Springfield Armory M1A Air Rifle Test Review .177 Caliber
Testers: Eric Brewer, Stephen Archer
Model Number: SA-M1A-PL177WS
Test Date: Nov 11, 2020
Serial Numbers: 0379
Source of Supply: Supplied by Air Venturi
Excellent performance for the money.
Accurate with many types of pellets.
Captures the look and feel of the centerfire M1A.
We Don't Like
Pellet loading space restricted.
Safety operates “backwards”.
- Value for Money 100%
- Speed and Accuracy 70%
- Trigger and Cocking Effort 70%
- Comparison to Makers Claims:100%
- Consistency 80%
- Noise Level 70%
- Sights 70%
- Shootability 60%
- Appearance and Finish 80%
- Buying and Owning 80%
HARD AIR MAGAZINE TEST CONCLUSIONS
At a Street Price of $199.99 the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is very well priced and excellent value.
Accuracy, consistency and general feel give the strong impression that this is a well-engineered airgun and a very good replica of the centerfire M1A.
Precisely because it’s such a good replica, most of the downsides match those of the firearm original. This is a big, heavy rifle that needs a large, strong owner. Scope mounting is less than ideal, but plenty of workarounds are available.
It’s a definite HAM Gold Award winner!
VALUE FOR MONEY
At a cost of $199.99, the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is an attractively-priced “lookalike” version of the classic centerfire rifle. Just the prominent box magazine is missing to complete the picture.
Some people will like it because it reminds them of the M14 battle rifle (that they may have carried in service). Others will like it because of the substantial wood butt stock – yes, it’s real “tree wood”, compared to the sea of synthetic-stocked springers out there around this price.
Another group will like it because they value the accuracy potential that the fixed barrel, underlever cocking system offers. And then there’s the folk that will welcome the included adjustable open sights that are slowly fading from being an inevitable part of every air rifle.
Finally, there’s the “die hard” springer shooters who will be pleased to welcome a completely new traditional, single-shot spring/piston air rifle. (It’s the only one since the SIG ASP20 of 2018 to the HAM Team’s knowledge).
So the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is likely to appeal to many types of airgunners. It’s also likely to appeal to the many who can value it as a well-built, well-priced airgun.
It’s definitely great value!
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SPEED AND ACCURACY
The Springfield Armory M1A air rifle tested by HAM produced a maximum Muzzle Velocity of 1,126.42 FPS with the lightest GTO lead-free pellets in the HAM test suite.The maximum with lead was 982.48 FPS with 7.0 Grain RWS Hobby pellets.
The mid-weight lead domed pellets that will be chosen by most users produced numbers in the 900- 940 FPS range. This is good for everyday shooting and is allied to a Muzzle Energy of around 15.5 Ft/Lbs.
If anyone’s thinking about shooting slugs with this gun, HAM recommends you save your money and stick to pellets! Just about no spring/piston air rifle – including this one – has enough power to make slug shooting a successful proposition.
Note that this is NOT a slam on the M1A air rifle which the designers would not have expected to be used for slug shooting. We mention it only because airgun slugs are a hot topic right now, so someone’s sure to ask!
|Pellet||Average Muzzle Velocity||Average Muzzle Energy||Accuracy|
|GTO Predator 5.5 Grain||1126.42 FPS||15.5 Ft/Lbs||Very good.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy Green 5.56 Grain||1102.46 FPS||15.30 Ft/Lbs||Very good. Best tested.|
|RWS Hobby 7.0 Grain||982.48 FPS||15.10 Ft/Lbs||Very good.|
|Crosman Premier HP 7.9 Grain||942.64 FPS||15.59 Ft/Lbs||Very good.|
|JSB Exact Diabolo 8.44 Grain||904.31 FPS||15.33 Ft/Lbs||Very good.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy 8.64 Grain||907.17 FPS||15.59 Ft/Lbs||Very good.|
|H&N Baracuda Match 10.65 Grain||786.67 FPS||14.64 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
Accuracy was very good with all the standard HAM test pellets – except for the heavy H&N Baracudas.
Surprisingly, the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is one of the few airguns HAM has ever tested that gave best accuracy with alloy pellets. In this case the H&N Field Target Trophy Green alloys.
The target below represents very good shooting for 10 shots with a $200 springer at 25 Yards – by both the gun and HAM Tester Eric Brewer!
TRIGGER AND COCKING EFFORT
The trigger of the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is trigger is non-adjustable. So “it is what it is”. However the gun tested by HAM was good. Actually, we thought it was very good although it felt like a single-stage trigger rather than a two-stage job as claimed.
The pull weight average almost exactly 3 Lbs 8 Oz. Eric Brewer felt this to be “an ideal pull weight”. He also liked the consistency of pull weight and found it smooth to operate. However he did find that he had to hold the trigger in exactly the same place every time to achieve accurate shooting.
The manual safety worked as expected. However it operates in the opposite fashion to the M1A centerfire rifle. Rather un-intuitively, the safety is “on” when pushed outside the trigger guard (as in the photograph above). It’s “off” when pulled back inside the trigger guard.
