I've been a huge fan of the M14 rifle system, ever since I was in Basic Combat Training in the US Army, way back in 1969. The .308 Winchester cartridge is the most popular long-range sniping round in use today. The military version is the 7.62 NATO - and they are not exactly the same round - the .308 Winchester round is actually a little bit hotter than the 7.62 NATO round is - not a big difference, but still a difference. When I went into Basic Combat Training, I was a mere 135 pounds - when I finished Basic, and my AIT Infantry School, I was a lean, mean fighting machine coming in at 165 pounds. The one thing I didn't like about the M14 was how long it was - and for a scrawny little guy, the M14 was a bit hard to wield. Back then, I found the M14 a bit too long, but I still loved the gun, and went on to compete with it (a match-grade version) while on the Illinois Rifle & Pistol Team, when I worked for the Illinois National Guard in a full-time capacity. Every match I entered, in my class, I easily won - it was a combination of the match-grade rifle, the match ammo and my meager skills. My love affair with the M14 only grew over the years, and I longed for a civilian-version of the M14 in semi-auto so I could own one myself.
The Springfield Armory M1A was first introduced in 1974. The M1A is a semi-auto only version of the M14, and if you've ever fired the M14 on full-auto, you can appreciate how much that gun kicked and how pretty much useless in full-auto mode. I don't recall when I laid claim to my first Springfield Armory M1A, but it was many years ago - and I'm totally ashamed to say, I don't presently own an M1A of my own. However, I have vowed to correct that, and my goal is to get the SOCOM version of the M1A - it's shorter, lighter and faster handling than the full-sized M1A is. Matter of fact, my local gun shop just picked-up a used, but as-new, SOCOM at a gun show, and I'm tempted, real tempted to get it - but I'd have to do some serious gun-trading, and I'm not sure I'm up to the task - at present. UPDATE: I did a gun deal and now have my own SOCOM 16!
Now, while the SOCOM is a faster handling and shorter version of the full-sized M1A, it can still benefit from a little improvement, especially in the fast handling department. The kind folks at US Tactical Supply contacted me and wanted me to check out a SOCOM 16 that they put in their new M14 Juggernaut Rogue Chassis System, by Juggernaut Tactical. I was intrigued to say the least. I picked-up the SOCOM, that was now transformed into a very short bullpup stock design, fast-handling little carbine. Now, I'll admit up front that I have never been a big fan of the bullpup design - it is just foreign to me. For some reason, the bullpup design doesn't look right to my way of thinking, and I've tried several bullpup carbines over the years, and they just didn't appeal to me - I'm old school!
Okay, so what do we have here with the Springfield Armory SOCOM set in a bullpup stock set-up? The first thing that catches your attention is that, you don't think you are actually looking at a full rifle/carbine - I thought I was just looking at a stock design, with a phony barrel installed on it. Surely, this couldn't be a .308 Winchester chambered rifle I was looking at, could it? The Juggernaut stock shortens the operating length of the SOCOM by close to 12-inches, yeah, you read that right - almost 12-inches are reduced from the SOCOM in a GI issued stock, without modifying or shortening the barrel. "Can't be" I said to myself, it just can't be!
I'm not going to cover all the specs of the Juggernaut bullpup design, you can read them for yourself on the above link. But I do want to touch on some of the the highlights of this design. The Juggernaut is manufactured out of hardened T6-6061 billet aluminum, and 4140 chrome moly and Mil-Spec Type III hard coat anodized - we're talking tough stuff here. There are also Mil-Standard M1913 rails located at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock on the front of the bullpup, and that measures out to 39-inches of rail space, for all the neat things you plan to add to this platform. The Juggernaut will fit all USGI M14s and commercial variants including the SOCOM-16, as already mentioned above. The platform also installs easily, but it does take some time, without a gunsmith - but be advised, it will be time-consuming, but well worth it when you see the finished product. The Juggernaut is also available in black on black, tactical tan and black - the sample I tested was black on black. The pistol grip is the Hogue AR-15 style which I really like. And, the barrel is free-floated in this bullpup design, which will only add to the accuracy of the finished product. There is also an adjustable neoprene bedding system that eliminates tolerance issues with different manufacturer's receivers, while still maintaining the accuracy potential that is there.
