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Thread: Need help with an M1A

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Need help with an M1A

    I've been shooting my Springfield M1A scout squad, and I have to say I have not been happy with the accuracy. I'll start with the loads I've shot in it. I've tried a Saeco 315 clone, Lee 170gr, and 175gr HP from GT bullets. I've tried .310", and .311" sizing. I've tried a plethora of powders. Bluedot, 4227, 5744, 3031, 4895, varget, 4831, and likely more. Everything I've tried has all been 4" to 6" at 100 yards

    Now onto the rifle. I shot it as it came, in its plastic stock with peep sights. I then mounted a pistol scope onto the scout scope rail that it already had on it. The scope did not help at all. I then put an M14 birch wood stock on it, and kept the scope, still no change. At this point I started to do serious research into the problem. I decided to strip it all the way down. I took everything off I could. I replaced the flash hider with a sight base. I took the scope and scope mount off the barrel. I found I had a ton of play behind the gas block. I flipped the nut around and found it stopped right to 5 o clock, and tightened perfectly. I hogged out the stock around the gas system so there was adequate room such that nothing was touching. When I put the action back in the stock, I did not put the hand guard back on. I left it off to eliminate any possible variable. I found no change in accuracy.

    More research, and talking to good M14 gunsmiths found that that connection from action to stock ferrule is critical. I polished that surface and put a dab of grease on it. I also felt like there wasn't enough draw pressure on it. I added painters tape under the action, in front of the trigger guard only. This increased the draw pressure, and I could tell the action was self centering. I also found my rear sight had some play in it. To eliminate the variable, I used a rubber band so it is always pulled to one side. So I shot it again, not one iota of improvement from when I bought it.

    Back to the loads themselves, the saeco 315 fits like it was made for it. The bore riding part slightly engraves, and I seat such that it is barely off the rifling, to ensure perfect function. I will say one thing, with any of the slower powders, this rifle has been 100% functional. No worries there. What I hate is that no matter the load, there is no change, not for better or worse. Different targets, different holds, different gun rests. Nothing matters.

    Something is wrong with the rifle, and I can't figure out what it is. Surely these are supposed to shoot better than this, I've seen knockoff SKS's shoot as good. About the only thing I have not done is had the stock bedded and gas system unitized. Is it worth shelling out the money on this, or should I start over with a different rifle? The barrel itself on mine seems fine. The rifling is smooth, groove just a tick over .308". Crown looks ok. As much as it sickens me, I may have to try some jword bullets in this one.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    No shame! I keep a few boxes of jwords around for diagnostic purposes!

  3. #3
    Boolit Bub RickF's Avatar
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    Hit the guys up on the M14 Forums, they live and breathe that rifle ... https://m14forum.com

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    I'd try some 147gr FMJs, or some 150ish grain match stuff at full pressure for comparison.

    They should do better.
    If you're trying for much better than 2", without having a good day- and can't quite get there--
    Yours may be the difference between a rack grade rifle and a NM.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    That is likely the next step. I have some 165 grain Hornady's that should work. Possibly 150's. I never expected or cared that mine is a tack driver. I expected around 2"-3" groups. Consistent sub 3 MOA was the goal. Most groups are 5"-6" with the rare 4", and that doesn't do it for me. I have shotguns that are more accurate.

    All groups have been 5-10 shot, fired as slow as I possibly can. I've tried both from the magazine, and single feeding.

