Springfield M1A revitalized with new 6.5 Creedmoor chambering (VIDEO)

All the way from its roots with the Army’s M14 service rifle to the advent of the M1A as the civilian version in 7.62 NATO, the Springfield M1A has been setting the standard in semi-automatic long-range rifles. But the company is taking it a step further by adding a 6.5 Creedmoor chambering in a precision adjustable version of that rifle. Meet the M1A Loaded.

Wearing a 22-inch National Match medium-weight barrel with a 1-in-8-inch right-hand twist, the Loaded is built to stabilize the 6.5 Creedmoor’s wide weight-range of bullets. National Match is the name of the game, from the barrel to the 0.62-inch post front sight, NM non-hooded aperture rear, and NM trigger.

The Precision Adjustable Archangel stock drives the whole Loaded model, with LOP adjustments accounting for lengths from 45- to 46.25 inches and significant comb height travel, ideal when using an optic.

Springfield includes a single 10-round parkerized magazine, though five, 15-, and 20-rounders are readily available through the company. At 11.4 pounds, the M1A Loaded is not a light rifle but it is intended to be a target shooter’s weapon of choice.

The whole thing comes packed in a black embroidered zipper case with a front magazine pocket. MSRP on the Loaded is $2,045 with either black or Flat Dark Earth color choices. Though many will balk, Springfield also offers the M1A Loaded in a California compliant variation with an approved muzzle brake and non-adjustable stock.

Going prone with the Loaded

The Springfield Loaded rifled just begged to be fired from the ground. The National Match irons on the rifle are top-quality, with ½ MOA windage and 1 MOA elevation adjustments with ample travel. Though we were limited to our 500-yard range capabilities, there’s little doubt the M1A Loaded has the capability to shoot as good – or better – than most trigger pullers at distance.

We loaded up the 10-round magazine with a nice sampling of premium factory ammunition: Sig Sauer Elite Performance 140-grn OTM Match Grade, Hornady American Gunner 140-grn HP, Nosler Match Grade 140-grn Custom Competition, Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range, Winchester Deer Season 125-grn, and American Eagle 140-grn Open Tip Match.

Though we fired with both open sights and optics, accuracy testing was done with our Bushnell Trophy X30 4-16×44 scope in Springfield’s Fourth Generation Steel Scope Mount. Though an aluminum version of the mount is also available, we find it worth the extra cash and weight to upgrade to the rugged Steel, even at its $299 retail price.

With the combination of weight, a gas-operated semi-automatic action, and a serious muzzle brake, the M1A Loaded in 6.5 Creedmoor that is a pleasure to fire all day. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)[/caption]

Because this is a long range rifle, we zeroed at 200 yards and quickly moved to 300. Initial 200-yard, three-shot groups averaged 1.48 inches. The best three-shot 200-yard group was just a hair over 1 inch with Winchester Expedition.

Three-hundred yarders opened up to an average of 3.15 inches. While we’ve come to expect hair-splitting accuracy from our modern production bolt guns, the M1A is a gas-piston driven semi-automatic with a medium weight barrel, and has a track record of strong performance in high power rifle matches. Groups naturally opened up even more on paper at 500 yards, but every round would have easily rung a 6-inch gong. Not surprisingly, the heavier – and sometimes longer – match bullets performed better at extended ranges than did the lighter pills.

The two-stage trigger is one of the greatest boons to accuracy on the Loaded, and was one of our highlights on the rifle. Out of the box, the National Match two-stage trigger broke at a clean 4.5 pounds. The standard steel buttplate found on past iterations of the M1A is replaced on the Loaded’s Precision Adjustable stock with an aggressive rubberized pad.

Between that, the birdcage muzzle brake and heavy-build, there is little felt recoil to the Creedmoor, even when firing extensively from prone. All of the ammo ran through the gun smoothly, cycling with ease, though we did note a wide angle of ejection, with cases flying from the 1- to 4 o’clock positions.

So What About the Loaded in 6.5?

Does all that justify running out to replace your National Match M1A or favorite bolt gun? Probably not. Or even to rush out for the new Loaded with its adjustable stock? Not necessarily. But for serious long-range shooters and competitors who find themselves in the market for a well-built and precision adjustable target rifle, the new 6.5 Creedmoor version has to be in that conversation.

I’ll be the first in every line to show preference for wooden stocks on rifles, however, even I must admit the significant benefit to the precision adjustable stock on the Loaded. Not only could individual shooters dial in the LOP, but even more importantly, the comb height for aligning the eye with the optic. A pair of stiff dial-knobs run the movement on the stock. The pistol grip both fills and cradles the hand, which helped make prone shooting feel natural and stable. A trap-door at the base of the pistol grip allows for storage of a few small extras, and just happens to fit a Bore Snake well for quick pull-through barrel cleanings.

An integral picatinny rail molded into the stock is ideal for mounting bipods or other accessories, and in a nice move, the company ships a rail cover for added creature comfort. In addition, the Loaded rifle comes standard with forward and rear sling swivels. The Archangel stock is well thought-out, and we were especially pleased to see the made-in-America flag molded in as well.

The M1A Loaded is hefty enough at 11.4 pounds bare, but tipped the scales over 13 pounds with the scope and extras. Though not a rifle to tote around in the field, it is surprisingly well-balanced, feels heavy-built in the hand, and its weight makes it a pleasure to fire from prone. There is not much to nitpick on a time-proven rifle like the M1A; yet, given the stout price, we would have like to see a second magazine included. The magazines are sturdy steel, but shooters will want to practice a little to get the rock-and-lock, front-to-back lockup angle down pat. It must be noted, however, that magazines are readily available, as the 6.5 Creedmoor uses the same mags as the 7.62NATO/.308.

Why mess with a good thing?

Some will question if turning the traditionally .308 M1A into a something as pumpkin-spice-latte as the 6.5 Creedmoor. The answer is simple, really. This is the day of faster, flatter, and newer, and the 6.5 checks all those boxes. While it may never supplant the .308, the fact remains the 6.5 Creedmoor is selling rifles. Do not fret, however, as Springfield is certainly not replacing its many other 7.62 NATO models. The Socom, Scout, Standard, National Match, and Super Match rifles are still the bulk of the lineup. Yet, it’s the M1A Loaded in 6.5 Creedmoor that’s turning heads, ringing steel, and creating a home for itself in the high-power, long-range competition shooting world.

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