I cut my teeth on the military M14, way back in 1969, during my basic training at (now closed) Fort Ord, California. I learned to love it, and I qualified “Expert” with it – loved shooting that rifle. Later on, while working full-time for the Illinois National Guard, I joined the Illinois State Rifle & Pistol Team, and was issued a match-grade M14 (and 1911A1) along with all the ammo I wanted – those were the days. I shot in many competitions, and always winning in my classification with that M14. I always wanted an M14 of my own, however, they were, and still are a hard-come-by rifle, and are an NFA weapon – and I don’t care to jump through the legal red tape to own a select-fire weapon.
Over the years, I’ve owned a few Chinese-made M14 clone rifles, they were okay, some better than others, and they all functioned just fine. [JWR Adds: See the warnings on soft Chinese M14 bolts posted by walt at Fulton Armory.] But they still weren’t an M14. Almost three decades ago, Springfield Armory came out with their semi-auto (only) version of the M14 and dubbed it the M1A – it was, and still is a big hit for Springfield Armory. I’ve owned several over the years, and found them to be outstanding shooters. Well over a year ago, I reviewed a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II, that was set-up in a very compact bullpup configuration, that rifle — loaned to me by the good folks at US Tactical Supply — is called the Juggernaut. I was totally blown away by how compact this set-up was. However, for my own personal use, I decided I just wanted a SOCOM II as it came from the factory. Prior to testing the Juggernaut set-up, I had actually been searching for a SOCOM II at my local gun shop. They had a couple brand-new ones come in the shop, but I couldn’t afford the price.
About a month after testing the US Tactical supplied M1A SOCOM II Juggernaut set-up, my local gun show picked-up a like-new SOCOM II in a trade at a gun show. I was able to work a deal on a trade to get it – and cost me two M4-style rifles to get it! My sample was probably 98% as-new, too – but with no box, and the fellow who traded the gun, forgot the magazine. A quick trip to US Tactical Supply, and I was in business – they carry the outstanding, and mil-spec Checkmate Industries (“CMI”) brand of M14/M1A magazines – both 20 and 30 rounders – and the Checkmate 30 round mags are the only 30 round mags that I’ve found that will function 100% of the time. Over the years, I’ve tried some no-name 30 round mags, and there was a reason the maker didn’t stamp their names on the magazines – they didn’t work!
A quick rundown on the M1A SOCOM II is in order. It has a 16-inch barrel, compared to the full-sized M1A that comes with a 21-inch barrel. It is also capped with a muzzle brake, a very effective one, at keeping the muzzle down for faster follow-up shots. The rifle fires either .308 Winchester or 7.62×51 NATO rounds. The trigger is a 2-stage military set-up, with a trigger break between 5-6 pounds, but it feels lighter than that. Springfield Armory supplies one 10 round magazine with new guns. The front sight is the XS Sights post with a Tritium insert for night or lo- light shooting. The rear sight is an enlarged military aperture (Ghost Ring) adjustable for windage and elevation. The gun weighs 8.8 pounds and the overall length is 37-25-inches – every so slightly longer than an M4 with the telescoping stock fully extended. And, the 8.8 pounds – well, that’s actually lighter than many M4s I’ve handled – with so many added-on accessories – the guns were weighing in at a lot more than the SOCOM II’s 8.8 pounds. There is also an accessory rail on the top of the SOCOM II – should you want to mount some type of red dot sight up there – I didn’t!
When I got home from picking-up some magazines for this little beast, it was pouring down rain, and I didn’t go to my usual shooting spot, but I was determined to at least function-test this rifle. All I had on-hand, were a couple boxes of Russian-made .308 ammo – I loaded-up two magazines, and cut loose in my back yard – no functioning problems at all. Ah, one of the joys of living in the country – I can shoot my guns on my own property. However, I rarely do that, as I don’t like disturbing the neighbors – so I usually make a 5-6 minute drive up a mountain, to a couple shooting spots that everyone uses.
I contacted Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition for some .308 ammo – some GOOD .308 ammo, to run through the SOCOM II. In short order, I received from Black Hills, their outstanding 168-grain Match Hollow Point load – that keeps on winning long-range shooting matches all over the country, and their 168-grain Hornady A-Max load, which is a great hunting round. From Buffalo Bore, I received their 175-grain JHP Sniper loading, and that one is known as a great long-range, flat-shooting load.
With my targets set-up at 100 yards, and using the a sleeping bag as a rest, over the hood of my car, I set out to see what the M1A SOCOM II could do – with open sights. Okay, for long-range, precision shooting, the XS front sight isn’t my first choice – it’s a bit large. And, no matter what I did, I couldn’t break 1 inch on the target, with 3-shots. I came close, very close a few times, but no matter what, that large front sight wouldn’t allow me to break 1 MOA. I believe the rifle is capable of sub MOA with a scope or a smaller front sight. The Black Hills loads tied each other – neither one was better than the other. The Buffalo Bore load shot a tad higher, which I expected, with the slightly heavier bullet, and even with this load, I simply couldn’t break one inch no matter how many times I tried, and I went out several times over a month and just couldn’t do it – I believe the rifle can do it – with a smaller front sight, though.
