Optic of the week: Leupold MK6 1-6 CMR-W 7.62

This is the most awesome optic that I am not going to recommend.

I’ve been selling off some of the stuff I wasn’t using. I ended up getting this scope in trade for a scope I wasn’t using and wasn’t going to use. I wouldn’t purchased this scope outright, but now that I have it, I really love it.

The MK6 1-6 is kind of an odd duck. It is most often seen with the CMR-W reticles which are most like an ACOG BDC with addition milradian hash marks and wind hold marks. It has a very bright daylight visible illumination, great turrets, an awesome 1x setting, a really nice battery cap, etc. But the list price is insane, and it is build for to be used in a way that I think makes it less preferable for most people.

There are two issues which I think makes the MK6 1-6 the wrong choice.
First is cost. MSRP is $2859.99
I’ve seen them sold used, with a mount for less than half that. Even so, that is pricey. While this scope is great, I wouldn’t pay that much for it. I only have once because I traded a much cheaper scope for it.

Second is the role of the scope.
There is a spectrum between speed and precision. A reflex sight is built for speed, and that 42X bench rest scope is built for precision. As magnification increases, users tend to want something geared more towards precision. This scope has a course BDC reticle and coarse adjustments, it is more like an ACOG+ than a mini-sniper scope. Most people I’ve talked to would rather have a mini-sniper scope these days. Now we have all sorts of new 1-8X and 1-10X that better fit that role over this scope. It is as if this scope is obsolete before it came to the market.

The glass is imported, so it doesn’t say “Made in the USA” I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t agree that foreign glass is better.

The turrets on this scope lock at zero and have a button to release them. If you press the button and turn it away from zero, they are no longer locked and you can turn them normally. Each click is clearly felt and barely audible. I found it really easy to set the zero on these as once I loosen the cap, turning it to zero locked the rotation, allowing me to just re tighten the screws. I would be perfectly happy if all my scopes had turrets like these.

These scopes turrets are .2 milradian adjustments. So about .72MOA per click. This allows the user to dial in up to about a 900m zero in a single turn, but also clearly shows that this is not a scope for precision shooting. I don’t think of this as a downside, but it is certainly an unpopular choice.

This is the best scope at 1X I have ever used. It felt the most like an Aimpoint than any other.

If you are properly aligned with the scope, the illumination is amazing. At 1X it is the flattest, nicest, most Aimpoint like view I have seen out of a magnified scope. But due to the lighting system this scope uses, if you are slightly off axis it dims greatly.

Lined up and the reticle is very bright
Move your head slightly and it dims.

The CMR-W BDC reticle is in meters. The 5.56 version goes to 900m (about 984 yards) and the 7.62 version goes to 1200m.

The center dot is for 200m. To the left and right there are mRad hash marks and a mRad vertical scale on the left. Along side the bullet drop chart there are wind lead marks for 10 and 20 mile per wind hold. Also on the left side of each distance there is a range finding tool.

A side note, I highly recommend when you are zeroing a scope, that is new to you, to start at close distances. This scope is was set 9 inches low at 25 yards. Had I started at 50 or 100 yards I would have been well off the target.

The battery compartment has a recessed button and flips open

The battery compartment makes for easy and fast battery changes and removes the chance of cross threading a cover back on. For the optics with short battery life, they all should have battery compartments like this.

The 20mm objective lens looks tiny in the 34mm tube.

I really enjoy shooting with and using this scope. But I do not recommend anyone buy one. Doubly so at list price. Optics design and tech is rapidly advancing. Now there are cheaper and smaller 1-8X scopes like the Nightforce NX8. When I first used the MK6 I thought it felt heavy and clunky. I was sort of surprised when I read it is the same weight as some much smaller scopes I own. It isn’t really heavy for what it is, but it is large. I think it feels clunky and overkill for an AR15, but less of a long range precision scope than you would want on a .308 Semi Auto.

It is a great scope, but if I was spending fresh cash, I would rather spend far less cash on newer scopes.

