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[Build] M1A Paratrooper: What If the M14 Stuck Around?

If you jumped out an airplane with an M14, what would it have looked like? We build our very own M1A Paratrooper to see what would have been!

Back in the early oughts, right as the AWB expired in 2004, gun magazines were full of two things.

Can you guess what those were? 

Guns and Ammo 04
Guns and Ammo in 2004

1911s and AR-15s.

Rarely would you see anything different unless you picked up the occasional AK-only issue or the Surplus rags. As a teenager thumbing through these magazines I often got sick of seeing the 1911 and AR-15. 

One gun that caught my eye on the cover of Guns and Ammo was the original SOCOM 16. Magic was made when I saw the weapon and it quickly became a favorite of mine. 

M1A Socom16 with Leupold Scout Scope
M1A Socom16 with Leupold Scout Scope

I bought into the stopping power myth and thought 5.56 was a poodle shooter and useless in combat and so on and so forth. I was a crypto Fudd and didn’t even know it!

The SOCOM 16 became a rifle I lusted after. 

I cut the spread out of Guns and Ammo and hung it like a poster on my wall.

Over time, I grew and matured and my tastes changed and the expensive SOCOM 16 faded away as I went from AKs to sub guns, to ARs, and now to shotguns.

Mossberg Retro Shotguns smoky
Luv ma Mossberg <3

Somewhere along the way, Springfield offered to send me one, and my imagination was rekindled!

It’s like getting a date with Farrah Fawcett after having her poster in your room. You all know the poster I’m talking about, too. 

Farrah Fawcett 1976
Show of hands–who had the poster?

Like usual I can’t leave well enough alone and started tinkering, and as I explored the aftermarket a plan started to brew.

Table of Contents

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Planning the Paratrooper M1A

If the M1A stuck around for a little bit would we see carbine variants?

What about an Airborne model? If you were jumping out of a plane with the M1A what kind of rifle would it be? 

M1 SOCOM Paratrooper Build
M1 SOCOM Paratrooper Build

I wanted to take the M1A, and by extension the old M14, into a role the weapon never served in. Springfield already made the very cool Tanker model, and without a doubt, that idea inspired me a bit. 

Springfield-M1A-Tanker-770
Springfield M1A Tanker (via Rifle Shooter Magazine)

That leads me to the M1A/SOCOM 16 Paratrooper build.

I ended up straying from the Tanker’s retro route and went full bore modern. I wanted to reduce the weight of the weapon, modernize the ergonomics, and add accessory compatibility at the same time. After all, this is a dream build, right?

How did I do it? The capitalism of course. 

Skeletor Capitalism
Okay, maybe not in this particular case.

But before I get too deep down that particular rabbit hole, let’s introduce the rifle first. 

Introducing the SOCOM 16 

The SOCOM 16 is the closest we can get to a carbine variant of the M1A or M14 rifle. This model trims the barrel down to 16.25 inches. It’s a little lighter and much handier than the old school M1A. 

Socom 16 with Leupold Scout Scope
Socom 16 with Leupold Scout Scope

It’s also outfitted with a polymer black stock that’s very simple, and of course, as far as rifles go, it’s quite efficient. 

Trimming the barrel, luckily, doesn’t reduce into too much of an increase of barrel concussion and blast. Muzzle rise and recoil are very well mitigated.

1450
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

At the end of the barrel, you’ll find a very efficient muzzle brake from Springfield that’s unlike most M1A muzzle devices. 

Springfield Armory M1As
Springfield Armory M1As

The SOCOM 16 CQB is still hefty at around 9 pounds and 3 ounces, but it’s also a full-powered battle rifle, so keep that in mind. The weapon comes outfitted with a forward Picatinny mount designed for red dots or scout scopes. 

M1A Socom16 with Leupold Scout Scope
M1A Socom16 with Leupold Scout Scope

Outside of the scope mount the modularity of the rifle is rather limited. Attaching accessories and do-dads is a little tricky. 

The good news is the SOCOM 16 is outfitted with the National Match trigger that’s an exceptional package. It’s a two-stage trigger and as such it still works for more tactical shooting without dipping into the too light area.

2250
at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The internals and pieces and parts are all very efficient and made to last so I’m not going to focus too hard on that. 

