In a world that is obsessed with intermediate cartridges like 5.56 and .300 blackout, fewer people seem to understand the merits of a full-size cartridge like .308 or even 6.5 Creedmoor. If you are among the few that get to shoot heavy metal cartridges and full-size bullets, consider yourself lucky.
If you can shoulder the extra weight and cost of these cartridges, you get far better performance than any of their smaller cousin’s offer. If you’re looking for a rifle to harness the power of these rounds, for the .308 at least and M1A is a cult favorite.
The M1A, M14 or M1A1, depending on how you know it, was designed in a simpler time. Back when military doctrine stated that the Army that put the most lead downrange would always win. While these rifles can be adapted for precision fire, they are often used for plinking, hunting and little more.
In a practical sense, they weigh double what an AR 15 does and lack the performance of a well-made AR 10. If you still want to shoot one of these rifles, having the best scope for your M1A can make the difference between being able to hit at 300 yards or 1300 yards.
These rifles were not designed to be used with optics, and a few idiosyncrasies will have to be addressed before you can make full use of them. Here are the best scope for M1A on the market as well as tips & tricks to make sure you don’t buy the wrong one, and the lessons learned from how to mount a scope to an M1A that it wasn’t designed for.
If you’re in a hurry and don't have time for the details, here are our best picks for M1A Scopes:
- 1Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-24x50 AO, SFP Riflescope
- 2Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 Reticle
- 3Leupold 119675 VX-R Scout Metric FireDot Scope
- 4Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Scout, SFP Riflescope
- 5Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5x28mm Duplex
- 6Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm
- 7UTG 2-7X44 30mm Long Eye Relief Scout Scope
Table of Contents
- How to Choose a Rifle Scope for an M1A?
- Best Scope for M1A on the Market Review
- 1 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-24x50 AO, SFP Riflescope
- 2 Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 Reticle
- 3 Leupold 119675 VX-R Scout Metric FireDot Scope
- 4 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Scout, SFP Riflescope
- 5 Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5x28mm Duplex
- 6 Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm
- 7 UTG 2-7X44 30mm Long Eye Relief Scout Scope
- Eye Relief
- Eye Box & Fast Focus Eyepieces
- Getting a Good Mount
- Some Important Notes to Scope Your M1A
- The Verdict
How to Choose a Rifle Scope for an M1A?
Scopes and other magnified optics are highly technical. When you are shopping, make sure you’re paying attention. Small differences in technology and in measurements that you see written on the box of the scope can make huge differences in the field.
Especially for a scope that needs to perform so many tasks well if it’s going to be mounted on an M1A, you need to get the technical aspects of the scope correct. Broadly speaking here are the main categories what to look for in a few details that you might want to consider before you go shopping:
Size & Weight
When it comes a size of the optic that you select, it is going to depend more on what you are doing with your rifle than on the type of rifle you have. If you are plinking, and not likely to take shots past 100 yards, you do not need a very large objective lens.
However, if you are long-range hunting at the edges of shooting light, you will need every millimetre you can get. Be sensible, and buy the smallest scope that you can get away with.
The M1A is a heavy rifle. There’s no getting around the 9+ pound weight that you are going to be carrying if you decide to go with this full-size rifle. Adding a scope is only going to make it heavier. However, adding it with this rifle is not always a bad thing.
When you use a rifle that is going to be shot more than it gets carried, recoil can become a substantial problem early on. Adding 2 pounds of scope to this rifle is going to help smooth out the recoil considerably and make it easier on your shoulder and head to shoot for long periods of time.
If you are buying a scope that you can use to compete in the national match or surplus competition, consider getting a heavy scope and steel base. This will help dampen the recoil by adding weight. However, if you are using your M1A to control hog population on a farm or as a general use firearm in case of emergencies, try to keep weight to a minimum.
In these circumstances, you are much more likely to carry rifle you are to be shooting it and that extra weight is going to make it much more difficult carry in the field.
Budget is a dirty word no one wants to talk about. Optics are expensive. Good glass on a rifle can double or triple the cost that you paid for the rifle itself. There’s no getting around that equipment costs money, but carefully deciding on which features are essential and which ones can be eliminated is the best way to save money.
When it comes to optics, proprietary features and brand names are the most expensive options you can get. Proprietary features are great, sometimes. Truly innovative companies like Leupold and Vortex put out reasonably priced scopes that combined proprietary features and prices that are enviable. Companies like US Palm and NightForce take advantage of charging money for their brand name and providing very niche capabilities.
