Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle: Part 6

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

M1A
Springfield Armory M1A.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Artillery hold
  • Shimmed scope
  • The cheek rest works
  • What about a dot sight?
  • It worked!
  • Hobbys
  • Sight adjustment
  • Air Arms Diabolo Field Heavy pellets
  • Air Arms Field pellets
  • JSB Exact RS
  • The result?
  • The safety linkage
  • Final comments
  • Summary

Today we shoot the scoped Springfield Armory M1A and see how it does. If you read Part 5 you know that it wasn’t easy to scope this air rifle. I won’t go into all of that here, but read Part 5 for a refresher.

The test

I suspected the M1A would be accurate, well, actually I knew it is because of the test I did in Part 4 with the sights that came on it. But I conducted this test from 10 meters. I held the groups to 5 shots because of all the steps involved in cocking and loading the rifle. I’m not just talking about cocking with the underlever and then pushing down on the anti-beartrap mechanism to return the cocking lever. There was also the intermittent safety setting itself after the rifle fired, making it impossible to cock and load again, until the safety was pulled back off. And I had to watch the base screws that wanted to loosen as I went.

I had thought that getting to the anti-beartrap disconnect on the left, to push it down after the rifle was cocked would present a problem with the scope in the way, but the scope is mounted high enough that my hand can get under and hit the button. So no problem there.

Artillery hold

I shot with the artillery hold. My off hand started out next to the trigger guard, but eventually moved forward to the cocking slot, where the rifle seemed most accurate.

Shimmed scope

As you recall, I shimmed the scope before mounting it. Well, good thing I did because when I went to sight in the pellet struck the paper 4 inches too low and three inches to the right — at 12 feet! I adjusted the scope up a lot and also to the left which is good because adjusting to the left puts tension back into the erector tube spring that relaxed as the scope was adjusted up.

I checked the scope rings to be sure they were attached to the scope base correctly and they were. I checked the mounting of the scope base and it was also correct. I then adjusted the reticle as far up as it would go without relaxing the erector return spring. With this scope I can feel when that happens.

I was shooting .22-caliber RWS Hobby pellets as I adjusted the scope. Even with all the upward adjustment I had to hold 4 dots down on the vertical reticle to get onto the bull. But the scope I used is very clear, so that presented no problem. I would recommend using an adjustable scope mount if you’re going to scope the M1A because the shimming I did doesn’t come close to elevating the point of impact enough.

Once the Hobbys were hitting the target, I shot a group. Five Hobbys went into a vertical group measuring 0.72-inches at ten meters. I didn’t bother photographing that group for reasons that I hope will be clear in a moment.

Okay, Hobbys weren’t doing that well. What about the Air Arms Diabolo Field Heavy pellets that weigh 18 grains? Well, they hit the paper even lower and more to the right. In fact, several didn’t even hit the target trap at all, so I stopped the test. This was too hard. All the rigamarole I went through to mount the scope in Part 5 and now I learn that it doesn’t work!

The cheek rest works

The scope may not work but the leather cheek rest I attached sure does. I placed my chin on top of the pad and my eye was aligned with the scope. The other cheek rest that a reader suggested hasn’t arrived yet, but this one works fine.

But the scope I had mounted was too much trouble. I just didn’t trust it because I was missing the pellet trap at 10 meters!

What about a dot sight?

Someone suggested trying a dot sight on the M1A and I really didn’t want to give up at this point, so the scope came off and I tried mounting a UTG reflex micro red dot (though the one I have is a green dot). But I ran into a problem. The cross slots in the Air Venturi scope mount measure exactly 5mm wide, which is the specification for a Picatinny rail, but the UTG sight has a cross block that measures 5.08mm wide. It’s too wide to fit the base of the Air Venturi mount! I have had people tell me recently that a thousandth of an inch, or in this case a hundredth of a millimeter that is much smaller, makes no difference, but I’m telling you that 8 of them sitting next to each other sure do!

So I used a vintage Tasco ProPoint dot sight whose rings use the cross screw that tightens the jaws at the base as their mount block. They are  much narrower than 5mm. These rings are made to fit either Weaver bases whose cross slots are 3.5mm wide or the wider Picatinny bases.

These rings are also much lower than the ones I used for the scope, which means the ProPoint sat much lower on the M1A scope base. Even so, I could still reach the anti-beartrap button on the left side of the receiver with ease. I now reached over the red dot tube, instead of under the scope.

It worked!