That’s a shame and will cause confusion to those familiar with the centerfire rifle.
Cocking is fairly easy. The cocking lever required about 35 Lbs of effort on the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle tested by HAM. There’s an extension that can be pulled-out the lighten the apparent effort. However the HAM testers did not find this to be necessary.
Pulling down the cocking lever slides forward the top handguard of the rifle, exposing the loading port. This all takes place in one fluid action, with the anti-beartrap safety mechanism being engaged at the completion of the lever’s rearward travel.
COMPARISON TO MAKERS CLAIMS
The manufacturer claims that the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle has a maximum Muzzle Velocity of up to 1,000 FPS in .177 caliber. The gun tested by HAM handily cleared this, exceeding 1,100 FPS with alloy pellets. It also came very close – 982 FPS – when shooting the lightest lead pellets: RWS 7.0 Grain Hobby wadcutters.
Another claim is that the cocking effort is 35 Lbs. This was matched exactly by the particular gun tested by HAM. (But it really didn’t feel that heavy). It’s reasonable for a spring/piston air rifle of this power.
Of course, the major claim is that this is a “faithful replica” of the centerfire M1A. The HAM Team feels that – with the omission of the box magazine – the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle does a very good job of matching the appearance and feel of the original.
The Springfield Armory M1A air rifle tested by HAM delivered good consistency in many respects.
Muzzle Energy was unusually consistent for a spring/piston air rifle. It varies between about 14.5 and 15.5 Ft/Lbs, dependent on pellet weight.
The average Standard Deviation (the measurement of shot-to-shot variability of FPS in a string) was also very well controlled. The average overall was 8.22 FPS. This is a very creditable figure for any spring/piston air rifle and it dropped as low as 3.87 FPS with the JSB Exact pellets. That’s well into high quality PCP consistency levels!
However the very high scope positioning inevitable in any M14-type rifle made it difficult to shoot with consistent accuracy. The shooter tries to achieve a “chin weld”, rather than the ideal cheek weld.
Our test gun also had a tendency to send the first shot in every string just a little higher on the target than the remaining shots. We don’t have a good explanation for this, but it happened time-after-time in HAM testing.
The Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is not a loud gun under normal circumstances. It’s true that the molded synthetic replica front sight/flash hider assembly does nothing to minimize the noise of firing. However – unless alloy pellets are used – the gun is definitely backyard-friendly to shoot.
The Muzzle Velocity of alloy pellets exceeded 1,100 FPS in the HAM test gun, however. As such, they broke the sound barrier and made the gun crack like a 22LR! This is completely unsurprising and the same result occurs with any air rifle – silenced or not – firing pellets at such velocities.
So, if you want to be backyard-friendly shoot lead pellets in your .177 caliber Springfield Armory M1A air rifle. If you need – or want – to shoot lead-free pellets, choose the .22 caliber version as that will shoot slower.
Often spring/piston airguns will have operational noise from the action itself. As this is close to the shooter’s ear it can sound very loud. In the case of the M1A air rifle tested by HAM, such noise was not at all noticeable. “Low spring noise,” Eric remarked in his test notes. “That tells me that the components were made to fit and not just thrown together”.
This could be due to the significant mass of the wood buttstock, or the generally perceived high quality of design and construction, or both!
SIGHTS AND SCOPE
The Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is equipped with iron sights that are a good facsimile of the centerfire originals.
The rear aperture sight is elevation and windge-adjustable using “clicking” control knobs, just like the original. The post front sight (shown above) is also to centerfire sight appearance, although it’s not drift-adjustable for windage.
The main difference from the original sights is that the ones fitted to the air rifle are molded from a synthetic material, rather than being metal – as on the original. However, the rear sight works well and has a good range of movement available, both for windage and elevation changes.
Many owners will want to fit a riflescope, of course. As the airgun is such a good representation of the centerfire original means that the same issues arise as fitting a scope to a M14/M1A firearm. So a separate scope rail/mounting plate assembly is required to do this.
We used a scope rail kit supplied by Air Venturi for this task. The parts are all metal and very substantial. It’s very likely that the same kit would fit a centerfire M1A.
With the mounting plate/rail attached, we mounted a Leapers UTG 3-9 x 40AO scope with UTG Picatinny rings.
As we’ll see below, at 12.75-Inches long, this is about the longest scope that could fit the gun. Also – just like the centerfire original – the scope sits VERY high above the bore.
This is the reason for the profusion of aftermarket cheek risers that are available for centerfire M1As. If this was our personal air rifle, the first thing the HAM testers would do is to install a cheek riser!
Note that – again common with powerful spring/piston airguns – the scope mount thumbscrews tended to work loose with shooting. HAM Tester Eric Brewer (himself an experienced, qualified mechanical engineer) noted that he would add a drop of non-permanent machinery adhesive to the screw threads were this his own gun. That should fix the issue…
Inevitably, some folk will ask: “Can the open sights be used when a scope is mounted?” The answer to this is yes, it’s possible to see underneath the scope mount so that the iron sights are visible.
