Although the stereotype of a sniper rifle or precision marksman rifle usually brings a bolt-action gun to mind, there are many semi-auto platforms available.
The AR faction has many .308 caliber rifles from Armalite, Remington, DPMS or Knight’s Armament SASS (Semi-Auto Sniping System). These rifles have been improved and tweaked into accurate and precise shooting tools finding utility in law enforcement and military operations.
But let’s not forget M-14 action. The M-14 action is like the 1911. It started out good and continues to be good to this day. The M-14 is an improved version of the Garand; changing the caliber from.30-06 to .308, offering select-fire capabilities and a 20-round magazine.
The M-14-based sniper rifle, like the 1911, has been improved over the years and now is an even more formidable and accurate tactical rifle than some of the others mentioned above. The addition of match-grade barrels, fine tuning, and high quality stock bedding have made this system a one MOA or better shooter. Springfield Armory’s M-21 and M-25 are the highest quality precision rifles built on the M-14action.
The M-25 White Feather is a tribute to Carlos Hathcock who accounted for 93 confirmed enemy kills in Vietnam. The Army’s most accomplished Vietnam War sniper, Sgt. Adelbert F. Waldron III stacked up 113 enemies using the XM21 system. The M-14 action has been proven time again to be sound and reliable and is still in use today in the military and police missions.
I had the opportunity to check out the M-25 White Feather. If you like sweet shooting rifles, you’ll be as impressed as I was with this beauty. This M-25 White Feather feels accurate coming out of the case. The McMillan stock gives the rifle heft and has stippling on the fattened pistol grip and for end. The stock is fitted to the action tight and right, with adjustments for length of pull and cheek weld.
You can make this rifle fit just about any marksman. The length is adjustable by removing or adding to the butt stock and the cheek weld has a thumb screw adjustment for use the field. Cheek adjustment changes as to the shooting position, at least for me, and when changing from bench shooting to prone it was easily adjusted in the field without tools for perfect scope/eye alignment.
The receiver is a rear-lugged flat black steel version and will accept all M-14 magazines. It is fitted with a Krieger heavy carbon match barrel that is 22 inches long with four-groove rifling that has a 1-10 twist. It is topped off with a low-profile muzzlebreak/stabilizer that is better suited to a precision rifle. Overall length is 46 inches and weight is 12.8 pounds. With the Leupold scope and magazine inserted the one I was using weighed in at exactly 15 pounds. The whole package is topped off with a likeness of Carlos Hathcock’s signature and the White Feather Logo marked on the receiver.
The trigger deserves a paragraph of its own. It is a two-stage adjustable trigger ranging between 1.5 and 4.75 pounds. This one let go right at pounds as it came from the factory.
The trigger is exceptional. A little take up, which is common in two-stage triggers, and two pounds later—GONE. It is smooth, crisp,and true. The fattened grip of the McMillan stock put the correct part of my finger right where it needed to be on the trigger. A good trigger is directly proportional to accuracy, and this trigger is great.
A rifle of this quality warrants a precise tactical grade scope. I went with Leupold’sMark 4 8.5-25x50mm LR/T M1 scope. This scope had a TMR (Tactical Milling Reticle).
This reticle expands on the Mil Dot design and offers more ranging tools by giving various sizes and spaced aiming points on the vertical and horizontal stadia. The accompanying manual gives the shooter necessary information and data to estimate range and drop compensation for both tactical and snap shooting conditions.
The Mark 4 I had was built with the reticle in the second focal plane. With variable-power scopes there is the option of placing the reticle in the first or second focal plane. In the first plane the size of the reticle changes with the change in power. This allows range estimation at any power setting. In the second focal plane the reticle remains the same size and range estimation has to be done at the highest power settings.
There are pros and cons to each system and this should be considered when choosing equipment for the intended mission. What I like about the second-plane reticle is you see the same reticle size every time you shoulder the rifle. It adds a bit of consistency to aiming which is part of the precision game.
Now for the fun part. After mounting the scope I took the White Feather to the range. The first outing was to get it sighted in and see what kind of 100-yard groups I could get. I shot the rifle with a supported bipod and sandbags under the stock from my Idaho shooting bench (pickup truck hood). The weight of the rifle along with the gas piston action made the .308 recoil barely noticeable. This is a pleasant rifle to shoot and the M-14 style action operated cleanly and without flaw every time.
After I walked the rifle in to the center of the target it gave me ½ minute groups. I was really impressed with the rifle’s accuracy. I tested one of Springfield’s M1A base rifles and one minute was the best I could do with it. One minute is perfectly acceptable for a sniping system, but ½ MOA is much better.
This rifle would easily be acceptable for a police marksman and most military missions. Ohh, that’s right, that’s why it is still in service today. I shot Federal Premium Vital-Shock ammo along with some of my reloads I use in my Model 700 Remington both topped with 168-grain pills. My homegrown loads were Sierra 168-grainHPBT.
I had an opportunity to take the M-25 to a 1000-yard practice match and see what it would do. One thing that was immediately obvious is my loads were coming into the target at sub-sonic velocities. The pit crew reported this to me. The loads were made for my rifle, which has a much longer barrel than the 22-inch M-25, but after doping the wind and some elevation corrections I could keep them in the black.
Not many shooters can grab an unfamiliar rifle and shoot tight groups at 1000 yards but I believe with some loading experiments and range time I could make a good show with the White Feather. I used a 175-grain load that another shooter had concocted for his gun and it improved the groups immediately. Their sizing, however, caused the bolt not to feed them consistently.
The M-25 White Feather is an awesome rifle. The M-14 action is a good, solid platform that can provide firepower and precision from the same tool; this is a valuable commodity for tactical missions. Springfield Armory has brought the best out of this workhorse and it is a good choice for many more missions to come. A good design is just that and cannot be forgotten when the new toys come out.