M14: America’s Worst Service Rifle – What Went Wrong?

While the US never adopted a significant variation of the M1 Garand (excluding sniper models), testing continued on new iterations and features throughout the war. By the time the war ended, the US military had some specific ideas about what it wanted in a new service rifle. That being, something lighter, capable of automatic fire, and to have one single platform replace the M1 Carbine, M3A1 Grease Gun, M1 Garand, and M1918A2 BAR. New rifles to meet these requirements were developed by Springfield, Remington, and Winchester, ultimately competing against the FN FAL for US service use. The Springfield T44E4 won out (barely) and was adopted on May 1, 1957 at the M14 rifle.

Production of the M14 was plagued by problems, largely due to quality control lapses. Early in production there were heat treatment problems that led to sheared looking lugs and broken receivers. Once those were addressed, the main problem because one of accuracy, with a shocking number of M14s failing to meet the 5.6 MOA minimum accuracy standard. Ultimately production ended in 1963 with 1.38 million M14s produced, and the M16 took over as the new American service rifle.


  1. Mister McCollum,

    Respectfully the M15 as described on Wikipedia is wrong as it describes the M14A1 while erroneously labeled as the M15 and frankly I was surprised by this oversight as in reality the M15, designated as the T44E5, uses a different Flash Suppressor, Front Sight, Gas Cylinder and Piston as well as a beefier stock and heavier barrel but other than those exceptions the components are interchangeable with the T44E4. It only has a semi-pistol grip.

    The original Springfield Armory, The Smithsonian, and the Marine Corps Museum may have a few M15s in storage.


    The Last Steel Warrior: U.S. M14 Rifle by Frank Iannamico









    The T44E5 was historically adopted as the M15 but it was dropped and declared obsolete in December of 1959 with none except the few prototypes ever being manufactured due to the United States Marine Corps declaring that the standard M14 with a bipod attached was just as effective and since the M14 was designed to be a one weapon to replace four to simply logistics, it clicked for the Ordnance Department that they didn’t need it with the goal in mind yet Roy E. Rayle as he mentioned in his autobiography Random Shots: Episodes in the Life of a Weapons Developer mentioned that he argued in vain on retaining the M15.

  2. I carried an M-14 the my entire service years. I fired thousands of rounds without issue. To me the M-16 was a hunk of junk…

  3. There was a particular author who published in the 1950s & 60s that I read a lot in Junior High, who published short picture books about all of the new modern & experimental army equipment coming on line in the late 50s & 60s. The M14 & M15 were heavily featured.

  4. I imagine Kirk will have something to say about this.

    My take is that if you are looking for a semi-auto .30 calibre rifle, the M14 is good enough. But it was stupid to expect it to replace the SMG, carbine and BAR as well as the M1. Most other NATO countries adopted the FAL or G3, but they kept an SMG as well, because some soldiers just cannot do their jobs and carry a full size .30 rifle. That’s why carbines were invented in the first place. Somehow the Ordnance Board in the 1950s decided that a sapper or gunner would be just fine with a full size rifle, history be damned.

    • Yeah, I have a few thoughts about the M14…

      The weapon was an obvious failure, but the “Why?” question has a different set of answers for everyone involved.

      My biggest objection to it is the same as my major objection to the NGSW: It is fundamentally a conceptually flawed weapon. Even before you get into the mechanical and production issues with it, the rifle fires a too-big cartridge and tries to do too many things. The idea of having a weapon that fills all the roles from what amounts to PDW/SMG up to light support is insane, especially when you build it to use a cartridge that is powerful enough to serve as a heavy support weapon. The physics and materials technology just doesn’t exist to support this nutso idea. You cannot do it, no matter how good your design might be. And, sadly, the M14 design just wasn’t all that good to begin with.

      That’s one facet of the conceptual flaws of this weapon. The other, more major one, is that the M14 was conceived of and designed to do things in combat that just didn’t match the reality of how wars were fought at that point in the 20th Century. It was the perfect rifle, if your entire tactical raison d’être is perfectly replicated at Camp Perry, but… That ain’t the way war was or is fought.

      People romanticized the whole thing beyond belief. The fantasy was Daniel Boone and his Kentucky Rifle, picking off the enemy at hundreds and hundreds of yards. Never mind that there was good statistical evidence that the majority of rifle-armed troops never engaged past 300m due to issues with target acquisition and the fact that the average person ain’t Carlos Hathcock and never will be.

      The romantics drove the concepts behind the M14. They were mistaken, at best, delusional at worst. Despite people claiming that they wanted the M14 back in Vietnam, most found that the M16/M60 answered the actual needs of combat far better. Something the Germans had already learned and enshrined in their WWII combat elements, by the end of the war. As well, something the Soviets figured out and were rubbing our noses in all during Vietnam…

      The M14 just didn’t fit the way war was actually fought, and coupled with the design/production issues? There are reasons it was so short-lived. Not to mention, the maintenance ones… I used to work under a CW4 who was an Ordnance depot-level armorer during Vietnam. We were sitting around waiting for something, one day, in the shop, and he heard someone say something about how ‘effed up the M16 was, and how we never should have gone away from the M14. This was a “trigger” for Chief, and he let all of us have it, with both barrels. From his standpoint, as an armorer? The M16 was utterly superior; the M14 took far too much time to keep up and operational, especially the wooden-stock variants in Vietnam. The M16 basically always shot at least as well as it did when it left the factory, until the barrels were completely shot out; the M14, by contrast? At least, the ones he’d had to work on? Maintenance nightmares. The root problem was the design; the bedding of the stock and how the trigger pack did most of the work holding the system together, which he felt was entirely inadequate for the size of cartridge they were using the mechanism on. If the M14 had been built around something like the Czech intermediate cartridge, Chief felt that the design would have been just fine; because of the power of the 7.62 NATO, the rifle was always on the ragged edge of just barely being adequate. Chief was also, I might add, a former National Match President’s Hundred shooter from back in the 1960s, so he had a pretty good idea about the rifle’s virtues and vices. He did not like it, preferring the M1 and the M16. His opinion of people that wanted the M14 in Vietnam was that they were either in specialist roles, or they just didn’t know any better.

      And, frankly… After a career carrying the M16 and having to deal with only the periphery of the M14 when they pulled it back into service as a DMR? I think I agree with him, now. At the time, I thought he was wrong because that was the zeitgeist of the time; “mouse gun” and all that. Reality? The M16 is probably the best accident that ever happened to the US military, given how often they screw it up by the numbers when they actually try to get it right. Witness SPIW, OICW, ACR, NGSW… I’ll be amazed if the M7, or whatever they’re calling it this week, is still on issue by the end of the decade. Like as not, if it is? They’ll have either relegated it to the DMR role, or it’ll be pawned off on the support troops after taking their M4A1 carbines away from them. Again.

      Handwriting is on the wall, and has been since about 1919. Our problem is that it is apparently written in hieroglyphics that our procurement people can’t read. Either that, or they’re just illiterate.