Anyways, let’s talk about the cool part–upgrading the SOCOM 16 into the paratrooping rifle of my teenage dreams!

Chassis System

The first upgrade was the Delta 14 Gen 2 Chassis. Most M1A chassis systems aim at making the gun more like a DMR rifle, which isn’t our goal with this build.

These systems are great but do add a bit of weight to the gun. 

M1 SOCOM Paratrooper Build
M1 SOCOM Paratrooper Build with a sexy new chassis

The Delta 14 Gen 2 chassis system is unique in a number of ways. First and foremost, it does give us M-LOK slots for the modern mounting of accessories.

You get slots on the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions.  It also weighs three-quarters of a pound. Yes, please.

Front Sling Attachment and TLR RM1 Light
Featuring slots!

That’s the benefit of modern glass-filled nylon. A tough and durable material that Delta 14 keeps thin and light. It’s rock solid and allows for a tight fit or your receiver group and trigger.

199
at Delta 14 Chassis

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The Delta 14 chassis doesn’t necessarily include a stock, and this is where it blew my mind–it allows you to mount Mossberg 500 stocks to your M1A. This includes sporting stocks, wood stocks, the Magpul SGA stocks, and–as you see with mine–folding stocks. 

Getting Foldy With It 

To achieve this folding stock build I needed a few different things. 

Mesa Tactical LEO Telescoping Stock Adapter

First thing first, since this chassis fits Mossberg 500 stocks it also fits Mossberg 500 stock adapters–specifically the Mesa Tactical LEO telescoping stock adapter.

So at this point, we have a chassis that acts as an adapter for Mossberg 500 stocks, equipped with a Mossberg 500 adapter for AR-15 stocks.

Mesa Tactical Stock Adaptor
Mesa Tactical Stock Adapter

It’s some kind of Inception, and I can’t figure out exactly how to describe it, so deal with it. This isn’t even the last adapter we are using, so get used to it. 

The Mesa Tactical adapter is the best of the AR-15 stock adapters. It’s very well made, accommodates modern sling points, and AR-15 grips of all types. It’s made to last, and Mesa Tactical is one of my favorite shotgun companies. 

91
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

It’s an easy install and opens you up for any AR-15 stock and grip you want.

But that’s too simple; we need another adapter. 

Ace AR-15 Receiver Block 

So this threaded circular device fits into the same spot you’d thread your AR buffer tube. The Ace AR-15 Receiver Block has screw ports that allow you to accept the Ace family of stocks.

33
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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Guess what? 

We got another adapter!

Ace Folding Stock Adapter with Boss 

Once the AR-15 receiver block is threaded and set in your Mesa Tactical adapter, you connect the folding adapter with two screws.

It’s pretty easy to do, one little protip is to do a turn at a time with each screw. If you screw one in completely then you’ll push the opposite side upwards and have to start over.

Ace Tactical Stock
Ace Folding Stock and adapter

The Ace Folding Stock adapter has a raised oblong piece in the center they call the boss. According to the manufacturer, I should choose that one when using the receiver adapter. 

Anywho, this folding stock adapter can fold right or left and I went left. The adapter locks in both positions and holy hell is it tight. Once it’s in place it doesn’t move at all and provides a very stable stock experience. 

M1 SOCOM Folded stock
M1 SOCOM Folded stock

When it comes time to fold it you have to basically karate chop the stock and fold it out of the way. The good news is that it’s nowhere near as tight to unfold and get the stock into action. It also only adds three-quarters of an inch to your LOP. 

The AR-15 style folding stock adapters add a bit more than that. I aimed to keep the LOP comfortable and it was a good choice. 

85
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Ace AKFX Stock 

Ace this, Ace that, why wouldn’t I use an Ace stock? They are honestly some of the best stocks on the market and after using the receiver adapter and folding stock adapter I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

I also went with the short 85-inch model, because, as I mentioned, LOP was a concern. 

M1 SOCOM Folded stock
M1 SOCOM Folded stock and gear

This stock is a skeletonized stock that admittedly provides very little cheek weld.

However, it is very light and very robust as far as folding wire stocks go. The stock also gave me the desired look and feel of a paratrooper rifle, which, let’s face it, is probably the biggest pro. 

