Rising from the ashes of its failed military brother, the M1A found it’s podium among the public. While the M14 has recently improved, it still doesn’t stand up against the M1A. It’s been in our hands and hearts for nearly 45 years and a long time to come.
Despite its high price tag, it not only continues to sell but spawns variants for niche shooters as well. Efforts are continuously being made to improve accuracy and overall handling. Throughout all its evolutions, there are inherent qualities that made it so popular with the public:
- Faster than many other bolt-action semi-automatics
- Magazine fed
- Highly effective flash suppressor
- National Match front blade sight
- Forend includes sure grip grooves and rail for a bipod
As you can see, it comes ready to go while leaving enough wiggle room for customization. The price is so high because it has the characteristics that people want in a rifle. However, how do you know if a rifle gives you all you want if you don’t put it to the test?
If you aren’t yet aware of what this sleek machine can handle, let us enlighten you.
Going the Distance: Maximize your Shooting Range
Out-of-the-box, an M1A can shoot accurately up to 200 yards with less than 1 MOA in the right hands.
After 250 yards, you’ll notice bullet drop increase and velocity decrease without arduous practice. By the time you hit 300 yards, the bullet drop is a whopping 8 inches. Isn’t there some way to overcome these limitations?
Mount an M1A scope before your next trip to the range and you’ll be on your way to pro ranking. However, before you start throwing money around, let’s talk about what you should know about distance.
A Quick Guide to Distance: How Far will Your Bullet Go?
An out-of-the-box M1A will have a barrel length between 16 – 22 inches. Therefore, we’ll use the median of 19 inches for the average range.
- Long Range: 250 yards and above
- Medium Range: 100 – 250 yards
- Close Range Up to 100 yards
If your barrel length is longer, add a few more yards to these standards. On the other hand, a few yards should be taken away for shorter barrels. Other factors like ammo and aftermarket parts can also affect these numbers.
No matter what you do, you won’t be shooting 500 yards or more without one of the best M1A scopes. Since they’re all made for different types of shooting, let’s figure out which one matches your style.
What magnification do you need?
There’s something about the .308 caliber that gives people range fever. Although they’re perfectly capable of reaching your dream distance, they can’t do it alone.
The further you want to shoot, the more magnification you’ll need. What is magnification and what does it mean? Check out our quick guide here to understand how lens measurements and magnifications work.
Choosing a scope is all about matching your personal practices. Now, which one of these sounds more like you?
- Long Range (250 yards and above)
- Any good hunter can tell you that shooting effectively at long range isn’t something you’ll do on your first try. Although you’ll be chasing larger targets with the M1A, their size won’t matter at 800 yards. If 800 or 1000 yards sounds like the challenge for you, we suggest 10x power and higher.
- Medium Range (100 – 250 yards)
- This is a comfortable range for most shooters. While you’re far enough from targets to go undetected, they’re still close enough for a clean kill. Not having to fight with windage and holdover makes it a lot easier too. When you’re in this kind of position, we think that 6 – 9x power is your sweet spot.
- Close Range (Up to 100 yards)
- Anything within close range of an M1A doesn’t stand a chance. However, if it’s paper and metal targets you’re after, you’re after a bullseye, not a kill. You can get just close enough to that center without blurring your vision from 1 – 5x power.
The best scope for M1A rifles will be effective within at least two of these ranges. However, that doesn’t mean we’re taking sides in the fixed vs. variable scope debate! We just want you to have the means to be ready for any situation. Whether it’s up close and personal or a lengthy stalk, you need a scope that has your back!
The 4 Best Scopes For M1A
Isn’t it about time you evolve your M1A into its greatest potential?
Unfortunately, it just won’t happen without the right scope. That’s why we have taken care of the tedious research for you! In the beginning, we had a lot of potential candidates, but it came down to these four winners:
- Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm ( The best one for M1A Scout)
- Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800 – (Long Ranges)
- UTG 3-12×44 30mm Compact AO Scope – (Best Budget Deal)
- Nikon P-308 4-12x40mm Riflescope BDC 800 – (Medium to Long Ranges)
A quick note: why do some scopes say “BDC” and others don’t? BDC stands for “bullet drop compensation.”
Simply, this means that you will not have to adjust the elevation for longer range shots. All you have to do is use the reticle that matches the distance you are shooting and pull the trigger.
Which one do you think is the best scope for M1A rifles? Read our reviews below to get the big picture and find your perfect match!
Finding Your Next Scope
Let’s get down to business! Which one of these will take its place atop your M1A?
1. Burris 200261 Ballistic Plex 2-7x32mm
The M1A Scout is commonly found among law enforcement users, but not exempt from civilians. While you can definitely take it for target practice, it’s the perfect defense weapon. It’s the sidekick you need for swift results.
If you want to emphasize those results, you need the best scope for M1A Scout rifles. While Nikon has its .308 specific scopes, Burris has their very own Scout Scope. For fast, intense, close-range shooting, this is all you could ever ask for. It is without a doubt one of the best scopes out there if you own the scout version of the rifle.
Beyond its durability, it offers low mounting options and long eye relief to keep you from squinting all day. You can track targets in a snap with both eyes open. To keep you moving faster than the target, the posi-lock maintains your accuracy through each round.
No matter how rough the action gets, the multi-coated lenses will be safe from all shock, fog, and water. The only thing we see missing is an illumination enhanced (IE) reticle, which is invaluable to security and law enforcement.
However, they compensate with a no-guesswork, lifesaving feature.