But firing the gun in this way looks like it would be almost guaranteed to give the shooter a healthy dose of “scope bite” unless a very long eye relief scope were mounted appropriately. Would the HAM Team actually shoot it in this way? Definitely not!
Make no mistake, the all-up weight of the scoped M1A air rifle tested by HAM was high. In fact it weighted-in at 11 Lbs 11Oz. Combined with an overall length of 46 Inches, this is a big, heavy airgun.
Now the weight definitely has advantages. It reinforces the similarity to the centerfire M1A, of course. It balances fairly well for offhand shooting. And it also undoubtedly soaks-up the recoil. This is great!
So the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is quite soft and gentle to shoot. Particularly when compared to the many break barrel springers out there with lightweight synthetic stocks that can come-in at something like half the weight!
However, it means that it requires a big, strong person to be happy shooting the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle. This is not the gun for a kid!
One issue that’s common to all underlever air rifles, including the M1A air rifle – is access to the pellet loading port…
If the gun is shot with the open sights, loading access is a complete breeze! No problem!!!
However when a scope is fitted, this can restrict the space available for the shooter’s hand when loading. That’s why the HAM Team feels that this 12.75-Inch long scope is about the maximum length that could be used.
In addition, HAM Tester Eric Brewer – who has considerable experience with underlever air rifles – found the M1A’s loading port to be smaller than on most other models with a similar action. This made it tougher than expected for Eric – with his larger fingers than Stephen Archer – to load pellets. Although he gained “the knack” as you can see from the test targets he shot!
The anti-beartrap disconnect lever is mounted on the left side of the “breech”. It’s shown in the photograph below. This need to be pushed up every time after the rifle has been cocked, before it can be fired.
Right-hander Stephen Archer found this reasonably convenient. However for left-handed Eric, it was an action he found very difficult, given the way he held the gun for cocking. Clearly, it’s not an insuperable issue. But it’s one to be aware of…
APPEARANCE AND FINISH
Overall, appearance of the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is very close to that of the centerfire M1A. Size and weight are very similar. With the exception of the missing box magazine, that is.
The wood stock is well finished and shaped. It’s a little chubbier than many military M14 stocks, however it definitely has the right “government issue” appearance to it. Fortunately, the factory has resisted the temptation to over-finish the wood. So it looks just right.
The breech assembly is a synthetic plastic molding. It’s well done and looks realistic at normal viewing distances. However the centerfire bolt is non-operative and is represented by shapes in the molding.
The cocking lever is also strictly for show – not go. It does have a little travel to it, however there’s no actual functionality associated with operating it.
The Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is not a phenomenally-accurate replica in the sense that many CO2-powered airguns are – like the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine, for example. However, it’s very close to the original at any normal viewing distance and certainly captures the feel and overall appearance of the centerfire M1A. (We even got over the missing box magazine with time!).
An overwhelming majority of owners will probably be very happy with the combination of weight, size, feel and looks. As Eric Brewer wrote in his test notes. “If I had someone who wanted a lookalike air rifle, I would definitely suggest this gun”.
BUYING AND OWNING
The Springfield Armory M1A air rifle is distributed in the USA by Air Venturi. This means that it’s readily available online from Pyramyd Air and Airgun Depot. It’s also available from Air Venturi dealers both online and in physical stores.
The gun is well-packed (very important for mail-order shipping of Internet purchases). It also is supplied with a simple, yet comprehensive and well-illustrated user instruction manual in English only.
Only the limited warranty period is sub-par for the course. True, the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle has a 12-month warranty. This used to be the industry standard, however it now pales compared to the 3-year and even 5-year warranties offered by some other manufacturers like Crosman and Umarex.
Unlike many spring/piston air rifles, the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle exhibited very little tendency to “Diesel”. There was a slight trace of smoke and a frying smell for the first half dozen shots. But after this the gun shot cleanly, a clear indication that it was not over-lubricated during assembly in the factory.
Finally, we’ll add one necessary caution. Like all underlever air rifles, it’s necessary to insert your fingers into the open action when loading. The pellet is – in fact – pushed directly into the breech end of the barrel as indicated by the arrow below.
Of course, there is a mechanical safety system built-in to the rifle. It’s called the anti-beartrap. However – as with any mechanical system on ANY product – it’s possible that this could malfunction. The results would be catastrohphic injury to any fingers in the action at the time!
So, always follow the loading instructions! Brace the butt of the gun firmly against your hip AND HOLD THE COCKING LEVER FIRMLY OPEN when loading a pellet into the M1A air rifle. Only release the anti-beartrap lever after you have removed your fingers from loading.
Again, this is Standard Operating Procedure for the use of any underlever-cocking air rifle. However the attractions of the Springfield Armory M1A air rifle will bring this type of operation to a new audience and HAM makes no apologies for stressing the Number One Rule of shooting – SAFETY! – in this connection.
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