      • I agree, all the way. You know the old saying- the military is always preparing for the last war, not the next one. The M-14 was for a European battlefield, and they should never have tried for a combination weapon. But with extended ranges in Afghanistan, and masonry houses in Iraq, the 5.56 cartridge just didn’t have the power or the range. A friend spent a year in Iraq on convoy duty. Loved the M-2 and the M240. Not so much the M-16 and the M-249. And now they want the SIG Spear. A little more power, more weight, untested (as yet) cartridge. I think it’s a cludge, like the F-35 and getting rid of the A-10.

        • It’s more a conceptual flaw in the tactical thinking, than anything else.

          The individual rifleman’s job is not to engage the enemy outside 300m or so. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? But, that’s true. And, why is that?

          Because any fleeting glimpse that soldier gets at anything out past tactical arm’s length? That’s not a target for him, it’s a target for an area effects weapon, on the off chance that that one guy has a few friends with him, and you want to kill them all at the same time. Can’t do that with anything an individual infantryman can carry and shoot, sooo… Crew-served, it is. If you have your guys trained to take shots past 300m, you have a fairly significant problem with your thinking. At least, if you want to win wars.

          People seem to have a lot of trouble wrapping their heads around this, but there you are: It’s how you fight and win. You fight any other way? You’re likely going to lose.

          And, at least partially? Because you’re running a one-man training session for the enemy, one that will be witnessed by everyone around that one guy you just head-shot at 600m: Don’t be seen is the lesson you taught, and you just eliminated one of their more inept troops for them… How’s that going to work out, over the long haul?

          You need tight integration of your infantryman observers with your MG teams, and your MG/mortar teams are who does most of your killing. The object of war is not counting coup on the enemy by shooting their special education candidates in the head at 600m, the object of war is to win by killing the enemy in job lots as quickly as possible. You don’t do that by onesies and twosies; you do that by dropping hellfire and damnation on them via a nice, long burst from the MG and a few mortar rounds.

          I guarantee you that if you insist on having your infantry do the killing one at a time past 300m, you will lose. Statistically, you are ‘effing it up by the numbers…

          • As an OIF/OEF Infantry vet, I’m agreeing with you on basically everything. I’ve done everything from 240B gunner, SDM, sniper/team leader, rifle and weapons squad leader. Rarely is it one soldier shooting at one enemy. It’s “There’s a lot of muzzle flashes over there, everybody shoot that way.” And the belt feds are what lays the hammer down.

          • @Harold Mark Littell

            Hey, just to pick your brain for the data…

            How often did you have access to binos with a reticle, a rangefinder, and the actual training to use those in conjunction with the tripod T&E mechanism for directing and correcting fires?

            90% of the gun crew members I’ve talked to tell me that they never heard of such things during their tenure on the guns. Was that true for you, too?

          • Your an SLA Marshall, John Hopkins ORO studies guy. No targets beyond 300m yatta yatta.
            Spend a bit more cash on proficiency and sustainment training for tier 1
            troops and the results may be a bit different. To much reliance on supporting fires gonna bite them in the ass one day.
            We told them in the 60s 5.56 wouldn’t cut it everywhere. They were just lucky they continued to go against irregulars with no air assets after VN. You are correct in that the casualty production is not up to the infantry soldier it is up to the crew served weapons. King of the battlefield and all that shit. But they, just like Armor, are not self protecting.Still gotta have grunts. Air and the big guns are not always available and I don’t want to be in the position of being out ranged either ballistically or capability wise by my enemy!
            The 14 got a bad rap. Not perfect but nothing could be as the
            ” single all purpose individual infantry weapon ”
            Now that is a poorly thought out ” concept ”
            You have your view I have mine.

      • Here’s my two cents: Although combat is not akin to Camp Perry, it should be said that not only S.L.A. Marshall’s data have been more-or-less debunked back in the 1980s, ExScientiaTridens on alternatehistory.com pointed out some serious flaws with how the Hitchman study was tested ( https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/best-cost-effective-rifle.430959/post-16203718 ):


        I am quite late to this discussion, but looked at the references provided by Wiking with interest; especially the Hitchman Report.

        I would first like to note that the Hitchman Report was prepared to argue that the Army should develop a 5-shot salvo weapon instead of a new rifle or automatic weapon. So there is a definite and intentional direction to its conclusions.

        With respect to “9 years”, here is what the footnote in the report actually says:

        “One expert rifleman at Fort Benning, Georgia, estimated that it required nine years of continuous training on fire arms to develop marksmanship to the proficient level which he now enjoys. Sgt. Justice’s performance in demonstrating the use of infantry hand weapons is most dramatic. His skill in marksmanship actually approaches the accuracy of the weapon; he has attained a level or performance roughly commensurate with the design precision of the weapon. However, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of the men in the normal recruitment stream could possibly reach this level of small arms proficiency, even if time allowed for training were long.”

        Now, just to be complete, the authors state that the accuracy of the “standard M-1” is 2 MOA (indirectly based on their quoted “expected dispersion”). The fact is that Sgt. Justice is beyond good if he can shoot 2 MOA with a military rifle using iron sights. Hell, I qualified expert (M-1, M-14, M-16, M1911), but the good sergeant is light years beyond that. One doesn’t need to be that good to become a sniper.

        I have personally known one man who was that good. He was an ex paratrooper rifleman who combat-jumped with the 82nd at Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Holland (and highly decorated). He was my mentor and coach for a couple years in civilian life; nevertheless, people like Ron and Sgt. Justice have a 5/6 sigma level of skill in my experience. A level of skill that is completely irrelevant to the discussion and not achievable with training alone (IMHO). I suspect Sgt. Justice knows exactly how good he is and that what he really said was something along the lines that he has been training and practicing for nine years. The footnote does not quote the sergeant, not does it attribute the 10% conclusion to him.

        Next “average distance… 75-100 yards”:

        This comes from two retrospective reviews of wound ballistic data. While the original reports are not available (nor is their data or methodology included in the report), the report and citations in the appendices imply that it is based on a medical review of wounds. While one could extrapolate distance from wound depth (knowing the weapon, muzzle velocity, etc.), it also makes sense to conclude that the wounds subject to study is limited to some subset where the depth of the wound was measured (or could be measured). Not “generalizable” on its face (because it is far from complete, i.e., depth determination would require surgery, radiology or autopsy for bullets which did not hit bone, through-and-through wounds don’t offer data… – I seriously doubt it represents a random sample of “hits” by any approximation). Population estimates (extrapolations) require random samples of sufficient size to make any meaningful claim. [No, I am not a statistician – scientist and researcher]

        Nevertheless, the 75 yard figure comes from Bougainville (can you spell jungle) and the 100 yard figure comes from a sample of 109 wounds suffered by soldiers in the Turkish Brigade during 1950-51 (can you spell small sample). It is rare, if not impossible, for retrospective studies to have a random sample; meaning that broad-based conclusions are frequently just plain wrong. This has been a  serious problem in research for ever and has led to some amazingly false conclusions.

        Furthermore, ponder how one can possibly determine the range at which hits are actually made in combat (beyond sniper shots of course). I can not conceive that data will ever be available without some type of computer technology that does not currently exist. It certainly didn’t exist at the time these “conclusions” were made.

        It has been pointed out that “you can’t hit what you can’t see” and that Afghanistan is a different situation. Quite true.