Steel-on-steel makes for very audible clicks. While this is a bonus on any scope, it’s particularly important for Scout Shooting. In the heat of the moment, you don’t have a second to waste wondering about your settings. Moving with confidence is important in many defense situations, and the steel clicks will give you exactly that.
The Bottom Line
If you have a Scout model M1A, look no further. While the price is a bit steep, it is well worth it. Everything you could want to shoot ultra-fast without losing accuracy is in this scope.
2. Nikon M-308 4-16x42mm Riflescope w/ BDC 800
Wouldn’t it be perfect to have a scope made exactly for your rifle? Don’t worry, there’s no “custom order” in the fine print here. This 800 BDC reticle design suits a .308 Win round with 168-grain HPBT match bullet.
Although you’ll notice Nikon’s P-model below shares this same quality, there are important distinctions.
We’ll start off simple – are parallax adjustments important to you? Unlike its P-model cousin, this one is parallax free from 10 yards to infinity. You’ll also get more eye relief, maxing out at 4 inches, and a smidgen of extra weight – about 2oz.
What about your field of view (FOV)? This model offers more magnification (up to 16x) with a larger objective lens. That means you get a more thorough inspection of your environment before pulling the trigger. While the P-model offers about 20 feet at 100 yards, this one gives you 25 feet at 100 yards. Those 5 feet will make the difference in bringing home dinner or telling stories about “the one who got away.”
However, the extra FOV isn’t the only difference in your overall view.
By now, you probably think a regular BDC reticle is as good as it can get. We hate to tell you, but you’re wrong. Rather than clutter your view with hashes and dots, the Nikoplex reticle has fine crosshairs. Within this clean view also lies an elevation cap measured by yards. When it comes down to it, this Nikoplex reticle is what made some opt for the M-model over the P-model. That’s how much of a difference it makes.
The Bottom Line
As we’ve come to expect from Nikon, there isn’t anything lacking in this scope. It’s perfect for any range and has all of the features you need without going overboard. Although the price tag is intimidating, a serious shooter knows that it’s worth the investment. The M-308 would also be an excellent AR-10 scope.
3. UTG 3-12×44 30mm Compact AO Scope
Close to medium range shots can get hectic with live targets. Of course, that’s part of the thrill, but losing track of them is not. UTG has your answer.
Zero locking target turrets and zero resetting will make your shooting more accurate than you thought possible. Once you set it where you want, it locks into place so you can focus on what’s really important. If that’s not enough, the Side Wheel Adjustable Turret (SWAT) gives parallax range of 10 yards to infinity!
Amongst all of these innovative features, there’s only one small issue. Tuning the side focus knob is sometimes difficult because it’s tight. Other than this one little hiccup, you’re getting high-tech features worth well more than what you pay.
Of them all, the most impressive feature is the IE reticle.
Illumination Enhancing (IE) Reticle
If you don’t know what an illumination enhancing reticle is, you’re missing out. For many hunters and target shooters, this is a must-have feature in a scope.
Basically, when you see IE, it means that your reticle will light up for nighttime and low-light use. While most of them are just red, this UTG scope has 36 color modes for every possible scenario.
Overall, this luminous addition and other high-tech features make it slightly heavier than other scopes. If anything, that extra weight is a testimony to its reliability and durability. Once you get a feel for it and use the several color modes, you won’t want another scope!
The Bottom Line
Overall, this scope was designed to catch your targets quicker and more precisely. Between the IE reticle, SWAT, zero locking turrets and reset, this scope does most of the work for you! When you mount this on your rifle, there won’t be any environment or situation you can’t handle like a pro.
4. Nikon P-308 4-12x40mm Riflescope BDC 800
Nikon strikes again with another scope specific to .308 rounds with a striking 800 BDC reticle.
Through this reticle will never be anything but a clear, bright view. Using a multi-coated optical system with layers of reflective compounds makes sure you get a consistently spectacular vision. The shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof design solidifies that guarantee.
No matter how you adjust it, you’ll never second guess yourself. Both the zoom and focus rings have course rubber covers that are easy to grasp even with gloves. Although the focus ring is unspecified, it does have a very ample diopter adjustment.
Speaking of adjustments, forget about parallax and say hello to another Nikon innovation.
Instant Zero-Reset Turrets
These spring-loaded turrets greatly compensate for the lack of parallax adjustments on this scope. The Instant Zero-Reset Turrets use easy-to-grip course knurling to make your in-field easier. All you have to do is sight in, lift the knob, rotate to your zero, and re-engage. Along with Nikon’s SpotOn app, you couldn’t ask for a more simple day in the field.
The Bottom Line
This is the budget-friendly cousin of Nikon’s M-model. While it falls just slightly behind in ideal specs, it’s still a leader in M1A scopes. If you can live without the extra embellishments of the M-model, this is the budget option for you. It even works with Nikon’s SpotOn smartphone app to help guide you through the shooting range! The P-308 would also one of the best 308 scopes.
Wrapping up our Best M1a Scope Guide
There’s a scope in this list for every type of shooter, so which one are you?
Are you a stalking long-shot drooling over the Nikon models? Perhaps you’re more of an “anything can happen”, spontaneous kind of person that needs that UTG Compact. On the other hand, maybe you’re a down and dirty, facing trouble head-on, no questions asked fighter. In that case, that Burris scout scope will become your best friend.
We embrace what makes you different and so should your next scope. Don’t let your range buddies pressure you into an extravagant lens you’ll never look through. Instead, show them what kind of magic can happen when you pair up with your ideal optical match.