.308 rifle recommendations

I’m looking into getting a semi-automatic .308/7.62 NATO rifle for 3-gun competition in heavy metal division, but not being a rifle guy I honestly have no idea what to look for.  My hankering is for a Springfield Armory SOCOM 16, but a .308 AR platform might make more sense.  Ultimately, I just don’t know, so all advice is welcome.


  1. I know the SOCOM looks cool, but, it weighs more than you think.

    Everyone loves shooing the M1A/M14 platform, but, it is a beast to lug around and sources for quality parts is quite limited. (I learned this the hard way)

    In the end, I traded (up!) for a DPMS 308 setup. I got exactly what I wanted and it doesn’t break the bank to have a couple of spares for it.

    [DPMS is not the only AR style 308 quality manufacturer…]

  2. Caleb: Knowing you are a ‘competition’ guy, I would recommend the J.P. Enterprises LR-7. A goog portion of their business is the competition sector and they make a good product. It’s a little pricey, but you get what you pay for. Yes, their model is based on a DPMS upper & lower, but the side cocker and all the little extras add up to a pretty pleasant package. Plus, the one I have is REALLY accurate for a semi-auto.

    Just my two cents…

    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

  3. On the other hand, you’re not lugging the SOCOM around when you’re using it for a single day of three gun. I think a short M14 might be just what the doctor ordered.

  4. I’d look at whatever has the most magazine capacity available, and what has the most likelyhood of having bigger mags made. Many stages are more than thirty rounds so the .223 folks have gone to 40+ round sticks. Surely someone will start doing the same for the .308s – I know it’s heavy but I’d rather lift the weight than take the time to change a mag. Especially when they have stages like the recent Superstition Mountain match where you had to load, and change (if you didn’t have a 45 rounder) while hanging from a parachute harness.

  5. Frank, that LRP-07 looks like a hell of a gun…and for 3 grand it had better be! That being said, if I’m going to do Heavy Metal, I should do it right.

  6. To give you an idea of what the other HM competitors are using, at the Superstition Mountain match last month, I’d say 70% of the HM competitors were using a .308 AR of some sort and the rest had M1A’s, except for a few that were running HK G3 lookalikes. Didn’t see any FAL’s, which is a change for this match.

  7. DSA FAL is the way to go. I have heard that getting a SOCOM that runs reliably is hit or miss.

  8. If you want to put glass on it, get a FAL or an AR-10 type. The M14 is a pain in the ass to scope properly. The FAL will never be as accurate as a good .308 AR, however.

  9. Have you ever changed a mag on an M1A? Try it. It won’t be as fast as it can be with an AR.

    1. Oh yeah, I didn’t think about that. Rocking mags in and out on an M1a would take a lot longer than an AR style mag change.

  10. I have a Springfield SOCOM 16 so I can provide some incite into the platform. But before I state let me lay out the fact that I’m somewhat of an M-14 fan so my opinion may be bias.

    Truth be told I absolutely love my SOCOM 16. It’s bloody accurate at range, light enough to be carried around without feeling burdened, and has been absolutely reliable (I have had a single failure in the 500+ rounds I’ve sent through it). It’s everything you could want so long as you want a short M-14.

    Now with that said I’ll throw out the caveats. I’m assuming you’re looking into using this gun for three-gun competition at some point. Overall it’s a great gun for such a task minus the fact that dropping and inserting fresh magazines is going to be notably slower than an AR-10 pattern gun. Like an AK-47 you have to grab the magazine, rock it forward, and drop it whereas an AR pattern gun the magazine should drop at the press of the magazine release. The standard magazine release on the SOCOM 16 isn’t long enough to pull the AK trick of smacking the release with the fresh magazine, pushing the currently inserted one forward, and letting it drop. You have to either install an extended magazine release or use your hand to remove the old one.

    The barrel heats up fast. Really fast. People will sometimes get the barrel heated up in a three gun competition to the point where the gun will be throwing rounds all over the place. This is usually only a problem if you miss quite a bit and therefore sending more rounds than necessary down range. But it’s something to note. Likewise if you get one with the little rail mounted directly on the barrel the rail also gets very hot. I’m not sure if it could cause problems with electronic optics or not but it may.