Inland MFG M3 Carbine

We have seen a few really nifty M1 carbines out of Inland the last few years. It was just a matter of time before they offered us the version the least known or seen. The M3 was the variant done up to mount a huge active IR night vision “sniper” scope and a huge battery to run it. It didn’t really pan out at the time but it’s existence did mean the carbine Colt version of the M16 would forever be known as the M4.

Now, if you add some normal day time optic to the handy little carbine that is another story. Above you can see the base/ring mounting system Inland has developed for the mounting of optics. Simply put, the base uses the redfield/leupold turn in front ring and dual windage screw rear ring system. any rings you want to buy that work in this manner will fit and work. And it works really well. I chose to put a vintage Weaver K4 on the gun as it is more evocative of the time period this gun had its short heyday.

The machine work Inland put in on this is kinda of amazing. My friend and partner in crime when it comes to our more insane long range shooting ideas is an experienced machinist and when I showed it to him, we both at first thought the base was part of the receiver and machined into shape. It took a surefire light and a closer look to see that it was indeed not part of the gun. It really is a beautiful job.

One of the things that sticks out on the M3 was the cone flash suppressor. Inland did not forget this iconic attachment. And it is attachable. As you can see above it is a simple system. You can chose to put it on or leave it off. I found it did not really impact accuracy any amount I could determine while on and shooting at ranges the 30 carbine round was meant for. There was slight changes when shooting with our without though and depending on the mood or whichever gun you may have, the amount of re-zeroing could vary. I did not bother to re adjust the optic as it was less than 3/4 inch impact change and I was shooting for groups and location on the target did not matter to me.

As expected, being able to use some magnification helped with group size at longer ranges. The Inland M1s have been accurate for me over years since starting to test them.

Group above was shot off bags from bench at 100 yards. The group is a 10 round group and the one flyer I offer no excuse for other than I just touched it off without being ready. The group below was fired at the head at 150 yards.

All groups were fired using federal soft point LEO ammo. I have no idea where I ever got this ammo from but it is pretty accurate. Unfortunately I used all I had left for this test. Target below was fired at center body of target from 300 yards. With the optic it was pretty easy. It is still a carbine meant for combat but I can’t imagine anyone with any sense really having much to complain about its performance at this range. But I am sure some one will in the comments.

Hey, what more could you ask for considering the limitations of the round? Pair the optic with a Korean era 30 round magazine and you got one heck of a neat little carbine for something. Walking around the farm shooting ground hogs or maybe short range coyote gun. With proper bullet selection maybe even white tail at shorter ranges. I don’t know, your imagination is the limit. It doesn’t need justification if you want it. if you think it’s neat then buy one. The quality won’t let you down, nor it’s looks.

I apologize for not having a full glamour shot of the gun with optic for this review. Something went badly wrong with my camera during the uploading process. The camera decided to die after 9 years and it took the remaining pictures with it. This includes the rest of the groups shots and the glamour shots of the gun posed with period militaria collectibles and all that crap you are used to seeing when I do these. That is also why this review seems shorter than normal. It’s not just your imagination or my laziness. I have been trying to recover those photos and if so I will update this review ASAP. To add to that this was the first time I didn’t bother to back up every picture by taking the same pictures with my Iphone just in case.

Optic of the week: HK Diopter BUIS

Ok, I’m phoning it in this week.  I found these old HK BUIS I thought I sold long ago, and I found that the old article on them has all the images missing.

On the HK416/MR556 and their .308 rifles as well the optics rail is higher than the rail on a standard flat top AR15.  Because of this HK fixed iron sights are lower than standard height AR15 sights so they can not compatible to use together.  Not that you would want too.

Under the 200m aperture of the drum, there will be 1 or 2 dots.  If there is a single dot (like this one) the sight is calibrated for a 10.4 inch barrel.  If there are 2 dots, it is the model for the 14.5 and 16.5 inch barrels.

HK Front sights are not adjustable, all zeroing adjustment is done on the rear sight.

The drum apertures are different sizes and set for 100 to 400 meters.  The 100m opening is much larger than the other ones to make it easier to use for close quarters use.