        80% of effective rifle… at ranges less than 200 yards

        The cited “studies” were based on interviews, “effective” was not defined, and the actual question was based on the veteran’s estimate of engagement range. While the author did not include actual data from the reports, the reports themselves don’t contain data either. The actual question really addressed “engagement range” which is clearly a function of conditions (day, night, etc.) and terrain. What Hitchman doesn’t mention is the infrequency with which the soldiers actually aimed their shots (virtually never at night and not often in offensive operations – most aimed shots were during daytime defense). Nevertheless, they conclude on several occasions that the riflemen are nowhere near as accurate as their weapons (preparing an argument that too much emphasis is placed on rifle accuracy). More on that later.

        In effect, they have data on engagement range from the interviews (nothing new there relative to the 300 yard number) but inappropriately render a conclusion related to distance and accuracy.


        The “original research” included in the Hitchman Report comes from a very small study conducted at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. In this study, 32 soldiers (16 who qualified Expert and 16 who qualified Marksman) participated in a marksmanship test. They fired at silhouette targets at 205, 310, 265 and 110 yards (left to right). They fired in groups of four (2 expert and 2 marksman) and with a 3 second exposure every 3 seconds. From the diagram, the angle between the 205-yard (B) and the 110-yard (A) is close to 90 degrees (which makes a B-A or A-B sequence a fairly difficult shot).

        So, some problems

        Individual Marksmanship – one person shooting at a time. Eight passes through the 5-target sequence (40 rounds per shooter). But each individual was assigned a different sequence (e.g., A-B-C-D-A, C-D-A-B-C …), meaning that each individual had a different test. Two had a B-A switch, two had an A-B switch; one had two shots at 110 yards, the rest had one; one had two at 310 yards, the rest had one. Therefore, a real problem comparing different tests between individuals or groups. Must also assume there is no effect of sequence (and as a shooter myself, I believe there would be); or perhaps period (i.e., time of day since that was not stated).

        Group Marksmanship – all shooters fire on the same target in the same sequence (B-A-D-C-B). Four passes through the sequence (20 rounds per shooter). In this test, everyone fired the same sequence (which is good), but a real problem comparing this to the individual result.

        In both cases, it appears that targets were not switched between individuals. Meaning that all the experts shot the same target and all the marksmen shot the same target. Therefore, it is not possible to get error or accuracy measures for individual shooters. This is a very poor design and the statistician attempts to “estimate” some voodoo to account for this problem (which isn’t possible).

        As a result, it is:
        • problematic to compare individual marksmanship between groups (expert versus marksman)
        • not appropriate to compare individual marksmanship to group marksmanship
        • not appropriate to extrapolate the results to the rest of the Army
        Piss poor study design before they ever fired the first shot and the sample size is way too small to make a determination concerning marksmanship skill for the Army. Also, the report did not indicate whether there was uniformity between the shooters in either the amount of recent practice or time since last qualification (extremely important factors).

        Next, when they presented the results they did not present the results for the entire sample. Why? This is highly suspicious in the presentation of research data and usually cause for instant rejection of the conclusions by peer reviewers.

        For example, with the experts shooting the individual test results are presented for 12, 10, 9 and 9 shooters at 110, 205, 265 and 310 yards, respectively.

        Within the “expert group” 84% hit rate over 12 shooters at 110 yards in the “individual test” (different sequences) versus 100% hit rate for 8 shooters at 110 yards in the “group test”. Are these the same shooters? What were the results for the others? Did all 16 experts shoot both tests (or marksmen)?

        When examining the sequences, I suspect that what is reported as “number of shooters” is actually “number of shots”; so if they are correct in reporting that there were 16 expert shooters, it looks like there were 2 different groups of 8 (which further complicates the comparison – especially since there is no ability to compute a standard deviation for the individuals).

        OK, way too technical. But this is a crap study and WAY TOO SMALL to reach conclusions related to marksmanship across the Army.

        Does accuracy decrease with range in both groups? No doubt in my mind.

        Do people who qualify as expert shoot better than those who only qualify as marksmen? Duh.

        Can you hit something you can’t see? Nope.

        Are their computed hit probabilities accurate? Only by providence, if at all.

        Is it rational to compare the “inaccuracy” of an group to the “inaccuracy” (probability of a miss) of the weapon? YGBSM.

        They actually stated that the accuracy of the shooters was inferior to the accuracy of the rifle (duh). Citing a probability of missing at 300 yards being 0.04 for the rifle in a rest/machine to 0.76 for a “marksman” firing the rifle (“individual” fire I believe). Part of their conclusion that the weapon need not be as accurate or as long-ranged. But think about that, it also means that a rifleman of the lowest qualification can hit a silhouette target at 300 yards 1 time in 4. That’s really not too bad for a 3 second exposure.

        I’m not trying to be a troll. I’m a retired researcher, pulling the layers off the onion is my thing. Just making a point about military “research” over the years. Lots of poorly designed/executed “studies” of very small sample sizes leading to broad and unjustified conclusions.

        Is it really rational at all to even attempt to judge Army marksmanship based on 32 men from the Army Engineer school? What about 100 shooters from 8-10 infantry commands around the country (all taking the same test)? Think there might be differences between commands? Perhaps the level of training and currency might have a small impact?

        Best regards,


        After reading a PDF of the original report, Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon by Norman Hitchman, for myself (as well as Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer by Major Thomas Ehrhart of the United States Army)I honestly don’t know why Infantrymen weren’t use here to carry out Hitchman’s study as their primary purpose is to use rifles in combat to engage the enemy, not build or destroy bridges under fire.

        Still, you and I can respectfully disagree but we could at the very least agree that war is unpredictable and that the American fighting man should adapt to any situation yet in my opinion that should include long-distance rifle fire.

        For instance, what about taking the opportunity to fire at the heads of an enemy mortar crew located in a foxhole at the distance of, say, six hundred yards if fire support is unavailable and the M249 is down but there is a chance, no matter how slim, that they could be targeted with aimed rifle fire whether it be by the best shooter in a unit or a detail ordered to take potshots until the threat is neutralized?

        Flexibility and support may not always be available and every grunt should be able to adapt. Of course suppressive fire and maneuver is an option as well but ammution is finite until the next chance at resupply.

        Again, we can respectfully disagree with one another and I’m not saying that every GI is going to be the next Billy Dixon or even Herman Davis (https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/herman-davis-48/) but dismissing it outright or saying that counting on support doesn’t sit well with me due to the unpredictable nature of war.

        • * Counting on support I.e. artillery, aircraft, even a sniper team while they may be occupied with other, much higher valued targets of opportunity (tanks, other aircraft, as applicable).

        • @Kyle Wilson,

          I’m gonna go out on a limb, here, and guess that most of this was meant to address the discussion over in the “Battle Rifle Battle Royale” thread?

          I’m going to first say that I agree with all of your identified issues with those studies. I’ve got the same issues, plus a few others. Not the least of which is that the people doing those studies were basically doing the white-coat lab-rat viewpoint like they were anthropologists studying the mating habits of the Jujube tribe…

          At some point, you have to start asking the question of “How do you actually win most of your combat actions…?”

          They did not do that. The premise they were working off of was effectively that of “the infantryman is the primary killer and most effective combatant”. They just assumed that the question of how to make the infantryman more lethal was the center of gravity for their research, never realizing that the infantryman was and is nothing more than an accessory item for the actual killers.