M1A1 Paratrooper Carbine vs. M1 Carbine
M1A1 Paratrooper Carbine vs. M1 Carbine

The stock has an optional recoil pad that adds half an inch and gives you some LOP control. Once installed, it fit me very well. The LOP was just right. If you’re short, you might need to fiddle with it.

While the lack of a cheek weld isn’t optimum, the stability of the stock can’t be beaten. It doesn’t budge a bit when paired with the correct adapters. It’s not the stock that gets the gold at Camp Perry, but it’s good enough for close-range use and extending out to 500 yards. 

Ace Tactical Stock
Let’s take another look at that stock.

As far as a paratrooper rifle is concerned that’s all I need it to do. The fact that the stock’s all-aluminum construction makes it both light and tough is also a major benefit. It won’t break on the jump, ya dig?

In the end, it all comes together to create a unique look that goes back to the days of the original M1A1 rifle paratroopers used to kills Nazis. One of my main inspirations was the M1A1 and I think this stock system got me as close to possible.

95
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

It makes this a truer M1 Carbine than the actual M1 Carbine. 

Front Sight

I can’t leave well enough alone and as a fan of the XS AR-15 front sight, I was quite excited to see an M1A option. XS is known for night sights and this is no different. While it’s a standard M1A sight, the center is filled with a bright white filling and a tritium vial. 

Front tritium sight
Front tritium sight

The high visibility combination gives you an eye-catching day sight and a glow in the dark low light option. Who knows when I’m gonna parachute into Endor to enforce the will of the Emperor? I need a sight I can see int he dark, should my optic decide to die. 

133
at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Speaking of optics. I tossed one of my smallest, but most robust red dots. 

Optics

The forward mount Scout Scope mount is perfect for red dots and their unlimited eye relief. I went with the Burris Fastfire 3, a very underappreciated mini red dot. It doesn’t get the love Trijicon does, but I’ve found it to be super robust. 

Burris Fastfire 3 Red Dot
Burris Fastfire 3 Red Dot

I bought the Burris Fastfire 3 on a killer deal and as a guy who reviews a lot of guns, it’s become a favorite for tossing on guns that don’t come with sights.

It’s an optic I use on a wide variety of T&E guns including shotguns, handguns, PCCs, rifles, and, of course, full-powered rifles as we now see. 

The Burris Fastfire 3 has a 3 MOA reticle and a low, medium, and high setting.

burris fast fire III
Burris Fastfire 3 on a Canik

There is also an automatic adjustment mode in which the optic adjusts to ambient light and corrects itself as needed. The Fastfire 3’s automatic setting works extremely well and surprised me at first. 

It adjusts quickly and efficiently so the dot is almost always easy to see. The battery can be changed without removing the optic from the gun, and zeroing is easy and efficient. It even mounts nice and low of my Paratrooper carbine. 

229
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

This optic keeps the gun nice and light, and the low mounted optic also makes it easier to get a good sight picture with such a low cheek weld. 

Light

In the name of keeping things small and efficient, I’ve equipped the gun with a new Streamlight TLR RM1. These new lights are designed for long guns but are descendants from the TLR 7 pistol light.

TLR RM1 light
TLR RM1 light

They share some of the compact size requirements of the TLR 7, which makes this one pretty perfect for my purposes.

The TLR 7 is a compact pistol light, so the downside to these lights is the shorter throw. It doesn’t pack the same candelas as a TLR 1 or ProTac. They are much smaller and more ergonomic though. 

Front Sling Attachment and TLR RM1 Light
Front Sling Attachment and TLR RM1 Light

These lights are outfitted with an angled tail switch reminiscent of Inforce lights. However, unlike Inforce lights, these bad boys can use pressure switches.

The RM1 is the smaller 500-lumen model. It fits well on my carbine sized rifle and provides 500 lumens of light. 

162
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

For my standard use, I don’t need a spotlight, and I appreciate the lighter weight design. The rear switch is also outstanding and very easy to find and press into action. 

Sling

At this point, most of my rifles and long guns are wearing some form of Vickers sling. This padded model is a bit better for heavier rifles and the thick pad provides a lot of extra comfort when carrying the gun for a long time. 

