Best Scopes for the M1A: Long-Range & Scout Scopes

Love it or hate it, the M1A is a classic rifle from an age that is starting to pass us by.

The last American standard issue rifle made with walnut and steel, the M1A is still a good platform today if you’re interested in old school tinkering and upgrades.

Springfield Armory M1As
Springfield Armory M1As

With that in mind, you may be interested in putting a scope on the ‘ol girl! For hunting, target precision shooting, or as a battle rifle, we’ll take a look at the best scopes for your M1A!

The Rifle

Maybe you don’t have an M1A yet, well just so you’re on the same page as the rest of us — while there are other civilian versions of the M14, “M1A” specifically refers to the M14 platform manufactured by Springfield Armory starting in 1974.

1475
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The M1A is the most popular civilian version of the M14, and the differences between the M1A and M14, beyond what’s required to make the M1A civilian legal, are relatively minor.

These days, the Springfield Armory M1A is a popular choice for long range shooters, including hunting, recreational shooting, and competition shooting.

M1A Socom16 with Leupold Scout Scope
M1A Socom16 with Leupold Scout Scope

Basically, it shoots a powerful round, 7.62 NATO/.308 Win., a very long way. 

Which brings me to why we’re here. The M1A’s range of up to 1,000 yards (though it’s best around 600 yards) is awesome and all, but it’s pretty useless if you can’t actually see what you’re aiming at from that far away.

So if you’ve got one, do yourself a favor and grab a scope to use with it.

Any of these will do you nicely.

Best Scopes for the M1a

Long Range Optics

1. Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25×50 FFP

Let’s kick things off with a more high-end long range rifle scope from Vortex Optics.

Vortex is known for excellent scopes and the Viper PST Gen II is one of their best with all of the features that you could want from a long range scope.

Vortex Viper PST II 5-25x
Vortex Viper PST II 5-25×50

It’s a first focal plane (FFP) scope, which means that the reticle grows as you adjust to greater magnification, so the space between each hash mark always indicates the same distance in the real world. 

The reticle is also illuminated, which helps keep the reticle visible at low magnification levels and when shooting in low light conditions.

In addition, the scope has a 50mm objective lens for a large, bright picture, so this scope is ideal for shooting in the shadows or at the dawn and dusk hours.

Vortex Viper PST II 25x
Vortex Viper PST II at 25x

Speaking of the lens, the glass clarity is top of the line. While the eye relief is advertised as 3.4 inches, that clarity makes it feel longer. 

All of this combines for a rifle scope that makes 800 yard shots easy, but you could also shoot much farther without too much trouble, too. 

The PST Gen II also features parallax adjustment with numbers to make adjustment easy, especially with the smooth movement of the adjustment knob.

Vortex Viper PST II 5x
Vortex Viper PST II at 5x

Windage and elevation knobs, on the other hand, are tactile with crisp, audible clicks, exactly how you want them to be.

They have just the right amount of resistance so there’s no risk of accidentally turning them but they also aren’t unruly to manipulate as needed. 

And to protect the scope and keep all these features operating just so, the PST Gen II is also waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof with a hard anodized finish on the metal surfaces and an ArmorTek scratch-resistant coating on the exterior lenses. 

2. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x50mm Scope

All of those features that the Vortex Viper has are awesome, but they come with a pretty hefty price tag, so for our next pick we’re going to go with a much more affordable alternative.

In fact, it’s less than half the price. 

broke meme

The Leupold VX-3i is a traditional-style scope from a company with an excellent reputation for quality. It’s waterproof and fogproof with a DiamondCoat 2 lens coating for scratch and abrasion protection as well as superior light transmission.

Like the Viper, the VX-3i is great for low light conditions thanks to the large 50mm lens and Leupold’s Twilight Max Light Management System.

Which Leupold says adds up to 20 minutes of shooting light by offering excellent lens clarity from edge to edge and eliminating 85 percent more glare than other scopes. 

In other words, the scope is designed to admit a whole lot of light but also filters it to eliminate the glare that turns the light from an advantage to a hinderance. 

On the other hand, the VX-3i doesn’t have the magnification strength of the PST Gen II, so you still won’t be able to make quite the same distance of shots.

Still, the VX-3i is more than enough for most shooters. Hunters in particular will seldom get the opportunity to use the full range of the Viper anyway. 