And this time it worked. The sight was affixed solid on the mount and I kept an eye on the mount screws to ensure they were tight, too. The first test was five Hobbys.

Hobbys

Just as they did with the scope, RWS Hobbys landed in a vertical group that measured 0.603-inches between centers. There is a nice three-shot cloverleaf at the bottom of this group. This group is slightly smaller than the group I shot with the scope, so at 10 meters we don’t seem to be giving up anything by using a dot sight.

M1A Hobby group
With the dot sight the M1A put 5 RWS Hobbys into this vertical 0.603-inch group at 10 meters.

Sight adjustment

At this point I didn’t know where the M1A might shoot the remaining pellets, but I adjusted the dot several clicks to the left. Through blind luck I got it almost perfect.

Air Arms Diabolo Field Heavy pellets

Next up were some Air Arms Diabolo Field Heavy pellets. The M1A put five of them into 0.618-inches at 10 meters. They landed below the bullseye I was aiming at, but in line with its center, left to right.

M1A Air Arms Field Heavy
The M1A put five Air Arms Heavy domes into this 0.618-inch group at 10 meters.

I decided to leave the sight where it was adjusted because I didn’t know where the other pellets would hit. It’s still too low, but I won’t worry about that yet.

Air Arms Field pellets

Next up were five 16-grain Air Arms Field pellets. These landed in a group that measures 0.332-inches between centers. It shows the level of accuracy I was hoping to see in today’s test.

M1A Air Arms Field
Five Air Arms 16-grain domes went into this 0.332-inch group at 10 meters. It may appear smaller because the dome allows the target paper to fold back after it passes through. This is the smallest group of the test.

JSB Exact RS

The last pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. Five of them made a 0.38-inch group at 10 meters.

M1A JSB RS
Five JSB Exact RS pellets grouped in 0.38-inches at 10 meters. It’s only a little larger than the Air Arms 16-grainers!

The result?

Today’s little test demonstrates that the M1A pellet rifle has good potential for accuracy. However, I don’t think it is a gun to scope. Shoot it like it comes and enjoy the gun the way it was designed.

The safety linkage

I promised reader Siraniko I would show the safety linkage. Well, you aren’t going to see very much! The safety lever reaches deep into the trigger mechanism and we are unable to see how it interacts to do its job when the trigger is together. And no, I am not taking this trigger apart!

M1A safety
The safety lever (to the left of the trigger) goes deep into the trigger assembly. The two thin pads on either side of it are just guides — they are not connected to the safety.

M1A safety front
Here we are at the front of the safety, looking deep inside. You can see the pin that the safety rotates on at the top of the trigger assembly. Without disassembly there’s nothing to be see with this safety.

Final comments

Taking the stock off exposed the two gears that move the forearm and loading port cover when the rifle is cocked. That was neat to see.

M1A gears
These gears move the upper hand guard and the loading port cover when the rifle is cocked.

The stock screws in the forearm both had blue Locktite on them from the factory. That tells me somebody cared about how this air rifle was built!

M1A screws
The forearm screws are Locktited.

Summary

The Springfield Armory M1A pellet rifle is well-made and is a very accurate replica pellet gun. I recommend not trying to mount a scope. Just use the peep sights the rifle comes with.

It has decent power and accuracy. It also doesn’t seem to be fussy about what pellets you shoot. That means all those oddball pellets in your collection can now be used.

Loading is difficult because of the small space provided. If you have large hands you will want to think about that.

This is a large airgun and not the type for all-day plinking. But if you fancy military battle rifles, this one could be for you!


Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle: Part 5

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?

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!


Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

M1A
Springfield Armory M1A.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Reflection
  • No more RWS 34?
  • What is good power?
  • Air Arms 16-grain dome
  • Safety
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • RWS Hobby 
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

I took some time introducing you to the .22-caliber Springfield Armory M1A underlever pellet rifle, so today is when we find out how powerful it is. Before we do that, though, I’d like to reflect on the rifle in general.

Reflection

When someone asks me to recommend a good spring-piston air rifle, I default to the RWS 34. It has the power and the accuracy to do many things. Its trigger is good and its sights are, too. With a synthetic stock the 34 sells for right at $300. Although I don’t care for the shape of the synthetic stock, this is the least expensive spring piston air rifle I can recommend.

No more RWS 34?

Well — glory be! When I went to check out the 34 I discovered that it no longer exists! It’s now the 34 EMS or easy modular system. I have to test one to see how close it comes to the original 34. They are not in stock at the present time, so I will wait and watch like everyone else.