          And, to be honest? I’m not 100% certain that I’m right, and that the major killer is the MG and indirect fire. I could well be wrong; I also know that we don’t know, because we’ve never gone out and actually gotten the damn data. I’m working off of what I’ve seen and observed, over the years, and I could be wrong. I don’t think I am, but… Yeah. I also know my limitations.

          And, do bear in mind: What I’m talking about here is big-picture, one-over-the-world “How it works”, not the edge case where your rifle squad is pinned down by itself with no radio, no support, and a broken MG. That’s someone having a really bad day; what I’m talking about is how the entire force wins, and that’s not by emphasizing individual riflemen shooting individual targets at 600m. That’s cool and all, but… That also isn’t war.

          War means doing what needs to be done for victory, and that’s essentially wholesale slaughter of the enemy in job lots. You are emphatically not shooting at that one guy your PFC spotted out there at 600m; you are shooting at that guy’s friends and family, the ones he’s just highlighted for you. The intent here is to kill the enemy, to do it as quickly as possible, and as far from you as you can make it happen. That means that an appropriate weapon to use on someone you spot out past the 300m mark is an area weapon like an MG or a mortar. You are not a cop, taking out individual bad guys; you are a soldier, taking out other entire units…

          Frankly, the entire idea of the lone rifleman majestically taking on vital long-range targets is something for the movies and fantasy books. You don’t win wars like that; much as we hate to admit it, what SGT York did in WWI was irrelevant and ineffective past the limits of his local tactical situation. He could have been replaced by a good MG team, and then the amount of damage done would have been exponentially higher. Which would have contributed a good deal more to the war than what he did do… Which is not to criticize him or his actions, but to point out the way that sort of thing has distorted the thinking about what an infantryman should be doing.

          Quite like the French commentator said upon witnessing the Charge of the Light Brigade: “It is magnificent, but it is not war…”

          • And you are not wrong in the fact that infantry alone do not win wars nor does a individual rifleman (such as Timothy Murphy) alone but the military as a whole and the bomber does not always get through, tanks should not charged ahead without the aid of infantry due to shoulder-fired missiles, the reason why I posted the critique of Hitchman’s Report was to shed some light on an often cited document and why it may be misleading or flawed as well as arguing in favor of training infantry to shoot at distant targets with their rifles even though they alone won’t battles or wars but it doesn’t hurt to either.

            Now I could be wrong in concurring with the critique of the Hitchman Report and yes, it may be preferable, particularly during an advance or offensive for grunts irrespective if the formation is a Squad, Platoon, Company, or Battalion to rely on support whether it is from the Weapons Company or aerial assets, whatever the case may be but at the same time targets of opportunity should be engaged and the threat should be eliminated regardless it is by aimed rifle fire or area weapons or artillery or a strafing run or a Tomahawk cruise missile and unless I’m mistaken overall, Kirk, I think may agree albeit from two opposing angles.

          • @Kyle Wilson,

            I think we’re in essential agreement, but as with anything, you have to conduct “training triage”. Where do you get most of your value, with your infantrymen? Is it better to spend more time on the range, producing men who can get those pretty little headshots at 600m plus, or should you take that time and train more on observation and call for fire techniques?

            Even if your infantry don’t have the outside support, like an armor platoon or artillery, the raw fact is still that anything out past 300m ought to be engaged with the organic machineguns or mortars. Yeah, it would be very nice if you could afford to spend the time training advanced marksmanship with the individual weapon, but where are you going to “make more money” with your limited training time and budget? Maybe it would be smarter and more effective to take PFC Schmedlap out onto an MG range, and teach him how to use the reticle in the LT’s binos in order to correct the fires of the MG team…?

            Which path nets you more enemy dead?

            That’s the question you have to ask yourself before choosing to emphasize certain things at the expense of others. It’s rather as if you were a 17th Century commander, and had to pick between doing sword drills with the halberdiers or doing actual, y’know… Halberd drill. Which one is “nice to have” vs. actually making a difference when the feces hits the fan?

          • My most powerful weapon as a sniper was the radio. I’m not taking pot shots at a group of Taliban when I can call in artillery or CAS. I do believe all should strive for the highest rifle marksmanship. But realize that even the most disciplined marksman’s skill will decline when on a two-way range. Getting shot at isn’t fun and will break your perfect concentration.

        • Kirk covers the tradeoff of training time very well, but you have forgotten that SHARP & EO training must be completed before any marksmanship training is conducted, and required training already exceeds the available calendar manhours in a year – and has for at least a decade & a half now. So even IF training the infantry to shoot out to 600m was desirable, AND the ranges to do so existed (they’re all 300m ranges now), SHARP and EO training trump your hypothetical the M249 AND the radio are down shot.

          To their credit, the Army (after losing Afghanistan & eking out a “win” in Iraq) has instituted actual marksmanship TRAINING – instead of just throwing troops repeatedly on a range til they qualify.

      • Did your Chief have anything interesting to say about the M1 carbine too?

        When Sullivan designed the Mini-14 rifle for Sturm-Ruger, interesting that he went with the Garand design of rifle-bedding with the clamping-trigger-guard fire-control-unit, rather than something resembling the M1 carbine or FN-49 bedding.

        That insight by your Chief about the mismatch between the bedding-system vs the high-powered caliber of the M14, should also apply to the M1 rifle too. That implies the original .276 Pedersen cartridge wouldn’t have been too much for the original Garand clamping design.

      • People are always seduced down a bad path, chasing after the “new and improved”. I guess every generation of Ordinance staff wants to make their mark and can’t grasp the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. And defense contractors can’t make as much money on just keeping the existing systems working, as compared to coming up with something new. I still get a belly laugh every time Ian takes some clunker antique to a match and does as good or better than other competitors who have the latest designs, with all the bells and whistles.

        • There’s another “Ordnance Disease” facet to consider, and that’s the “How long do we have to keep trying the same bad idea?”

          British ordnance types have had a fascination with the bullpup configuration; one has been lurking in the background since before WWI, and they finally got the idea into adoption in the form of the SA80.

          And, then promptly rather wished they had not done that…

          US Army Ordnance has had this fascination with the combination rifle/grenade launcher since the late 1950s… SPIP, OICW, XM-25. Never managed to make it work, but man, are they obsessed with trying to “make it so”.

          Similarly, there’s the M122 tripod. The original was slung under the M1919 during WWII, and they’ve never felt the need to really question if it does a good job as “tripod”. They just keep issuing the kits to adapt the damn thing to more guns, and call it good…

          I think I’d probably eliminate the entire cabal of idiots, and replace them with men who’d actually had to run the damn weapons in combat. A committee of sergeants, SF weapons sergeants, all advised by actual small arms specialist engineers.

          The bureaucracy we have ain’t working out so well.

      • Spray and pray versus aimed fire. This debate has been going on since the 1880’s (maybe the 1860″s), never ends. If you read the army manuals going back to at least the 1880’s, they never considered that aimed fire on known distance targets would produce a finished combat shooter. It was considered the foundational basis of combat shooting, which required more training. Suppressive fire versus effective fire, same debate, different cast.

