Wednesday, October 28, 2009

M1A1, FAL and barrel lenght


I really enjoyed your book and blog. Very good and realistic
information. The amount of hyperbole out on the Internet about this
subject is mind boggling and it's good to have someone with a
realistic perspective.

I was reading your descriptions of guns to own and couldn't agree
more. Glocks are simple to operate, simple to clean, simple to repair
and just flat out work even if not maintained to perfection. It's
reliable protection that can be carried on your hip no matter where
you go or what you are doing.

With respect to a rifle I also agree on a good .308 caliber weapon
because they are so versatile. My preference has been towards the M1A
(although I'd love to try a FAL) and I thought I'd relay to you some
information on them that I've witnessed. During some practical rifle
training I was shooting with folks with ARs and with M1As. Myself and
one other fellow had M1A standard length barrels. Another fellow had
the 16" version with muzzle brake. Here are my observations:

1) The 16" with muzzle brake is very loud. The noise is much more than
the standard rifles and is pushing the limits of good hearing
protection. Any one next to one of them on the firing line is going to
be punished (ask me how I know!). They also have a much more visible
muzzle flash than the full length versions.

2) The 16" version threw an extractor and became non-functional. This
can happen in M1As on rare occasion if the extractor detent is faulty,
but our rifle instructor who sees many M1As come through notes that he
sees it far more often with the shortened barrel versions. His
speculation is that by tuning the barrel to make it work with the
short length they disturbed the design and this is causing more
malfunctions. His overall sense are these shortened version rifles
have more malfunctions in general and failures that cause them to
become out of commission (like a bolt malfunction). He's seen enough
failures at this point to think it's something to be aware of in these
shortened M1A designs.

3) The 16" version was keyholing bullets with the ammo being shot (125
grain frangible). The full length barrels were not doing this. This
affected accuracy from the 16" version. This is something to keep an
eye on if using lightweight bullets.

Overall while I know the 16" version is what you recommend, I think
that the full length version shouldn't be discounted simply because
the design has now many decades of battle testing behind it and is a
reliable configuration. If you enjoy doing long range target practice
the full length barrel also has the decided advantage with iron sights
because of the better sight radius. This may not be a concern for
some, but if you plan on using the weapon for hunting it is something
to consider.

As an aside, the course we were shooting was in adverse weather and
while the AR users were told to take special precautions to keep water
and debris out of their actions and barrels, the M1A shooters were
told to just ignore all of it and keep on shooting. The action on that
rifle doesn't care what's in it. I just shoots it out. :)

Thanks for sharing your experiences!


KeithC said...

Personal experience only and NOT empirical by any means but I've played a bit with the M1A SOCOM II (16" ported barrel) and found the accuracy to be very poor in comparison to my 50s-vintage M1 Garand (shooting mil-surp M2 ball)and a similar-vintage Russian SKS (shooting new Wolf factory). Still good enough for "I hate you" work ;) out to 150 yards or so but I can do that short a distance cheaper and with less muzzle rise with the 7.62x39mm.

I experienced no problems with reliability (I *do* love the Garand action) and perhaps it was just a bad specimen but I don't think I'd mind an extra 2-4 inches on the barrel of an M1A or simply using a 7.62x39mm.

Jason said...

Fortunately, Springfield still makes the M1A Scout, with an 18" barrel and the standard gas system. It really takes the edge off the blast, especially if you replace the supplied brake with a standard M1A flash hider. It's pleasant to shoot, reliable, and very quick-pointing.

Anonymous said...

I think there's one important thing lacking here; if you can only buy one rifle it should not be the M1A1 or any .308/7.62 x 51!

If you want an autoloading rifle get an AR-15. Cheaper, easier to shoot and clean (cleaning this rifle is key as the tolerances are much closer than on the M1A1). Mags are readily available and ammo can be found anywhere in the US right now. Get one marked 5.56 NATO and you can safely use both 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington.

Not to mention when the bad guys come they will be using 5.56 NATO or 7.62 x 39 (this is not the .308 round!). When the good guys respond, they will be using 5.56 NATO. Why would you want a rifle that's not compatible with either of these cartridges?

