The M14 came to be after many years of development and controversy. One world class weapon that competed against the M14 for U.S. adoption, and lost, was the FN FAL. The reasons for the military choosing the M14 over the FN FAL were, due to the similarities of the M1 Garand and the new M14, training and manufacture would be easier. The M14 was a pound lighter than the FAL, and the United States was not about to adopt a foreign weapon for the U.S. military. Ironically the FN Corporation would eventually produce the M16A2 for the U.S., and the armed services would eventually replace their 1911A1s with the Italian-designed M9 Beretta.
The cartridge the M14 was to use generated as much controversy as the weapon itself. The problem was the military wanted a full power .30 caliber round in a light weight weapon that would have full automatic capability. It just was not possible. The M14, at 750 rounds per minute in the full-auto mode, is very hard to control.
In the early 1950's some countries were interested in developing a mid-range cartridge from combat lessons learned in WWII. It was concluded a select fire weapon, firing a mid-range round could replace the submachine gun and the full power battle rifle. The Germans had developed their own mid-range cartridge: the 8mm Kurz was utilized in their highly advanced (for the time) Sturmgewehrs MP 43, MP 44, and StG 44 in the closing months of the WWII. The Soviets developed their infamous 7.62 x 39 mid-range round and the SKS rifle which was succeeded shortly after by the AK-47. Great Britain was working on their .280 intermediate round for use in their version of the FN FAL. To the United States Military way of thinking the 7.62 x 51 was an intermediate round; after all, it was 12mm shorter than the .30-06 cartridge. At the period when the M14 was being developed, the NATO countries where trying to adopt a standard NATO cartridge. The reason was simple. In the event of another war, supplying allied armies would be much easier if they used the same ammunition. The United States insisted on, and got the 7.62 x 51 (.308) cartridge standardized as the NATO round. Ironically, many of the NATO nations adopted the FN FAL making it the most prolific rifle in the world chambered for 7.62 NATO ammunition.
The M14 was originally produced for the U.S. military by four manufacturers: TRW, Springfield Armory, Winchester, and Harrington and Richardson (H&R). The weapon was produced from 1957 until 1964 when the AR-15 (M16) was being considered and eventually adopted. Approximately 1,400,000 M14s were manufactured.
The M14 is basically a product-improved M1 Garand. The M14 cured the short comings of the 1930's-developed Garand. Briefly, these improvements were a detachable 20-round capacity magazine, a floating gas piston, the gas port on the barrel located closer to the receiver, a roller on the bolt to reduce friction, full-auto capability, a flash suppressor, chrome lined barrel, and a "smaller" round: the 7.62 NATO or as civilians were to know it, the .308.
The M14 was produced in several configurations. The M14A1 (E2) was developed to help control the weapon while firing in the full-auto mode. Some of the modifications made were a straight line stock with a pistol grip and a retractable fore grip, a muzzle brake, recoil pad, and a bipod. These improvements also added additional heft to an already heavy weapon. The standard M14 weighs in at 8.7 pounds empty and 12.75 pounds for the A1 version. A heavy-barreled version was contemplated as a possible Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW): it was to be the M15. After extensive testing it was concluded the M14 was not well suited to the SAW role, and the M15 was not adopted. Many standard M14s where issued with a selector lock that prevented the user from switching to the full-auto position. These locks could be removed if the situation warranted.
Another configuration of the M14 was the excellent M21 sniper version. This was probably the area for which the M14 was best suited. One version of the M21 used a Leatherwood ART scope (Auto Ranging Telescope). Earlier versions were equipped with the same M84 scope the M1 Garand snipers used. A few M21s were equipped with a Sionics sound suppressor. Although the 7.62 round is supersonic and not easily suppressed, it made the location of the shooter difficult to detect.
Yet, another version of the M14 was the National Match M14. These where hand assembled by military armorers using selected parts. The NM versions also utilized special sights, glass bedded stocks and other parts which had to meet very strict tolerances. The NM M14 is primarily for shooting competitions.