    Finally I’ll note that the stock front sight on the SOCOM 16 is fat. It’ll completely cover a standard NRA small-bore rifle 100-yard target at 100 yards. The sight is also taller than stock M-14 sights meaning if you swap off the stock SOCOM 16 sight for a standard M-14 sight the rear sight is most likely going to bottom out if dialed in for closer ranges. Smith Enterprise sells a kit that allows the installation of stock M-14 sights but it’s pretty expensive. I’ve found that zeroing the sight so the point of impact it directly above the top of the front sight works best. That way you can just aim six o’clock and hit the target without the target being completely obstructed by the fatty front sight.

    Those are the only downsides I can note. They don’t really bother me but they could be an issue for others. With that said the stock trigger on the SOCOM 16 is very nice (hey it’s a standard Springfield Armory Inc. M-14 trigger group). The recoil isn’t bad for a gun its size in 7.62x51mm. The build quality is great as well. The receiver has an attachment point drilled in so you can slap on an M-14 scope mount and put some optics on it (I recommend this over the barrel attached rail due to the previously mentioned heat issues).

    I say it’s certainly well worth considering.

  11. M1A / M14 The correct answer in 1965 and still the proper one.
    OK, I’m a curmudgeon but the only thing an AR platform has over the M1A is weight savings. I assume from your post you are fairly fit so for a match weight should not be a problem. And after a long string of fire that weigh becomes your friend.
    A spare trigger group and your set for the match.

  12. OK, I’m a curmudgeon but the only thing an AR platform has over the M1A is weight savings.

    This is incorrect.

    Not only weight savings, but availability of parts, accuracy potential, maintenance of accuracy between rebuilds, ease of adding optics, and balance are all superior, and you can actually build one up yourself without waiting months to have a M14 guru go over it for you.

    I have an M14 and love it. But for what Caleb is going to use it for it will not serve his purposes as well.

  13. And you can get an AR10 platform that uses G3 magazines, which cost about the same as dirt.

  14. So much new information to digest.
    The only real way to answer the question is to get one of each platform … Makes me wonder how many Husband Points I’ve got stored up. Nope, no where close to enough.

  15. How about going all old school and get a Garand in .308? No magazine changes, just lots and lots of En-Bloc clips…

  16. I use a FAL for three gun.. it is shall we say less than optimal.
    Compared to the m14 the FAL
    1. has better ergonomics.
    2. mags are cheaper,
    3. the gun is cheaper.
    Compared to the FAL the m14
    1. is way cooler. 🙂

    Now comes the part when I say something worth reading for once.

    I would caution you when going with a socom. If you plan on doing long range work. The point of impact on the socom can change VERY dramatically when the barrel heats up. On a 30 round long distance (110-200 yard) course I saw a shooter go from nailing every plate swinger to hitting the dirt 40 foot in front him (prone).

    Having used both an m-14 and fal, I would go with an ar10. It’s a cheaper over all ownership, and you have way more options, with basically every aspect of the gun.
    Enjoy 3-gun it’s a blast!

  17. I think I’ll be ending up with an AR-10 it seems like; my 870 is on it’s way to Scattergun to get all pimped out, and I’ve already got the requisite .45 ACP.

  18. Welp, Christopher Berg pretty much said everything I would have concerning my SOCOM II (with the exception that the II variant weighs about as much as a boat anchor, and is totally unacceptable for three-gun competition), so the only thing I can add is that if you do end up going that route (and it is looking like you are not), I would, of course, recommend a stock solution from VLTOR, Troy Industries, Fulton Armory, JAL, or any of the other manufacturers out there. They all make a good gun awesome.

    Still, for mag exchanges and weight savings, I would probably go with an AR-10 platform for competitions – or, rather, I would if I was not a fanboy of my M1A :).

  19. The PTR-91 is solid, reliable, and uses cheap magazines. Only problem is that the roller-locked bolt chews up brass something fierce.

  20. I am not a huge rifle guy either but from what I know about you it seems like an AR platform would work well with what you have as well as well as your skill set.

  21. If you’re going to use it for 3-gun, go AR or go home.

    The PTR-91 is solid, reliable, and uses cheap magazines. Only problem is that the roller-locked bolt chews up brass something fierce.

    …and it doesn’t lock back on an empty mag, plus mag changes are awkward, which makes it absolutely useless if you want to win at a 3-gun match.

  22. Oh, and it’s the edge of the ejection port that really mangles the brass; you can get a port buffer that’ll cut that way down.

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