The Springfield M1A Scout Squad is a rifle that was the gun that is mostly said to have evolved from the M1 Garand into the M14 and then the M1A.
The year was 1954. The first production M14 rifle, also known as U.S. Rifle Cal 7.62×51 rolled off the production line into the hands of our military men. The M14 would replace the venerable M1 Garand which is chambered in the equally impressive 30-06 cartridge.
These two service rifles would share several design features and general aesthetic but end up having two very different roles in our Nation’s history. The M14 rifles were manufactured by Harrington & Richardson, Thompson Ramo & Wooldridge and a company some may be familiar with; then US owned Springfield Armory. This Springfield Armory however is not the same Springfield Armory we know today. We will get into that later.
Even though the M1 Garand had been lauded as the “best battle implement ever devised” there were still places to improve and in the later months of WWII the US began to do just that. The 30-06 cartridge, although a real thumper, was too much for some service members to accurately place shots and the limit of only eight rounds in an en bloc clip were some of the perceived shortcomings.
America had just witnessed the STG44 with its impressive rate of fire from its smaller intermediate cartridge in the hands of the now defeated Germans and wanted to follow suit with one of their own.
Springfield M1A Development
Originally the US began developing a rifle in conjunction with Great Britain and other newly formed NATO allies for the British .280 pattern cartridge. The idea was for the member countries of NATO to develop and produce a common cartridge along with a common rifle for ease of logistics in potential future conflicts.
At first, the US played nicely with her NATO allies but at the behest of a few high ranking officers that may or may not have had a personal interest in the development of the 7.62×51 and the then experimental M-14 that was to change.
It’s all history now, but the US would go on to develop the M14 and the rest of the NATO countries would select the FN FAL or a similar derivative of it. The cartridge that was selected to be chambered for both the M14 and FAL did end up being the 7.62×51.
The US would not have to wait long to put their new service rifle to the test.
Having been in development during the Korean War to replace the M1 Garand, the M3 “Grease gun” and the M1918 BAR, the conflict in Vietnam saw the deployment of the M14.
Unfortunately, the theater of operations in Vietnam being composed mostly of heavy, thick jungle the overall length of the M14 would hinder it from being used to its full potential.
The 7.62×51 cartridge was astounding when it came to stopping a threat, but the 22” barrel affixed to a traditional style stock proved too cumbersome and unwieldy to fight in the dense jungle.
Forced Early Retirement
The introduction of the M16 rifle in 1964, unfortunately, signaled the beginning of the end of the M14 as America’s standard issue rifle.
The M14 however can still be found in the hands of our fighting men and women across the globe as reworked M21 & M25 sniper rifles, Mk 14 EBR (Enhanced Battle Rifle) and also has found a home in the Civilian world as the Springfield M1A.
Modern Day Springfield Armory
The Springfield that manufactures the M1A is however not the same Springfield that helped develop and was originally granted the contract to produce the M14. That US Owned Springfield Armory was shut down in 1968.
A company by the name of L.H. Gun Co. out of Texas was renamed to Springfield Armory shortly after the original shuttered its doors to capitalize on the almost 200 year old history and name recognition of Springfield Armory.
The current day Springfield Armory does however still make the legendary 1911 pistol and of course the M1A rifle in addition to many more modern offerings.
Cooper and his Scout Rifle Concept
The subject of this review is a derivative of the M1A; the M1A Scout Squad. To briefly hit on the theory behind this particular model we need to look back to the early 1980’s and to a man by the name of Jeff Cooper.
Cooper wanted to design a rifle that he thought would be good for use in the woods or as a hunting rifle for guides.
The characteristics he would include for his concept of a scout rifle were they would typically (but not always) be bolt-action carbines chambered for .308 Winchester or 7.62×51, be less than 1 meter or 40 inches in length, and less than 3 kilograms or 6.6 pounds in weight.
He would also require iron sights and an option for forward mounted optics.
Finally, the scout rifle would be fitted with a practical useful sling.
These characteristics would make sure the scout rifle would be powerful enough to handle most any game (two legged of four) and comfortable enough to carry throughout a day while tracking in the woods.
While this concept has morphed over time, the general outline still exists in a niche market to this day.
The Springfield Scout Squad I would contend, fits into this category with a little flexing.
Springfield M1A from Front to Back
To keep some form of order during this review I will employ a linear tactic when reviewing each component of the Springfield M1A Scout Squad rifle I will start at the business end of the rifle which is only logical.
One of the first things I noticed when standing at the gun counter in my local gun shop while drooling over the vast assortment of firearms (these were well before covid times) was an interesting muzzle device attached to a gorgeous looking walnut stocked Springfield M1A.
Growing up I had been accustomed to seeing the long prong flash hider that usually attached to the M14 and its clone rifle the Springfield M1A.
This rifle in particular had an overall shorter distance from the end of the muzzle to the front sight post and in place of those long slots there were four holes drilled in several rows.