Try to stick to companies that provide customer support and warranties, but don’t buy from a company simply because it’s a boutique brand. There are companies that make their entire business model off of simply reselling the same features and level performance of their competitors, but at three times the price. Everyone would love the tricked-out night vision, ebr stock, and custom Zeiss scope equipped rifle, but at what cost?
Depending on the type of shooting you’re going to be doing, you’re going to need a different scope that someone with the same M1A. Scopes are a lot like vehicles. You don’t the same thing with a minivan that you do with a pickup truck.
Much the same way you don’t plink with the same scope that you are going to be hunting with. However, a few features that you are going to want regardless of which will be doing are the following: waterproof, fog proof, O-ring sealing, dry nitrogen purging, fully multicoated lenses, and single piece construction.
Even the cheapest imported scopes on the market have those features. At a minimum, this will allow you to comfortably carry your rifle from your truck to a deer stand or into a range and shoot with it. Whether or not your scope lasts a long time, has glass clear enough to shoot at 1000 yards, or will allow you to easily make adjustments with target turrets, is completely up to the manufacturer’s level of quality.
Like everything else in life, there’s a difference in what you pay for and there’s a difference between an affordable “Walmart Special” and an expensive Trijicon ACOG.
Best Scope for M1A on the Market Review
1 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 6-24x50 AO, SFP Riflescope
If you’re looking for a high-powered rifle scope to complement your M1A but want to spend under $300, Vortex Optics has you covered. Vortex optics manufacturers the crossfire II line-up of rifle scopes that have been selected by several manufacturers to come with the rifles out of the box.
This is because Vortex has hit a homerun when it comes to striking an accord between quality, durability, and value with this rifle scope line-up. This scope in particular features a massive 50mm objective bell and a whopping 24x magnification.
The dead hold BDC reticle is not in the second focal plane, and the entire scope is optimized for quick shooting under pressure. This is perfect for anyone is going to be using their M1A for target shooting and is one of the best hunting optics because although this is a large riflescope, it is lightweight and very intuitive to use as well as being one of the toughest rifle scopes on the market.
2 Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 Reticle
If you plan on shooting at long-range, beyond 500 yards, or are competing with your M1A, this is a scope that you’re going to want. This scope bridges the gap between fully tactical scopes made for long-range shooting, with standard magnified optics the most people are used to. This is the essence of a classic m14 sniper scope.
It does this by including a BDC reticle for shooting out to 800 yards, along with zero reset target turrets, they do a great job of allowing you to accurately predict and use holdovers to shoot well out to the very edge of an M1A’s ballistic potential.
The 4-16x magnification is crisp and clear throughout the entire range and has plenty of power to shoot out to 1,000 yards. The BDC reticle is intuitive and easy to use, and the target turrets included have a very easy learning curve.
If you are just getting in a long-range shooting, or want more capability than what you currently have on a traditional rifle scope, this is a great step up without going to a very technical scope design for military and law-enforcement use.
3 Leupold 119675 VX-R Scout Metric FireDot Scope
While Leupold is best known for their classic sportsman grade rifle scopes, they have a full line-up of tough, modern innovative designs that are competing toe to toe with tactical companies. In the realm scout scopes, they make the awesome fire dot reticle in a package that is hard to resist.
This long eye relief scope is perfect, it combines modest magnification with a slim and trim 33mm objective lens. Adding the fact that the fire dot reticle is illuminated much the same way that a red dot is, and you start to see why this is the perfect optic for an M1A.
When you’re looking for an optic that will allow you to range out to several hundred yards with a point .308 rifle, much less in the way, you have a strict set of standards. This rifle scope is plenty rugged, has the right features, and comes in at an excellent price for people were looking for no compromises with their scout squad or SOCOM 2 rifle. Coming it at around under $600 this is one of the best scout scopes on the market.
4 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x32 Scout, SFP Riflescope
Vortex optics has added this crossfire two scout scope to their line-up, making it one of the best cheap scout scopes on the market. The crossfire II line-up of scopes makes other budget catalogues look bad by comparison.
This design features modest magnification, fully multi coated lenses, and slim objective lenses. In this case, you get 2-7x power magnification and a 32mm objective lens. Not much other than that is offered on the scope.
The long eye relief is coupled with a generous eye box and fast focus eyepiece to make sure that you can see your target your crosshairs easily.
For one of the most rugged and most reliable midrange priced scout scope, this is one of the best for under $300.