Windage is adjusted by loosing the screw on the top of the sight, and turning the screw on the right side of the sight.  1 full turn will move your point of impact 6 inches at 100m.  Tighten the top screw to lock the sight back in place.

Inside the drum there are two tabs.  Compressing both tabs inwards allows for the drum to turn adjusting the elevation of the rear sight.  You need to turn the elevation drum in 1/4 turn increments for 1.5 inch adjustment at 100m.  If you don’t have the proper sight adjustment tool, you can make adjustments using a pair of needle nose pliers.

Zeroing these sights can be annoying.

They are nice sights, and if you are more familiar with HK style sights than AR sights, it is nice to have this option.  However you can get good AR sights for cheaper that will have a finer and easier adjustments.

When the Army Resisted the M16A2, Part 1-3

Today  is our traditional day of re posting some of the best articles of our friend Kevin O’Brien  better know as Hognose by his many admirers and readers of his website weaponsman.com. Kevin left us too early  in spring of 2017 and we repost his work here to honor him and preserve his work.


By Kevin O’Brien

The M16A2 was adopted by the Marines in 1983, and then by the Army three years later, but all of its development was done, largely on a shoestring, by the Marines.

For example, the finger bump on the A2 pistol grip? The very first prototype was built up by a Marine officer on an A1 grip, using plastic wood or body filler! Most of the modifications to the A2 were aimed at:

  1. Increased practical accuracy;
  2. Increased effective range;
  3. Increased durability; and,
  4. NATO compliance (adopting a NATO round equivalent to the FN SS109 round).

In a brief overview of the service life of the M16 series for American Rifleman in June, 2012, Martin K.A. Morgan encapsulated this history well:

In November 1983, the U.S. Marine Corps adopted a product-improved version of the M16A1 chambered for the 5.56×45 mm NATO round. The new rifle was called the M16A2 and it differed significantly from its predecessor: improved rear sights, a brass deflector, a heavier barrel and 1:7-inch rifling were among the changes. The M16A2 also replaced the M16A1’s “AUTO” selector setting with a “BURST” setting delivering three rounds with every trigger pull. The Army followed the Marine Corps’ adoption of the improved rifle in March 1986 when it ordered 100,176 M16A2 rifles from Colt. In September 1988, the U.S. government placed an initial order for 266,961 M16A2s with Fabrique Nationale’s North American subsidiary, FN Mfg., Inc. of Columbia, S.C. Late the following year, when 57,000 U.S. military personnel conducted the Operation Just Cause invasion of Panama, the M16A2 was used in combat for the first time.

For practical accuracy, the A2 had new sights, with a square front post; for range, a new round with a heavier bullet, and new rifling to match; and for durability, new stocks and handguards and significant metal reinforcement in the lower receiver’s weak areas, the pivot pin bosses and buffer tower.

The rifle was not without controversy in the Army. Indeed, contractors for the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences examined the rifle and concluded that, as their paper’s abstract notes:

[U]se of the M16A2 rifle by the Army would be extremely problematic, a-fact due, in part, to the vast differences between the marksmanship training philosophies of the Army and the Marine Corps.

(The paper is here: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577.pdf)

The Army had been researching improvements to the M16A1 for years, but hadn’t actually implemented any. In the foreword to the Army Research Institute paper, the word “problematic” crops up again and one gets the sense that the problem was this solution was Not Invented Here, and moreover, not developed the way the Army wanted to develop one.

Referring to earlier research, they wrote:

A detailed evaluation of M16Al performance was conducted to determine adequacy, peculiarities, etc. The findings clearly indicated that the M16Al was an adequate combat rifle; however, many shortcomings were identified that should be addressed in a new rifle or any rifle Product Improvement Program (PIP).

They considered that the improvements in the A2, listed below, were suitable only for the peculiar circumstances of Marine Corps service.