If one so wished it would not be that hard to find a replacement muzzle device to spice up the M1A or even to attach a suppressor to tame the bark from this impressive rifle.
The front sight post seemed to be roughly the same shape and design that I had seen growing up watching all kinds of movies that featured the storied M14 rifle.
The sight blade itself is well protected by two ears of steel that protrude up and start to bend away from the tip of the sight blade.
The width of the sight blade inherently lends itself to accuracy, and also along the lines of rugged utility.
The stock of this particular Springfield M1A Scout Squad variant of the Springfield M1A is solid walnut.
It is very attractive and complements the classic design of the M14 which it was cloned from.
You can also get the Springfield M1A Scout Squad in a synthetic stock that would be more appropriate for hunting or banging around in a truck as to not get damaged from moisture or dings in the beautiful walnut stock.
If you do decide to go with the walnut stock version there is some bonus functionality.
In the infamous words of Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, the Springfield M1A has “a shoulder thing that goes up.”
It is quite obvious that this feature is not what the Congresswoman was referring to in her ignorant and misguided ramblings but it’s funny nonetheless.
Underneath this scary feature (sarcasm) you will find a latch and another hinged door that covers two holes that can be used to store a cleaning kit or even some tactical Slim Jim’s.
I really dig the cold steel and wood feel you get with the walnut stock.
If the standard stock just isn’t your style you can also purchase birchwood stocks online or even used military issued M14 stocks.
There are also drop in tactical style stocks that bring the M1A out of its classic looks and into a more modern style with adjustable length of pull and other ergonomic improvements.
The Springfield M1A Scout Squad has an eighteen inch 1:11″ right-hand six-groove carbon steel barrel.
This barrel length was chosen by Springfield Armory to make the Scout Squad more portable and give it better handling characteristics than its full sized M1A.
This would appear to address one of the original complaints lodged against the M14 rifle.
One issue I noticed with the eighteen inch barrel is the additional muzzle blast from the unburnt powder leaving the barrel as the 7.62×51 cartridge was designed to be used in much longer barrels.
Although the Springfield M1A and the M1 Garand could be mistaken for the same rifle at a distance, their gas systems differ greatly.
The Springfield M1A and the M14 rifle it was cloned from actually have another military rifle that shares almost the same gas system; the M60 Machine gun.
When the M14 was developed it was done so with the ability to fire in full auto.
The gas system design on the M1 Garand would not be robust enough to handle the high cyclic rate of full auto fire, so therefore a new system had to be put in place.
The gas system that was used insured that the pressures would self regulate and therefore be much less likely to bend the op rod and end in a failure of the firearm.
Moving further to the rear of the Springfield M1A we come to the op rod itself.
The op rod is the metal rod that abuts the gas system and is forced towards the rear of the rifle when a cartridge is fired or when the user actuates the charging handle located at the rear of the op rod.
On the Springfield M1A the op rod is nearly identical to that of the M1 Garand. It is located on the right hand side of the rifle and is partially exposed at all times.
The op rod does reciprocate with each shot. This can be considered by some to be a drawback to more modern designs like the AR family of rifles.
If you place your hand on or near the point of the stock where the op rod turns in and down below the barrel of the rifle you can find yourself being pinched between the op rod and the stock itself.
This can also cause a malfunction of the firearm by keeping the bolt from going fully back into battery.
Another similarity between the Springfield M1A and the Garand is their bolt design.
The bolts on each rifle have two beefy locking lugs that interface with corresponding shelves on the receiver and each also has a roller to assist in the rotation and tracking of the bolt to unlock and move freely along the track.
The Springfield M1A has a last round bolt hold open and a bolt catch that is found on the left side of the receiver.
Following the bolt into the receiver you notice that it is made of steel and is quite robust.
The receiver is open on the top and right side allowing for the spent casings to be extracted and flung away from the action of the rifle.
On top of the receiver you will find the rear sight.
The rear sight is a well designed peep sight that is protected by metal wings on both sides. The rear sight is adjustable.
You can obtain different size peep sight rings and other models such as the National Match M1A comes with a smaller peep for making more precise shots.
Slightly in front of the rear sight you will find a fixed stripper clip guide. This can be used to feed the detachable box style magazine if your ammunition is contained in clips.
On the bottom of the receiver there is a detachable box magazine that can be had in many capacities. This is one of the more obvious departures in the similarities between the design of the M14/M1A and the M1 Garand rifle. The magazine is made of steel and is a rock-in to latch type magazine.
The magazine fit is snug and it locks in tight with an audible and tactile snap. The Magazine release is located just to the rear of the magazine itself and is a paddle style release that you push forward toward the magazine and then continue to push with your hand to remove the magazine.
The magazine of course holds the 7.62×51 NATO or .308 Winchester ammunition. The rifle is rated to fire both of these selections of ammo.
On the left side of the receiver you will find a hole which can be used to attach a rail that comes up from the left side of the receiver and sits over top partially blocking the area that the rifle was intended to eject the spent casings from.
