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Newbie M1a Buying checklist question

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I am looking to buy a m1a very soon. if i dont find a good one before April i will pick one up at the Wanenmacher Show in Tulsa.

that all being said. as a NEWBEE. what are areas i need to look at when looking over a used or for that matter a new M1a when buying. keeping in mind i more then likely wont be able to break it down and and inspect every part. what are some areas i can look at that may or can catch my eye to be concerned about?

I dont have a Go no-Go set YET or throat errosion gauges YET.

I know some here dont like the SA rifles and perfer others like FA. but i want a SA for no other reason then the lifetime warrenty.

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3,531 Posts
Aloha Mecha:

Welcome Aboard!!! I'll bet you pretty much know what to do already... but looking at rifles, if allowed, you might be able to break the rifle down (field strip) to take a look at the condition of the rifle. I would ask nicely as some do not allow or permit this (at gun shows and at stores). Looking at the wear marks are a good indicator to how much the rifle has been cycled.

When pulling the bolt back does the piston fall freely following the op rod? If it falls freely, that is good but may not be an indicator of anything. But it it does NOT, then that may be a problem point.

Use a bore light (a bore scope would be awesome but very expensive) and look at the chamber for condition and smoothness. Check the overall condition of the barrel, look at the lands and grooves, are they sharp and defined? Run a Throat Erosion gauge to see what it gauges at. I like the barrels to be under "3".

It is unlikely that you will be allowed to break down the bolt and check headspace. Only "military" headspace gauges allow you to check the headspace without breaking the bolt down. If you can that is GREAT!!! and do so.

Ask to see if you can "dry fire" the rifle. See if the trigger is working mechanically. Then you might want to try... cycle the bolt, drop the hammer but hold the trigger back, cycle the bolt and watch to see if the hammer follows the bolt. If it does, that is bad and could be a dangerous situation if not fixed prior to shooting.

You might take a good look at the inside of the Flash Hider to make sure that there is no copper streaks on the inside which would indicate a misalighned FH.

Lastly, you can take a look at the condition of the stock. It normally is minor, but being your first, you might want to get something that is in good shape. The original SA black krinkle synthetic stocks are notorious for flaking, chipping and peeling, so I would avoid them or use it as a negotiation point.

Geez... I've been blabbing, huh? I'll stop here... I am sure that the others will have other things to check out as well... Good Luck in your search. BTW: I have many SA M1A's and have no shame owning them. I have not run into any major difficulties with any of them and the only problem that I have run into was a defective bolt which SA took care of for me and made right!

So, have fun... looking for a rifle is "almost" as much fun as shooting them...


Tom O.

1,843 Posts
I'm glad you posted the link for the Tulsa show.
I've been trying to find info. and dates for the next show there and couldn't find it till now.

I'm planning to go to that show in April if all goes well.
Maybe I can find the ever elusive 50bmg that needs a good home. :roll:


13 Posts
Mecha said:
I am looking to buy a M1A very soon. if i dont find a good one before April i will pick one up at the Wanenmacher Show in Tulsa. That all being said. as a NEWBEE. what are areas i need to look at when looking over a used or for that matter a new M1a when buying.

I bought one of my M1A rifles at a gunshow and one at a gunshop.
Neither location allowed me to even field strip the rifle. I did bring
a T/E gauge and a borelight with me. Note as well if the rifle's
original box and papers are available as SA, Inc. includes a trigger
guard tag that notes the manufacture date and the headspace when

I noted at the gunshow that the MA9103 models with the USGI
birch stocks had the most USGI parts (of those that I could see).
Good places to check are the rear sight group (the elevation knob
and windage knob are marked). Generally the barrels on standard
models are USGI and chrome lined and you can see this with the
bolt retracted. Check the markings on the bolt as well, most are
now SA, Inc. forged units but sometimes the factory uses USGI
surplus bolts.

Finally, if you find a used one, most likely it has been a closet queen
and hasn't been fired very much. The condition of the buttplate,
the handguard and stock are important indicators of the level of
care the rifle has received.

One more note, you will want to replace the extractor, extractor
spring and plunger and the op rod spring with USGI ones after you
buy your new toy. Good Luck!

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