The Marine Corps test results stated the following advantages for the PIP [Product Improvement Program -Ed.] rifle:

  • Ease of training (handling and ease of sight movement).
  • Improved safety (no hazard when adjusting elevation on the rear sight even with loaded weapon).
  • Increased effectiveness at long ranges (more hits, better accuracy, and greater penetration).
  • Improved handling characteristics and durability in hand-to-hand close combat.
  • Reduced barrel jump and muzzle climb during automatic and rapid fire.
  • Increased contrast and less glare with square front sight post.
  • Stronger, more durable and improved grasping characteristics of front handguard.
  • Stronger barrel with quicker twist to take advantage of increased effectiveness provided by new ammunition.
  • Improved sighting characteristics providing quick target acquisition for moving targets and better detection of targets in low level light conditions at close ranges, and more accurate long range fire by use of two modified rear sight apertures.
  • Increased ammunition conservation and more effective use of ammunition with burst control device.
  • Conformity to human factors standards by lengthening stock (alleviating bruised eyebrows, noses, and lips).
  • Stronger, more durable stock.
  • Stronger, more durable buttcap which also reduces slipping on the shoulder during firing.
  • More controllable and comfortable pistol grip contoured to the shape of the hand.
  • Improved brass deflector which protects left handed shooters from hot ejected brass casings.
  • Can use NATO type improved ammunition (XM855) which provides improved performance and penetration at long ranges.

The Army evaluators were impressed by that list of solutions, but thought they all traced back to four specific USMC objectives or requirements:

The above list of advantages is very impressive. It appears that the rifle meets the primary requirements stated by the Marines:

  • A sight adjustable to 800 meters.
  • A bullet with better accuracy at 800 meters and the capability to penetrate all known helmets and body armor at ranges of 800 meters.
  • A rifle with more durable plastic parts and barrel which will take a beating during bayonet training and extended field exercises.
  • The replacement of the full automatic capability with a burst mode which fires a maximum of three rounds with each pull of the trigger.

…but they thought that the requirements were too Marine-centric.

The list, however, represents the objective and subjective evaluation of Marine Corps personnel who are emphasizing the most positive aspects of rifle characteristics as they pertain to envisioned Marine Corps requirements.

This is the first of a three part series. In the second part, tomorrow on WeaponsMan.com, the Army contractors damn the A2 with faint praise and list a litany of A1 shortcomings that they believed that the A2 did not resolve. In the third part, the modifications that they suggested in lieu of or in addition to the A2 mods are enumerated.

As it was, the contracting officer’s representative approved the paper in February, 1986. In March, and probably before any of the responsible officers read the paper, the Army went ahead and adopted the M16A2, just the way the Marines had shaken it out.

That makes this paper a time capsule.

When the Army Resisted the M16A2, Part 2 of 3

The M16A2 was adopted by the Marines in 1983, and then by the Army in 1986. Shortly before its adoption, an Army contract analyzed the M16A2 — and found it all wrong for  the Army. The report is here: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577.pdf

This is the second of a three part series. In the first part, yesterday on WeaponsMan.com, the Army contractors noted the specific solutions implemented on the A2 and the problems the Marines solved thereby, but complained that the problems and solutions were too USMC-specific. In this part, we’ll discuss just what they thought was wrong about the Marines’ product. In the third part, which we’ll post tomorrow, we’ll list the modifications that they suggested in lieu of or in addition to the A2 mods.

M16A1 (top) and M16A2.

As we recounted in yesterday’s post, the Army let a contract to analyze the Marines’ product-improved M16A1, originally called the M16 PIP (Product Improvement Program but in November 1983, type-classified as the M16A2. Did the A2 meet the Army’s needs for an improved rifle? The contractors recounted 17 improvements in the A2 versus the A1, and traced those improvements back to four or five fundamental goals of the Marine program: more range, accuracy and penetration at that range, more durability, and a burst-fire capability in place of the full-auto setting.

The Army contractors recognized what the USMC had done — and damned it with faint praise.

The M16A2 rifle was developed and tested by the U.S. Marine Corps. The purpose of this present analysis was to evaluate M16A2 rifle features as they relate to U.S. Army training and combat requirements. It was found that the M16A2 did not correct major shortcomings in the MI6Al and that many M16A2 features would be very problematic for the Army. Accordingly, this report provides several suggested rifle modifications which would improve training and combat performance.