M1 SOCOM Paratrooper Build
M1 SOCOM Paratrooper Build with Vickers Padded Sling

The Vickers padded sling has a quick-adjust pull tab that brings you from slight to tight quite quick. It allows for maximum mobility when loose, and gets tight enough to allow you to use your hands to climb, jump, and carry things. 

BFG Vickers Combat Application Sling
BFG Vickers Combat Application Sling

It’s a professional-grade sling and a sling is a must-have for any long gun, especially when jumping out of a plane. 

Man, I’d hate to be the guy that let go of his gun and dropped it while jumping out of a plane, all because I didn’t have a sling.

54
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Hang Tight

The M1A Socom paratrooper may never have been a gun outside of my fantasy, but damn do I love it. It appeases my aesthetic desire for a modern paratrooper battle rifle from a war that was never fought. 

M1 SOCOM Paratrooper Build

What do you folks think? Is this fantasy build of mine silly, or is there space in your safe for something like this? Let me know below. Don’t forget to check out our review of the Springfield M1A!

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11 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Gordy Dicks

    Like the folder, etc, great idea and looks kinda efficient. But bottom line for me - how much does it weigh? w/empty 20 rd mag, no light or red dot sights just irons, no sling, nuthin' but rifle. I think most of the readers would like to know before they committed to such a build...

    July 6, 2022 12:24 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dcaptd

    I like the premise and set up. My only issue is with a .308 why not allow for use of it’s distance capacity? At least toss a magnifier on it or LVPO on it to reach out.

    January 9, 2022 10:26 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robert Swihart

    Mr. Pike,
    First, thank you for your service, for our freedom. I was not in the military. I am a retired Texas Peace Officer, and I worked with a lot of Marines. They came to the job as a better fit in terms of team work and leadership than any other officers.
    I am working, as a retired officer, for the security for my church. We have had incidents, and I prepare for the worst. My only tactical rifle is and LRB Arms M14S. It is a USGI build. I would like to carry it in my Ford Crown Victoria, while patrolling. I am looking for a plain, no frills folding stock that will allow stowing the rifle in car, with fair ease of extraction. Telescoping stocks do not afford enough room. Folding stocks do. I do not want bells and whistles on the stock. I just want to use the iron sites, no flashlights or accessories. I hear glass and nylon stocks swell and create a tighter fit, for greater accuracy. What is on the market for someone on a fixed income. It can be used.
    Thanks for any help
    Robert

    July 7, 2021 2:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Crew Agnew

    Is there any way to have the sling so u can wear it with the stock both folded and unfolded?

    Also, love this version of an m1a, makes me wanna take my m1a scout out of its archangel chassis and convert it to this beauty. Only thing I'd change is take off the plastic barrel shroud, and the small bit of picatinny, and replace it with an ultimak rail system.

    November 16, 2020 12:27 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mawtucket

    Looks good. What did you get the weight down to from the original 9lb3oz?

    November 14, 2020 4:51 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    T Hutchison

    I love it. It’s just a bad-a$$ take on an iconic weapon system and made me want a copy in my safe. Really well done - you once again do it right.

    July 29, 2020 6:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bull o' the Woods

    I totally support your right to build something that turns you on. If you dig it, that is all that matters. I had the same obsession with a folding-stock .308, but I chose to satisfy it with a DS Arms "Para Congo" FAL. Hurt like hell to shoot. Finally sold it and went back to a standard FAL with an 18" barrel. Much more satisfactory solution for a battle rifle. But hey, if the M14 flips your skirt, more power to you.

    July 29, 2020 11:14 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    WPC

    I like it. I have foggy mid 80s teenager memories of a Soldier of Fortune article that promoted a Battle Rifle version of the M1A/M14 similar to this. Although I think it was just a composite stock with a pistol grip, maybe shorter barrel. But it still fueled the idea of 'bigger (bullet) is better', so I've always been eyeballing something like this (as opposed to the SOCOM 16) or a Para FAL. Someday, maybe one of each!

    July 29, 2020 11:10 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Fyrfytr998

    Brace yourself. Fudd's will descend upon you for dishonoring their Grand Pappy's service rifle. Looks good BTW.

    July 28, 2020 3:57 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Mainline service rifle for 5 years, but everyone tries to defend it like it won world war III...

      July 28, 2020 4:09 pm
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