My point was going to be that the cheapest spring-piston rifle I could recommend is priced at $300. Today I am testing a spring-piston air rifle that retails for $200. Even if it was not a good replica, the performance features of the M1A alone might be enough on their own to recommend it. To get onto my list of goody-gumdrop air rifles it just needs to have two things — reasonable power and reasonable accuracy. Today we test the power.

What is good power?

I’m writing these words before sending the first pellet through the chronograph, so I know as much about the rifle as you know at this point. This is a .22-caliber pellet rifle, so I would like to see something in the 15-18 foot-pound region. The website says to expect velocities up to 800 f.p.s. but I have no idea what pellet was used to get that. Since 671 f.p.s. is the magic number (the velocity at which the weight of the pellet in grains equals its energy in foot-pounds), I would like to see the M1A put out a 16-grain Air Arms pellet at something around that speed. Let’s see!

Air Arms 16-grain dome

I’ll start with that pellet — the Air Arms dome that weighs 16 grains. The test M1A put that pellet out at an average 673 f.p.s. How’s that for a good guess?

The low was 657 and the high was 681 f.p.s., so the spread was 24 f.p.s. That’s about right for a new spring-piston rifle. At the average velocity this pellet produces 16.1 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Safety

I told you in Part 1 that the M1A safety is manual, and that’s what the manual says. On this first string, though, the safety went on after each shot. You can’t cock the rifle when it’s on safety, which is how I discovered it. Once I figured out what was happening I manually took the safety off before cocking for the next shot.

And here is the thing. If the safety was coming on when the rifle was cocked that would be one thing, but this is something different. The safety goes on when the rifle is fired. That’s not normal. I’ll keep an eye on it.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

The second pellet I tested was the 18.13-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. These averaged 651 f.p.s. from the M1A. The low was 644 and the high was 654 f.p.s., so a spread of 10 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generated 17.07 foot-pounds at the muzzle. That’s a surprise because this is a heavier pellet, but the M1A seems to like it better. I did note that it fit the breech a little better. The first pellet was rather loose.

On this string the safety went on by itself when the rifle was fired just over half the time. That means the tendency is diminishing, making it a probable break-in thing.

RWS Hobby 

The last pellet I tested was the 11.9-grain RWS Hobby wadcutter. They averaged 786 f.p.s. with a low of 779 and a high of 793. That means the spread for the Hobby was 14 f.p.s.

At the average velocity the Hobby produced 16.22 foot-pounds. That’s also higher than the Air Arms dome. Hobbys fit the breech the tightest of all the pellets I tested.

I will point out that the Hobby almost hit the 800 f.p.s. mark that the rifle is rated for. I know with both time and use a spring-piston rifle almost always becomes faster, so the velocity rating appears to be right on.

On this string the number of times the safety set itself with the shot was exactly half. So it is still diminishing. I notice that when I take the safety off to cock for the next shot the trigger pops forward with a click. I think there is something holding the trigger in the pulled position and that’s what is setting the safety on its own. I believe it’s a break-in issue that will disappear with use.

Trigger pull

The trigger pull is still variable. Sometimes its lighter and other times heavier. The difference isn’t great, but I want to be on target before I touch the blade.

It seems like all the creep (and there isn’t much) is in the first stage. When the trigger stops moving the rifle is ready to fire. Stage one measures 3 lbs. 6 oz. and stage two breaks at 3 lbs. 15 oz. Like I said, get on the intended target before you touch the trigger blade.

Summary

Well, the M1A seems to be exactly where Pyramyd Air said it would be. And it’s right where I wanted it to be, for power. If it’s accurate too, I think we have a new budget-priced springer.

Now my suggestion to Pyramyd Air would be to see if you can turn these performance parameters into a breakbarrel, shed 3 pounds of weight, slim the stock, keep the good sights or give us sights that are just as good and hold the line on the retail price. That rifle wouldn’t compete with the M1A, but it would blow the doors off all other breakbarrel springers. I am amazed that all of these features can still go out the door for just $200!

I’ll keep an eye on the safety as the rifle breaks in. I fully expect it to revert to specified operation at some point.


Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle: Part 2

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!


Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

M1A
Springfield Armory M1A.

