Yeah, I got one.
Mine is the Springfield Scout Squad, with an 18-inch barrel.
As soon as it arrived, I immediately sent it off to Clint McKee at Fulton Armory for a makeover. Clint glass-bedded the barrel and receiver to a gorgeous laminated birch stock, then replaced the trigger group, operating rod, and flash hider with new government issue National Match M14 parts.
The trigger breaks like a slender icicle, and the action is as crisp and tight as a Catholic schoolgirl. Fit and finish is like absolutely nothing I’ve ever seen on a military rifle. Needless to say, it shoots very, very well.
My first time zeroing it, with iron sights, from prone, using cheap Lithuanian M80 ball, I shot three-round groups that hid comfortably behind a dime.
I absolutely love this rifle, and would not trade it for anything. You will not be disappointed if you decide on either a SOCOM or a Scout Squad. However, indulge me for a bit as I explain why I’m happy that I got this one and not the SOCOM.
First off, there isn’t much difference between an 18-inch barrel and a 16-inch barrel, at least in terms of accuracy. Even the 24-inch standard barrel is not going to provide much more intrinsic accuracy, all else being equal. If you want real accuracy, you’ll have the 24-inch heavy Krieger stainless barrel and a fiberglass bedding job. But we’re talking general-purpose rifles here, not sniper rifles. Either the 16 or 18-inch barrel will be as accurate as you are.
What the shorter barrel loses you is a bit of sight radius (with iron sights), as well as velocity and energy at longer ranges, especially with lighter bullets. What it gains you is faster handling at close range, obviously. The SOCOM is infinitesimally faster than the Scout for this, but as another poster has mentioned, you have to ask yourself how often you expect to engage multiple targets at close quarters.
Next, and you’re probably aware of this from your experience with your Saiga, but the muzzle blast of a 7.62 from a 16-inch barrel is not merely loud, it is FUCKING LOUD. Not much better from an 18-inch barrel, but the SOCOM’s muzzle brake only makes it worse. The Scout Squad comes with a “California legal” compensator, which I strongly recommend replacing with the National Match flash hider. This combined with the low muzzle flash Hornady TAP ammunition and you’re good to go, even for night shooting.
Hornady TAP, by the way, is fucking awesome. Get some 110-grain for your CQB applications, and you will think you are shooting a 5.56 carbine. Get some 168-grain for your longer-range applications. Feeds like an FMJ, hits like a JHP. The low muzzle flash is a big plus, as is the dull black nickel coating on the brass. What good is camouflage if you’re going to be chucking bright shiny yellow cartridge cases all over your position?
Another thing I like about the Scout squad is that all of its parts will interchange with any GI M14. With the SOCOM, the gas cylinder, lock, plug and muzzle brake are all proprietary parts that you can’t readily replace with USGI parts. Not too much of an issue, until you need to replace these parts. Smith Enterprises sells them, but they’re hard to find otherwise (genuine GI parts in general are getting harder to find commercially, but I’m sure a resourceful Marine would be able to locate alternate sources of USGI spares in a pinch).
About the sights: both the SOCOM and the Scout squad come with a forward-mounted rail for attaching an intermediate eye-relief scope, Aimpoint or holograph sight. I have no use for them, personally, being perfectly happy with the NM iron sights. They’ll suffice out to 600 meters, and I don’t have to worry about diving into a ditch and discovering that my expensive, fragile optics are smashed. To quote Clint Smith, “two weeks after the balloon goes up, iron sights will rule the world.”
The SOCOM has some very nifty iron sights: a wide-aperture “ghost-ring” rear combined with a big fat front with a tritium insert. Very handy for close-quarters low-light engagements, mediocre for everything else. I’ve got the front sight, but I keep it with my spare parts. If I find I’m doing more close-range twilight shooting, I’ll swap the NM front sight for the night sight.
Both the SOCOM and the National Match M1A are extremely good at what they do. If you envision yourself primarily engaging hostile targets half a mile away, I would recommend the the NM M1A with a Leupold Mark 4 scope. If you see yourself clearing rooms and engaging multiple targets at 50 or 100 meters, get the SOCOM.
If you think you might be doing both on occasion, and maybe taking a few whitetails in the meantime, get the Scout Squad. As I said, you won’t be disappointed.