The SOCOM Juggernaut sample I tested had an ACOG mounted on it - and this is an outstanding scope system that is also sold by US Tactical Supply and is in-use by many military personnel all over the world, is a very tough optic system. And, there are several different versions of the ACOG, so make sure you know which model you want, if you're in the market for this type of optic. (Some are made with ballistic cams to match the trajectory of 7.62mm NATO.) I found the ACOG very fast on-target, in all lighting conditions, too. The SOCOM Juggernaut also had the Grip Pod attached to the 6 o'clock rail, and I have previously reported on the Grip Pod - a very worthwhile addition to many tactical weapons, and in the case of the Juggernaut set-up, it was most welcomed.
The one thing I was a bit concerned with was, how well was the trigger going to work on this design with the longer linkage? Well, it felt a little bit different to me, but it only took a couple shots to get used to the trigger pull - which hadn't really changed much but it "felt" a little bit different for some reason. There is also a left-side charging handle on the Juggernaut design, and I found it much easier and faster to use than the standard M14/M1A right side charging handle - it was very instinctive to use. It did take me a little practice getting used to inserting and removing the magazines with the bullpup design, but nothing that can't be learned with practice. I'm just used to reaching forward of the trigger guard to remove and insert the magazines, with the bullpup design, the magazines are behind the trigger instead of in front of it. Also, the gun's safety is now behind the trigger, and it is a push button design - I liked it!
So, what are the advantages of this Juggernaut bullpup design on a Springfield Armory SOCOM? Well, for starters, it makes the gun as short as possible, without having to get a special permit for a short-barreled rifle, and I refuse to jump through the red tape involved in licensing a rifle as a short-barreled rifle if the barrel is under 16-inches. The total overall length of the Juggernaut bullpup is slightly over 26-inches, which is as short as you can legally go according to FedGov gun regulations. However, even though you will be meeting FedGov gun regulations for overall length, there are some backwards thinking states and locales that won't allow you to have a gun 26-inches in length - they require it to be longer - so check your state and local laws before converting a SOCOM to this super-short Juggernaut design - you don't want to be in violation of gun laws. Another advantage is how fast the Juggernaut handles - and adding the Juggernaut bullpup stock to a SOCOM adds 2-pounds to the weight of the gun. It feels heavier - but it handles much faster - it could possibly be the ultimate CQB .308 Winchester carbine on the market. The added weight really tamed the recoil of the .308 Winchester round, too.
I have to admit, I played around with the Juggernaut SOCOM for quite a while, before heading out to the range to actually fire it. I had a good supply of Black Hills Ammunition .308 Winchester ammo to include their 168-grain Hornady A-MAX HP load, and their 168-grain Match Hollow Point load. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their 175-grain Sierra Match King JHP load, that they call their Sniper Load. I had my target set-up at 100-yards, and I was firing over the hood of my SUV, using the Grip Pod, which made for a very stable shooting platform. The first shot caught my attention - really caught my attention! The SOCOM comes with a muzzle brake instead of flash suppressor and I knew that it would cause more muzzle blast. However, what I didn't take into consideration was how the muzzle blast would reflect off the hood of my SUV- it was loud, and I could really feel it on my face. Before firing a second shot, I placed a sleeping bag on the hood, and when the second round was fired, the sleeping bag really absorbed the blast. See, one is never too old to learn - but my wife might disagree with that statement. I didn't fire the SOCOM Juggernaut from the prone position - the ground was wet, and quite frankly, I'm getting too old to go prone, unless I absolutely have to do so. I don't believe the muzzle blast would be as bad while prone on the ground - but shooting over the hood of a car, with that metal under the muzzle brake caught my attention, but it was easily solved with a sleeping bag under the gun.
The first magazine full of ammo was a mix of the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore ammo - I wanted to fire the gun to see how it would function with a mixed mag of ammo - there weren't any problems. I just plinked at some rocks before getting serious and loading-up for some accuracy testing. I had some concerns that the empty brass might catch on the Juggernaut stock set-up - there wasn't anything to be concerned about, and empties were flung far from the gun, without causing any problems at all. I had a beautiful Fall day for shooting - the temps were in the upper 50s and overcast, and I do my best shooting on overcast days for some reason. Keep in mind I've been shooting high-powered rifles for about 44 years, and I shoot several times per week - so I get a lot more practice than most folks do, and I'm a more than average shot with a rifle.