    • The Army could have had everything its own stubborn way if it had been paying attention to the Germans working in Spain on the CETME and its radical cartridge. A Garand scaled down to an also scaled-down 7.9X40 cartridge (something in-between the M-14 and Ruger Mini-30) could have gotten down to 7 pounds and maybe been acceptable as a Grease Gun and carbine replacement (given the current weight of the M-4). Or the Army could have scaled up the M-1 carbine (itself scaled down from a Winchester .30-06 project).

      In fact, as the German team struggled to stave off the NATO standardization wave pressing on Spain, it came up with compromise variants including reduced-power 7.62X51 with the German wonder bullet. It would have given everyone in NATO what they wanted with what they had.

      • They could have, but they did not. And, I don’t think they would have, regardless, because of the way they looked at the problem.

        It is a microcosm of the one that led to the XM-25: Wishful thinking led to a set of specifications that were essentially physically impossible. With the XM-25, it was the idea that a grenade you could direct-fire out of a weapon that could still be managed by a guy firing it off his shoulder could still pack enough fuse hardware and explosives to do anything meaningful downrange… Basically, to make that whole idea really work, you’d have to rewrite some of the laws of physics and/or achieve massive improvements in materials and propellants.

        Same with the entire premise behind the M14: Reality is, you’re not doing the job of an SMG with a weapon firing something that can also do the job of a light support weapon… Conceptually, someone should have looked at that and then said “Ya know… This seems kinda… Contradictory, here…”

        The “desire path” of small arms has led down the two-caliber solution throughout the 20th Century. I don’t think it’s suddenly changed, either… NGSW just recapitulates many of the same issues that the M14/7.62 NATO programs produced. And, I suspect, it will end similarly.

        • “(…)two-caliber solution(…)”
          M14 aimed to replace weapons of 3 different calibers: 7,62×63 mm, .30 Carbine and .45 Auto. Did anyone attempted so before or later?

          • It would not be hard for a time traveler to ensure that the M1 Carbine was designed around the 5.56×45 cartridge and .223 barrel instead of the .30 bullets and barrels; in multiple barrel and stock packages; in three loadings with a light, medium or heavy bullet; and selective fire; and been the universal rifle and or caliber for even 20+ years longer than the AR in .223 now has.

            What I’m saying is that the carbine is hampered chiefly by its caliber, that .30 Carbine is obsolete in comparison to 5.56mm, that it can be excelled by FK 7.5mm. (There was a .22 Spitfire program, but…Say the time traveler pushes that one through.

            In any case, if the M1 Carbine had been chambered in the modern 5.56 caliber, it could have performed very nearly all the functions of World War II and thereafter, becoming the main produced weapon of all time, encompassing almost all production, filling the roles of of most all rifles, LMGs/BARs, carbines, most SMGs and many pistols.

            Or since everybody names them, I guess if Sweden had produced a system of modern semi-automatic and selective fire weapons based on their rifle cartridge and IKEA design skills, they’d lead the world.

          • Good video on M1 Carbine

            The M1 Carbine is sort of a large pistol with a more lethal cartridge. It was an early step towards the concept of Personal Defense Weapons, when nobody knew that this was a thing. I think this is why it was so popular. People knew there was a niche for this type of weapon, even if it had been given a formal name. As a, kind of bulky by today’s standards, PDW the .30 Carbine ammunition was sufficient.

            If you want something with the overall vibes of an M1 Carbine, using a modern intermediate cartridge, look at the Ruger Mini-14/30 rifles. Maybe the Rugers are not as battle hardy as the M1 Carbine, but they do show what something more than a pistol/PDW but less than a full sized rifle might look like.

          • Thanks. But timing is everything. By then not only was the M-16 a thing, but Ruger had the Mini-14. With this weapon available in 1941 they would scarcely have needed the M1 Garand.

            My point not being to snib the Garand (never!), but OP says we never needed .30-06 or 7.62 levels of beef in the service rifle, so you could have pretty effortlessly upgraded the Carbine to 5.56 and done it all. In a pistol length barrel you could have even skipped all those troublesome SMGs and the PDW concept entirely. Needless to say, if they had not only had the 5.56 round but the AR-15 design ready for WWII, va va va voom!

          • I have Melvin Johnson’s “Rifles and Machine Guns”. In it are penetration tests of various ammo, and log bunkers were a real thing back then. .30-06 penetrates far beyond what the 5.56mm round will do. Or shooting through a tree to get the guy behind it. The military used to take this into consideration. Now it looks like they only consider if it will penetrate body armor.

          • It may be a case of how many targets have body armor vs. how many are hiding behind trees. I am assuming the body armor has the most and then the other advantages of intermediate cartridges kick in.

            This is presuming, which is never a given, that the Ordinance Department put full thought into decisions.

          • Back when this was written, body armor was virtually non-existent. My dad was a Marine rifleman on Okinawa in 1945. Armor was a tin hat and a green shirt.

          • Couple of points to be made, here. At least, with regards to the idea of doing the M16 during the 1930s…

            Aside from the conceptual issues that would have had you laughed out of the War Department offices, there’s the minor matter of whether or not such an effort was even doable on a technical basis.

            I used to have an acquaintance who was a machinist that enjoyed restoring old machinery. He was also a bit of a gun guy, but from the end of “What machines did what in gun manufacture” sort of interest. He also shot, but not for much more than plinking.

            Back in the dark ages, I brought up with him the idea of something like Harry Turtledove’s “Guns of the South, where the protagonist is dealing with time travelers who took AK-47 rifles back in time to help the South win their war… I got a bit of an education on the issue.

            People constantly and consistently overestimate the potential of older industrial plant, and simultaneously underestimate the difficulties of having a modern product manufactured on the older technology. You would have to not only convince them of the validity of the 5.56mm cartridge class, you’d have to show up with a weapon that worked, that could be mass-produced on their machinery, and you’d have to basically transplant modern precision serial manufacture of things like 5.56mm projectiles, cases, and magazines for same.

            Don’t forget that there were damn good reasons that Browning made the M1919 and the M2HB both adjustable headspace and timing weapons. Ammo manufacture was dreadfully inconsistent up until the post-WWII era, and you wanted to be able to cope with slight differences between loads. As well, serial manufacture of things like magazines for the BAR wasn’t quite perfected until, again, the WWII era. I’ve got first-person autobiographical reports that I’ve seen and still have (somewhere…) that describe going over the company supply room and test-firing every BAR magazine they had, in order to find some that worked reliably and with their specific BAR. This was circa 1930-ish, and the author was complaining about having a roughly 60-80% reject rate for his magazines, which didn’t fit or work reliably in other BARs in the company. He reported being very angry when the new company commander came in and mandated that all the magazines have their painted-on markings cleaned off, and stored together, rather than separated into different lots by which BAR they worked best in…

            You might show up in 1935 with the complete TDP for the M16, but odds are good that you’d have had one hell of a time getting them into serial mass production on any effective basis.

            Could the SCHV concept have been mass-produced in the 1930s? I don’t know, and I kinda suspect that it would be a hell of a lot harder than one might think. It’s certain that they could have done something like the Soviet 7.62X39 or German 7.92X33, but the 5.56X45? With the right propellants and all the rest? I kinda suspect that you’d have lots and lots of problems with it. Intermediate cartridges? Sure; just a paradigm away. SCHV? You’re a couple of paradigms and one or two revolutions in precision serial manufacture from being able to do that in 1935.