The VX-3i has a traditional rear focal plane duplex (RFP) reticle, which is something of a mixed bag.

Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x50mm Riflescope Reticle
Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x50mm Reticle

With an FFP reticle, it’s great to have the holdover points stay consistent as you adjust magnification, but the reticle can be thin and difficult to see at low magnification and overly thick, covering your target, at high settings. 

If you mostly shoot in the mid-range of the scope’s magnification anyway, the VX-3i’s RFP reticle is probably fine. 

411
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you frequently use one of the extremes, however, such as adjusting for close range while hunting or relying on stronger magnification to hit farther targets at the range, you may want to opt for my next pick instead. 

3. Primary Arms SLx 4-14x44mm FFP Rifle Scope – 308/223 

The Primary Arms SLx 4-14x44mm FFP Rifle Scope is another step down in terms of budget with a price for a first focal plane that is very hard to beat. I wouldn’t call it a cheap scope though. 

Sure, it doesn’t have the same performance and feel as the Vortex Viper, but it’s still not a bad scope and especially not for the price. So let’s go with terms like “inexpensive,” “affordable,” and “budget-friendly” instead of “cheap.”

Primary Arms 1-6x and 4-14x with Mounts
(center) Primary Arms SLx 4-14×44 and (bottom) Slx 1-6x

The optic’s main point of praise is the PA ACSS HUD DMR reticle. That mouthful of letters makes me glad this is written and not a podcast, but basically just means that the scope uses Primary Arms’ proprietary ballistic reticle with markings to help you with windage and elevation holdover.

This can be really useful but those marks are really only accurate with certain .308 loads.

ACSS 308 reticle
ACSS .308 reticle

While Primary Arms has ensured that it works with the most popular .308 loads, if you’re looking to use different loads or want a scope that you can also use with another non-.308 rifle, this ain’t it. 

On the other hand, if one of those compatible loads is what you’re using anyway or you’re at least fine with making the switch, this reticle invaluable, though there is a bit of a learning curve to get used to it.

.308 (168gr vs 208gr)
.308 (168gr vs 208gr) can have very different ballistic trajectories.

Primary Arms also makes a version of this same scope for 5.56 NATO, so if you do opt for this scope, make sure you’re getting the right one before you buy.

Take a look at the scope’s manual for a list of compatible loads and more info on how the reticle works. The video below also gives you a primer on how to use the reticle.

That’s almost enough about the reticle, but before we move on, I want to go ahead and note that it’s illuminated and has six brightness settings. 

Now I’m tired of talking about the reticle and you’re probably tired of reading about it, so let’s run through some other features of the scope real quick. 

It’s got stronger magnification than the Leupold, though it still doesn’t match the Vortex. The image clarity is fine. Not great, not bad, just fine. 

For hunting, it’ll cover you for shots up to about 500 or 600 yards, but realistically very few hunters often need to make shots farther than that.

Target shooters who aren’t shooting something that moves and don’t have to worry about ethically taking down a living creature will have an easier time and could swing longer distances.

It would be nice if the eye relief was a bit larger, but it’s not a huge problem. The tactile turrets are precise and easy to adjust, but the clicks aren’t as crisp as would be ideal. 

The scope is waterproof as well as shock and fog-resistant, and Primary Arms offers a three-year full warranty though you’re unlikely to need it.

4. Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27×50 Gen 2

If you’re interested in something almost exactly like the Vortex PST II but coming in at a little cheaper and maybe a little better, you need to check out the Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27×50 Gen 2.

Bergara B-14 HMR and Athlon Ares BTR Gen 2
Bergara B-14 HMR and Athlon Ares BTR Gen 2

In our opinion, this is the most direct competitor for the PST II on the market and to some of us, the Ares is better.

Durable construction, wonderfully clear glass, easy adjustments, and best in class turrets — there is a lot to love with the Ares.

Athlon Ares Gen 2 zoom out
Athlon Ares Gen 2 at 4.5x

Depending on what your goals are, hunting or target shooting, you have several great reticles to choose from with all of the Ares options being FFP and illuminated.

Athlon Ares Gen 1 zoom in
Athlon Ares at 27x

While Athlon doesn’t have the name recognition of Vortex, that’s only because they are newer. Think of Vortex in 2010, still as good as the Vortex we have today — but a lot less market share.

