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Reproduced from the August 2006 issue of GUNS Magazine.

21st Century Battle Rifle

Springfield Armory's SOCOM-II Moves The Concept Forward

Story By Massad Ayoob
Photos By Ichiro Nagata


"Cheese grater” jokes aside, a rifle has to be used with two hands and the ability to mount a light, such as this SureFire M95 Millennium for nighttime use is invaluable.

In 2004, Springfield Armory introduced the SOCOM-16 M1A. Its 161⁄4" barrel capped with the remarkably effective recoil compensator, developed in-house by Springfield’s own Dale Rader, was an instant hit. Demand immediately eclipsed any of Springfield’s previous short M14 clones, such as the Scout model or the older Tanker style.



The reason was contained in one word — shootability. The comp made a stunning difference. Vented on top to project upward gas jets to force the muzzle down in firing, the compensator also had an expansion chamber. Expanding gases hit the frontal wall of the chamber as the round discharged, literally trying to pull the rifle forward and away from the shooter’s shoulder. The result was the softest-shooting .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO battle rifle this writer ever fired. I was not the only one who came to that conclusion.

In 2005, Springfield Armory followed with the SOCOM-II. Supplementing rather than replacing the original SOCOM-16, which remains a bestseller, the “dash-two” has a subtly different set of attributes.

The most visible attributes of the “Mark II” version are the slightly rougher-surfaced synthetic stock (for better hand traction) and, most obvious, a 360-degree set of Picatinny rails. The quad rail attachment adds weight. The Gen One SOCOM-16 is 8.9 pounds unloaded and the heft of the Second Gen SOCOM-II is 10.9 pounds, unloaded. It’s all in the rail system, which means the extra weight is up front.

The good news with this particular variation is ample. Lights can go wherever you like them. A laser sighting module is best mounted underneath, so the gun will be hitting point of aim/point of impact at least in terms of windage, with the bore of the rifle directly above the source of the beam. Some prefer their white light units on the bottom, too. However, some like their forward hand to be well forward. This means lateral mounting may work better, putting a unit like SureFire’s X200 or InSight’s 6P where the thumb can more easily reach its toggle switch. In some configurations of combat carbine, such as Dave Lauck’s custom AR-15 patrol rifle, identical white light units are mounted parallel on either side of the fore-end, allowing for ambidextrous use around different configurations of cover, or in case a rifle is shared between left-handed and right-handed partners.

The quad rail, sometimes called a cluster rail, makes all this easy, and the top track of the rail system is still there for telescopic sights, ACOGs, Aimpoints or EOTechs. The SOCOM-II includes Springfield Armory’s proven telescopic sight mount, over the action in the traditional location rather than forward in the Scout Rifle configuration, for marksmen who prefer them there.

The rail system also makes a great contact surface for an impromptu rifle rest. Its squared forward edges just lock into a flat wall-type barricade for firing from behind vertical cover. For horizontal cover, they rest nicely on every surface from shooting bench to patrol car hood to windowsill. The latter is particularly effective with the SOCOM-II if you can get to the corner of the window opening, bracing the side of the rail system against the side of the window frame, and the bottom portion of the rail on the sill itself.

Contrary to popular myth, this hard contact between stock (or in this case, a stock accoutrement) and another hard surface will not cause “mysterious vibrations making your shots go awry.” All it will do is steady you for much better accuracy when a shot has to be taken under field conditions in urban combat environments.

The added two pounds of the “dash-two” SOCOM is all up front. This helps the rifle hang steady for many shooters trained in the standing offhand position of the conventional marksman. It also can’t hurt recoil and muzzle jump control, though having shot both SOCOMs side by side, I can’t honestly say I feel the heavy one kicks less.

The bad news is both subjective and objective. The SOCOM-II with rail system costs a little over $2,000, compared to $1,780 for the SOCOM-16, which isn’t exactly cheap either. That’s an objective difference. Most anything else I don’t like on the SOCOM-II is more subjective in nature.




The Aimpoint sight is also seen overseas in the hands of our military. This one is in A.R.M.S. Mounts.



Cheese Graters

Those four-sided Pic rail sleeves are sharp. One rifle-savvy friend of mine calls them “cheese graters,” and I won’t argue the point. Yes, the rifle accessory companies sell you little plastic strips to snap into Pic rail spaces you aren’t using. Before someone says, “Be a man! Suck it up! It’s only momentary discomfort,” I think I should add a point.

The discomfort of the sharp edges on a wrap-around Pic rail set is not going to bother you when you’re handling the rifle in the gun shop. They’re going to come into play in heavy training, where you might be running the gun for 500 rounds a day in an intensive course. That sort of heavy handling chews up even hard, callused hands.

Finally, the weight, steadying in one situation can be a definite negative in others. As applied to the SOCOM-II, the added two pounds make the gun muzzle heavy. I found it distinctly slowed me down going between multiple targets. It slowed me down coming up from low ready for fast snap shots at 25 yards. It just plain slowed me.


The beauty of the EOTech 551 A65 Holosight is it can be mounted well forward on the rails. A good bipod like this one from Tango Down enables prone shooting handily.

The Brick

A soldier, hunter or hiker who carries a rifle all day in the mountains, soon becomes conscious of every pound of excess weight. My bedroom closet doesn’t complain about the excess weight of the SOCOM-II over the SOCOM-16. Neither does my SUV. Neither will my patrol car if I choose to take either rifle on duty. But remember, eventually we may deploy a heavy rifle and use it for its intended purpose. When that happens, the weight factor kicks in.