          • I respectfully disagree. They put a little effort postwar into a wildcat cartridge called .22 Spitfire to rechamber .30 carbines in but there wasn’t much future in it, however, in 1935 or 1940, there might well have been. 5.56 would have certainly excelled .30 Carbine, and even in the SMG/PDW role, it would have simplified things, even if they couldn’t sell it for the battle rifle under the 600 yards concept and couldn’t sell the 300 yards assault rifle concept.

          • Daweo… Do you not get “Mass producible”?

            Do remember that the improved powders that Stoner had designed the system around did not in fact, turn out to be things that they could produce on industrial scale for the M16 program, which led to the substitution of the powders they could produce, which led to the fouling and corrosion problems that nearly killed the program…

            And, that was with 20 years more development in the energetics industries.

          • Realistically, someone coming up with the idea of an aluminium rifle in the ’30 would have been laughed out of existence.
            Yeah, many things were already made out of aluminium, but aircraft, or engine, manufacturing and weapon manufacturing were different worlds (and still you had to make the Army, not the Air Force, accept even the idea that a rifle could be made of other than steel).
            It’s not by chance that aluminium weapons suddenly appeared everywere in the ’50s. Or that Armalite originated from Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation. there were a lot of people that worked with aluminium in aircraft manufacturing in WWII that needed to find another job.
            But in the ’30s? Even the stamped steel construction of the AR18 would have been seen as a way to provide soldiers with “cheap” and “inferior” weapons.

            As for intermediate ammo, .223 was out of the way. Even in the ’50s it was a quirky round. But that portable automatic fire in the weight constraints of a rifle required a less than full power cartridge was known since the Ribeyrolles 1918, and ammo with intermediate power level and made for self loading firearms were already there (IE the .25 Remington). As for wood penetration, 6.5mm cartridges are well known to be extremely penetrating on any material softer than lead.

      • The British .276 was close to the modern 6.5 Grendel. But we wanted the 30-06, just shorter. I sometimes wonder who’s side the Army Ordnance Dept. is on?

        • Whose side is Ordnance on? Their own… Always has been the case, always will be.

          The issue is that we put them in charge of something that the infantry and other combat arms ought to be in charge of. About all Ordnance should be doing is figuring out how to buy the damn things and keep them supplied with ammo.

          It still boggles my mind that COL Rene Studler was the man behind the M14 and the 7.62 NATO fiasco while also being a guy who spent the majority of his career roaming arsenals and so forth across Europe. He had not one single hour of combat service being shot at or shooting at others, but he was the guy who made the M14 and 7.62 NATO happen, basically.

          What. The. Actual. F*ck?

          I’ve been all over the ephemeral paperwork and historical references from that era. There were guys who had a good idea of what they needed, but they all appear to have been overruled by guys like Studler, most of whom were career Army ring-knockers from West Point who’d managed to avoid actual, y’know… Combat service.

          They made the M14 happen, along with the 7.62 NATO. The fact they were able to do that is a massive indictment on how we do things in the small arms procurement realm…

          I don’t think there was anyone with actual verified WWII or Korean combat service time that was really intrinsically involved in the decision-making that led to either the 7.62 NATO or the M14. If I’m wrong, someone correct me; there’s obviously been a gap in my research and reading.

          • Ah, but Col. René Studler played a mean polo game! (I’m serious!)
            Oddly, Studler initiated the M-1 carbine search based on a U.S. Army conclusion that a) the M-1 Garand service rifle was too big and unwieldy and long and heavy and expensive to arm ammunition porters, service personnel, crews of heavier weapons, logistics personnel, truck and jeep drivers, officers, radio operators, and so on, and that b) the M1903 bolt-action service rifle was also a bit of a handful, and even if a “short rifle” perhaps a bit ponderously long, and c) no one can hit anything with a pistol unless they receive a good deal of practice and training, and that d) everything in WWII up to that point indicated that there’d be no trench-like “front line” but a battle zone, in which ostensible rear-echelon forces would be in harm’s way and have to actually shoot… So couldn’t there be a “light rifle?”

            Studler dutifully studied the matter and concluded that the caliber would have to be a .30 cal. because that’s what most American ammunition manufacturers could produce, and that the cartridge would have to be based on the accurate but failed-with-deer-hunters Winchester .32 SL cartridge, but updated here and there. The result was the development program for the U.S. carbine, cal. .30 M1.

            I take issue with the idea of some of our fellow FW enthusiasts that the small-caliber, hyper velocity (SCHV) concept might have arrived earlier. In the earlier 20th century, very many nations had studied–and a few adopted–6.5mm cartridges: Italy, Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands, Rumania, Japan, Greece… Other national ordnance experiments and armories and designers toyed with 6.5mm cartridges, notably China, France, and Russia’s Fëderov. Fëderov simply refused to contemplate a cartridge smaller than 6.5mm, even though the US Navy/ USMC had used the 6mm USN cartridge in the ill-fated and prone to serious bore erosion Model 1895 straight-pull repeater. That 1895 development was the smallest caliber service rifle up to that point, unless I’m mistaken. The Mexican designer in Switzerland, Mondragón, had all kinds of small-caliber cartridges, down to 5mm if I recollect.

            To me, what sort of beggars belief is that the very same René Studler turned on his M-1 carbine development and also seemingly forgot about or disregarded out of hand the old “pig board” tests that showed that 6.5mm cartridges did terrible things to anaesthetized swine at combat ranges, and that the US Army had thought to adopt the .276 pedersen cartridge (7x51mm), perhaps a bit along the lines of the ill-fated Italian 7.35mm not quite an intermediate cartridge, but headed there. MacArthur rejected .276 pedersen because MGs were in .30-06, and the strategic reserves of ammunition were .30-06, and because ammunition manufacturers could churn out .30 cal. cartridges, but not 7mm cartridges… So John Cantius Garand dutifully re-designed his winning rifle design from a relatively svelte and handy 10-shot repeater to Geo. Patton’s “greatest battle implement ever devised” the 8-shot .30-06 U.S. rifle, caliber .30 M-1. That adoption, in turn, proved unwieldy for the aforementioned troops and necessitated the development of the “light rifle” M-1 carbine program.

            If any caliber discussion that avoids a-historical questions like “why no SCHV cartridge until well after WWII?” needs exploration, it is the following: .303 British, .30-40 Krag, 7.7x58mm Arisaka, 7.65x53mm Argentine/ Belgian Mauser and 7.5x54mm Mle. 1929 French are basically the same cartridge. We can omit .30-40 Gov’t/ Krag and .303-in. British because these are rimmed. Why, if a .30 cal. was required, did the U.S. turn around and design the 7.62x51mm at all? I mean, sure, no 7,92x33mm kurzpatrone because German and because “nothing more than an SMG cartridge” and no British .280/ 7x43mm because not a “full thirty” in spite of the prewar .276 pedersen…. But why not an existing .30 cal. cartridge in that power range? To my mind, that is a curious thing.

            Our friend @eon has repeatedly demonstrated that a great many cartridges–including .276 pedersen–are angels dancing on the heads of the 7x57mm Mauser “pins.”