This report covers:

  • What is the  M14?
  • M14 magazine 
  • M1A
  • The pellet rifle
  • Underlever
  • Cocking and the safety
  • Safety is manual
  • Loading
  • Summary

The Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle is here! This is the air rifle many of you have been waiting for, and mine just arrived. Let’s take a look.

What is the  M14?

The M14 is a U.S. battle rifle that was the primary personal rifle from 1958 until 1968. It was the successor to the M1 Garand (U.S. Rifle caliber .30 M1) that was the U.S. battle rifle from 1936 until being replaced by the M14 in March of 1958. Where the Garand was semiautomatic only, the M14 was made to be a select-fire rifle, though not that many of them were ever set up that way. It took some training and skill to control the rifle in the full-auto mode, because the recoil of the 7.62X51 mm cartridge was substantial. Because of the rifle’s look many assumed it was another BAR, but at only half the weight, it wasn’t.

It just so happens that old B.B. Pelletier qualified expert on the M14, which gave him the opportunity to qualify (expert again, mostly due to luck) on the brand-new M16. Most M16s and their ammo were being sent to Vietnam in 1968 when I qualified in basic training at ROTC summer camp in Fort Lewis, Washington. They had limited rifles and ammo, so only those who qualified expert with the M14 got to qualify with the M16.

From that experience I can tell you this — the M14 was a real battle rifle. The M16 that I shot was an underdeveloped toy — at least at that time! Time and further development have turned the M16 platform into a proven battle rifle, BUT — the M14 lingers on in U.S. military service as a special rifle when certain things are required. Its 7.62X51 mm round (military version of the .308 Winchester) hits harder and more accurately at longer ranges than the 5.56 mm round of the M16.

M14 magazine 

The biggest difference between the Garand and the M14 was the M14’s 20-round magazine. The Garand has an 8-shot magazine that’s built into the rifle. It is very difficult to add cartridges to that mag while it’s still loaded. When the last round is ejected the en bloc clip — a steel spring that holds the eight .30-06 rounds together, also comes out of the rifle with a distinctive ping. There is a rumor that the enemy would wait to hear the ping and then attack, knowing that the soldier was reloading, but that was just a myth. Nobody could hear that ping in the noise of combat unless there were extraordinary circumstances.

The M14’s 20-round magazine can be removed at any time and topped off. Or leave it in the rifle and load it with stripper clips that connect to the top of the rifle’s receiver, similar to the way the K98 Mauser rifle is loaded. Either way it’s far easier to top off an M14 than reload the Garand. Oldtimers can tell the difference between the Garand and the M14 by the magazine of the latter that hangs down.

M1A

So why is there an M1A? It’s because American civilians cannot own fully automatic weapons without going through special legal procedures and I’m not certain that an M14 ever qualified for those. Since any M14 could potentially be converted to full auto, it was a special case that had to be dealt with individually. To satisfy the need for a civilian rifle to compete in military matches, the M1A was born. It’s almost identical to the M14, except it cannot receive the parts to make it full auto without modifications.

The M1A pellet rifle

And that background brings us to today’s topic, the Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle. It is licensed by Springfield Armory, but it was developed under joint cooperation with the folks at Air Venturi. Springfield Armory is the company that brought the M1A to the world in 1974.

Springfield Armory offers the full-sized M1A firearm with a walnut stock. And that is the first difference knowledgeable shooters will notice about the pellet rifle. The stock on this underlever is made from some kind of Asian hardwood that resembles beech. The finish is a very matte dark brown. The upper handguard is a brown synthetic that resembles the fiberglass handguard on the firearm.

Underlever

This is an underlever air rifle, and no, it’s not a reskinned Diana 460 Magnum. You would never get it for a retail of $200 if it was. It’s similar to the Diana in several ways because both rifles are underlevers, but it’s also far from a direct copy.

M1A underlever
The underlever pulls down and back to cock the rifle and open the loading port. Note that the upper handguard slides forward to expose the loading port.

This rifle comes in both .177 and .22 calibers. I asked to test the .22 because of the power output (1,000 f.p.s. in .177 and 800 f.p.s. in .22), as well as for easier loading. More on that in a bit.

I sat in on a design discussion with Air Venturi at the SHOT Show this year. The rifle was almost complete, but I was asked for my input.  I have to admit I was blown away by the realism of the rifle! I was told they wanted to keep the retail price at $200, so the folding metal buttplate that is so characteristic of an M14 was not an option. It looks like the buttplate on this rifle folds, but it doesn’t. Shooters unfamiliar with the M14 won’t miss it, and there are more of them around than us old silverbacks. There is a rubber pad on the butt to keep the rifle firmly on your shoulder.