Having a rifle compatible with the ammo that will be in the grey market is also very important.

On the other hand, if you already have a couple of serviceable AR-15s on hand then a M1 or AR-10 isn't a bad addition!

Ryan said...

I have a hard time seeing a reason to buy a 16" M1A. The real benefit off that platform is its insane accuracy and lopping off the barrel takes that away at distance (I sure imagine it would anyway). If you want a real urban CQB rifle that is 30 caliber buy yourself an AK. If you want a good albeit heavy and expensive battle rifle that can drive tacks at hundreds of meters buy an M1A.

bobn said...

Definitely true that the ported barrel is louder - I was shooting an M1A Socom II, then switched over to a Saiga .308 and somebody next to me commented on how much louder the first had been. Both 16" barrels, so it sort of surprised me.

(BTW, the trigger on the Saiga .308 sucks to high heaven - it redefines the word "bad" - most people buy it planning on doing the conversion that lets them put in a another FCG, but that involves metalwork I wasn't planning on doing.)

If I had it to do over again, I think I would have just bought 2 FALs.

Anonymous said...

I found this comment in favor of the GLOCK, I still *want* a SIG, but I think I'll get a GLOCK, plus they're cheaper than a SIG:

"As an instructor with experience using both company's handguns, I can tell you that for ME, the muzzle rise with a Glock...in ANY caliber...is LESS than a SIG in the same caliber, due simply to the Glock having a lower bore to hand placement. This will translate into faster shot to shot hits on target."

From what I can tell, as far as the 16" rifles go, you cannot shorten the barrel later if you need to do so for things such as re-crowning. But I have read many people say the 16" is more accurate without a scope than the longer rifles.

As Karen DeCoster has written, guns *are* like shoes, there's no perfect one for every situation.

But, I have this one pair of old boots I can wear most anywhere, that must be how you feel about GLOCKS eh?

Just A Guy said...

The FAL, M1A and AR15 were all originally designed to use 20-22 inch barrels. The rifle is a system including the cartridge was designed to work together. When you change something in the system like the barrel length or the power of the cartridge the system is now not balanced. I am not saying that shortening the barrel will not make the rifle run but it has a higher probability of a failure. mainly because the powder has not burned off all the way and the cycling of the action is more violent than if the barrel was full length.
This is no different than shooting non M2 ball ammo in a Garand. The recoil curve is wrong in a commercial load and can actually bend the operating rod if you shoot too many of those rounds.
Personally you are better off with the regular size barrel for reliability. If you want a shorter rifle find one that has been specifically designed for the shorter barrel length.

Double Tapper said...

The SOCOM series of M1A1 rifles have a high "coolness" factor. They look bad-assed and by all accounts are handy. However, they are less than useful when you start comparing ballistics from the .308 from a 16-inch barrel. To make a long story short, when it all shakes out, A .308 out of a short barrel isn't much better than a Russian Short (7.62x39). The RS is a very useful CQB or urban combat round.

Consequently, I recommend buying a custom AK (run you much less than a SOCOM) and has more utility - less recoil, noise, and blast and it still good out to 300 yards - much longer than 99.9% than most people can shoot without being under pressure. Under pressure, the ordinary bloke can't hit something 7 yards away...and the AK, when done right, has a lot of coolness to it too. I like my underfolder for knockaround - it is very compact and handy.

Anonymous said...

The M1A with full length barrel and iron sights is the most balanced rifle I've shot. It's also very accurate for a semi-auto. More than accurate enough for the vast majority of uses someone will need. It is versatile and seems to do everything asked of it. If i could only own one rifle it would be the M1A in 7.62.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Double Tapper. I would recommend anything from Arsenal. Get the very best you can afford. There is a lot of junk out there.

Unless one will get the training, it is not possible to beat the design. Even complete idiots can't screw it up and it will do the job within the range for most situations. Choose the cheap Wolf Military Classic HP, the 8M3 bullet or any soft point (Bear) for best results.

Don Williams said...

1) I think people should look at what they will be using a weapon FOR when choosing it.