  5. 1967 National Matches, I was a junior shooter on the Ct. State Rifle Team. i was issued an H&R national Match M-14, serial number 527828. New, unused, and remarkably accurate. I won 2 silver medals with it. A few years ago I bought a Federal Ordnance M-14. High serial number, as the early ones had some bugs. Again, very accurate. Sold it, dammit.

  6. Wasn’t one of the problems that the rifle would fire with the bolt either not locked up at all (out of battery) or with the bolt partially locked?

    • Not very likely, as the striker is quite light and there are mechanical interlocks between the bolt and body.

      The bolt in an M-14 moves VERY fast, in both dirctions, however, hence the rather “robust magazine spring. It is designed to work with service ammo in the issued magazine. NOT “single-feed” with the cartridge already in the chamber.

      There WERE “issues with early M-16 rifles “slam-firing. These had a MUCH heavier striker than the current one. However, even with the “lightweight” striker, the primer is “lightly” tapped by tje striker during the load process. The other great offender in this game is the Steyr AUG, which also has a light-weight free-floating striker.

      The wild card here is in the “drills. In a situation where the soldier is required to “unload and shoe clear” the top round id ejected (after the mag is first removed) Thet ejected round is generally “lightly” tapped already>

      How many “light taps” does it take to increase the size of the striker “dent” to te point that the primer is SO sensitized and close to “crush / ignition point”, that “One mre wafer, Mister Creosote?” sets it off; safety applied, finger off trigger; the whole box and dice?

      Additionally “Mil-Spec” primers are generally built using more “robust” cups for this very reason, (amomg other more arcaneones)

      I have personallyh witnessed an “OOPS” wuth a M-i Garand that had been modified to a “carbine / tanker”” length, and rechambered for 7.62 NATO and using M-14 magazines. It fired on closing, ONCE. Ammo was HAND-LOADS, with “sporting” primers. No idea how many times the errant round had been “cycled” before firing, but it was “exciting” to watch.

      Interestingly, the FN-49 went through several “iterations of having a mechanical “striker safety”. Its successor, the FAL went with a spring-loaded striker “hold-back” that worked a treat. They also settled very early on a two-piece striker, because of the risk of the original one fracturing and disabling the rifle. That factory-fitted hold-back spring is quite robust and so is the spring that drives the hammer forward. There are good reasons that the FAL / L1A1 family is still slugging it out in “interesting places”, around the world.

  7. Truth be told the M-14 likely won out over the FN FAL because of the hierarchy at Springfield Armory. In my opinion it goes back to good ole job security for the Armory.

      • On the machinist side, the M-14 is more complicated than the FAL. Even though the M-14 is similar to the M-1, it still created numerous problems. Higher grade steel was needed due to the added stress of full-auto fire. Overall, a mess. Frank’s book, “The Last Steel Warrior” tells the tale. Frank a great guy, we’ve shot together quite a bit.

  8. Wait wait wait…
    America’s worst service rifle?
    M-14 worse than .30 cal Model 1892 rifle? Did the Army ever wring all the bugs out of the Model 1892 before it was replaced by the M1903?

      • daft thing is, Danish Krag & Jorgensons, an earlier development than the united state one, could be clip loaded

    • The worst service rifle was the Allin Conversion “Trapdoor” Springfield in all iterations from .58 rimfire to .45-70.

      Look up the 1978 edition of Guns Illustrated for the article on single-shot rifle blowups. The author well illustrates just how lethally weak and dangerous the Allin breech was. Even though he completely misunderstands the phenomenon, claiming that the Remington Rolling Block was weak and dangerous while the Allin was a masterpiece of safety.


      Because in a rolling block overpressure event, the barrel always fails before the breech does. In the Allin, the breech invariably fails first, usually spectacularly, complete to breechblock fracture and case head blowout. Somehow he thinks a blast of hot gasses driving brass fragments into the shooter’s face is safer than a chamber blowout that vents up and to the sides, which is the typical Remington failure mode.

      Disregarding his appalling ignorance of physics, the photos show that the Allin is an accident waiting to happen. The Snider Enfield breech conversion (which Allin got rejected by getting Snider fired from Springfield) is far and away safer and sturdier than the Allin.

      The Snider breech is a steel “brick” inside a steel “box”, hinged at the side instead of at the front. All that holds the Allin breech shut is the hinge, a spring latch and the hammer. To blow out a Snider, the event would have to literally compress steel upon steel, and that simply is not going to happen at black powder pressures.

      The M14 is a bad design, no doubt about it. But the Trapdoor holds the dubious distinction of being the worst military rifle in U.S. history. One that was more dangerous to its shooter than to its intended target.

      clear ether


      • There is a parallel between the trapdoor and the M14: both were promised to be cheaper by reusing old tooling/old rifled muskets. In both cases that was wrong and they had to make new. At which point they could have gone with a totally newly designed piece anyway.

  9. the going rate for an M14 at chu lai in 1963 was a dozen M16’s, or 30 M3 greaseguns.

    my dad traded an extra M14 for 30 greaseguns, and they put them in the trucks. the seabees had the problem that they’d get hit really close, and you couldn’t swing that M14 in the cab, much less get it out of the bracket.

    • There was no such thing as an M16 before type classification in November of ‘63, which must have inflated the going rate somewhat. Hoorah Seabees (Marvin Shields battalion alumnus here)

  10. Who fire-selector contraption has 180 degrees or so between modes to be optimal? Could mode be detected reliable without directly seeing it (i.e. only using fingers)?

    • Look closely at the selector. It has a little triangular “prong” at one end.

      “Prong” end up; full-auto select.

      “Prong” end down; single-shot select.

      Of course, that assumes anybody bothered to explain that to the grunts in qualification. I learned it from a master sergeant who stated that it never got mentioned, even in the manual.


      Illustrated? Yes- badly enough that it’s almost impossible to discern.

      Mentioned? Not even once.

      Ever since then (i.e. for the last half-century), I’ve wondered how much of the Army’s problems with the M14 were due to innate problems with the rifle, and how much were due to fundamental shortcomings in troop training on the rifle.

      clear ether


    • Daweo. The selector was not a problem. The troops weren’t supposed to switch between semi-auto and auto. Every fire team had a designated Automatic Rifleman, who would set his weapon to auto before the battle, everyone one else (besides the grenadiers) were supposed to have their weapons on semi to take aimed shots and leave ’em on semi. You may say “that’s stupid'”, but it was the doctrine, it’s what the manual said and what Fort Benning taught.

      • IOW, the Garand/BAR infantry squad doctrine all over again.

        Weren’t most of the M14s locked on semi-auto, and required some sort of “key” (in the possession of an armorer) to unlock them?



        • I don’t know about there being a “key” for the M14, but this is not unheard of. When you reach that point, it is an admission that there was something wrong with the whole system concept, though nobody will make that admission.

          • A lot of commands had their armorers simply remove the switch from the M14s before issuing them, and held those at company level, occasionally issuing them out to squad leaders to install in the field as needed…

            Kinda nutso way to do it, but… Yeah. It was a nutso kind of weapon.

          • The “semi-lock” is a different, round button that is fitted instead of the “selector lever”.

