Best Scope for M1A

M1A rifle is the civilian version of the M14. Noticeable difference between the two is that while the M14 has the option of fully automatic and semi automatic mode, The M1A has only the semi automatic option.

Best Scope for M1A

The M1A is designed and built to shoot standard factory .308 or 7.62×51 NATO ammunition. The best scope for M1A has to work well with these.

If you don’t have much time, or don’t want to read a lot, this is my list of the best scope for M1A.


 

What to look for in a M1A rifle scope?

Magnification Power

While shooting from a bench rest, the M1A is capable of hitting targets at 800 yards. Some people even claim that 1,000 yards target is very possible. This is an admirable feat considering the mediocre ballistic performance of the 7.62×51.

But the fact that .308 (which has very similar bullet trajectory as 7.62×51) is the world standard sniper cartridge, many people is going to try shooting long range.

Ideal scope should help you achieve those range if you ever wanted to. For people who wants to shoot long range, go for 4-12x or more. For people who aren’t interested in long range shooting, 3-9x seems like a more suitable choice.

For CQB or closer range shooting, pick other rifles as the M1A is a bit too heavy and clunky.

Another thing to mention is that higher magnification often leads to less clear, dimmer image and higher costs.

 

Objective Lens Diameter

A rifle with a scope that shows which side is the objective lens and which is the ocular lens
Courtesy to Johan Fredriksson

Objective lens diameter, coupled with magnification power leads to exit pupil size. This is define by :

Exit Pupil Size = Obj. Lens Diameter / Magnification Power

The downside of too big objective lens is higher price and heavier weight. In some case, it’s also higher mounts.

As a general rule from the above statement, pick larger objective lens if you use high magnification and smaller objective lens it you use low magnification.

For 3-9x, 40mm would do. For 4-16x, 42-44mm is more optimal.

 

Glass and Lens Coating

Every quality scope needs good glass and lens coating. It’s the main contributor to image quality. Durability is also enhanced due to waterproofing and scratch resistance coatings.

Look for things like ED glass (Extra Low Dispersion Glass) and Fully Multi Coated Lens if you can afford it.

Rocky_Mountain_Bull_Elk
 

Field of View (FOV)

A scopes field of view (FOV) is how wide one can see through the scope. FOV is normally measured at x feet at 100 yards. This attribute is mainly determined by the optics construction and magnification power.

As magnification goes higher, FOV goes down. And vice versa.

 

Eye Relief and Eyebox

Eye relief = Space between your aiming eye and the scope for optimal sight image

Generally, bigger eye relief means that your eye is safe from recoil. However too much eye relief might lead to uncomfortable head and eye position.

Standard eye relief is 3”-4”. For M1A rifle, eye relief is not much of an issue as the rifle is heavy enough to absorb recoil. M1A users are still safe with smaller eye relief scopes such as 2.5”-3.5”.

Eyebox = Amount of wiggle room for your aiming eye placement

A small eyebox scope can mean less than half an inch room for optimal eye placement. When people complain about “small sweet spot”, it’s the same thing as small eyebox. This results in much slower target acquisition and frustration during field use. This issue normally magnifies itself on higher magnification scopes.

 

Tube Size

Standard tube sizes are 1 Inch and 30mm diameter. There are other less popular tube size such as 34mm and 35mm. But these tubes and tube mounts are more expensive and usually not worth the cost.

Bigger tube has the benefit of durability and wider range of internal turrets adjustment. Smaller tube, on the other hand, is cheaper and lighter.

Some people related bigger tube with better light transmission. That’s, in my opinion, just partly true. As better light transmission is mostly related to objective lens diameter and magnification level. Yet bigger tube often comes with bigger objective lens.

 

Reticle

There are 3 main groups of reticle pattern

  • Simple – Duplex, NikoPlex, V-Plex, Dot, etc.
  • Mil-Dot, MOA – Crosshairs
  • BDC – Bullet Drop Compensation calibrated to particular rounds

This is mostly up to preference. If you prefer simplicity go for Simple or Mil-Dot / MOA. If you want to shoot long range, go for Mil-Dot / MOA or BDC type for quick holdovers.

Choosing between First Focal Plane (FFP) and Second Focal Plane (SFP) is a simple matter. FFP reticle has the benefits of holdovers and distance measurement working on all magnification level. SFP’s holdovers, on the other hand, only work on highest or one specified magnification level. The FFP reticle is more expensive,

If you are serious on long range shooting or want tactical use of the scope, go for FFP.

Illumination – A matter of preference. If you decide to get it, these are the things to look for.

