Gun Test: Springfield M1A In 6.5mm Creedmoor
By Holt Bodinson, GUNS Magazine
When I was in the military we trained with Garands and M1 carbines. Arriving in the field, we were issued brand new M14s fitted with semi-auto/full-auto selector switches. Our first hasty range session was a real kick when we switched over to full auto — we were able to place just one round on target and then stitched the clouds with the following ones. The upshot? The M14 on full auto proved to be an utter disaster. The selector switches were tossed.
Back in civilian life and competing at the national level in high power, I was intrigued when Springfield Armory’s M1A began showing up on the line and began going head-to-head with our custom Winchester Model 70 match rifles. But the M1A is like that. It proved supremely accurate in the national across-the-course matches, and it didn’t take long before many of us converted over to them.
To fully check out the rifle’s potential, Holt chose one of Leupold’s newest long-range precision scopes, the VX-3i LRP 6.5-20×50 with a T-MOA reticle.
Irons anyone? These are adjustable in 1/2-MOA increments for windage, 1 MOA for elevation (above).
And, of course, there’s the obligatory and efficient muzzlebrake (below).
I’ve always thought the M14/M1A was what the Garand should have been — a lighter, half-stocked rifle with a detachable box magazine and refined gas system.
While the M14 didn’t last long as a general-issue service rifle, maybe its greatest contribution was in giving us the eminently efficient, flexible and accurate 7.62 NATO, or as we know it, the .308 Winchester.
The .308 has been an iconic, big-bore match cartridge for decades, but times are changing. In the big-bore league, the 6mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor are quickly becoming the dominant players, so it wasn’t a surprise when Springfield Armory announced they were going to begin chambering their M1A in 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s been a match made in heaven.
At the top of the line is Springfield’s “M1A Loaded Precision Adjustable” model pictured here. It joins a family including the Standard, SOCOM, Scout Squad, National Match, Super Match, M21 Tactical and Loaded, dressed out in walnut or composite stocks.
When Springfield uses the term “loaded,” they mean it. This model incorporates all the accuracy-enhancing elements the Armory has developed over decades of building National Match level rifles. The Loaded Precision Adjustable model in 6.5 Creedmoor is fitted with a 22″ stainless steel, medium-weight, National Match air-gauged barrel, with a 1:8 twist and muzzle brake.
The National Match 2-stage trigger is adjusted to 4.5 to 5 lbs. The National Match iron sights are adjustable for 1/2 MOA of windage and 1 MOA of elevation. A side-mounted Picatinny rail is screwed into the receiver.
The barreled action is bedded into a tactical-styled, black or flat dark earth composite stock by Archangel fully adjustable for length-of-pull and comb height. Without a scope or the factory-supplied 10-shot magazine, the new 6.5 Creedmoor tips my Sunbeam scale at 11-3/4 lbs. with an overall length of 45 up to 46-1/4″ and an MSRP of $2,045.
Less is more: The 6.5 Creedmoor offers superior downrange ballistics and reduced recoil over the original .308.
Holt loved the Archangel stock, fully adjustable for length of pull and comb height.
The Picatinny rail allows easy accessory mounting.
To check out the accuracy potential of the rifle we selected one of Leupold’s newest long-range precision scopes, the VX-3i LRP 6.5-20×50 with a T-MOA reticle. The reticle is clean and uncluttered with 1 MOA hashmarks extending for 10 MOA along the vertical and horizontal axes. With a 30mm tube offering 80 MOA worth of windage and elevation adjustment ranges in 1/4-minute increments and side-focus parallax adjustment, it’s a big, brilliant scope weighing 22 oz. with a price of $1,169.99. Mounted in Leupold rings, it brought the weight of the M1A up to 13 lbs., 6 oz. — and that’s what you might call a stable shooting platform!
The other optic Leupold provided was their Gold Ring 12-40x60mm HD spotting scope. When looking for 6.5mm bullet holes on target at 200 yards, it was an invaluable asset. What I appreciated most was its large exit pupil and its generous—and very forgiving—eye relief. Spotting scopes that force you to scrunch into their eyepiece while wearing protective eyeglasses to see anything clearly are pretty much history. The newer ones aren’t all that inexpensive, but optically they’re light years ahead of what we had just a few years ago.
Holt relives his Army M14 days, only this time in 6.5 Creedmoor. Back when he was a recruit, he would’ve loved the optical assists from Leupold.
Zeroing the scope at 100 yards, we fired what has become the standard target load for the 6.5 Creedmoor, a high BC, 140- or 142-gr. open tip boattail at 2,600-2,700 fps. Offering light recoil, a flat trajectory, high retained energy and inherent accuracy, it’s not hard to see why the 6.5 Creedmoor has become so successful in so short a time.
Four brands of 140-gr. match ammo were on hand: Federal American Eagle, Hornady, Nosler and SIG. The M1A liked them all. All 3-shot groups were sub-MOA with the Nosler load consistently turning in the smallest groups with the best of 0.42. The more economically priced Federal American Eagle was no slouch either, with its smallest group ticking in at 0.84.
Velocities from the 22” barrel ranged from 2,602 fps to 2,631 fps. With sub-MOA grouping and almost uniform velocity readings, factory-loaded Creedmoor ammunition is simply outstanding. You’d be hard pressed to beat it with handloads.
Wanting to see how the M1A Loaded Precision Adjustable would hold up at 200 yards with the Nosler load gave me an excuse to work in a little more range time.
At the 200-yard line, there was a gusty wind coming in at 4 o’clock and registering a problematic 9 mph, gusting to 18 on my Kestrel. My first 3-shot group was the best one of the afternoon, measuring 1.33. The largest group of the four fired measured 1.62. So is the M1A Loaded Precision Adjustable a sub-MOA prospect with factory ammunition? Yes. And I would have loved to have had the time to fine-tune it with match handloads.
Working with the rifle was like working with an old friend. All the controls were there, except for those unforgivable selector switches. It fed, fired, extracted and ejected without a hiccup. In 6.5 Creedmoor, its accuracy and reduced recoil were refreshing. Just keep it well greased and it will never fail you.