If you choose to utilize this mounting location almost all of your scopes will require the use of a cheek riser to be attached to the stock of the gun to keep your eye inline with the scope or it will greatly affect accuracy and the usability of the scope itself.
The Scout Squad has another location for mounting optics.
This is what separates the standard M1A design from the Scout Squad model. On the Scout Squad model there is a section of metal picatinny rail that sits forward of the action and over the barrel of the rifle.
This unique location is what in my opinion makes this rifle so versatile.
With the forward location of the pic rail you have a wide variety of options when it comes to which glass you choose to mount.
You can opt for the name sake of this style rifle and get a scout scope that has an extended amount of eye relief to compensate for the placement of the optic or you can choose to mount any number of red dot or holographic options some of which we have reviewed.
At the time of review I chose to mount a Vortex StrikeFire II red dot as it did not currently have a home on a rifle in my collection.
I did swap out the cantilever lower ⅓ mount for a low mout to bring the field of view down to line up with normal eye placement and to give the user a natural cheek weld on the stock.
I feel that a red dot such as this is a good choice for the Springfield M1A and the StrikeFire II will remain on the Scout Squad rifle for the time being.
The trigger is a thin two stage affair which gives good accuracy and breaks clean with a short, crisp reset.
The safety when engaged protrudes into the front of the trigger guard.
For those that are not accustomed to this style of safety it can seem counterintuitive to place your finger into the trigger guard and therefore in line with the trigger to make the gun ready to fire.
I find this to be a non issue as I don’t disengage the safety on a rifle style firearm until I am ready to fire the weapon anyway.
To tear down the rifle for field maintenance you pull the rear of the trigger guard down and forward and the trigger pack will come free from the stock and action of the rifle.
Once removed you may clean and grease as needed. The action and barrel then may be removed from the stock and the oprod may also be removed from the barrel for cleaning and maintenance.
Shooting The Springfield M1A Scout Squad
When holding the Springfield M1A I can’t help but let my mind drift and my imagination take over and find myself daydreaming about some of the classic movies and TV shows that I grew up watching featuring the M14.
After connecting with my inner child, I then rock in a magazine containing twenty of those heavy hitting .308 Winchester rounds into the magazine well.
I then reach up and pull the charging handle to the rear of the action and let it go home; hearing the hefty clunk of the bolt stripping the top round off the magazine and slamming it home into the chamber.
After lifting the M1A to my shoulder the rifle feels very natural and fully at home.
The extra weight from the all steel and wood construction is hardly noticeable when in the zone.
The stock fits wonderfully into the crook of my shoulder, my cheek meets with the smooth walnut stock as the rifle melds into my person.
I loop my support arm in the sling to help brace the front heavy rifle as my eyes line up with the rear peep and front blade.
Once my sights are properly aligned I slip my finger into the trigger guard and disengage the blade type safety by pushing forward with the front knuckle of my trigger finger.
As it snaps to the off position I then calm my breathing and focus on the target. Once I am sure I’m ready to fire I use the pad of my trigger finger to take up the slack in the two stage trigger.
It’s obvious when I hit the wall of the trigger as all the slack has been taken up. The crisp snap of the trigger seamlessly blends into the thunderous boom of the .308 Winchester ammunition.
The rifle thumps into my shoulder and leaves no question as to if you just pulled the trigger.
The legendary action cycles and loads another round ready for me to fire. A huge smile spreads across my face as I’m reminded why I love this M1A so much.
Some would consider the Springfield M1A a safe queen, but I feel to appreciate any gun you must use it, and I do so joyfully.
Springfield M1A Scout Squad Final Thoughts
If you can’t tell by now, I LOVE this rifle. It is currently my favorite “battle rifle” I own. While it does command prime real estate inside my safe, I do not consider it a “safe queen.”
My guns are all tools, and a tool is useless unless it’s used.
With the current Federal administration and the lack of reasonably priced ammunition I don’t get to shoot anywhere near enough, but I still enjoy getting out on a weekend and exercising my God given rights with the Springfield M1A in my hands.
If I was forced to point out a shortcoming of this platform, the only thing I can think of would be the overall weight of a fully loaded and kitted out rifle.
When it comes down to it you can’t beat the wood and steel, the classic lines, and all the history behind the Springfield M1A.
Add on the modernization of the Scout Squad with its added handiness of the shorter barrel and it’s hard to find a better all around rifle.
The first time I set my eyes on an M1A on Sportman Outdoor website I was drooling over it. Not a cheap rifle but oh boy dream. Finally had enough saving I pulled trigger on an synthetic stock American flag. Put on a Vortex scout scope and sighted in with a laser bore sight. I was able to put 2 bullets in a same hole at 50 yards , and watch the drooling eyes from other shooters on my rifle. If I could only have one, this is!
I pick up my brand new m1a this week.
I appreciate your Wright up on this battle rifle.