The A1 shortcomings that the paper’s authors thought went unameliorated, or were worsened, by the A2 included:

  1. 25 Meter Setting: The M16A2 does not have a sight setting for firing at 25 meters, where zeroing and most practice firing occurs.
  2. Battlesight Zero: The M16A2 does not have a setting for battlesight zero, i.e., 250 meters.
  3. Aperture Size: The M16A2 probably does not have an aperture suitable for the battlesight, e.g., the single aperture used for most marksmanship training, the record fire course, the primary aperture for combat, etc. The 5mm aperture used for 0-200 meters is probably too large and the 1-3/4mm aperture used for 300-800 meters is probably too small.
  4. Sighting System: The M16A2 sighting system is too complex, i.e., elevation is changed three different ways, leaving too much room for soldier error.
  5. Sight Movement: Sight movements on the M16A2 result in changing bullet strike by different amounts; .5, 1, 1.4, and 3 minutes of angle (MOA)*. The sights intended for zeroing, .5 and 1.4 MOA, are not compatible with old Army zero targets or the new targets being fielded.
  6. Zero Recording: The M16A2 does not have a sighting system which allows for easy recording of rifle zero. Also, the zero cannot be confirmed by visual inspection.
  7. Returning to Zero: The M16A2 does not have a reliable procedure for setting an individual’s zero after changing sights for any reason, e.g., using MILES or .22 rimfire adaptors.
  8. Night Sight: The M16A2 does not have a low light level or night sight.
  9. Protective Mask Firing: The M16A2 has not been designed to aid firing while wearing a protective mask.
  10. Range Estimation: The M16A2 sight has not been designed to aid in the estimation of range

Let’s consider those, briefly. Note that every single one of those objections relates to the sights. There are no complaints about the other Marine improvements (not even the hated burst switch). Most of the sight squawks were because the sight was different from the sights of the A1, which were pretty much as Stoner, Sullivan et. al. designed them circa 1959 (the earlier AR-10 sights are different, but the later AR-15 prototypes and their descendants all used something extremely close to the M16 and M16A1 sights. (The USAF/USN M16 and the Army/Marine M16A1 differed only in the absence and presence respectively of a forward assist). Even the protective mask issue is basically a sighting problem — with the then current US M17 gas mask, the rifle had to be held canted to use carrying-handle based rear sights.

Complaints 1-5 relate only to the M16A2 sights, but 6-10 are just as applicable to the then-issued Army M16A1.

Even at the time, it was clear that optical sights were better than irons — scopes for distance and red dots for close-in work. Army special operators had already tested — on the flat range, in the tire house, and on the two-way range — such early red-dots and both-eyes-open sights such as the Single Point and the Armson Occluded Eye Gunsight (OEG). In the early 21st Century, universal optics would end the long run of the M16A2, and sweep away all these problems the 1986 Army contractors worried about. But there was no way to predict that in 1986, not with any certainty.

And that’s Part 2 of our story. Tomorrow, we’ll cover the modifications to the M16 that the authors recommended in place of the A2

When The Army Resisted the M16A2, Part 3 of 3

The previous two stories set the stage, for a look at a report drafted for the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences the Army was still pursuing the “best” (an upgraded M16 meeting all Army objectives) instead of the “good” (the M16A2, which was developed and revised to meet Marine objectives). Of course, we all know the spoiler aleady: the Army accepted the Marine M16A2 as is, leaving the report as an orphaned artifact. The report is here: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577.pdf

Colt factory shot of the M16A2. The A2 was developed by the USMC, but was manufactured by Colt and FNMI.

This is the third of a three part series. In the first part, Thursday on WeaponsMan.com, the Army contractors noted the specific solutions implemented on the A2 and the problems the Marines solved thereby, but complained that the problems and solutions were too USMC-specific. In the second part, posted yesterday, we discussed just what they thought was wrong about the Marines’ product. In this, third, part, we’ll list the modifications that they suggested in lieu of or in addition to the A2 mods.