The underlever has an extension rod that pulls out to increase the leverage. And, what is so neat is you can leave it pulled out because the designers made the extension fit into the bottom of the muzzle brake/front sight assembly when the lever is stored.

M1A lever in
The cocking lever can be pushed in like this.

M1A lever out
… or it can be extended and still used and stored that way. Genius!

Cocking and the safety

The M1A cocks with 35 lbs. of effort, according to the description. You know I will check that for you. I do use the extended lever to cock the rifle.

But there is more to cocking. I test-fired the rifle the first time and it shot well. But it wouldn’t cock for me on the next try. I tried it many times. Each time I felt the sear slipping off as I relaxed pressure on the cocking lever. This was confusing until I looked at the safety. It works in the reverse direction of an M1A, M14 or M1 Garand safety. Pull it back into the triggerguard to make the rifle ready to fire and push it forward through the triggerguard to make the rifle safe. I had been working it backwards! And that was apparently what kept the rifle from cocking.

M1A safety
The M1A pellet rifle safety works in the reverse direction of the M1A firearm safety. Push the safety back into the triggerguard to make the rifle ready to fire and forward to make it safe.

Once I cycled the safety on and off again several times and then pulled it back towards  the trigger to make the rifle ready to fire, the cocking problem was gone. I tell you this in case anyone who is familiar with an M1A, Garand or M14 makes the same mistake.

Safety is manual

The safety is manual. It stays where it’s put until you move it. And that’s the way we like it! Let the shooter be responsible for his own safety. With the cocking effort it’s unlikely that a child will cock this rifle. So long as the shooter has been trained in proper gun handling techniques and practices them, everything should be fine.

Loading

When the rifle is cocked the upper handguard slides forward to expose the loading port. I have normal-sized hands for an adult and I find this rifle somewhat difficult to load. The trick is to balance it on your knee or on a table with the muzzle pointing straight up. The pellet can then be balanced on your thumb for loading. It isn’t perfect, but you soon grow accustomed to it. I suspect that loading will be more difficult for people with sausage fingers.

M1A loading port
The upper handguard slides forward as the rifle is cocked. This exposes the loading port.

Summary

I will end this report here but there is much more introduction to come in part 2. At that time I will discuss and show the sights, the scope mount that comes with the rifle, the trigger and more details about this fascinating new spring-piston air rifle. We will start testing velocity in part 3.

The Springfield Armory M1A pellet rifle is many things. It’s a lookalike airgun. It’s a spring-piston rifle that’s hopefully very accurate. It has good power so it can be used for some hunting. It has adjustable sights plus a scope mount. And all of this comes to you at a fantastic price! With the holidays coming I would watch this blog and perhaps put this one on my short list!


The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 6

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 50
Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight in
  • RWS Superdomes
  • The trigger
  • RWS Supermags
  • Feel of firing|
  • RWS Hobbys
  • Why shoot only RWS pellets?
  • H&N Baracuda 4.50 mm head
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I shoot the Diana model 50 underlever with sporting sights from 25 yards. Let’s see what she’ll do!

The test

I shot indoors from 25 yards off a sandbag rest. I used the artillery hold with the rifle rested on my off hand, about 8-9 inches forward of the triggerguard. The Diana 50 is an underlever, and that steel cocking mechanism makes it heavy up front, so this is the most comfortable way to stabilize it. I shot 10-shot groups at 10-meter pistol targets

Sight in

Because I moved the rear sight forward for this test, I had to sight in the rifle again. The first shot was from 12 feet and impacted at the top of my front sight, so I called it good and backed up to 25 yards. I knew the shots would hit higher from back there, but since the first shot hit at 6 o’clock on the bull and this was a pistol target, I reckoned there was plenty of room.

RWS Superdomes

The first pellet I tested was also the sight-in pellet — the RWS Superdome. At 10 meters this pellet did quite well, though it opened up when I shot it at 25 yards with the peep sight. My group of ten from Part 4 measured 1.044-inches between centers.

This time with the sporting sights 10 Superdomes went into 1.994-inches at the same 25 yards. Throw out the pellet that hit to the left of the rest and 9 are in 1.166-inches. So — not much different but not as good as with the peep sight. There were no pulled shots in this test.

Diana 50 Superdome
Ten RWS Superdomes made a 1.994-inch group at 25 yards, with 9 in 1.166-inches.

