Semi-automatic carbines have become enormously popular. Applications range from law enforcement and home defense to competitive target shooting and hunting. The most popular platform is the AR15-based weapon chambered for 223 Remington. But if you visit your local shooting range, you will find AR-style carbines, circa the 1960s, shooting alongside historical battle-rifle actions made popular in the 1940s.
Gun Tests magazine recently tested an M1A variant in the form of Springfield Armory’s $2090 Socom II AA9627 with black fiberglass stock.
The 308 Winchester test ammunition consisted of Federal’s American Eagle 150-grain full-metal-jacket boattails, Winchester 150-grain Power Points; Black Hills Gold 155-grain Hornady A-Max cartridges, Hornady 168-grain TAP FFDs, Black Hills 168-grain boattail hollowpoints, and Black Hills 175-grain boattail hollowpoints.
They performed two firing sessions, one for accuracy and another for fast-action capability that featured multiple targets at close range. For the accuracy tests they fired from the 100-yard line at American Shooting Centers in Houston. They usually test carbines from a distance of 50 yards, and this gun’s sights were suitable for that. The Springfield Armory carbine arrived with iron sights.
But because the 308 Winchester is widely used for precision rifle applications, they fitted the gun with a Leupold Mark 4 3.5-10X40mm LR/T No. 60010 long range-tactical scope, which had a mil-line reticle with illumination on demand.
They found the chore of zeroing the 30mm-tube Leupold was no chore at all. Adjusting for windage and elevation were as simple as working an Etch-a-Sketch. Mounting a scope on the Socom II did produce a challenge. The Socom II AA9629 has an extended top rail that reaches over the chamber and all the way back to the rear sight. But the AA9627carbine was set up with a rail that did not reach fully across the receiver. So, they had few options. One was to remove the stripper clip bracket and mount a longer mount. Another was to utilize a long-relief scope. To mount the Leupold, they resorted to using an extension mount.
For the bench session we turned the Leupold’s power up to 10X, and for close-quarters shooting they reduced magnification. Using the technique of bracketing targets at shorter distances, they framed the torso between the mil lines, making the scope more flexible. The close-quarters tests consisted of a series of six-shot strings of fire wherein they engaged three IPSC Metric targets, originally referred to as Milparks. The Milpark is a corrugated cardboard target representing a human torso and head measuring about 30 inches top to bottom. Target placement was mapped with the central target 45 feet downrange. The left-side target was 20 feet downrange, and the right-side target was 30 feet away. Each peripheral target was about 12.5 feet from the center line. The routine was to begin with the long gun at low ready, come up on the target and attempt to place two shots on each target as fast as possible. They fired left to right, right to left and working from nearest target to farthest target, then back again. They weren’t looking to collect timed data, instead they wanted to learn more about the guns than a bench session or plinking could tell them. For this portion of the test, they tried the gun with its supplied sights as well as with the Leupold Prismatic 1X14 Tactical No. 63300. This is a 1X non-magnifying scope that provided a reticle consisting of crosshair and circle. The reticle could be illuminated when desired. Brightness of the circle-plex reticle was variable and could be turned on and off, returning directly to the desired setting. Use of the 1X Prismatic enabled them to put the aiming reticle and the target on the same visual plane. This meant the eyes did not have to work at comparing the front sight to the rear sight and then the target.
As usual, they were looking for a function level of 100% and to see how the gun helped the shooter get the job done. Here is what they learned:
There are actually nine different variations of this platform in the Springfield Armory catalog, including an urban-camo stock. They likened the visual appeal of the Socom II to a 1950s custom sedan with big fenders and grill. Members of the staff took to calling it the Rocket 88, comparing it to the famous Oldsmobile.
