What’s the Difference

The other day, I posted two pictures of rifles in a tweet and asked what the difference was between them. I did not post any descriptions or give any indications of what type of rifles they were. I wanted to see what people’s reactions were to the two rifles. I received several different answers. Some were technical, some were based on aesthetics, and others were based on feelings.

Springfield Armory M1A Standard Issue
Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM 16 CQB

In the wake of the recent mass shootings, everyone is so willing to throw around statements like “no one needs to own a military style assault rifle,” “no one wants to take away your hunting rights,” and so on, without having too much knowledge of the subject at hand.

So, let’s discuss the similarities and differences of these rifles.


  • Both rifles are semi-automatic (one does have an option for automatic fire, but we will discuss that later).
  • Both rifles are chambered in .308 Winchester, also referred to as 7.62 NATO.
  • Both rifles use the same detachable box magazines that are available in five to 30 round variations.
  • Both rifles have the same receiver (internal mechanics) and trigger group, which are interchangeable between the models.
  • Both rifles have the same iron sights.


  • The rifle on the top has a wooden rifle stock and looks more consistent with what people would think of as a hunting rifle.
  • The bottom rifle has a polymer stock with an adjustable butt stock and a pistol grip, which is more consistent with what people would refer to “an assault rifle.”
  • The rifle on the top has a longer barrel, which will provide more accuracy at longer distances and, thus, is better suited for taking longer shots.
  • The rifle on the bottom has a shorter barrel and would be better suited for CQB (Close Quarter Battle).
  • The rifle on the bottom has a designation of SOCOM, which stands for Special Operations COMmand and is a marketing term. This is not to be confused with USSOCOM the United States Special Operations COMmand
  • The rifle on the bottom has attachment points to mount lights, a laser, a scope, or other optics.

Most people would be shocked to find out the main difference between these two rifles. If I were to ask which of these two rifles is considered to be a weapon of war, most would say the bottom one. And why wouldn’t you? It looks scarier as it has many of the features of what people refer to as an assault rifle, including the adjustable butt stock and the pistol grip. In reality, the top rifle, the rifle that looks like grandpa’s hunting rifle, is the only one of the two rifles that is a true weapon of war. The top rifle was designated as the M14 battlefield rifle and was the primary rifle used by the U.S. military from 1959 to 1964 when the M16 was designated as the main battle rifle for the United States. It had a lug to mount a bayonet and a flash suppressor to the end of the barrel. The bayonet lug was removed so the rifle would be in compliance with the 1994 assault weapons ban. That means that the only reason that it wasn’t banned in the 1994 ban was the removal of a single lug.

The M14 was available in both automatic and select fire versions, although the automatic version was not widely adopted because, due to the rapid recoil of the automatic fire and the size of the round, it was not practical to shoot from the shouldered position and was better suited to shoot from the hip for better control.

The M14 is still used in service today in limited applications. However, often, the version used is the MK 14 EBR (Enhanced Battle Rifle), which is used by special operations and designated marksmen for shots that are outside of the effective range of the M16 rifle.

The point behind this post and the moral of the story was that, just like when judging people, we are quick to make assumptions and judge guns before we know the facts.