Ever since the M14 first came out in the 1950s, those who carried one more than across the room cussed them for their weight. Well in 2004, Springfield Armory came up with a chopped down version with a 16.25-inch barrel along with a lighter stock. They gave the world the SOCOM 16.
Why was it made?
Springfield Armory, in their current incantation, began making a semi-auto only variant of the M14 battle rifle in 1974. By 1991, this gun, known as the M1A, had matured. It was a precision 7.62x51mm NATO caliber wood-stocked beauty. However its 10+ pound weight and 44-inch overall length and 22-inch barrel were a double handful. In 1997, Springfield produced a short-lived cut down model, the Squad Scout with an 18-inch barrel marketed at law enforcement sales and its companion M1A Bush Rifle for use as a compact hunting arm.
Still, people yelled, "Make it shorter"
So they did
Design of the SOCOM
Introduced in 2004, the SOCOM came out while the US was knee-deep in the Global War on Terror, fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the bright shining stars of that time for the US Army was the re-introduction of old M14 rifles to the battlefield.
Taken out of storage and placed back into the front lines with updated stocks and optics, these 1960s veterans put in solid work as designated marksman's rifles, their 7.62x51mm rounds able to punch out further and harder than the 5.56mm rounds carried by the common soldier.
These modified M14s brought back for their encore performance led to the design of the SOCOM, so named after the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM). Now don't get me wrong, these were not made for the military, or with the military's input, regardless of the name. Unlike the enhanced M14 rifles used overseas at the time, the SOCOM did not have a chrome-lined barrel nor did it have a select-fire capability.
What it did have, however, was the length of your average Mini-14 or M1 Carbine, while still being able to take a 20-round mag. This made these guns good patrol carbines for law-enforcement, especially in rural areas where a .308 can really reach out. For civilian use they make great brush guns for hunters in harsh environments for medium to large game of just about any size in the US. Then of course there is three-gun target shooting and home defense, both of which the SOCOM excels at.
Two basic variants, one with wood stocks, the other with black, green, or urban camo composite. Overall length between the two variants shifted by about three inches as the walnut stocked model, with its steel butt plate was slightly longer as well as slightly heavier at 9.3-pounds. The composite stocked model came in at 37.5-inches overall with an 8.6-pound weight.
Both share a 16.25-inch barrel with a 6-groove 1:11 twist and a High Efficiency Muzzlebrake on the crown. They have a two stage military trigger with the familiar Ruger Mini-14 style manual safety latch on the trigger guard. Front sites are XS posts with tritium night sight inserts while the rear sights are the same style enlarged aperture sights as on the classic US M1 Garand. For optic, there is a forward scope mount.
Hickok 45, gun guru extraordinaire, puts a SOCOM 16 through its paces for 16 minutes. Some people have all the luck.
The rifle uses a retuned gas system, similar to that found on the original M14, only with a semi-auto trigger pack. It's one of the few battle rifles approved for sale (currently anyway) in California, its designation being AA9626CA for the complaint version (sold only with ten round magazines and a bullet button)
(These guns have a very distinctive muzzle break)
The addition of the "Cluster Rail System" and a few other modifications are what set the SOCOM II apart from the '16, but that is another article.
Getting your own
Springfield still makes these guns, now going on their tenth year in production. The retail price on their website is POR (like everything else) but a quick look around the online wholesalers shows that the 'street price' on these runs $1500-$1700 new currently.
(The beauty of the gun is that it will take either 20, 10, or 5-round magazines, the latter of which will fit flush to the bottom of the rifle and work well for hunting)
Still, when you compare other semi-auto 7.62x51mm rifles for sale in the US with the capability to take a 20-round detachable magazine, *and have a 16.25-inch barrel* not a lot comes to mind that isn't a G3 or FAL knock off made on old parts unless its more expensive than the SOCOM.
Used examples, taking the past 90 days listings on Armslist, Guns America, and Gunbroker for reference, show these handy rifles starting at about $1300 and moving up from there. Be advised that the version with the natty two-color urban camo job was only made from 2005-2011 and in smaller numbers than all the other variants, which could give these guns, if they are still in good condition, collector's value down the road.
(Real SOCOM 16s will have very well marked laser etched engravings, typically with a serial number higher than #162000)
There have, on occasion, been nefarious people fake these guns. Basically they have taken old beat up M1A's or Chinese import M14S guns, chopped them down and a poorly etched "SOCOM 16" into the side, so be sure to look for those strong laser etchings and SA markings to make sure you have the real deal. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Still, you have to love the swagger of these SOCOMs. What's not to like about a 37-inch long battlerifle in .308?