A few weeks ago Charles (my husband) and I were having dinner and a FEW glasses of wine and I found myself agreeing to shoot his M1-A in our WA St High Power match in June. Most of you know that I compete with my AR15 service rifle in Across The Course matches. Charles started competing with the M14 and actually got to the Master level and even got a start in his LEG points toward his Distinguished badge. Back in the day everyone competed with the M14 (M1-A) People and guns evolved (M1-A enthusiasts will kill me for that statement) and the AR became the service rifle of choice. Much lighter and easier to shoot and making it nearly impossible to beat. The AR became known as The Mouse Gun by the diehards. Charles fought switching over for a long time. I call it the stubborn Marine in him. When he finally did switch over to the AR he became a Master and finished out his LEG points immediately. Now you only see people shooting the M14 in specified matches or when people want to dust if off and shoot it for old times sake. And to be fair there are still some out there that will not give it up. I am not worthy. I finally shot this beautiful beast for the first time last weekend.
The Shughart M14/M1A RMC match was held at Cascade rifle range in Ravensdale, WA. An honorary match on behalf of Sergeant First Class Randall David Shughart who died and won the Medal of Honor in Somalia. He used the M14. This was my first opportunity to practice with this rifle if I am to
shoot it at State. We all showed up with our loaded ammunition and found out that this match was issuing ammo instead. Talk about old school! I loved it. The entire match fee was $30 and included 80 plus sighter rounds of ammunition. We had standard M 80 ball ammo for short range and some Federal 308 Win for 600. What a bargain. And we got to keep the brass. The ball ammo performed ten times better than the Federal. Just sayin. I thought for sure I would be the only woman there at this match but I was pleasantly surprised when Kristen arrived and a junior gal. Unfortunately they were shooting the AR for practice. So I was the only gal shooting an M1A. I never even got a chance to practice or even hold the rifle before the match. Charles gave a very quick how to of the elevation knob and magazine workings. The elevation clicks are worth one minute each. Then the rear sight turns up or down for 1/2 minute changes. Strange. But that is because I am not used to it. Other than that off I went. Being very tall and I think pretty strong I was not too concerned with the size of the rifle. In fact it fit me much better than the short AR. I actually had some extra length of pull on this. But there are a lot of little differences with this gun.
The number one difference is size and caliber obviously. Going from 223 to 308 adds a fair amount of recoil. An AR you can hold any which way and the thing shoots well. The M1A needs you to really get behind it. I have the strength. I am not petite. But in the rapid seated and prone stages I found my self getting pushed around a bit. One string of rapid prone you could see that my shots gradually walked to the right. In seated my elbows were slipping out of position. It was not until we were back at the 600 yard line that another shooter showed me his can of uber sticky spray goo (I called it that) that everyone would use on elbow pads, knees on your pants and the back of the shoulder stock. I used some for the heck of it at 600 and I kept getting stuck to my mat. I could not change positions. That stuff is crazy! But I get it now. I would have not moved out of position in rapid. Our first position of the day was offhand/standing at 200 yards. The big difference between rifles here is that you have to a “chicken wing” arm in this stance. With the AR I can tuck my right elbow down at
my side. All because of the pistol grip. The M1A grip is such that your elbow has to position up and out. Like a chicken wing! I got a lot of grief from viewers of this photo on Facebook. (Photo at left) I also don’t like to hold the magazine with my left hand. I hold the stock just in front of it. But I do know I would need to practice this stance. Some have to remember this is not a tactical match where you have an aggressive forward stance. This is precision shooting like small bore and it is a completely different game. Trust me. You too will have chicken wing. Any way, I got grief! And yes my stance has a lot of well… hip action. That is my AR offhand stance. As the string went on I relaxed more and got a rhythm and a better feel for it. 200 yard rapid fire seated is the second stage.
The seated position was great for me with this gun. The AR stock is so short and I have a severe cant of the gun in this position. I have to add 2 minutes left on my wind knob to compensate. I have tried different leg positions to take that away but it does not work for me. With the M1A I had barely any cant because the shoulder stock length is perfect. I took note afterwards that my leg positions could have been better so that I could lean more forward in to it. I also could have really used the sticky goo. My elbows kept getting pushed out of position with each round. Back at 300 yards for rapid prone I felt right at home. The only issue there was the sliding around on my mat. Again, sticky goo! The last stage was at 600 yards for the slow prone stage.
The prone position is my forte and I had an easy time with this. The big struggle I had the entire day was focusing on the front sight. My AR has a rear Micro-sight and allows me to see the front post clearly. My eyes are obviously changing rapidly these days. When I had a clear image my shots were right in there. And the Federal ammo was not so great. Everyone agreed (perhaps to feed our bruised egos) that it was not as accurate as the ball ammo. Congrats to my hubby for taking second overall. He loves that rifle. He cleaned 200 rapid seated. He lost the match by one point to a regular winner of the M1A, Carl Witteman. I was in the middle of the pack and am ok with that. Charles asked me on the way home if I enjoyed the match. “Of course!” I said. One thing about competing in High Power that I love more than anything is the people. The nicest, most generous and helpful of any of the shooting sports I believe. I am not putting down any of the other disciplines. Everyone is great. But the traditional bulls-eye shooting world seems to be dying out. Especially high power. We cherish every match and those that compete. I am so happy to see a new
group of juniors each year starting out. Especially young women. These specific M1A matches have an extra “specialness” to them. Another reason to bond I guess. You have to admit that this rifle is a beauty. Comparing it next to the AR is really, well…. no comparison. Although challenging, this gun suits me. The big question asked of me was would I shoot the M1A again in a match? Absolutely. And I hope to see you out there with me.