The trigger

I have to comment on the trigger. I never adjusted it like I said I might and I think I know why. It’s breaking as a single-stage trigger with a light pull. I can feel the trigger blade move, but with those ball bearings there is absolutely no creep (an erratic start and stop in the blade as it is pulled).

I think this trigger is what reader RidgeRunner talks about when he says he likes single-stage triggers. The Webley Senior straight grip pistol I traded to him has the same sort of trigger, only its blade moves a lot farther. This one is almost a target trigger. It’s just enough resistance to let the shooter know what he is doing.  I normally don’t like single-stage triggers, but I do like this one! I’m glad I left it the way it was.

RWS Supermags

The 9.3-grain RWS Supermag wadcutter is a pellet I haven’t tried in this rifle before. So I thought, “What the heck?”

Ten Supermags went into 1.61-inches at 25 yards. But the firing cycle became very loud and deep — much different than with the Superdomes. The shots also landed lower on the paper.

Diana 50 Supermag
Ten RWS Supermags went into 1.61-inches at 25 yards.

Feel of firing

As it is now set up this Diana 50 does not vibrate at the shot. However, the piston must be heavy, because there is a pronounced forward lurch on every shot.

RWS Hobbys

The next pellet I tried was the 7-grain RWS Hobby wadcutter. What a marked difference in the shot cycle they made! Hobbys shot very quiet and smooth. I hoped for a miracle in the accuracy department but alas, 10 pellets went into 1.732-inches at 25 yards.

Diana 50 Hobby
The Diana 50 put 10 RWS Hobby pellets into this 1.732-inch group at 25 yards.

Why shoot only RWS pellets?

I would normally run in some JSBs or pellets from some other manufacturer, so why have I shot three pellets from RWS? I did it because in my experience, Diana airguns — especially the vintage ones like this model 50 — really do well with RWS pellets. However, sometimes you have to step out of the ordinary and try something different.

H&N Baracuda 4.50 mm head

I thought I needed to do something drastic to turn things around. So the final group I shot was 10 H&N Baracudas with 4.50 mm heads. From what I saw with the 9.3-grain Supermags, these 10.65-grain domes are way too heavy for this powerplant, and when I shot the first one it was confirmed. The rifle made a loud sound that almost protested the use of this pellet. So, why did I do it?

I have done this with other vintage Dianas many times. Particularly the .22-caliber Diana 27 seems to love the heavy Baracuda against all odds. It makes no protest and tends to group quite well. But this model 50 is a different proposition altogether. But how did it group?

Ten Baracudas went into 1.451-inches at 25 yards. Five of them are in a very small cluster, but the other five are scattered. The group is nice and round, despite being on the large side. It is the smallest group of the test.

Diana 50 Baracuda
Ten H&N Baracuda domes with 4.50 mm heads went into 1.451-inches at 25 yards.

I think Baracudas have such thick skirts that they are not blowing out in the loading tap and sealing the bore as well as they could. Hobbys, in sharp contrast, seal the bore quite well.

Discussion

I was hoping this test would prove that the Diana 50 is a tackdriver, but I guess that is not to happen under my watch. She is a well-made springer that shows innovation in many places, but she’s not a natural shooter like some other Dianas I have had.

I may not have found the right pellet for this rifle — that’s a forgone conclusion. But I think I have given her a good test, nevertheless.

I will say that the little lube tune I gave the rifle in Part 5, while switching the rear sight, was the best thing I could have done besides leaving that trigger alone.

This underlever is solidly built, well finished and very smartly designed. Just looking at her and holding her makes me feel good.

Summary

That will be it for the Diana 50. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to look this deeply into such a fine spring gun.


The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 50
Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Move the rear sight
  • Rear sight move forward
  • Change the sight notch
  • Rear sight adjustability
  • Not finished
  • Some disassembly required
  • Three stock screws
  • Wait a minute!
  • Glue the stock
  • Dry mainspring
  • Assembly
  • Velocity check
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Hobby
  • Cocking effort
  • Summary

To give you guys a break from the Crosman MAR177 today I started exploring the History of Airguns web page. Have you seen how the History of Airguns is laid out now? It’s now a simple timeline. Clicking on the dates brings up the past historical articles.

In checking to see whether they all made it to the timeline, I discovered this report from 2017, in which I mentioned wanting to shoot the rifle with an open rear sight. I never did that, so today is the day. I thought I’d just have to move the rear sight but you know how little projects sometimes expand? This one sure did! This will be the tale of what happened.