5 Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5x28mm Duplex
While Leupold is manufactured newer designs, nothing beats a classic slim and trim optic. If all you need is the capability to see targets at a distance, and use crosshairs to simplify your aiming reference then this duplex scout scope from Leupold is perfect.
It has fixed 2.5x magnification and is designed with a generous eye box and eye relief to make it easy to shoot at long distance. The lenses contained in the scope are fully multi coated and the entire scope maintains Leupold’s reputation for quality and design.
However, with such a small objective lens, and fixed magnification this is not a scope for shooting in low light, at extreme range or quickly. This is a great scout scope for anyone looking for a plain Jane hunting optic, or something just to go to the range and plink with.
For an optic at under $500 that is as light and minimalistic as it gets, this FX-II scout scope from Leupold simply can’t be beaten.
6 Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm
Burris are often overshadowed by bigger brands that have more options but many of their scopes are extraordinarily cost-effective and fill very specific niches within the hunting and shooting world. This scout scope, in particular, is a perfect example.
The best thing about this scout scope is the BDC reticle included. Many scout scopes include BDC reticles to provide the accuracy at distance that many scout rifle shooters insist on. This scope, however, is perfect for M1A because the long eye relief of the scope, combined with that BDC reticle and modest magnification allow you to make fast snap shots at long-range.
If you’re using your rifle for hunting or just general plinking, it doesn’t get any better than this Burris scout scope.
7 UTG 2-7X44 30mm Long Eye Relief Scout Scope
If you get an old crusty M1A and you’re looking to add a scout scope that you can go plinking, or hunting with look no further than this scope from UTG. UTG manufacturers abroad and imports decent quality optics that are sold at bargain prices. For the money, there isn’t a more durable or better performing cheap scout scope on the market.
This model in particular features long eye relief, a generous eye box and a large 44mm objective lens. For a scout scope set up, it has ample 2-7x power magnification and is a perfect scope to shoot out to 300 yards. The lenses are fully multicoated but slight aberrations in the glass are going to limit the amount of range you can get from your rifle.
If you’re just looking for a cheap scope to get the job done for hunting, or aren’t completely sold on scout optics, give this scope a chance and see if you like it. That way you can upgrade later on if you do, and if you don’t you aren’t out the money of a nicer scope.
Eye relief is defined as the distance from your pupil to the eyepiece of your rifle scope. This is important for a number of reasons, most notably on M1A because you have to be within the eye relief that your scope is designed for in order to see through the scope without errors.
Eye relief is extremely important for M1A because if you plan on using a scout scope or want extra eye relief for faster shooting, you need to make sure that the scope you buy will facilitate this. Most long-range and precision rifle scopes have what is called critical eye relief. This is where there is a very specific distance your pupil must be at from the eyepiece of the scope.
This is a problem for fast shooting, and for hard recoiling rifles. Typically, long range rifle scopes have very short eye reliefs, which can cause scope bite and take longer to shoot through. Look for scopes that use noncritical eye relief, or scout scopes that have extended eye relief of several inches so that you can set the scope up the way you want and keep your eyebrow safe.
Eye Box & Fast Focus Eyepieces
If you’ve looked at your scope and seen a thick black ring around the edges of the sight picture, you know exactly what it means to have a tight eye box. An eye box refers to the amount of lateral movement the scope will allow your pupil to have, when viewing through the scope before you start to experience parallax errors and losing focus through the prism.
This is a very technical setting on a scope. Essentially speaking, you want to have a generous eye box and a fast focus eyepiece. This will not only allow you more flexibility in the shooting angles that you are able to utilize your scope but also means that when you are shooting in ‘tactical’ scenarios were your shooting position could be varied and a perfect check weld impossible that you can still shoot accurately and get a clear sight picture.
Because M1A’s are notorious for having bad cheek welds while shooting, and with tall scope set up it’s very easy to cant the rifle, having a fast focus eyepiece and generous eye box means you don’t have to worry constantly about holding the rifle perfectly still and straight. You just want to be able to hold the rifle straight enough to reliably use the scope, and no more.
Getting a Good Mount
Mounting an optic on M1A is tricky. Mainly because they were designed before optics were a mainstay of the individual soldier and military doctrine didn’t require optic sights on every rifle. Nowadays, especially in the civilian world, optics are the norm and not the exception to the rule.
While there are plenty of different mounts available for every variation of the M1A, you’ll typically see one of two options. People are using the factory installed scope mounting base along with user supplied rings for a scope set up, or they are buying an aftermarket mount to put an optic over the bridge of the rifle.