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master

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    How does the action fit in the stock? If should take come pull to rotate it out if the stock. how snug does the trigger guard latch in place? Is there any bind or drag in the op rod when the spring is removed? The op rod bolt should open and close freely by raising and lowering muzzle 30* or so. Bind in the op rod guide can throw accuracy off even. The gas block retainer should go slightly past about 1 hour and then back to line up. Over tightening the flash hider nut is also detrimental to accuracy. Is the hand guard free not tight between action and front ferule. Also check ferules fit on gas cylinder.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by country gent View Post
    How does the action fit in the stock? If should take come pull to rotate it out if the stock. how snug does the trigger guard latch in place? Is there any bind or drag in the op rod when the spring is removed? The op rod bolt should open and close freely by raising and lowering muzzle 30* or so. Bind in the op rod guide can throw accuracy off even. The gas block retainer should go slightly past about 1 hour and then back to line up. Over tightening the flash hider nut is also detrimental to accuracy. Is the hand guard free not tight between action and front ferule. Also check ferules fit on gas cylinder.
    The action certainly isn't a tight fit in either stock. It does not have any play, although it will fall out if I tip it upside down and barely bump the stock. The trigger guard fits tight, and takes a decent force to remove. There is certainly some cam action pulling the action into the stock. I have not removed the spring, I will try that later. By op rod bolt, I assume you mean the plunger from the gas cylinder (piston)? That moves free as a bird, and slides back and forth if I tip the gun. I'll look more into the operating rod with binding. I was watching videos by Tony Ben that the gas block nut should stop about 5:00 or 5:30. Mine is close to 5:00. The way it came was with the nut reversed, and it went past to the next 1:00. Way loose. I did buy shims, but found flipping the nut worked. This did not have even the tiniest bit of improvement in accuracy though. I could try the shims to get the nut to 7:00 or so as you say. The flash hider nut (which is now just a threaded end sight base) I went finger tight, then tighten to the next notch for the set screw. I wouldn't consider it overly tight, maybe 5 ft lbs torque. The sight base fits the barrel perfect, no slop at all. The hand guard was not binding that I could tell, but I took it off anyway, and have been shooting without it. The ferrule on the stock is tight, polished, and greased. The ferrule on the gun (the lipped piece) has play with the gas block nut loose, but none when tightened. I have not had it welded or screwed (unitized) to the gas block. There is some gap in between the ferrules, the only part touching is the surfaces on the bottom.

  8. #8
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    Accuracy of M-14 based rifles tend to be highly dependent on consistent gas port pressure. Some loads that shoot well in a bolt gun will not perform in M-14's. After the specs changed for M118 to not include M-14 accuracy testing the accuracy of later M118 went down in M14's yet remained consistent in bolt guns. My recommendation is to test with the 168 or 175 grain jacketed match bullets to provide a baseline of accuracy. For factory M852, M118LR or Federal Match are a good baseline of proven performance.

    With these you should be under 2 MOA with a box stock rack grade rifle. With 147 ball or later M118 expect that to open up by at least 1 MOA. With a full blown NM spec and a good barrel 3/4" to 7/8" is very doable for 10 shot groups fired in rapid fire cadence.

    Once you know what the actual accuracy potential of you rifle you can determine corrective action.
    Last edited by M-Tecs; 05-16-2020 at 01:04 AM.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I am sorry for being confusing in my statement. I should have said it this way the op rod/ bolt should lock unlock and open and close freely tipping the muzzle up and down 30*-45* rise and drop from level.

    On my NM guns Kreiger full heavy barrels the unitized gas cylinder made a difference. You might consider spotting the action and trigger group into the stock to make sure its not in a bind. You might try thin card board shims to tighten action in the stock. Another place to check is the stock liner. it needs to be tight in the stock and bear evenly on the action.

    A full blown tuned and heavy barrel, bedded in will surprise most with the accuracy.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Instead of card stock, I used layers of painters tape to tighten the action in the stock. I don't know how to check that it is even in the stock liner. It doesn't seem to be out of wack. To me it fits good, only the most modest of front to back play between the action and stock liner. The stock liner is rock solid inside the stock.

  11. #11
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    What m8k load with 4895?

    Any idea of the velocities of your loads?
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Gibson View Post
    What m8k load with 4895?

    Any idea of the velocities of your loads?
    I don't know for sure with all my loads, but I doubt any have climbed over 2200 fps. One of the stouter loads I tried was 33 grains 3031, and that only went 2080 fps. Most loads have been slower. I've even tried very light loads that I knew would not cycle the action.

    I took the operating rod spring off, and the operating rod and bolt are smooth as can be. It slides around no problem at all. I loaded some 165 gr Sierra gameking's today with 3031 and reloader 15 powders. If none of those shoots even a little better, I'll know something is up.