The standard 7.62 NATO cartridge was the M80. It featured a 150 grain bullet with a velocity of 2,800 fps. This combination yielded 2,611 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. The current NATO round, the 5.56, yields 1,290 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.
The armor piercing round is the M61. It is for penetrating lightly armored vehicles. It can be identified by a painted black tip. Armor piercing 7.62 NATO ammunition is not legal to possess by civilians.
A tracer round is known as the M62. It is used for directing fire especially at night. It can be identified by its painted orange tip. This ammunition is normally issued for use in the M60 general-purpose machine gun.
The M64 Grenade launching round is used to launch grenades from the end of the rifle's barrel using an M76 grenade launcher attachment. There is a spindle valve located on the side of the M14's gas tube that must be turned when launching grenades. This directs all the gases to the launcher. The rifle will not cycle when the spindle is in the launch position.
The M198 duplex load was not widely used. It contained two projectiles. It is identified by its green painted tip.
M14 NATO ammunition normally came on 5-round stripper clips, 12 clips to a bandoleer. The M14 can be loaded without removing the magazine by inserting a stripper clip into the grooved insert on the top of the receiver. 20-round magazines were standard for the M14. There is an adapter for using the stripper clips to fill the magazine when it is removed from the rifle.
Accessories for the M14 are readily available and relatively inexpensive. One advantage to U.S. military arms and their clones are parts cost and availability. When shopping for parts for the M14, the consumer should be aware there are a lot of aftermarket parts out there for sale, including magazines. All original military M14 parts will be marked by the manufacturer; i.e., SA, HRA, TRW, WRA, W, OM or NM on national match parts. Parts and accessories available are slings, mag pouches, M6 bayonets, winter triggers, M12 blank adapters, M76 grenade launchers, M15 grenade sights, M2 bipods and muzzle brake (stabilizer).
Original stocks come in two styles and several materials: the straight line M14A1 pistol grip stock, and the standard stock, came in birch, walnut, and fiberglass. A few years ago M14 complete parts kits were available and inexpensive, although current laws have raised the price and lowered availability.
For the collector who needs everything, there are several tools for field maintenance on the M14. The combination tool is stored in the buttstock is used as a cleaning rod handle, a gas plug wrench, and a screw driver for adjusting the sights, etc. There is also a cleaning kit which includes a ratcheting chamber brush along with a cleaning rod, bore brush and patch holder. A small plastic container with LSA and applicator are also included in the cleaning kit. This kit is also stored in the buttstock.
Other low level maintenance tools available are flash suppressor locknut pliers, alignment tool for the flash suppressor, ruptured case extractor, several GI field and technical manuals.
The M14, as known to collectors and shooters today, comes from one of several places: rare original uncut amnesty guns, demilled and rewelded original receiver guns, aftermarket manufacturers such as Armscorp, Smith and Federal Ordnance (receivers), the modern commercial Springfield Armory who produces the M1A, and the Chinese M14ís. The full-auto aftermarket versions are usually Springfield Armory or Smith manufacture.
The original uncut guns are the most desirable, and of course the most expensive. The rewelded guns are as good as the person who remanufactured it. Properly done, a rewelded receiver would be as reliable as an original and, of course, retaining all the original markings. In most cases of rewelded M14s, the welded areas would be visible upon close inspection. All the aftermarket guns, except the Chinese versions, have cast receivers. Springfield Armory also manufactures many of the M14 components used in their rifles.
The Chinese M14 rifles have been the subject of much controversy lately. Two separate tests performed recently came up with two different conclusions about this rifle-one positive, the other negative. Most Chinese parts will not interchange with U.S. GI parts. The Chinese versions are the most economically priced M14s.
The M14s role has changed from warrior to a collector's prize and shooter's delight. It also brings back memories for many from days long past when they, as young soldiers, entrusted their lives to its reliability and firepower.
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