If you just bought it, and just took it to the range,
YOU DON'T NEED TO TAKE IT OUT in the first place.
Lock the bolt/operating rod to the rear. Turn the rifle upside down and back again. You should hear the gas piston go back and forth.
For a new rifle I agree with this, however,
I don't shoot my M1A that much but have probably 500 rounds through it, haven't take the gas plug out yet.
Leave it alone!
I consider this a poor example.
I am a fastidious cleaner of my guns. There I was in my Hut at Camp Perry, cleaning my M1a after a day of hard shooting, and a shooting bud comes in with his State Association M1a. His rifle was malfunctioning and he wanted to know why. I had my gas cylinder wrench and gas cylinder lock screw tool, and it took a heck of a yank to get his gas cylinder lock crew to break. He informed me he had been told never to clean his gas system. When the cylinder was in my hand, I was very surprised to see deep rust pits. The cylinder was also full of crusty powder residue. That was why he was having malfunctions; the timing of the rifle was off due to a plugged gas cylinder. Cleaning everything out, put “Anti Seize” on the gas cylinder lock threads and he was happy.
The next day my 200 yard RF group was awful, because I had only hand tightened my gas cylinder lock screw the day before and it unscrewed.
I had been interrupted just before using the wrench in my hut, forgot about tightening the thing in the excitement of fixing my Bud’s rifle. I don’t multi task worth a flip. His rifle ran fine.
You do need to take the gas cylinder out and clean it out, I don't know how long you can avoid this, because I clean out my gas cylinder after each 88 round match. But I do know, if you push it out too far, you will have problems.