Most of the Army’s problems with the A2 related to the burst mechanism, and the sights, especially the complicated rear sight. (This is actually an A3/A4 or M4: note the knobs, left, for removing the carrying handle. The A2 handle was forged as part of the upper receiver.


We should note that the Marines’ tests, as reported in this document (p,7), demonstrated significantly lower reliability, and increased fouling in the A2 compared to its older brother. These tests are suspect because the early lot of XM855 used was considered bad ammo, but the M16A1 did outperform the A2.

Thirty Ml6A1 rifles firing 26,010 rounds of M193

Failures to fire – none
Failures to feed – 3 (Not locking magazine in place)

Thirty M16A2 rifles firing 26,010 rounds of XM855

Failures to fire – 52 (27 – bad ammunition) (25 – mechnanical [sic] malfunctions)
Failures to feed – 3 (Improperly loaded magazines)

Those failures to fire that were not attributed to bad ammo were thought to be caused by the A2 trigger system’s Achilles’s heel, the burst trigger mechanism. The A2 performed even worse in a cold weather test, but again, it was with the questionable ammunition, and many of the failures to fire were also laid at the feet of the burst mechanism.

The report has an interesting discussion of the burst mechanism and its rationale in Marine, but not Army, small arms doctrine:

The M16A2 has less combat capability due to the elimination of full automatic fire. Full automatic fire enhances the ability of Army units to clear and defend buildings, to conduct final assaults on enemy positions, to defend against an enemy final assault, to conduct an ambush, to react to an enemy ambush, to engage an enemy helicopter or fast moving vehicle, etc.

While the Marines claim greater accuracy and conservation of ammunition for the 3-round burst control, no data were generated during the test to support these contentions and no supportative [sic] data are known to exist.

Also, it should be noted that room-to-room fighting was conducted with blanks, no close-in firing was conducted, no firing with short time limits was conducted, no firing at aircraft was conducted, etc. In other words, for all of the automatic/burst firing conducted during the test, a semi-automatic mode of fire would have probably resulted in a greater number of target hits.

Finally, to be given very serious consideration, is the fact that the burst control requires nine (9) new parts in the lower receiver, evidently contributing to the large number of weapon malfunctions during testing of the M16A2.

They also took issue with the heavy barrel (“heavy in the wrong place”), the twist rate (preferred 1:9), stock length increased when even the A1 stock was too long for small soldiers, and the fast twist’s incompatibility with the .22 subcaliber system.

The article includes an extensive comparison of the pros and cons of Marine KD vs. Army Trainfire marksmanship modalities. These training differences result from the different combat envelopes for the rifleman: the Marines need to engage with rifles in the 300-to-800 meter space, because they don’t have the supporting arms that the Army can count on, at least, not in the same quantity. A unit that must fight with just its organic weapons needs to get the very most out of these weapons. The Army of 1986 did not consider a 500 or 600 meter target a primary rifle target, but a crew-served-weapons target.

In the end, the recommendations the contractors made were mostly about the sights. They put their recommendations in a table with the M16A1 and M16A2 stats. Since the latter are probably familiar to most readers, we omit them now to save time, and just show the contract recommendations.

Item Recommended
Front sight (day) Fixed blade, 0.090″
Front sight (night) Luminous dot on each sightguard
Rear Sight (day) single 2mm peep. A single elevation knob marked for 200, 250, 390, 25, 400, 500, 15, 600, 700, and 800 meters. Windage knob at rear. Each click equal to 1 MOA
Rear Sight (night) Two luminous dots on upper portion of receiver (or a single flip- up luminous dot located forward of the carrying handle) are aligned with front dots for shooting at night
Zero Recording Yes
Zero Inspection Yes
25m setting (day and night sights) Yes
Mechanical Zero Yes
250-m battlesight Yes
Firing mode Semi and Auto
Barrel 20″. Slightly heavier than A1 at receiver and mid-barrel. 1:9″ twist
Handguard Same as M16A2 except held in place with a securely fastened ring nut to provide rigidity.
Buttstock Same material as M16A2. Same length as M16A1. Option for adjustable length.

