August 25, 2020
I’ve been shooting Springfield M1As for almost three decades, and before that I had a favorite M1 Garand that I shot quite a lot. That Garand was highly accurate, but it had two shortcomings. One was the eight-round stripper clip that held the cartridges and ejected out the top of the action after the last round was fired. I never lost any of them, but I came close more times than I like to remember. The other downside to the Garand was that it was cumbersome. It weighed close to 10 pounds, and with a 24-inch-long barrel, it was a little unwieldy. The M1A Tanker resolves both of those drawbacks.
As I said, I’ve handled and fired a lot of Springfield M1As over the years, and in addition to the Tanker featured here, two other favorite versions are the 18-inch-barreled Scout Squad and the 22-inch-barreled Loaded. Let’s take a quick look at how the Tanker compares to them.
Obviously, the barrel lengths are different. In addition, the Tanker wears an XS post front sight with a white stripe and a tritium insert. The Scout Squad and Loaded have military-type National Match front sights with the traditional protective ears on each side of the plain post.
The rear sights on all three versions are the standard military aperture sight. The sight has the distinctive elevation- and windage-adjusting knobs.
The Scout Squad and Loaded guns have Picatinny rails on top that make installing an optic very easy. The Tanker, however, does not. Other versions of the M1A don’t have the top rail, either, but Springfield offers a side scope mount for those models. I don’t think the Tanker needs a scope, given its intended purpose, which is fast and up-close defensive shooting, but it will accept the side scope mount if the shooter prefers an optic.
By the way, I will say right here and now, the Tanker was not an official military configuration for the M1A. It is brand-new this year. However, as our photos suggest, it definitely exudes a World War II military vibe.
The Tanker has a ported muzzle brake up front with three rows of either five or six small ports on each side at the 11- and 1-o’clock positions. The Scout Squad also comes with this type of muzzle brake, but the Loaded model has a flashhider with longitudinal slots rather than ports.
The walnut stock on the M1A Tanker I’ve been shooting is pretty nice. As the photos show, the buttstock has a bit of figuring. The finish is the traditional oil type. The Scout Squad is offered with either a black synthetic stock or a walnut stock. The Scout Squad I worked with a couple of years ago wore the synthetic stock. The Loaded M1A also is offered with either a walnut stock or a synthetic stock. There are two types of synthetic stocks for this model, with one being the Precision Adjustable version that allows the comb height and the length of pull to be adjusted. It’s currently offered in black and Desert FDE colors. Shooting Times reported on the Precision Adjustable M1A in 2016, but the Loaded M1A I have worked with wore the standard synthetic stock.
Back to the Tanker’s stock. The stock features a hinged buttplate that is a carryover from the military’s M14, which was a select-fire rifle. Swinging up the hinged buttplate and placing it atop the shoulder was supposed to provide additional control when firing the M14 in full-auto mode. Obviously, that’s not needed with the semiautomatic Tanker, but underneath it on the Tanker is a hidden compartment for accessories.
The Tanker’s stock also features sling swivel assemblies on the buttstock and the fore-end. The one on the buttstock is fixed, whereas the one on the fore-end swings.
The Loaded, Scout Squad, and Tanker M1As all have tuned match triggers. The Loaded model’s is tuned by Springfield to break at between 4.5 and 5 pounds of pull. The Tanker and Scout Squad triggers are rated at 5 pounds; however, my Tanker’s pull averaged 5 pounds, 8 ounces for five measurements with my RCBS trigger pull scale, and it was consistent. The first stage takes about 3.5 pounds of pull, and the remaining pull requires about two pounds of force to break, and that certainly fosters good accuracy.
Other controls on the Tanker include the blade-type safety located at the front of the trigger guard (move it rearward to engage, and slide it forward to fire), the bolt lock on the left side of the receiver, the op rod on the right side of the action, and the lever-style magazine release that’s positioned behind the magazine well. The Loaded, Scout Squad, and Tanker all come with 10-round magazines, but I used a 20-rounder for my shooting sessions with the Tanker.
I test-fired the Tanker with the same five factory loads as I used previously with the Scout Squad and Loaded versions and have listed the results for all three guns in the accompanying chart. As you can see, I wasn’t as accurate with the Tanker as the other two. Of course, that has more to do with me, the shooter, than the gun. The other two guns wore riflescopes, whereas the Tanker did not, and I wear trifocal eyeglasses, so you can imagine that iron sights and my eyes do not go together well no matter how visible the sights are. The combination of the white stripe and the tritium insert of the Tanker’s front sight makes it easy to pick up in most any light condition, and at close ranges I do more than fine with the iron sights, but it’s an entirely different story at 100 yards. Sure, I can see the sights, but my poor eyesight makes trying to hold them on the same small spot of a distant target difficult. So I used a Caldwell Lead Sled for shooting the Tanker at 100 yards, and while it does not hold the carbine totally still, it definitely makes aligning the sights on the target consistently easier. That said, I was very pleased with the overall average accuracy (2.80 inches) I achieved with the Tanker.
Looking at the loads individually, the Hornady Superformance 150-grain InterBond load averaged 2.73 inches. The Black Hills Gold 155-grain A-Max load averaged 2.41 inches. The Australian Outback 165-grain GameKing load averaged 2.66 inches. The Federal Gold Medal 168-grain HPBT load averaged 2.22 inches.
And the Federal Low Recoil 170-grain SP loading averaged 3.99 inches. Those averages are for four, five-shot groups with each load.
Just for fun, when it came time for some offhand shooting, I loaded the magazine randomly, mixing rounds from all five loadings. Then I fired them as quickly as I could. There were zero malfunctions, and that is a testament to the M1A’s reliable design and its military roots.
The M1A Tanker is a fun gun to shoot—one of the most fun guns I’ve worked with this year. And it’s definitely a capable defensive gun, although the muzzle brake makes the carbine’s report extra loud and doesn’t do much to tone down the flash. Taking that into account, I have to say the M1A Tanker is one short and sassy carbine.
Springfield Armory M1A Tanker Specs
- Manufacturer: Springfield Armory; springfield-armory.com
- Type: Gas-operated autoloader
- Caliber: .308 Winchester
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 16.25 in.
- Overall Length: 37.25 in.
- Weight, Empty: 8.75 lbs.
- Stock: Walnut
- Length of Pull: 13.25 in.
- Finish: Parkerized barrel and action, oil-finished stock
- Sights: Adjustable aperture rear, XS post front with white line and tritium insert
- Trigger: 5.5-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Two position
- MSRP: $1,987
Springfield Armory M1A Tanker Accuracy Results