Athlon also boasts a lifetime unlimited warranty, so on every count you’re covered.

918
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you’re interested in more, and you should be, take a look at our complete review of the Athlon Ares Gen 2 on a Bergara B-14 HMR.

Now let’s move onto Scout Scopes…

The M1A is often looked at as a long range rifle, but it also makes a good scout rifle and, in fact, Springfield actually makes a Scout Squad model specifically for this purpose.

Scoped M1A and Beard Problems
Shooting the M1A with a Leuplold Scout Scope

Using it as a scout rifle necessitates different things from a scope, though.

In general, you want a lower power scope that’s light in both weight and bulk, with long eye relief, and the ability to shoot with both eyes open (the Bindon Aiming concept).

These final few scopes all fit that criteria and are just solid all around scopes, but for more scout scope recommendations, give our list of the best scout scopes a read.

Triple Scout Scopes
(top to bottom) Vortex Crossfire II 2-7×32, Burris 2-7×32 Scout, and Leupold VX Freedom Scout 1.5-4×28

While that list isn’t intended to be M1A specific, the scopes listed were tested using an M1A, so it will be especially helpful to M1A shooters.

5. Burris Optics Scout Scope 2-7x32mm

Like with our section on long range scopes, we’re starting our scout scopes recs with a more high-end option.

Optics buyers often overlook Burris, but you definitely should pay attention to the Burris 2-7×32 Scout. It may be a bit pricey for a scout scope, but you certainly get a lot for your money.

Burris Scout Scope, 7x
Burris Scout Scope at 7x

The glass is multi-coated to prevent glare and the scope is nitrogen coated to prevent fogging.

It offers excellent picture quality and the entire scope is shockproof, waterproof and fog proof. It also comes with the Burris Forever lifetime warranty.

Burris Scout Scope, 2x
Burris Scout Scope at 2x

It has a Ballistic Plex reticle, which is a simple, minimalist reticle with trajectory compensation out to 500 yards. I would have liked for it to also be illuminated, but that’s a relatively minor complaint compared with the advantages.

It has nice long eye relief with a range of 9.2 to 12 inches and it’s slim with low mounting options for a low profile, so it’s comfortable to shoot and you don’t have to worry about visual fatigue.

4. Burris 2-7x Scout Scope
Burris 2-7x Scout Scope

It’s also designed to sit forward on your rifle so that the entire range of eye relief is actually usable, unlike some other scopes.

It’s a lightweight 13 ounces and is 9.7 inches long.

The turrets are crisp and make audible, satisfying clicks so it’s clear when you’ve made changes to your settings.

Likewise, the magnification adjustment is nice and smooth, so it’s easy to adjust magnification without moving the sight off your target.

6. Leupold VX Freedom Scout 1.5-4×28

Another Leupold! Still with all of the features of it’s bigger brother, but this time in a scout configuration and with much lower power glass. Perfect for keeping your eyes open and aware of your surroundings!

Equipped with just 1.5-4x, this is really a short range scope designed to be fast and accurate. Lightweight, easy, and good. It’s our favorite scout scope.

Leupold VX Freedom Scout Scope, 4x
Leupold VX Freedom Scout Scope, 4x

It’s about the same price as the Burris but has a smaller range of magnification.

Since it’s a scout scope I think 4x is perfectly serviceable for the range and speed a scout rifle brings.

Leupold VX Freedom Scout Scope, 1.5x
Leupold VX Freedom Scout Scope, 1.5x

If I had to choose only one scout scope, and didn’t need the 7x magnification of the Burris, I’d go with the Leupold.

What’s your take on the Leupold?

Readers' Ratings

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Your Rating?

Parting Shots

As always, we’ve linked to where you can buy any of these scopes, but if you want to do some browsing, be sure to check out our list of the best places to buy rifle scopes online to help you make sure you’re choosing an online shop that will treat you right. 

9 Tested Long Range Scopes
Oh yes…we love optics!

Still totally lost about what you should be looking for in a scope in the first place? Don’t worry, we have a guide for that, too, that will give you a crash course in rifle scope basics. 

Did one of these scopes catch your eye? If you’ve already been using a scope with your M1A, which one? Are you looking to make a switch or just browsing other options? Let me know or ask any questions of your own in the comments!

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