The Socom II is not your father’s M1 Garand. Overall length has been shortened considerably with a 16.25-inch barrel. The test stock was black fiberglass with a non-skid finish that absorbed glare and was good looking in a tough-guy sort of way. The 20-round magazine was an impressive rectangular casing with Parkerized finish. Garand-like features included the safety, charging protocol, and the manner in which the magazine was held in place. The Ghost Ring sight was adjustable for windage and elevation. The front sight was an XS-brand sight that included a rectangular tritium insert centered between a hefty set of protective ears. The top rail featured a deep channel to accommodate the sight line between front and rear sight units.
But what dominated their eyes was the array of Picatinny rails mounted on the fore end—Springfield Armory’s new Cluster Rail System. The forward portion of the full-length stock was hidden by the Cluster Rail System. The rail system was in two parts. The lower portion of the assembly was heavily vented on the sides, and it offered a 10-inch rail on the bottom. The upper portion of the rail offered a 5-inch rail on each side. The top rail covered the entire distance from the muzzle end of the stock to the forward wall of the chamber. Only 4 inches of barrel protruded from the shroud of the rail system. This included about 1.5 inches of muzzle brake. They thought holding the fore end would be uncomfortable. But when they began shooting the Socom II, they realized that they didn’t need to wear gloves to protect their hands after all. The rails weren’t sharp and didn’t dig into their hands on recoil.
In today’s weapon designs, there seems to have been a conscious effort to limit the job of the index finger to pressing the trigger. But they found their index finger was busy with an extra dose of caution because the Socom II’s safety moves from inside the trigger guard for safety-On to outside the front of the trigger guard for ready to fire. The substantial bolt featured an operating handle on the right side, which they found was placed perfectly for being pulled back and released by the right-hand trigger finger. This was handy because this design demands manual bolt release. The latch that holds the bolt back was on the left-hand side, but it does not function as a release.
They found the magazine was the easy to load and, if necessary, strip off rounds. But it’s easy to be spoiled by the convenient operation of today’s AR carbines. Dropping the magazine was not achieved with the push of a button but rather by a lever hanging directly behind the magazine. With a little practice it was easy enough to compress the release lever with the thumb as they grabbed the magazine from the receiver. With the bolt locked rearward, they could see straight through the ejection port and out the magazine well. This was because this rifle was designed to feed from a cluster of ammunition bound by a clip to be loaded from the top. A bracket to guide a stripper clip was mounted above the rear of the chamber ahead of the rear sight.
Described on the www.Springfield-Armory.com website as a two-stage military trigger, they liked the Socom’s trigger best. They said this made for a shooting experience that was as enjoyable as it was unexpected when compared to their first impression of this weapon.
Thanks to its 10.4-pound weight (without magazine or scope) and the efficiency of the muzzle brake, the Socom II was a pussycat to shoot. From the bench they only found one variety of ammunition that they were not satisfied with. Firing the Winchester 150-grain Power Point, the groups formed a cluster averaging about 2.7 inches across at 100 yards. With one exception, the remaining supply of ammunition was grouping about 1.6 inches across per five shots. They did, however, conquer the minute-of-angle barrier firing the Black Hills 168-grain boattail hollowpoints. Their tightest group measured only 0.9 inches across. Their average size group firing the Black Hills 168-grain BTHPs was 1.1 inches.
For the action test they fired first with the Leupold MK 4 in place set at the minimum magnification, 3.5X. The key here was to perform a consistent mount to guarantee clarity of visual relief. Also helpful was the small open space where the cross hairs intersected. They mentioned that they did not find this feature as usable at 100 yards as they had hoped. But it added greatly to their ability to aim at longer distances and at close targets for a more surgical aim. However, for true close-quarters engagement, it was hard to beat the supplied sights. But they pointed out that they would have preferred a front-sight blade that was not square or rectangular in profile. They said this was because when working as fast as they could, it was too easy to confuse the protective ears with the front sight. Initially the tritium insert did help distinguish the front sight, but once it was dirty they were faced with three nearly identical vertical planes to choose from. They resorted to making a quick visual check of the sight channel in the rib to set us right. It did not take long to get a feel for aiming the Socom II quickly. They thought the Springfield Armory Socom II was the most effective weapon at both close and intermediate ranges.