2) As Double Tapper noted, most people can't hit beyond 300 yards at best. The US Army went to an intermediate range assault rifle (M16) after battle studies of Korea etc showed that most shots on rural battlefields are at less than 150 yards. On urban terrain, the shots would be even closer. And at night or in foggy weather closer still. But people who only shoot on open target ranges in full sunlight don't realize that.

3) Have a buddy put on some face paint or bandanna mask to camouflage his face and some dark clothes. Then have have him lie down behind cover (tree, wall,etc) and look around the side of it. Then back up and see how far away from him you can get and still see him as a viable target through the sights of a rifle.

4) Oh -- and if you are cheating by using optical sights , try having him dash from cover to cover at 100 yards and see what your chance of tracking him are if you are looking through a telescopic sight. Also see what cover is provided just by rolls in the landscape.

5) Some people have the idea of using 7.62 Nato battle rifles for sniping --but sniping as done by the Marines calls for "one shot- one kill" using a highly accurate bolt action rifle.

The reason is that a single shot does not give away the location of the sniper whereas a flurry of shots does. (Infantry are trained to get the range of the sniper by counting the delay between the crack of the bullet passing by and the report from the muzzle of the rifle and to try to also get the bearing to the report. But even they have trouble doing that when just a single shot comes out of the blue.
Untrained people, of course, are just left bewildered, not knowing where the sniper is. Which lets the sniper move to another position and take another shot.

Of course, sniping loses a lot of its effectiveness if targets wise up and start moving in woods instead of open fields and dash from cover to cover instead of strolling around in the open.)

6) Note that the Marines chose the Remington 700 deer rifle with the heavy barrel because they found it was a lot more reliable and kept its zero a lot better after being dragged through the brush than semi-autos like the M1A. It doesn't matter how accurate a rifle is at the range -- how accurate is it on the first shot after you have dragged it over the landscape?

7) The only place I could see where a 7.62 Nato battle rifle would shine would be if you are in a fortress shooting across 600 yards of cleared fields to stave off a human wave attack by zombie cannibals. :) I.e., you are using the M1A as a poor man's M60 machine gun. Note that the AK47 would be just as effective once said horde got within 300 yards.

But that situation is tactically dubious anyway -- you should have been patrolling/ambushing/cutting up said zombie horde before it got within 20 miles of your fortress.
And again, an assault rifle is best for that in anything other than desert terrain.

Note that You can carry 1.5 times as much AK47 125 grain ammo as 308 180 grain amno.
And the 5.56 Nato round weighs only 60 grains -- allowing you to carry 3 times as many rounds as the 180 grain 308.

Plus cowering behind walls is dubious because you have given up all initiative and options. What do you do if said zombie horde attacks at night? Or behind the cover of steel plated cover mounted on wheels (siege engines) ?

8) I'm pointing out these outlandish scenarios to make a point: It is important to figure out what problems you will face -- and the best solutions to those problems -- when deciding what criteria you will use in choosing your tools.

A M1A is kinda heavy to carry at the ready position for rapid shots in low visibility conditions.

Anonymous said...

The 7.62 isn't about taking 300 yard shots. It's being able to hit some guy that dove behind a car and is still shooting at you. The 7.62 is going to punch through both car doors and keep on going. If they run behind a tree it's going to shoot through the tree. If they go behind a wall it's going to punch holes through the wall. The 7.62 is serious business. As they say, "it turns cover into concealment." I've seen 7.62 punch through 1/4" steel plate with ease at 300 yards. Something that smaller rounds just can't do.

DannyHSDad said...

I own a M1A SOCOM16 and I had to send it back to Springfield Armory for repair, because it won't extract the shell correctly after firing. (Works fine now.)

I guess I didn't do enough homework before I bought it...

Anonymous said...

The FAL may be too expensive for me right now and I've been looking at the Siaga in .308 rather than 7.62x39. I think you've mentioned Gabe Suarez before, he wrote a short article called The Guerrilla Sniper where he made some good points for the .308 over the 7.62x39 and had some good things to say about the Siaga.