There are several interesting observations to make here. First, the contractors recommended that the Army make changes that would decrease the mechanical accuracy of the proposed M16Ax relative to the Marines’ A2. Specifically, these changes included the wider fixed front sight blade, the 1-MOA adjustments on the rear sight (A2 offers ½-MOA), and arguably the simplification of the rear sight. The trade-off was simplicity and ease of training, instead of superior bullseye performance.

Second, some of the proposals would definitely improve the utility of the firearm, including restoring the short stock, or replacing it with an adjustable one; increasing the barrel diameter towards the chamber rather than the muzzle, thus improving sustained fire accuracy and reliability; reverting to automatic fire from the burst mechanism (which also has side benefits, in improving the trigger’s feel and consistency). The night-sight proposal was truly ingenious.

Third, in some of these road-not-taken proposals, the Army was reverting to the original AR-10 design and rejecting changes that were largely imposed on the AR design by the Army in the previous decade. These include the rigid fastening of the handguard, and the fixed front sight blade.

Finally, these proposals were almost the last gasp of the iron-sighted military rifle. As this  document passed from the contracting officer to file cabinets across the service, without action, special operators were already wringing out scopes and single-point sights, and a few visionaries were already arguing that the day of the iron sight had run its three centuries, and was now at an end. A new generation of optical technology was eliminating the two objections that had kept optics off the rifles of most soldiers: less durability than irons, and slower target acquisition. Many men’s efforts went into winning over the Voices of Experience who still said “no” to anything with a lens, thanks to memories of Uncle Joe’s elk lost because his scope fogged up, or the VC that got away because somebody attached an unauthorized 4×32 Colt scope to the carrying handle of his M16.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

Putting the M1A in perspective.

Not that long ago I had a friend ask me about the M1A, to which I replied, “Don’t tell anyone because I have a reputation to uphold, but I actually like the M14.”  It was right at that moment that I was finally able to piece together my thoughts on the strengths and weakness of the M14 style rifle.  Now I am going to use the terms M14 and M1A interchangeably to refer to both the military weapon and the semi auto copies of it.

I love the M1Garand, and I see people buy them and love them too.  Someone gets a Garand and they know they are getting a piece of history, and a good rifle for shooting with iron sights.  They know they can use it in field positions and off the bench.  A person buying a Garand is not expecting to get the ultimate CQB Sniper Rifle for shooting sub-MOA 1000 yards.

We Americans often take great pride in our gall to push things past practicality and the M14 is the perfect example.  Historically American’s have always loved accurate combat rifles, and the M14 is no exception.  But there is a big difference between a combat rifle and a precision rifle.  The M14/M1A has great iron sights and is a fun gun to shoot.  But when you start try to turn it into a scoped precision rifle it just doesn’t make the grade.  Simply put the handling and practicality of the M14 dies when we try to modernize it.

Optics on the M14 end up at awkward heights.  The various ways to improve accuracy are significantly more expensive and harder to maintain than on more modern rifles.  If you have a match M1A with a bedded stock each time you remove the action from the bedding you wear and risk damaging the bedding.  I saw a great quote some years back from an Army Solider issued a M14 EBR.  He explained that with that weapon system being used in the desert he was suppose to properly clean it after every time he fired it.  Cleaning it properly would involve removing it from the chassis, which would then require re-zeroing.  Re-zeroing it would then necessitate cleaning.

That is a pretty extreme over the top example.  M1A are rather accurate rifles, and can be made more so.  But to get modern semi-auto sniper type precision out of a M1A is going to cost you a good deal of money and time and will require more maintenance than other alternatives.  You generally don’t see people try to turn FN FALs or rack grade G3s into precision rifles, same applies for the M14.

But, if you are looking for a good rifle to shoot with iron sights on the known distance rifle range off the bench and in field position the M14 is great at that.  I just don’t recommend buying a M1A thinking you can build the ultimate sniper by slapping a scope on it, or expecting to use it as the as the perfect CQB weapon with a red dot9.  Don’t forget the M14 is longer than a Garand.

Just like the Garand, the M14 is a piece of Americana.  A fun piece of equipment from it’s time, but that time has passed.