Putting an optic over the action of the rifle is a balancing act. If you mount the optic too low you’ll risk fouling the ejection of brass and keep the gun from operating and damage your scope. If you mounted too high, you won’t be able to get a cheek weld to shoot accurately.
Several companies have stepped up to the plate and are producing excellent aftermarket mounting options that supply a picatinny rail for use with virtually all rings and mounts available for optics these days. These range in price from just a few dollars for steel versions made for Springfield Armory, all the way up to several hundred dollar titanium models made for enthusiasts who are competing.
The difference in performance between these different mounts is fairly subjective, just make sure you get a decent mount that is made to a high specification and is durable enough to last.
Some Important Notes to Scope Your M1A
Other than general quality and workmanship there are a few things you to keep in mind when shopping for a scope and getting it mounted on your M1A. These are specific to this rifle because it was designed during a time when magnified optics were not common place for the everyday soldier and the rifle is not as easily adapted to using a scope as others.
1. Get It Professionally Mounted
Mounting a scope on an M1A is tricky. You either have to use a factory supplied scope mount, if you have a Springfield Armory model, or you have to have an aftermarket scope base or rail installed over the bridge of your rifle.
Trying to install a scope mount of questionable quality, when you don’t know what you’re doing is a wonderful way to damage a rifle. If you want to spend several hundred dollars in scope and mount combination, make sure you leave some money in the budget to get it professionally mounted and bore bore-sighted.
The worst thing that could happen is stripping out the mounting screws on your rifle or breaking the mount for the scope you just bought trying to improperly shoehorn it together..
2. As Low A Mount As Possible
Mounting a scope on the M1A means that you will most likely be sacrificing a secure cheek weld to the rifle when you shoot. This a problem fairly unique to the M1A though as its older design has empty cartridges ejected out of the top of the receiver instead of the side like modern rifles. Additionally the older design features a strait stock and no cheek swell of any kind.
Once you add in the height of an objective lens, the thickness of a mount, and the height of your rings you could be looking at over 2 inches of elevation above the bore axis and comb of your stock. This is a recipe for canting while you are shooting. Not to mention, most people are not used to shooting full-sized cartridges and repeatedly shooting a .308 without a cheek weld is going to leave you bruised and battered.
To avoid that headache, take your rifle to a gunsmith and have them mount your scope as low to the bore axis as possible. Just make sure that it doesn’t impede the function of the rifle.
3. Target Turrets
Generally speaking, most people don’t need target turrets. They allow you to maket on the spot adjustments to your rifle scopes zero and quickly return it back to the way it was.
Target turrets are best used by shooters who can reliably calculate and make adjustments on the fly. Typically speaking, the people shooting M1A’s are rarely looking to take advantage of extremely long-range marksmanship skills that can be applied through target turrets.
However, if you like to use highly technical equipment, stick with it. Target turrets require a lot of practice to get used to and their large size can cause them to snag on every strap, vine, and obstacle that comes remotely near your rifle.
4. A Great Warranty
M1A’s typically see harder shooting and more abuse than bolt action or other hunting rifles. This is most likely because they are seen as war rifles and workhorses rather than heirlooms. Any scope that you put on a rifle that you plan to thrash on needs to have a great warranty.
Especially considering that M1A’s heavy recoil and the fact that they are shot semi auto, often quickly, you can imagine the abuse the scope is going to see in its lifetime. You don’t want to buy a scope from a fly-by-night import company that won’t have your back if you invest several hundred dollars on the product, only to leave you hanging when their scope breaks during normal use.
Make sure you buy from a reputable manufacturer that is going to be around long enough to actually honor the lifetime warranty they offered you.
With the multitude of options on the market today, there’s never been a better time to buy a scope for your M1A. However, it may be very difficult to sort through the seemingly endless options available online. The best thing you can do for choosing the best scope for M1A is to decide how you will be using your rifle, sort through the brands and styles of scope that you like and determine how much you’re willing to spend on a scope.
If you do these things before you go shopping, you’re more likely to end up with a product that you will enjoy shooting with. Make sure to pick a scope that you actually enjoy, not one that you feel like you have to compromise with. For the first time ever, we can truly have magnified optics that do just about everything. Compromise isn’t necessity with scopes anymore.
Just make sure that once you settled scope and purchased it, you get it mounted up to your rifle and sited in. Take it to the range as often as you can because the best scope in the world doesn’t do you any good if it’s in your gun safe.