I also fired several hundred rounds, rapid-fire, through the SOCOM II with a mixed variety of various foreign-made military surplus ammo – and the gun functioned 100% of the time – never had a failure of any sort, with any ammo, nor any problems with the Checkmate 20 or 30 round magazines. My local gun shop once gave me a no-name 30 round magazines – it was junk, I couldn’t fire more than a few rounds without rounds getting hung-up in the magazine.
Okay, one of the first things I learned was, do not shoot the SOCOM II over the hood of my car, without a blanket under the muzzle of the rifle. The very effective muzzle brake, has horrendous muzzle blast, that was magnified off the steel hood of the car. I placed a blanket on the hood, and that absorbed a lot of the muzzle blast. While I appreciate the effectiveness of the muzzle brake in keeping the felt recoil down, I didn’t much care for the muzzle blast. I checked around, and at some point, I’m going to replace the muzzle brake with a flash suppressor, and that will take care of the terrible muzzle blast. It was strong enough that I could feel it on my face.
So, where does the SOCOM II fit into the scheme of things? Good question! The SOCOM II could easily be used as a big game rifle, with a 5 round magazine – Oregon requires a semiautomatic rifle to hold no more than 5 rounds in the magazine – not a problem. It is a fast-handling rifle, no doubt about it. I can easily see the SOCOM II being used by law enforcement – especially rural sheriff departments, when back-up is a long time coming, and you might have a suspect firing on you, from behind heavy cover. A short, fast-handling “carbine” like the SOCOM II, firing powerful .308 Win rounds, will get the job done. I don’t see the SOCOM II being used in a building clearing scenario – not with the muzzle brake attached – if you fired it in a room – heck, in a big house, the muzzle blast would be too much, and there is the chance of over-penetration with the .308 round, too. In a survival situation, I can see the SOCOM II being an outstanding weapon to have, especially in the wilderness. And, needless to say, in a combat situation, I would love to have this rifle – short and easy to handle, but it still is shooting a powerful round, that can easily take out an enemy soldier beyond 500 yards or farther.
Now, while I like the XS front sight post with the Tritium insert, I would replace it with a standard GI front sight, or an M14 match-grade front sight – if I knew I had to make some long-range shots – the XD front sight is too big for precision shooting beyond 100 yards. And, as mentioned, the muzzle brake would be replaced with a flash suppressor of some type. Other than that, I wouldn’t make any changes. The SOCOM II also comes with a poly stock, so there’s no worries about it swelling in wet weather – and that is always a concern in the western part of Oregon, where we get a lot of rain! Wood stocks can (and do) swell, and that can affect the accuracy of your rifle, especially at long-range shooting distances.
Before this article was complete, US Tactical Supply, sent me an X-Products magazine, 50 round M1A/M14 magazine for testing. This is a very compact 50 round drum magazine. All internal parts are machined out of steel and aluminum, for a sure-fire magazine that won’t fail you. It also loads easily and it is designed to work in semiauto and full auto rifles. (It is capable of cycling 950 rounds per minute without failing.) Best of all, it is the same length as a 20 round box magazine – yes, it’s much wider, needless to say, but it doesn’t stick out from under your M1A or M14 any more than a standard 20 round magazine does. I fired a good number of 7.62 NATO rounds through the X-Products 50 round magazine, and I also mixed in some Russian-made poly coated .308 rounds, and some of the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore ammo – and the magazine never once stuttered – it just kept firing – and I’m telling you, I put hundreds and hundreds of rounds down range, as fast as I could pull the trigger and reload the magazine – the SOCOM II got hot – VERY hot, but it never missed a beat. Of course, the loaded 50 round drum magazine added some serious weight to the SOCOM II. However, if I were in a combat or survival situation, this is the magazine to have locked and loaded in your gun – for some serious, initial fire-power down range when lead is flying your way. The X-Products M1A/M14 magazine runs $275 from US Tactical Supply – and it’s worth every penny, too.
The Springfield Armory SOCOM II is a real winner in my book, and I know it has sub MOA accuracy there, if that front sight is replaced – and that’s easy to do. And, in my humble opinion, the muzzle brake needs to go. (Yes, it does what it is supposed to do, but the muzzle blast was just too much for me, especially during a long shooting session.) I’d like to see Springfield Armory offer the SOCOM II with either a muzzle brake or a flash-suppressor to give the buyer a choice, and I’m betting a lot will prefer the flash-suppressor over the muzzle brake.
I won’t even attempt to give a price on the SOCOM II – as they are a hot-seller, and always in demand. And, we still have a buying frenzy going on these days, which only adds more to the cost of military-style rifles. Check around on Gun Broker and see if you can find a SOCOM II of your own. If you see one, then snap it up. They are one super-nice little .308 carbine. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio
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