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The 10 Best Hunting Rifles: The Springfield M1A

One of the most adaptable and strongest weapons in the world lends itself to a variety of firearm tasks, not the least of which is hunting for medium and large game.  It has a rich military and law enforcement history, and relatively speaking, it is perhaps the best out-of-the-box large caliber semi-automatic on the planet if you compare strength of build and materials, functionality, reliability, accuracy, and ease of use.  And to talk about firepower: The M1A is essentially unmatched by a civilian rifle for firepower.

The Rifle: Springfield M1A

The Caliber: .308

The Animal: Various

The Rifle – Springfield M1A

Who knew a reformed military rifle could serve law enforcement sniping teams, Special Forces soldiers, and anti-material groups as well as the average hunter in such a complete way? It’s such a great design that it’s essentially timeless.  It’s well made in the USA out of materials that won’t fail for people who need it to work the first time, every time.

For the $1500-1700 that this beast is going to cost you, you actually get one of the most versatile platforms in the world for add-ons, accuracy, and firepower.  Few weapons can match its firepower, and perhaps none can match its combination of accuracy and firepower.  The standard rifle comes in a twenty-two-inch barrel with matte black parkerized-finish steel, semi-automatic action, and a fiberglass composite stock for a total of a nine-pound, two-ounce package.  The gun is built for killing, and big game in North America is no exclusion.  The funny thing is that you almost never can get this rifle in stock because it’s so popular. The factory is constantly at maximum production.  For many, this all-encompassing self-defense and hunting weapon is nothing but a pipe dream between the cost and the availability.  A military stalwart (the M14) that can shoot a little over a minute of angle in the grasp of a hand-loading sportsman can yield some spectacular results.  You can even use the rifle in California, where semi-auto sporting rifles are so restricted that it’s ridiculous.

In fairness, the vast majority of this weapon’s high marks comes from its capability, but not necessarily from its field carrying abilities.  It’s big and heavy with optics, and it probably isn’t anyone’s first choice on any specific hunting trip, but it’s so good at so many things, that it cannot be overlooked when needing an all-purpose gun that can fell any animal in the States, and for that matter, just about anywhere else outside of Africa.

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And while we are talking about the small concerns with this weapon as a hunting rifle: It should be known that loads outside of the normal G.I. specs will need some fine tuning, but most of the talk on the forums isn’t exactly accurate.  It’s hard to find ammunition that won’t work in this weapon without aplomb.  Sure, you need to know how to adjust the gas, but it doesn’t take much to get it dialed in. You also won’t get the strongest loads to run through it peacefully, as they create a lot of pressure for the operating rod to handle.  But in all honesty, the same problem happens on just about any semi-auto in .308.

The gun can even be dialed back to make it a single shot (manually actuated) carrier/bolt assembly if needed for specific loads or quieter operation.  It should be more than capable in a stalking situation, but you will need to learn the way this weapon works to glean the best performance out of such a gun.  When you are feeling a bit more sporting, there is always the option of grabbing five to ten big magazines and some man-sized targets and hitting the range to test your skills.

Really pretty simple:  This gun will do more in more scenarios than just about anything else, and despite being pricey, out of the box it’s about as good as it gets for a multipurpose rifle.  It’s loud and heavy, but it does its business when you ask it to.  If you want the versatility and the firepower but need a rifle that can still be taken out to the field without too much trouble to fill the freezer, take a good hard look at the M1A/M14 variants.

The Caliber – .308

Aside from the information already covered about this caliber in the previous .308 article in this series, the following information about grain weights may expound a bit upon it.

55-grain saboted slugs are plastic enclosed slugs at tiny grain weights to allow for a smaller projectile to be put on target.  The powder charge behind the projectile can send them flying at incredible speeds and still allow a kill on a smaller target (think varmints) without total annihilation.

110 and 130-grain weights will travel fast but offer lower impacts, and if paired correctly for the animal, can insure the kill without overkill on a surprising number of animals weighing between 85 and 250 pounds.

150, 155, 160, 165, 168, 170, 175, 178, and 180-grain weights make up the bulk percentage of rounds for the cartridge; it is within this range that you will find the peak performance of the cartridge, and it includes animals between 125 and 600 pounds, generally speaking.

180, 185, and 190-grain rounds are for larger game, generally between 400 and 700 pounds.

200, 208, 210, and 220-grain rounds can be custom-loaded to dispatch dangerous game or larger animals such as bears.  The projectile still moves out fast enough for penetration, and the energy at the target (within normal shooting distances) is still enough to offer terminal ballistics.

The Animal – Various Animals

Varmints can be taken out easily and effectively using a saboted 55-grain bullet hand-loaded in the .308 cartridge.  Such a round pushes out of the muzzle with about 4,000 feet per second and 2,000 foot-pounds of energy.

Pronghorn or smaller animals can be taken easily with lower weight bullets like the 110-grain round, available as a factory load by specialty manufacturers and hand-loads by those who like to reload or custom load.

Deer ranging across all species can be considered easily dispatched by the .308 round, specifically with rounds from the 130 to 155-grain weights with ease, and even heavier if needed.

Caribou, sheep, and mountain goats can all be handled with the 150 to 165- grain weights (and higher if needed). The heavier bullet weights could also be reasonably considered to tackle larger game like elk, moose, and bear.

Off the continent, rounds may be considered too small for dangerous game (specifically in Africa and parts of Eurasia, where some aggressive game can reach massive sizes).  While the round should easily be able to kill such animals with perfectly placed shots, the regulatory agencies don’t consider them deadly enough for consistent one-shot kills on dangerous game, for the sake of both the hunter and the animal.

In the end, this rifle is a do-it-all, and it isn’t made for a single purpose by any stretch of the imagination.  If you want something to cover more than just meat in your freezer but don’t want to settle for something that can’t consistently do both, this is probably the platform to consider.

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