One of our clients really liked the feel of our Springfield Armory M1A and asked about using it as a hunting rifle for elk & deer in Wyoming. Our instructor Bob Gathercole gave a response that might be helpful to others.
Problem with the M1A is cheek weld with a scope. You need some sort of adjustable cheek piece on the stock.
Standard barrel is long: 22 inches. I’d go for the 18 inch barrel. I would NOT consider a 16 inch barrel- the muzzle blast is ferocious.
Something like the Scout Squad model with the 18 inch barrel would work, but you would either have to find another stock with some sort of adjustable cheek piece or add a cheek riser on the standard stock for a scope. You will see plenty of pictures of old M14’s in Iraq with scopes: they all have some sort of foam cheek piece taped to the stock. A lot of the after market sniper type stocks work best for prone shooting, and wouldn’t be great for offhand or field positions. I have killed maybe six animals from prone: all antelope and one elk.
Barrel twist rate for the M1A should be fine for hunting bullets in the 150-168gr. Range.
Having shot in competition with an M1A, I have to say that they are pretty much 2MOA rifles, and that’s with some work and hand-loads. I would be surprised if a stock M1A would do better than 3 MOA with factory hunting ammo. You have to bed them and tweak the gas system to get them there.
The other problem is the trigger about M1A elk hunting in Wyoming: it’s good, but, because of its design, with a primary and secondary sear engagement, it is very difficult to get it to break at less than 5 lbs. safely. Fooling with it beyond a certain point turns it into a machine gun. It can be a very crisp, two stage trigger, but it can’t be lightened. Also, the trigger group holds the action in the stock instead of action screws: the pressure tends to change over time and affect accuracy. The trigger set up is basically identical to the Garand.
And, it’s heavy.
And, you don’t need a semi auto for elk hunting in Wyoming. That is not a political statement, merely pointing out that this isn’t the Pennsylvania woods where you may need quick follow up on whitetails in cover.
The M1A 308 will work for hunting, but you can get a very good bolt action with what I consider an ideal 20 inch barrel that will be 2/3 the weight, have an infinitely better trigger, and shoot groups half the size, for half the price, with a decent scope. Remember, for hunting you don’t need a competition scope: you do less adjusting, and reasonable hunters rarely need magnification beyond 9X. it just needs to be solid. My elk rifle has an old Leupold 2-8x vari X 3 with simple duplex crosshairs.
A big thanks to Bob for his above response!
We were later made aware of a great review article for low-end and mid-range rifle scopes for hunting that might be helpful.