By Robert A Sadowski
Prior to the 2016 SHOT Show, I was shipped Springfield Armory’s SOCOM 16 Model AA9611PK rifle. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I am a fan of the M1A platform. My only complaints are the fixed stock and heavy weight. The new AA9611PK not only addresses these issues, it does it in a way we modern shooters expect. We expect to be able to customize our rifles with aftermarket parts. We expect a variety of sight and optic choices. We expect a lot, and the new SOCOM 16 delivers.
Old-school M14 dudes might wince at the non-traditional pistol-grip stock. It is an Archangel chassis that not only trims the weight of the SOCOM, it also trims the overall length. The exterior is flat-black polymer. At the shoulder end is a five-position adjustable CQB buttstock. Part of the issue with the M1A was the fixed stock.
For some shooters kitted up with gear or wearing heavy clothing, the rifle was difficult to fire comfortably. The adjustable stock not only alleviates that situation, it also fits the rifle to a variety of shooter statures. It also features a rubber buttpad and a cheek riser. The cheek riser helps get a solid cheekweld on the stock, which is important for long-range shooting, and you will soon see what the platform is capable of out to 100 yards.
If you want to swap out the stock, you can choose any other aftermarket AR stock. The rear of the chassis is built like a buffer tube. There is no denying that the pistol grip is atypical, and no doubt it is comfortable to shoot. The Archangel pistol grip flares out at the bottom and is serrated on the front and rear straps for plenty of hold when the SOCOM starts barking. It also has a storage compartment for batteries and small tools.
The stock will take any aftermarket AK grip—another plus for shooters who like to customize their gear. The stock has three Picatinny rails attached, two three-slot rails on either side of the forend and one seven-slot on the bottom. Want to add vertical grips, a tactical light, or laser? The new SOCOM can. The magazine well is also a gaping mouth ready to suck in magazines. It ships with a 10-round magazine but is compatible with five- and 20-round mags.
The iron sights on the SOCOM 16 have always been top-notch, adjustable, enlarged military aperture with front tritium. It has a forward rail to mount a magnified, long-eye-relief, scout-style scope. This SOCOM 16 also has a Vortex Venom red dot reflex sight that uses a Springfield Armory clip guide mount, which places the red dot at the perfect height and distance while not interfering when the rotary bolt ejects empty brass. At 25 yards offhand, the red dot was fast and accurate. The perforated muzzlebrake tamed the recoil and muzzle rise. I easily smashed a few magazines of clay pigeons like I had been shooting the rifle for years. Distance, though, is the key.
With an assortment of .308 Winchester cartridges—Hornady Steel Match 155-grain BTHP, Black Hills Gold 168-grain A-MAX and Hornady Match 178-grain BTHP—I put the SOCOM 16 through its paces using a rest. Though aiming a red dot at 100 yards is not exactly precision shooting, at 50 yards and under the 3-MOA dot offers fast, accurate shooting. At 100 yards, the dot is large. I assumed at 100 yards I’d experience different results. The 3 MOA placed on an 8-inch target provided a nice sight picture, a red center with a black donut outside edge.
The Hornady Steel Match 155-grain BTHPs delivered 2,400 fps and shot 1.5-inch groups (three shots) at 100 yards. Black Hills Gold 168-grain A-MAX rounds produced 2,440 fps and 2.25-inch average groups at 100 yards. Hornady Match 178-grain BTHPs hit 2,390 fps at the muzzle and shot 2.5-inch average groups at the test distance.
With the rifle adjusted to me, it all came down to trigger work. The SOCOM 16 has a two-stage military trigger. After taking up the light first stage, the second stage proved to be nice with about a 5½-pound pull weight. The rifle was comfortable to shoot. Nice.
The new SOCOM 16 offers an out-of-the-box rifle ready for defense work or hunting. I can’t think of a better round and setup for feral pigs, deer, or black bears. The adjustable stock means it’s easier and more convenient to take in and out of a vehicle and store. The sight package is a nice setup. The SOCOM 16 adapts to how you want to shoot and the situation you are in and does it with a level of modularity and customization not seen previously in the M1A platform.
Robert Sadowski has written about firearms and hunting for nearly 15 years. He is the author of four gun books, editor of three others and is a contributor to numerous gun-enthusiast magazines, including Combat Handguns, Black Guns, Tactical Weapons for Military and Police, Gun Tests, Personal and Home Defense, Gun Hunter, SHOT Business, and others. He has a personal affinity for large-caliber revolvers and the AR platform.