  • Clear in broad daylight
  • Night vision compatible
  • Long Battery life + Workable reticle when battery dies

 

Turrets

Desirable turrets are precise and repeatable. Other features are determined by whether it is a hunting scope turrets or tactical scope turrets.

Hunting – Low profile and capped turrets to prevent unintentional adjustment. This is a more of a set and forget type

Tactical – Finger adjustability is crucial. Zero resettable and zero stops are good to have. Also, parallax adjustment is needed for long range shooting, preferably as a side focus knob for ease of use.

One last thing is that turrets unit of clicks should match the reticle if possible. Example is Mil-Dot turrets and Mil-Dot reticle or MOA turrets and MOA reticle.

 

Durability

A picture of an elephant chasing a man on horsback

A field optic needs to be able to withstand every kind of environment. Be it water submersion, fogging, heat, vibration and shock. It also needs to reliably hold zero for your ammunition.

And when there’s some parts failure, reliable warranty is a true money saver.


 

Scope Recommendations

1. Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 Reticle

The Nikon M-308 is built specifically to match .308 Win and 7.62 NATO rounds with 168-grain Hollow Point Boat Tail match bullet at 2,680 fps. For similar loads and muzzle velocity, the BDC reticle should assist in holdovers pretty well. Furthermore, you can also use Nikon Spot On App.

A mid to high priced scope in Nikon’s line of products, the M-308’s image quality is very clear and crisp in all magnification level during the day. 12x or lower may be needed during low light to help with light transmission. This is normal for high magnification scopes. mirage on a hot day is also expected for scopes of this magnification.

Its BDC reticle is the second focal plane which means the BDC function only works on 16x. Which might be a bit troublesome in mirage and low light situations.

Turrets are accurate, tactile, crisp, finger adjustable and easy to use. Each click equals ¼ MOA and the turrets has MOA markings. Parallax is adjustable as a side knob.

Eye relief is quite generous and is ample for M1A rifle. However, eyebox is kind of tight on high magnification.

Ruggedness is good as the optics is housed in a 1 piece tube. It can withstand water of 2 meters depth for up to 10 minutes The scope is also fogproof and shockproof. Plus Nikon gives Lifetime Warranty on their optics, even though their reliability is somewhat less than Leupold’s and Vortex’s.

Pros Cons
✓ Crisp and clear image ✗ Not a budget scope
✓ Good for long range ✗ Small sweet spot at higher magnification
✓ Precise turrets and holds zero very well ✗ Nikon’s warranty not as reliable as Leupold’s or Vortex’s
✓ BDC reticle calibrated specifically to .308 WIN/7.62 NATO rounds ✗ SFP, Reticle is only accurate at 16x
✓ Durable, waterproof, fogproof and shockproof + hang on to zero
✓ Nikon’s lifetime warranty

Price : $$$$

 

2. Nikon P-308 4-12×40 Riflescope, Matte, BDC 800

This Nikon P-308 is a more affordable version of the Nikon M-308. It has the same calibrated reticle for .308 Win and 7.62 NATO rounds with 168-grain HPBT match bullet at 2,680 fps. For people who uses different loads, try Nikon Spot On App to apply the appropriate bullet trajectories.

Image quality is clear during the day but there’s a slight blur on the edges on higher magnification. Sight picture and reticle are harder to see in low light conditions.

Turrets are finger adjustable, with positive click adjustments. Plus you can reset the turrets back to zero easily by pulling the cap up, turn it to zero and put the cap down. But this model has no parallax adjustment, which is crucial if you want to shoot at longer ranges. Parallax is factory set at 100 yards.

The optics is less rugged than the M-308, but should do okay in field conditions. It is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof to a degree and is covered by Nikon’s Lifetime Warranty.

Pros Cons
✓ Decent image ✗ Not great in low light
✓ Affordable scope ✗ Not great for +600 yards range
✓ BDC 800 reticle ✗ Fixed parallax
✓ Easy to adjust turrets
✓ Nikon’s Lifetime Warranty
✓ Nikon Spot On app support

Price : $$$

 

3. Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm Riflescope, Duplex Reticle

Leupold has been in the scope business for a very long time and is a reputable American business. Somewhat higher priced, the scope is compensated with reliable quality and fully transferable lifetime warranty.

Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm

This Leupold VX-2 3-9x40mm is for people who aren’t thrilled by the prospect of long range shooting. Due to the lack of BDC reticle, it should do fine on shots up to 200 yards.

Glass quality is nice. No blurry edges on all magnification. Low light capabilities is also good, as the scope doesn’t offer very high magnification. Also, it has quite a wide field of view.