The added weight of the Juggernaut stock really kept the muzzle down when firing the SOCOM, and as I pointed out earlier, the bullpup stock really makes the gun faster handling, too. The nubbed recoil pad on the butt of the Juggernaut really kept the SOCOM in my shoulder, for follow-up shots, too. With the Black Hills 168-grain A MAX hunting load, which is from their Black Gold line-up, I was getting groups just a hair below 2-inches, and that is great accuracy from a 16-inch semi-auto M1A in my book. I fired a number of groups with this ammo, and they were consistently a hair or two under 2-inches. Next up was the Black Hills 168-grain Match Hollow Point round, which has always been a great round in any .308 chambered rifles I've fired it through. If I did my part, I was getting groups right at a bit over 1-inch - that is outstanding accuracy. Next was the Buffalo Bore 175-grain JHP Sierra Match King Sniper Load, and I've found this to be an outstanding round - it shot great in a FAL I tested some time ago, and I won an informal shooting match with this round - without trying very hard. I was getting groups of 1.25-inches and they were ever so slightly higher on the target than the Black Hills 168-grain loads were - which I expected. I suspect this Buffalo Bore 175-grain Sniper Load would be a little bit better longer range round when we are getting out there 500-yards plus because of the slightly heavier bullets. As an added point of interest, I have used the Black Hills 168-grain Match HP load and the Buffalo Bore 175-grain Sniper load to win a few friendly shooting matches recently - both are outstanding in the accuracy department.
What was amazing was how consistent the SOCOM was shooting with all three loads. I worked hard, real hard to try and get a group or two under 1-inch at 100-yard, but it just wasn't my day. Perhaps on another day, when I'm fresher, I could break that 1-inch group at 100-yard. I worked extra hard to wring-out all the accuracy potential of the SOCOM Juggernaut, but no matter what I did, I couldn't break 1-inch - I was more than a little disappointed with myself. And, after a couple hours of shooting, I knew I had to call it quits as my groups started to open-up, and open-up quite a bit. I was getting tired and was losing a good focus on the target with the ACOG. I still believe this gun is capable of breaking 1-inch groups at 100-yards on another day. The Buffalo Bore 175-grain Sniper Load was right on the heels of the Black Hills 168-grain Match Hollow Point load, and I believe with more trigger time, these two rounds would be in a dead tie for best accuracy. The Buffalo Bore Sniper load, while not designed for big game hunting, could also be used on deer in my humble opinion. The Black Hills 168-grain Hornady A-MAX hunting load, from the Black Gold line-up shot great out of the SOCOM Juggernaut, but I've had much better accuracy out of this load in bolt-action hunting rifles - much better accuracy!
So, does the SOCOM Juggernaut have a place in this world? You bet it does! If you want what might just be the ultimate in a very short .308 M1A package, you can't get it any shorter than the Juggernaut set-up. While not designed as a "sniper rifle" per se, the SOCOM Juggernaut can fill that role with the right ammo combination - and I believe it is good to go as a sniper's rifle out to 400-500 yards with the right finger on the trigger. It can also fill the role of a CQB gun, when going against hard targets. The gun is very fast-handling, and you have the power of the .308 Winchester round in a very small package, that is controllable and very shootable, too. If I were to set-up a SOCOM in a Juggernaut stock, I'd take the muzzle brake off and put a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel - I don't especially like muzzle brakes - but that's my choice. I'd also add some pop-up front and rear sights on this set-up, as you have to remove the SOCOM's front and rear sight when putting it into the Juggernaut stock. Other than that, there's not much I'd add to the Juggernaut - I believe less is better - but there will be some folks who will most of the 39-inches of rail space and that's fine with me, if that's what they want to do.
Now, the Juggernaut conversion isn't for everyone. The price is $999. However, you are getting the highest-quality bullpup stock set-up you can possibly get for a .308 chambered gun, and there isn't anything else on the market that comes close, for an M1A rifle.