope mount. Next to the lower hole there is a raised ridge that fits into a groove in the M1A receiver. That locks the mount to the receiver and prevents it from slipping when a scope is mounted to it.

M1A receiver detail
The ridge on the back of the M1A scope base fits into the groove (arrow) in the receiver, next to the lower screw hole to lock the scope base in place.

M1A scope base installed
Here the scope base is snugged down on the M1A receiver.

Just starting!

I told you I was going to let you look over my shoulder today. Well, what we have looked at so far wasn’t it! Now we get to the stuff that isn’t as pretty — the stuff where you have to think!

Okay, the scope base is attached to the M1A. What’s next? That’s simple, no? Now we mount a scope. But what kind of scope do we mount?

Danger, Will Robinson!

This is where some guys will immediately place an order for a 3-93X89 Orbital Platform telescope and other guys shop with their upper limit of $49 at the forefront. Neither way will work, for an M1A. Why?

Shop PCP Rifles

Why

Eye relief
Can’t position the head high enough
Too much parallax

Instead of talking you through those topics, I mounted a scope. Let me show you.

M1A first scope
This is a UTG 4-16X44 Compact Scope. It looks great and is sized right for the M1A. Only problem is — it doesn’t work!

The first scope doesn’t work for a combination of reasons. The first is the eye relief. The scope can’t be mounted far enough to the rear for your sighting eye to see the image. You see an image that’s about a quarter the size of the eyepiece because you can’t get your head far enough forward to see it all. And if you add a cantelevered scope ring to the base the scope goes even higher than this!

Secondly, when you hold the rifle to your shoulder the scope eyepiece is well above your sighting eye. Everyone ought to be able to look at the buttstock and see that. However, it makes no difference because problem number one can’t be overcome on this rifle and base. You have to find a different scope.

This is where all the time was spent on today’s report. I was looking for a scope that was sized right so I could see the entire image through the eyepiece. When I initially thought about a scope for the M1A the Bug Buster was the first thing that came to mind. But if this scope that I tried won’t adjust far enough to the rear, a Bug Buster hasn’t got a chance!

Get a longer scope

I seem to be leading you to select a longer scope — only I’m not! Look at the loading port cover. It’s almost half covered by this compact scope. A longer scope will cover it completely and I already told you how difficult it is to load this rifle. Whadda ya gonna do?

What you’re gonna do

What you will do is pay attention to what I’m showing you in this report. It doesn’t help for you to learn all of this the hard way and spend weeks of frustration with packages going back and forth between you and the dealer because, well, things just don’t seem to work the way you thought they should. You now know that a Bug Buster won’t work because the eye relief is too short. That kind of scope can’t be adjusted to the rear as far as it has to be. And THAT is the clue!

You need a compact scope that won’t cover the loading port completely, but it also has to have either a super-long eyepiece tube or a long eye relief. My friends, let me show you my solution!

The solution

I have a UTG 2-7X44 SWAT scope that has a 9.5-11-inch eye relief and it works perfectly on the M1A. I say perfectly meaning that I can see the entire image in the eyepiece. And it works when I mount the M1A to my shoulder. I still have to shoot the rifle to see if it works the way I hope.

M1A second scope
The UTG 2-7X44 SWAT scope works well.

Shim it

Many air rifles and firearm rifles shoot too low for their scopes. We call it barrel droop. We have learned that if the rifle shoots low and you adjust the scope’s elevation high to compensate, the erector tube may float, allowing the scope to shift during firing. It won’t hold a zero.

If you know that up front and plan for it when you mount the scope you can save a lot of time. So I did. I had to adjust the scope rings on the scope I selected anyway, to get it positioned as far to the rear as possible — not for eye relief but to clear that pellet loading port. As long as the rings were loose I slipped a thin shim under the scope on the rear ring saddle to elevate the scope a little. That fixes a multitude of issues right up front.

However

All of this forethought sounds hunky dory until you realize the eyepiece of the scope is now positioned way too high. It is because the military stock on the M1A isn’t designed for scopes, plus the rear of the scope is now even higher and the scope is looking down. The M1A stock is designed for the sights that came with the rifle and they are quite a bit lower than the eyepiece of this scope.

BUT — the military has dealt with this problem since World War II, when they turned the M 1 Garand into a sniper rifle. I knew that, so I solved my problem the same way — with a lace-on leather cheekpiece.

M1A cheekpiece
The solution that worked for the M1 Garand also works for the M1A.

Too much parallax

Of the three problems I mentioned earlier, we discussed earlier, we have looked at just two. Now we come to number three — too much parallax. Because we now have to hold our head against the stock on an aftermarket cheekpiece, it is essential that our head contacts the rifle at the same place for every shot. We have to find a way to hit that cheekpiece the same every time or we will scatter the shots because of parallax. The only way I know of to test that is to shoot the rifle for accuracy and see what kind of groups we get.

Summary

I haven’t cut you any slack today. Today you got your nose pushed into the problem of scoping a difficult air rifle and I hope you have seen the solution. I say I hope because until we see the results of the next accuracy test, who can say?

A lot hinges of my success with the next test. The Springfield Armory M1A is a wonderful air rifle at a terrific price. Here’s hoping it works with a scope, too!