Leupold VX-2 is lightweight (9.9 ounces). It comes with generous eye relief and nice eyebox. Reticle pattern is rather simple with no holdovers whatsoever.

Turrets are finger adjustable and precise enough for general hunting but not for long range. They are not zero resettable, no zero stop feature and no parallax adjustments. It’s more of a set and forget turrets.

The optic is rugged and will hold zero on recoils of the M1A. It works well in field conditions and has reliable lifetime warranty.

Pros Cons
✓ Good image quality ✗ Not for long range
✓ Nice low light capabilities ✗ Not precise turrets
✓ Lightweight ✗ Turrets not zero resettable
✓ Durable, holds zero ✗ Turrets got no zero stop
✓ Made in America
✓ Reliable warranty

Price : $$$

 

4. Primary Arms 4-14X44 FFP, ACSS .308 BDC / Mil-Dot Scope

The Primary Arms 4-14×44 is a surprisingly affordable First Focal Plane scope. It gives you a tactical feel and presents a lot of practical advantage to the shooter.

Primary Arms 4-14 X 44 FFP Scope ACSS HUD .308 BDC

Image quality is clear and crisp on all magnification. Low light image is also good to work with.

The ACSS HUD .308 BDC combines both BDC and MIL dot reticle. It’s very useful as you can use either system you see fit. The reticle receives its highest praise when Trijicon copied it into their own design.

If that’s not cool enough, note that this reticle has illumination function. And also, it is a first focal plane reticle, meaning that the crosshairs are accurate on all magnification.

Turrets are precise, repeatable, finger adjustable and zero resettable. However, the clicks feel a bit mushy and could use some improvements. Markings are in Mil-Dot. It also features a very wide range of internal adjustments and also has the parallax adjustments.

Durability is good enough. Primary Arms states that it can be used with .308 but not on higher recoil cartridges The drawback of this scope is its smaller eye relief but is not a problem for M1A rifles. Furthermore, it’s rather heavy (24 ounce) and has only 3 years warranty.

Pros Cons
✓ Matching Mil/Mil reticle and turrets ✗ A bit small eye relief
✓ Good image quality on all magnification ✗ Heavy
✓ Illumination for ACSS HUD .308 BDC reticle ✗ Slightly mushy turrets
✓ First Focal Plane ✗ 3 years warranty
✓ Precise, repeatable and zero resettable turrets
✓ Wide range of 0.1 Mil turrets adjustment
✓ Has parallax adjustment
✓ Durable

Price : $$$

 

5. Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5x28mm Duplex (option for M1A scout)

The Leupold FX-II Scout 2.5×28 is designed for scout rifles and I personally think that it fits well with the M1A Scout.

For this particular optics, sight picture is clear edge to edge with no distortion nor chromatic aberrations. It also does well in low light and can be used with both eyes open. The high quality may be attributed to the fact that fixed power scope are simpler to design and manufacture. Maybe they can focus more on quality with same amount of resource.

Duplex reticle is chosen for this scope. There are no holdovers whatsoever, and wouldn’t be suitable for range longer than 250 yards. If you wish to shoot at longer range, this scope is not for you.

Turrets are finger adjustable and accurate to a point. Again the turrets aren’t for long range and are more of a set and forget type. It features no zero reset nor zero stops.

Ruggedly built, this optic can take the heavy punishment from rounds such as .45-70 caliber. It is also lightweight (7.5 ounce) and compact (Length 10.1 Inch), making it a suitable scope for long trips into the woods. Eye relief is 9.3”, about right for scout rifle scopes.

Leupold scopes are known for reliable field conditions and this scope is no exception. It is made to be waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. Plus, the transferable Leupold Lifetime Warranty will also cover it in case of defects from manufacturer and normal uses. Note that Leupold Warranty are deemed trustworthy.

Pros Cons
✓ High quality glass ✗ Fixed power scope
✓ Good in low light ✗ Not good for medium to long range
✓ Can be used with both eyes open
✓ Lightweight and compact
✓ Holds zero
✓ Durable with reliable and transferable Lifetime Warranty

Price : $$$


 

Conclusion

The best scope for M1A rifle is, in my opinion, the Primary Arms 4-14X44 FFP with ACSS HUD .308 reticle. It offers good image quality with BDC reticle. Plus, it’s a First Focal Plane scope which enables the M1A to shoot at range from 50-800 yards. Turrets adjustment are also precise, repeatable and very fine at 0.1 Mil per click.

The optic is certainly not cheap, but with all its function and versatility, the scope should be well worth the money.

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