Move the rear sight

I told you in Part 2 that the rear sight can be transformed into a sporting sight by removing the peephole. There is also a forward ramp on the spring tube for the sporter sight, so there is enough distance for the eye to pick up the rear notch.

Diana 50 two ramps
The Diana 50 has two ramps for the rear sight. The one on the rear is for the target peep and the one in the front is for when the sight is converted into a sporting sight.

The tops of each ramp are serrated with grooves that match the special “foot” that’s on the bottom of the sight. This foot is pressed down into those grooves and makes a mechanical bond that will not slip from recoil.

Diana 50 rear sight peep off
After removing the rear sight from the rifle, I removed the peephole from the sight, transforming it into a sporting rear sight.

Diana 50 rear sight top
That lone screw on top of the rear sight pushes the foot down into the grooves in the ramp.

Diana 50 rear sight foot
The foot that contacts the grooves on the ramps can be seen underneath the rear sight.

Rear sight move forward

To use the rear sight as a sporting sight with a notch, I had to move it forward. I moved it to the front end of the forward sight base ramp. Then I screwed that lone screw back down and the foot meshed with the grooves in that ramp to secure it.

Diana 50 sporter
|With the rear sight moved forward the Diana 50 is transformed into a sporter.

Change the sight notch

One more thing needs to be done to complete the change to a sporter. I have dialed up the wide target post front sight element, and the rear notch has to correspond. It had been set on a wide cupped notch when the peep was installed, but the notch plate was rotated to put a square notch in its place. 

Diana 50 front sight
The Diana 50 has four different front sight elements that can be dialed into place. This is the target post.

To rotate the square notch plate, the rear sight needs a little elevation so the corners of the plate can clear the sight base on the rifle. That’s how low the rear sight adjusts!

Diana 50 notch plate
This rear sight notch plate has three notches — a square, a Vee and a U-shaped one. The fourth large U-shaped notch on the left is for visual clearance when the peep sight is clamped on.

Rear sight adjustability

I was surprised to see how much elevation adjustment there is in this particular rear sight. 

Diana 50 elevation adjustment
The rear sight adjusts up very far and the wheel that adjusts it has ten clicks for each step seen on the bottom plate of the sight assembly. The numbers on the top plate tell you which range of elevation the sight is in.

Not finished

Since it’s been so long since the last report, I read Part 4 thoroughly to see how the rifle was performing. I read that the rifle buzzed when it fired in the last test, which is to be expected with these older spring guns. But in this day and age we don’t have to put up with it, do we? I probably know what you are thinking. You think I stripped down the action and gave it a complete lube tune, but this time I didn’t. Instead I did almost exactly what I said I might do at the end of Part 4.

“There is a little bit of buzz when it fires, so it might be necessary to inject some Almagard 3752 grease into the mainspring to quiet down the powerplant. That could only make the shooting experience that much better. I might have a go at the trigger adjustment while the stock is off (for access to the mainspring). Don’t know if I will do any of this, but I’m writing it down as a reminder.”

I thought, “Why not?” The rifle is ready for another accuracy test, so why not do what I thought about last time? Only my tube of Tune in a Tube grease is so low that it no longer injects. I had purchased a 14-ounce grease gun tube of Almagard 3752 grease (same stuff as TIAT), but that can only be applied when the gun is apart and there is access to the parts to apply the grease directly. However, as I was rooting though my lubricant shelf my eye fell on the injector tube of Extreme Weapons Grease.

Diana 50 EWG
This tube of Extreme Weapons Grease is nearly full!

I used EWG on my Webley Hurricane we recently tested, and you may remember that it resolved all the problems I had with galling. It’s a thick grease like TIAT, so once more I decided to give it a try.

Some disassembly required

I didn’t want to completely disassemble the Diana 50’s powerplant, but to get to the mainspring I had to at least get the action out of the stock. And that project turned into the rest of my day!

Three stock screws

The action is held in the stock by three screws. The front triggerguard screw threads into the spring tube like we see on most spring guns. The threads are longer than I expected but there were no surprises.

The cross-bolt forearm screw is actually a proprietary two-piece affair, with a threaded bushing that holds the cross-bolt. It’s just as complex as the bolt itself. It came out easily, though the threads were about twice as long as I expected.

Diana 50 bolts
The front triggerguard screw is at the upper right. The stock cross-bolt and bushing are the two lower items. The bushing is actually half of the axel for the underlever during cocking.