Ever been on an all-night manhunt? I have. I was glad I had a 6-pound-something Ithaca police shotgun instead of a 7- or 8-pound-something Remington or Winchester. Ever hold someone at gunpoint? I have. The cavalry may take a long, long time coming to your aid. A lighter rifle is a whole lot easier to hold someone at gunpoint with than a heavy one, if the circumstances don’t afford you something to brace its forward weight upon.

If you doubt this, take a carefully-unloaded 11-pound rifle and see how long you can hold it on target, dry-fire, from off-hand standing before the tremors start. Pretty soon, holding the gun up is all you’re able to think about. Lighter guns make sense for holding criminals at gunpoint, a thought never occurring to people who haven’t had to do it, or who assume responding officers magically appear as soon as the bad guy surrenders.

There are times you need to hold your firearm in one hand while operating a radio, cell phone, or other device with your other hand. A muzzle-heavy long gun is not the ideal choice there, either.

I don’t like the looks of the SOCOM-II. It appears huge and clunky to me. I keep wanting to attach a satellite dish to it or something. Yet, I suppose, there will be others for whom it will be the epitome of “way cool, high-speed, low-drag” functional beauty. I guess it really is “in the eye of the beholder.”...

The full article & review on these sweet rifles can be found at; http://www.gunsmagazine.com/F08.html

- Janq
 

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How dare they whorify it.

I like my SOC-16. A lot. I had an Aimpoint, EOTech, etc. on it for a while, then I just replaced the front sight with a trijicon and now it is a lot more functional, IMO.

For what I use it for, I need the irons, or if I am in CQ, I can point shoot pretty well.
 

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DJ 9iron said:
Am I the only person that thinks the EOTech system is fucking ugly as sin?

It is fine, just not on the M1A/M14 platform.

I also hate the EBR/Sage stocks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yes the EOTech is an ugly looking design, but it's extremely functional and ribust in build.
They are a former client of mine (back when they first came to market and were a test/development item for Uncle Sam) and I have an early model 501 that is probably the best built US designed & manufactured thing I won aside from my Trek carbon bikes. It was comped to me as an 'eval' unit that I was told to not worry about returning.

An excellent product IMHO.
The ACOG looks cooler and is reportedly just as tough & reliable.

- Janq
 

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The Ghoul said:
It is fine, just not on the M1A/M14 platform.

I also hate the EBR/Sage stocks.
Right. Also, I would think that the rifle would be unwieldy due to being so front heavy and implementing the traditional rifle stock grip. Without a pistol grip I would think the front would tend to pull down and be hard to stabilize with a near horizontal plane as opposed to the vertical trend of a pistol grip employed AR/AK/etc styled tactical rifle. Just my $0.02
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
DJ9,

Ayoob speaks to that in the article, click the link and read the whole thing.
I couldn't carry over it's entirety due to character limitations.

- Janq
 

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DJ 9iron said:
Right. Also, I would think that the rifle would be unwieldy due to being so front heavy and implementing the traditional rifle stock grip. Without a pistol grip I would think the front would tend to pull down and be hard to stabilize with a near horizontal plane as opposed to the vertical trend of a pistol grip employed AR/AK/etc styled tactical rifle. Just my $0.02

It isn't hard, it is just that if you let it pass a certain point, you can't manipulate it with one hand. You can hold it one handed no problem up to about 45 degrees, but anything below that and your wrist (mine does, and I am a fairly strong guy) will not be able to stop it.

If ya like pistol grips, and .308, get an FAL/TRP/L1A1. :p
 

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Id rather have an FAL......but thats my opinion. And eventhough I know cast is fine........I still wish they would make it out of forged parts like it was meant to be.
 

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Adler said:
Id rather have an FAL......but thats my opinion. And eventhough I know cast is fine........I still wish they would make it out of forged parts like it was meant to be.

Yes Forged tungston. Blessed by a mythical creature, it adds +1 to power and charisma.
 

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Funny thing is I was reading a US govt report from 1964 that placed the M14 reliability behind the AK47, M1 Garand, and FAL. But it did beat out the AR15.
 

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If I was getting something in .308 it would be a standard M1A Scout Squad as I think that is one of the most sexy guns ever made.
 

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DJ 9iron said:
If I was getting something in .308 it would be a standard M1A Scout Squad as I think that is one of the most sexy guns ever made.

Oh, it is even sexier when you are shooting it.

That thing has carried me through some iffy situations.
 

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DJ 9iron said:
I'm sure. I've only ever held one at a gun show and was instantly in love with it.
Some day...

Like today? :)

Trust me, get one and a box full of mags, and you will never be lonely.
 

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The Ghoul said:
Oh, it is even sexier when you are shooting it.

That thing has carried me through some iffy situations.
If you're feeling frisky you can rechamber it to .260rem. It's based on the .308 so it just requires a barrel chamge and headspacing. The 260 is much lighter recoiling in this platform so you get quicker recovery and the .264 bullets have better BC than 308 so at long range it really stands out while up close the 110 and 120's take the fight out of a guy real quick.
 

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My dad's got an old fashioned regular style M1a. Thing is fantastic.
 

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Jeremy said:
If you're feeling frisky you can rechamber it to .260rem. It's based on the .308 so it just requires a barrel chamge and headspacing. The 260 is much lighter recoiling in this platform so you get quicker recovery and the .264 bullets have better BC than 308 so at long range it really stands out while up close the 110 and 120's take the fight out of a guy real quick.
It is fine for me in .308.

But I'll definetly look into it.
 

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Even DSA is making FAL barrels in 270 now.

I just am not a big M1A/M14 fan.........nothing wrong with them, I just fell in love with the HK G3 and FAL more.
 
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