National Match upgrade: how much is too much?
I have an M1a, which will be my next special project. It's a standard, nothing-special old service rifle I got at an auction. It cost me $950. I'm not so much concerned about the rifle's value going up or down. I'm kicking around what to do with it still, but I'm leaning towards getting some national match upgrades—sights, piston, trigger. But at what point is it smarter to just get a national match M1A? Like how much difference does a NM barrel make?
Boy, this is getting into tricky territory for me, just because it's not my area of expertise and I would hate to give you bad advice.
On a whole, a National Match type of barrel is going to be of better overall quality than a factory or stock barrel.
There are about 4 different types of barrel manufacturing procedures out there. The most accurate, to date, is the one used by Barrel Houses like Krieger and Mick Rock's 5R, which is single point, cut rifling. That is the slowest, but it is also the most accurate.
If you take an average boltgun, take off a factory barrel and replace it with a Krieger, where the barrel was cut by Krieger and wasn't touched up in our shop, you can expect to cut your groups, probably, in half or better if the shooter does their job.
Now, Krieger and 5R barrels are not cheap, and they require a gunsmith to mount them. On the M1A, I don't know enough to say whether you could order one and fit it yourself, or not. I am just not familiar enough to say yes you can or no you can't.
I believe the M1A is op rod driven, so you have a barrel harmonic that is being induced that, if you had a custom rifle built from the ground up, might be better handled through other techniques that just replacing a barrel isn't going to address. Again, it would be best to discuss with someone who builds them all the time.
My best advice would be to seek someone more qualified than me, which shouldn't be hard, you can probably open the phone book and do that in about 3 minutes.... LOL
Thanks Dillinger. I was hoping an M1a expert would come to my aid. Anyway, your 2cents is still helpful nonetheless.
The first thing I would do is take her out and shoot it. See what the rifle is capable of as is, and go from there. Springfield Armory uses 2 types of std contour barrels for thier rifles. USGI chrome lined 1-12 twist, and non chrome lined (Wilson) 1-11 twist bbls. Try out a few different loads, and see what she can do. If more accuracy is reqired from this point, then I would recomend that you contact a qualified smith that you trust, and go from there. Just my .02 here, but if I was going to build an M1A up into a NM, then I would want to contact the builder, and find out how much the build would cost, prior to buying any parts for such a build. ( Feel free to PM me in regards to info about the smiths I have had build me a decent shooting M1A/M14)
The name of the game with this type of rifle is to achieve consistant and smooth movement from the moving parts of the rifle as it is being fired, regardless of the type of barrel used. IE.... the barrel in and of itself is only part of the equation.
Here is my example........
This rifle started out in life as a Norinco M14 with all OEM parts that I picked up yrs ago used for $350.00. I took it to my smith, and had him check the specs of the reciever to find out what we had to work with from the get-go, prior to anything else from that point. Since my intent was to use a USGI bolt and trigger group for this build, I wanted to insure that the reciever was to spec. (IMHO, the chi-com M14's make a decent forged reciever for a build)
After that, I told him what kinda build I was lookin into. In this rifle's case, I was lookin for extreme reliability in adverse conditions, decent accuracy with a wide range of loads, from milsurp (147gr to 155gr), and commercial loads (110gr up to 175gr), and hunting loads (125gr to 168gr), and to keep her as light and compact as possible ( USGI synthetic stock without any bedding, such as glass bedding the action). Since your lookin to build somthin more along the lines of a NM rifle, a heavy barrel such as Krieger, and glass bedding may be more important, and you most likely will be better served by narrowing your field of loads to somthing along the lines of 168gr FED Matchking, or similar loadings.
So........with a decent reciever to start with, and my intent for this paticular build understood, we went from there............
1. Criterion 18.5 in chrome lined std contour 7.62mm chambered 1-12 twist barrel, and a NIW USGI (TRW) bolt
2. NM trigger job using a USGI (OM) complete trigger group.
3. Unitized gas system donr up by someone that I trust, and has a good rep for this kinda work. Piston is a tin coated Sadlak.
4. Sadlak NM op-rod spring guide. New USGI op-rod spring.
5. Smith Enterprize Vortex direct connect flash hider, and gas lock "hooded" front sight. (Note: This eliminated the need to have a std flash hider reamed out to NM specs, eliminated the whole castle nut feature/parts altogether, and since this build's primary intent is to use optics, the shorter sight radius of the GLFS as compared to the std front sight system was less of an issue. Your build might be better served with the std type system, especially if you plan to use a 22in heavy bbl.
6. Norinco op-rod. ( Upon examination of the org op-rod, my smith advised me that there was no real need to swap it out with a USGI, and since the price of a decent USGI op-rod is rather high, I took his advise.
7. Norinco rear sight assembly. Same as above. It met specs, and works just fine, so I opted not to replace it. Your build would most likely be better served with a NM rear sight assembly, unless you plan to use optics.
8. USGI synthetic stock with very tight lock up to the action. I filled in the selector lever hole to keep out unwated nasties from gettin to the trigger group, and strengthened the forend to prevent flex when I 'sling up".
9. Last but certanly not least.......... this build was put together by a smith who specilizes with this type of platform. BTW.....since your rifle is a Springfield, you might call them and see what they would charge to build her up into a NM.
Total cost came out to $ 1227.00 give or take change to include the org rifle purchase.. If I was starting from scratch today, this figure would be a little higher most likely.
Round count hit the 8000 mark last weekend with 0 issues.
Accuracy across the spectrum of loads that I put thru it keep inside a 1in circle at 100yds for the most part, with her favorite load inside a 3/4 in circle consistently. (off a bench using optics)
10 TX hogs harvested to date, and will use it for deer hunting to boot.
Hope this helps some.
I forgot to ask, but.................
Are you planning to use this rifle in any competitions? Open sights or optics?
Any pics of your M1A?
Thanks Fragout. I just got it, so i haven't had time to do the whole gun porn photo shoot thing. I'll get that out this weekend.
I'm not a competitive shooter, I just like my rifles at their best in accuracy and distance. Then it just might make a good hunting rifle. We'll see.
I really like how you built your custom. Very methodical. Your rifle and mine are very different, considering yours is a 16" tactical model. So I'll have to get some more information from the folks at Springfield I suppose. Wish me luck!
Glad to help in any way sir. Good luck with your rifle, and keep us all posted.
Hint: Before and after pics would be sweet. A body can never get enough gun porn.....:D
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