With those two screws out I expected to separate the barreled action from the stock. Unfortunately there was one more screw, or nut, to deal with. Diana put a nut and washer on the threaded post that the underlever locks to. It has to come off and I saw the forearm had cracked from some force that could have been applied in the past.

Diana 50 forearm nut
The forearm is also held on by this nut that screws to the post where the underlever latches when closed. The stock has cracked along the grain — probably from someone trying the separate the stock from the barreled action before this nut was removed.

I looked at that nut and thought to myself, “Oh no! I have to make a special spanner to grab that nut!” I then spent the next 20 minutes looking though all my parts and tools to see what I could use to make the spanner. I could sacrifice a small socket from my tool kit and use a Dremel to grind away the sides until there were two short posts to fit into the notches on that nut. I looked and looked, but found nothing. If the socket was large enough to fit the notches it was too wide to fit into the tight channel in the stock. If it was small enough to fit in the channel it wasn’t wide enough to grab the two notches.

Then I thought about a flat piece of steel. That would be even easier to grind to shape, but the only piece I found was the flat tip of my longest screwdriver — the one I use to loosen the long screws in rifle butts that are held to their actions that way. I didn’t want to ruin it, because it took me years of combing though pawnshops to find it!

I decided that after lunch I would go to the hardware store and just buy a piece of steel of the right width. Then I stopped for lunch.

Wait a minute!

After lunch I decided to try one more thing before going to the store. I put the blade of a small screwdriver in one of the notches and tried to unscrew the nut. It was loose and came right off! I had wasted all that time thinking I had to make a special tool when the solution was so simple! Boy, am I glad I checked! The nut came off in less than a minute and the stock could be separated from the barreled action. I now saw that the washer under the nut is actually a spacer.

Diana 50 nut and washer
The nut and washer/spacer are off.

Glue the stock

Now that the stock was separated, I put some wood glue on both sides of the crack and troweled it in with the flat blade of a screwdriver. Then I clamped the stock to hold for several hours while I attended to other things. I left the repair clamped for about three hours and when the clamp was removed the crack was no longer visible.

Dry mainspring

With the action out of the stock and the cocking link removed I could see that the mainspring was bone-dry. No wonder the rifle buzzed a little when it fired!

Diana 50 mainspring
The mainspring was bone-dry. If ever there was any grease or oil on it, it’s now long gone.

Using the injector on the EWG tube I injected grease everywhere I could reach — including some on the body of the piston. I also lubed the cocking linkage with EWG, as it is under considerable stress when the rifle cocks. And I lubed both the bushing and the cross-bolt that the cocking link pivots on.

Diana 50 cocking link
The cocking link is in two parts and you can see the pivot hole that the stock cross-bolt fits through.

Assembly

After three hours the glue holding the crack in the stock had set, so I carefully assembled the rifle. When I shot it the first time after assembly, it was smooth. There was no hint of the vibration I formerly felt. As the rifle is fired the grease will slowly spread around the inside and hopefully get to all the parts.

Velocity check

Shooting the rifle was the proof of the job, but I wondered what the EWG had done to the velocity. This was an extremely thin application, so most of the velocity should still be there. I remembered that the Diana 50 was on the hot side for a target rifle, so I tested it with two of the pellets that had been used in the Part 2 velocity test.

JSB Exact RS

In Part 2 the JSB Exact RS pellet averaged 648 f.p.s. It now averages 690 f.p.s. The low was 667 f.p.s. and the high was 701 f.p.s. Only two shots were slower than 690 f.p.s. The only explanation I can offer for the increase is I lubricated the piston seal back in 2017. It must have soaked all through the leather piston seal by now.

In 2017 the RS pellet velocity varied by 136 f.p.s. In this test it varied 34 f.p.s. I think the piston seal is now working as it should.

RWS Hobby

In Part 2 the RWS Hobby pellet averaged 673 f.p.s. with a 45 f.p.s. spread. It now averages 680 f.p.s. with a 20 f.p.s. spread. 

Cocking effort

In Part 2 the rifle cocked with 25 lbs. of effort. It still cocks with that much force. It has been so long since I last shot the rifle that I can’t comment on any difference in the feel during cocking.

Summary

This has been a long-delayed Part 5 report on the Diana model 50 underlever. I still have accuracy to test with the sporting sights, so there is more to come. It’s great to be back with this old sweetie!