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© Robert W. Seijas
Despite the fact that the M1 was adopted as the Service Rifle in 1936, the National Match M1903 Springfield remained the competition rifle for 17 years. The High Power matches were suspended from the beginning of WWII until the end of the Korean War in 1953. In 1953 the first accurized version of the M1 Rifle was assembled at Springfield Armory for the newly resumed national competition.
The new National Match M1 was simply a regular service rifle selected for accuracy by the SA match unit. The method of selection was merely to monitor the accuracy acceptance test to which every M1 was subjected before delivery. Those that shot especially straight were set aside and given a very minor tune-up before stamping the letters NM on them.
These first National Match M1’s were not accurate enough to be competitive, and old time shooters used to the NM ’03 were very critical of its performance. In succeeding years, the NM M1 was more rigorously selected, with special attention given to optimal bore and headspace dimensions. In addition, the gunsmithing given to each rifle was quite a bit more extensive each year. What could be done to the rifle, however, was limited by a strict interpretation of the regulation that the National Match rifle be “the service rifle as issued.” Nevertheless, by 1957 the National Match M1 could and did compete successfully against the ’03.
Despite the adoption of the M14 as the official service rifle in 1957, the NM M1 remained the rifle used in high power competition, just as the ’03 Springfield had remained the match rifle long after the adoption of the M1. However, the stipulation of “service rifle as issued” was finally interpreted more generously. Special sights were permitted beginning in 1957, and various studies to improve the M1’s accuracy even further were conducted.
The improvements identified were phased in on a regular basis from about 1959 until the end of production in 1963. The final version of the National Match M1 is an extremely accurate rifle out to distances of 1000 yards, and it can stand with any service rifle anywhere in the world.
M1 match rifles were built by all the service branch shops according to the same specifications used by the official Springfield Armory National Match program. These “team rifles” can be as accurate as the SA rifles, but they do not command the same value that collectors afford the SA examples.