  13. #13
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    If it were me I would look at the 155 grain boatail match grade bullet. The standard bullets in that rifle were 145-150 grain range. The use of 165-175 grain bullets by snipers seems like to much bullet for normal use. Remember snipers had different skill sets and use for the m14. Shot one in Army to qualify and did well with the 147 grain bullets that we used. YMMV
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by shdwlkr View Post
    If it were me I would look at the 155 grain boatail match grade bullet. The standard bullets in that rifle were 145-150 grain range. The use of 165-175 grain bullets by snipers seems like to much bullet for normal use. Remember snipers had different skill sets and use for the m14. Shot one in Army to qualify and did well with the 147 grain bullets that we used. YMMV
    I have some 125 grain Sierra's, but other than that 165 gr is the lightest I own.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    I did not see NIB or used/new to you, anyway. Most are cleaned from muzzle and bad things do occur from time to time. Anyone around you or youself have a bore scope to inspect muzzle? You or anybody have a nice piloted 11 degree muzzle cutter?

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I purchased it brand new in box. I've had the flash hider off a number of times. The crown is decent. Talking with gunsmiths, they admit any problem with the crown would likely effect the shot in one direction, not send bullets off wildly. I have 450 or so rounds through the rifle, cleaned once about 100 rounds ago. I used a steel rod with a bore guide. I've found no strange spots in the barrel, it seems nice and consistent. Little fouling at all, only a little powder wiped out. I've tried bullets .310" but most have been .311". I do not have a bore scope, but the gunsmith does.

    I loaded up 40 rounds of the 165gr sierra with 3031 and 40 round with reloader 15. I also loaded 20 rounds with a 125gr sierra with 3031 that shot great in another rifle. It has either been rainy, windy, or rainy and windy the past 3 days, so have not shot yet.

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Alloy?

    GC?

    Lube?
    Larry Gibson

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  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    40.5 to 41 grains of IMR 4895 does very well with 168 match bullets. Sierra 165 game kings would be a close replacement and about as accurate.

    If that won’t shoot better than 2” you do have a gun problem not a load problem.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Boyle View Post
    40.5 to 41 grains of IMR 4895 does very well with 168 match bullets. Sierra 165 game kings would be a close replacement and about as accurate.

    If that won’t shoot better than 2” you do have a gun problem not a load problem.
    I loaded 5 rounds at 41 grains of IMR 4895 with the 165 gr sierra.

    I had fired a few groups with 3031 first, and groups were inconsistent, but were an ever so slight improvement over cast bullets. They went 3 3/4", 4", and one at an all time best 2 1/2" which was 40.5 gr 3031. Groups were fired slowly, and I waited between groups to make sure the barrel was cooled. I then tried the 41 gr of 4895. I was amazed to find 4 shots at 1 3/8", but then a 5th shot went about 8 1/2" low and 2" left! I have that pictured below. I did not pull the shot, I did not mess up the load. All charges were weighted on a scale. I had a crystal clear view of the sights and target. The shot felt good. I have no good explanation on how that show made it so far off.

    At this point I decided to remove the painters tape stock shims. All I had left was Reloader 15 with the 165 gr and 3031 with a 125 gr bullet. I fired 4 groups, three with RX15 and one with my previously worked up (in another gun) load with the 125 gr bullet. All 4 groups were randomly scattered in about 5" groups, exactly the same as I got with cast bullets.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    One other thing I noticed, I can tweak the stock, and get the rear of the action to move around inside the stock. At this point I feel like stock fit is the problem. It seems once in a while the rifle will show potential, like the group shown above. I would hate to dump $300 into this, only to find out the rifle still isn't that accurate.

    One other thing I did was to test the rear sight. I had been shooting it with a rubber band holding the peep to the right. This worked very well. I then put the rubber band on the left side and found the group moved about 4-5"! So that will need to be addressed at some point. I'm not too impressed with Springfield, they more or less brushed me off. You would think they could do better for a $1500 rifle.

    Now I have to decide. Am I going to have the stock bedded, gas system unitized, rear sight fixed, etc.?

  20. #20
    Boolit Grand Master



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    That's pretty grim. If you do have it worked on the M-14/M1a is somewhat of a different cat. Very few people full understand accurization of this platform.
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check