Springfield Armory
M1A Tanker

Information Age Awesome, Classic Cool
18

Springfield Armory is a powerhouse in the contemporary American gun world. Resurrected in 1974 from the ashes of the venerable 200-year-old government armory, the modern iteration of Springfield Armory offers today’s civilian shooters a unique menu of tactical, hunting, defensive and recreational weapons.

The Springfield Armory M1A has been around for 45 years. An Information Age civilian rendition of the classic GI M14 combat rifle, the M1A in its several modern guises remains on the cutting edge of today’s gun technology. The most recent M1A Tanker takes everything righteous and wholesome about the classic M1A and shrinks it down to a more manageable length. The origins of this remarkably capable defensive and sporting firearm have deep roots.

The new Springfield Armory M1A Tanker really hits the mark for military rifle enthusiasts
or those who want good firepower in a ranch- and vehicle-friendly package!

War Story

I both loved and hated working in the VA hospital. The patients were all sick as stink, but there was never any shortage of cool stories. I did my time in the VA as our crop of irreplaceable World War II vets was wearing out. When things got slow all you needed to do was find a door ajar with a light burning to guarantee an engaging tale.

Mr. Mahaffey landed on Omaha beach in an M4 Sherman tank right after D-Day. Before his war was over he had his tank as well as another four like it shot out from under him. Each time he lost at least one friend. Those of us who came later simply have no idea.

He always regaled me with the silly funny stories, never the other sorts. He once happened upon an unattended Belgian warehouse stacked high with cognac. Proper booze was like gold in liquid form in 1945 Europe, so his guys piled the engine deck of their tank high with pilfered alcohol.

Later the same afternoon Mr. Mahaffey was rumbling down a Belgian trail in his tank, he and his crew imagining all the bounty soon to be theirs once they bartered the cognac. Out of the clear blue sky a single German mortar round plopped onto the engine deck of their moving tank, obliterating every drop of the booze without harming the vehicle. What remained of their dreams ran uselessly off the vehicle and into the thirsty Belgian soil.

No mortarman is good enough to hit a moving vehicle with a single round. The event was clearly random. However, Mr. Mahaffey took it as a sign from God to eschew alcohol going forward.

Mr. Mahaffey said his tanks were unimaginably cramped on the inside. The Commander in a Sherman actually rode wrapped around the gunner from behind while in combat. What little extra space there might have been was filled with ammunition, gear and personal effects. An armored vehicle crewman’s individual weapon must therefore be compact.

Short History

In the fall of 1944 two parallel efforts strived to produce a shortened M1 Garand. Engineers at Springfield Armory designed the M1E5, a stubby version of John Cantius Garand’s eponymous wonder. The M1E5 incorporated a collapsible steel stock philosophically similar to the M1A1 Paratrooper Carbine. Alas, the slow-burning powder used in wartime .30-06 ammunition produced excessive muzzle flash and undue wear on parts, so the project faltered.

Simultaneously Colonel William Alexander of the Pacific Warfare Board, a strategic weapons review entity located in-theater, directed the ordnance division of the 6th Army based in the Philippines to produce 15,000 shortened M1 rifles for use by paratroopers, tankers and soldiers operating in jungle environments. They bodged together 150 relatively crude examples, a pair of which made it back to Springfield Armory for evaluation. These guns re-energized the Springfield Armory guys, and they contrived an updated prototype titled the T26. This weapon sported a traditional wooden stock and 18″ barrel (the original M1 had a 24″ tube).

The T26 suffered from the same challenges as did the M1E5, so it was binned in short order. The prototypes were either damaged in testing, scrapped for parts, or otherwise lost. A single remaining 1943-dated example resides in the Springfield Armory museum and is worth more than my house. However, at least one of the in-theater short-barreled examples was indeed used in action by soldiers of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Tank crewmen did and do require short, compact personal defense weapons, but the moniker “Tanker Garand” was actually a post-war civilian marketing tool. However, the need yet remains for compact, full-power battle rifles for use around vehicles, in built-up areas and indoors. Special Operations units engaged in ongoing kinetic activities overseas are using such weapons as I type these words. Modern technology and advances in ammunition have excised these stubby guns’ wartime shortcomings. Nowadays Springfield Armory has taken the Tanker concept and updated it for today’s shooters.

The M1A Tanker offers all the performance of the previous, larger gun in a handier, more compact package

The Springfield Armory M1A Tanker

The new Springfield Armory M1A Tanker begins life as their updated SOCOM16 version of the classic M14, itself a product-improved variant of the M1 Garand. The new rifle sports a 16.25″, 6-groove carbon steel barrel with a 1-in-11 right-hand twist tipped with their proprietary perforated brake. This chassis is set within a beautiful full-length walnut M1A stock.

The rear sight is a generous ghost ring sort, while the front post includes a luminous Tritium insert from XS Sights. This is a close-range combat machine designed for near to mid-range engagements. The sights are therefore optimized for this battlespace. The M1A Tanker is 1/2-lb. lighter and 6″ shorter than the standard Infantry model M1A. When fired alongside my full length M1A the shortened barrel cost about 120 feet per second.

The M1A Tanker is otherwise classic Springfield Armory M1A. The gun comes with an abbreviated 10-round box magazine but any standard M14 mags will fit including aftermarket drums. The charging handle is part of the bolt carrier assembly and reciprocates as it is fired. This allows you to manhandle the action in the extremely unlikely event of a stoppage. The trigger assembly which birthed the Garand. The safety is a pivoting tab in the front of the trigger and doesn’t care about your particular handedness.

Magazines must be hooked in the front and rocked into place like those of a Kalashnikov rifle. The magazine release is a thumb-activated paddle located on the midline behind the magwell. There is a stripper clip guide so you can top the gun off with strippers from above if desired.

Philosophy

You need to ask yourself what you are looking for in a compact battle rifle. I have a tricked-out SOCOM16 ready to grab and go if the zombies arrive ready to party in cars or behind cover. This gun has plenty of space for whiz-bang accessories and features a state-of-the-art optical sight. You could get to the same place with the M1A Tanker, but it would entail swapping out the upper handguard and procuring a separate side-mounted scope mount. Such swapping kind of misses the point.

Collapsible stocks will never be as comfortable, rigid, or effective as their solid forebears. The Springfield Armory M1A Tanker is not designed to equip Delta Force as they HALO into the Hindu Kush to rescue the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders from some deranged despot’s evil lair. The SOCOM16 would fit the bill nicely. The M1A Tanker is for more refined applications.

The M1A Tanker shoots straight enough for modest long-range target work and interfaces with your soft flesh like your favorite pair of broken-in boxers. Technology advances apace, but there still has not yet been anything contrived producing a finer cheek weld than quality stained walnut. Combine it with the inimitable stony gray of Parkerized steel and you have a familiar yet functional aesthetic.

For all this, however, the M1A Tanker also renders yeoman’s service around the home and rural farm. As a rugged ranch rifle the M1A Tanker is literally peerless. The gun will reach out farther than I can reliably see with iron sights yet maneuvers indoors and around an automobile like a much lesser gun. Whether the threat is a hungry coyote, a belligerent bear, or the kind of skunk skulking around on two feet to foment mischief, the M1A Tanker is reliably good medicine.

For the traditionalists among us the M1A Tanker would make a superb hunting arm. The .308 Winchester is proof against any reasonable North American game and its semiautomatic action guarantees swift follow up shots. Venison, elk, antelope or moose, the M1A Tanker will readily keep the larder stoked.

The M1A Tanker hangs onto the original-style 0.135” rear ghostring rear sight mated
to an XS Sights front post with a self-luminous tritium insert.

Bemusements

The Springfield Armory M1A Tanker is as efficient and effective as it is aesthetically attractive. The manual of arms is simple and stupid-proof while the basic action has been proven in the crucible of real-world combat. With its shortened barrel and efficient muzzle brake the M1A Tanker offers all the performance of the previous, larger gun in a handier, more compact package.

Mr. Mahaffey lived a long, rich life after investing a year of it in the unvarnished hell of war-torn Europe in the 1940s. He passed away at home at age 95, a good man who had done a great many good things. The many manifest rights and freedoms we so blatantly take for granted are spawned from his sacrifices as well as countless others like him, especially those who did not come home. My life is much richer for having known him. The new Springfield Armory M1A Tanker hearkens back to such days as his.

MSRP is $1,987.

For more info: www.springfieldarmory.com

Subscribe to GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine March 2020 Issue Now!