            What it does is force the long, external actuator bar forward so that it cannot be “driven” by the cut-away notch on the operating rod. Simply removing the actuator will do the job, but it leaves a gap in the “rail” on the right side and this will chew up the lug on the op-rod that rides in that track. That was one of the “weaknesses of the Norinco 305 They took all the “naughty bits” off but left the “gap required to mount the op-rod into the body. Some judicious gun-plumbing ( “fill” the gap and machine a new take-down notch a la the M1-Garand, and the problem disappears. The “semi-only button will ONLY fit on when the selector has been set to “semi” so that the internal components of the system cannot trip the release of the hammer. All very cute,but ultimately, an abomination.

            The M-14M ( match edition) and the (X)M-21 were basically target rifles, with the M-21 still hanging on in places that may still have a few Olde-Worlde gun plumbers and a big box of spare parts.

            When the Italians did their BM-59 series, they had the nerve to put the actuator arm “inside. I suspect that the engineers at Beretta had some experience with the “afterthought engineering of the M2 Carbine.The BM-59 is what the M-14 could have been without the monstrous expense of a lot of new tooling. The Indonesian version soldiered on until quite recently. And that is an entire other story.

    • At Camp Perry in 1967, we were given an introductory trial of the M-16. They were range issue weapons- lots of wear. No forward assist, and painted green. I got into a tight prone with sling, and the sergeant yelled at me, and told me I’d bend it. We were only given 10 shots, due to the ammo going to Viet Nam. I liked the M-14 National Match much better.

      • Bill Sullivan said:

        “I got into a tight prone with sling…”

        Aaand here we are: This is the fundamental problem with the entire concept of the M14 and that Camp Perry simulation of modern war. The fallacy is that you’re going to have an enemy that cooperates with you killing them by skylining themselves out in the open, that they’re going to be easily visible, and that they’re going to hang around long enough for you to take up a perfect shooting solution to kill them… Camp Perry is a lot of neat things, and all, but the one thing it is emphatically not is an accurate simulation of modern combat.

        The M14 is the perfect weapon for Camp Perry; the M16, however? The superior weapon for how we actually fight. Could it be better? Sure; I can think of a half-dozen things I’d do differently. But, the raw fact remains that the M14 was not, and never could be, a really effective combat weapon for war as it was fought mid-20th Century.


        If you read this thread, particularly the first post by the gentleman who wrote it, you get a really good idea of what actual modern combat is, and what you need in a rifle for it. It ain’t “get down and tight into the sling and shoot at 600m target”; it’s more “Clear buildings and close terrain up close and personal…”

        The fantasy mission undertaken by your average shooter who idolizes the M14? That mission more rightly belongs to the machinegun. Why? Because if you can acquire a target at those ranges out beyond 300m, odds are really good that you’re only seeing the one guy out of a squad-sized element who was stupid enough or unfortunate enough to be seen. In order to actually, y’know… Win at the “war” thing, you need to take out that entire squad. And, you ain’t doing that with a single precision shot from your individual rifle. You need to engage that bastard with your MG and mortar team, on the off chance that you’ll take him out, and several of his buddies. By shooting that one guy who screwed up, with your uber-rifle? Guess what? You just did the enemy a solid favor and screwed yourself. You did them a favor because you just took out Abu Hajaar, and you screwed yourself because those guys you missed are going to have learned why staying camouflaged and out of sight is critical to survival. You just ran a miniature training course for them…

        You want to win wars? You don’t shoot at idiots that expose themselves at 600m. You alert your MG team, and tell them to take that idiot out, and on spec, anything and everything else in his immediate area. Your rifle is not a “precision weapon for eliminating the enemy”, it’s a tool for you to survive close-in combat and provide security for the actual killing tools your squad has, like the MG, the mortar, and the RTO.

        Sad fact of life for the gravel-bellied ilk, but there it is. Their replication of modern combat at Camp Perry? It isn’t one. The majority of those targets, were they trying to replicate what a modern infantryman does? They’d be up close and personal, rapid reaction scenarios like skeet shooting, and all those long-range targets would require nothing more than the infantryman to inform his boss about where they are, because those targets are not properly for the individual

        • We were told that the competition shooting wasn’t to simulate combat conditions, but to work our bugs in the equipment or ammo under controlled conditions. Again, those conditions were based around Europe and open fields. And bunkers. All not seen again until Ukraine, where everybody is once again learning that most people get hurt or killed by explosives. And speaking of close range skeet shooting, we now have drones. M-14 is useless against them.

          • Yeah, they told us that, but… What sort of rifle did they wind up procuring? The ideal rifle for winning Camp Perry…

            Training requires simulation. Simulation that has to be at least vaguely congruent with the realities of what you’re training, and you have to be super-careful not to allow the fidelity with reality evaporate from your training simulations and scenarios. The same sort of thing that happened to our rifle marksmanship for combat is matched by what happened over in IPSC shooting with the handgun… When it started out, the idea was “Shoot with duty handgun and holster…” By the time a few years had gone by, the weirdoes had gamified the whole thing out of recognition, and everyone was shooting “race guns” and running skeletonized holsters, neither of which anyone in their right mind would be carrying for daily use.

            The Camp Perry mentality warped the procurement world, and it did so because they lost fidelity with what actual infantry riflemen need to do in combat, which is a hell of a lot closer to the ideas of IPSC than they are of what we call “National Match” shooting. Were you to have Camp Perry doing an accurate and honest measurement of what the modern infantry rifleman ought to be doing? The shooter would be running and gunning, going through shoot houses, and then graded on target spotting out past 300m coupled with doing reporting and fire correction as a part of a team including crew-served and indirect fire weapons…

            Because, that is how modern war is conducted. To make believe that PFC Joe Schmedlap is going to win the war by taking pretty little headshots out at 600-800m? That’s purest fantasy; if you’ve somehow managed to have the heir to Carlos Hathcock’s legacy assigned to your fire team, then maybe that’d be realistic. As it is? Nope. That’s not how it works, and encouraging this crap is how we keep losing wars.

            Here’s an analogy: If you keep thinking that war is just whack-a-mole, onesies and twosies at a time? You’re going to lose. You need to think of that one mole popping his head up as being just the one you can see, and instead of whacking him on the head with a hammer, you need to call in an airstrike and take out the whole goddamn hillside. Get a bigger hammer, in other words. Encouraging people to shoot at targets past 300m is counterproductive; even if they can, those are targets that absolutely need to be addressed by area fires. Period.

            Unless, of course, you view war as some deranged game. Then, you do you, and I’ll sit here and watch you eventually lose the war.

            This is the point I kept raising in Iraq, with regards to all the little piddly “encounters” our logistics convoys were having. The enemy was using those half-ass ambushes as training and confidence-building exercises, and every time our loggies blew through those ambushes and drove on, they were encouraging the enemy. Had they been “doing it right”, every time the loggies took fire, we would have stopped, pinned the enemy down, and then run them the f*ck down until we’d either killed all of them or left the survivors so traumatized that they never raised a hand against us again. Instead? We ran a multi-year training course for the insurgents.

            Utter. F*cking. Folly. That’s not how you win wars; you win wars by killing the enemy, period. So… Take a headshot at 600m? Wrong, utterly wrong: You have your MG team drop a few nice heavy bursts, and for good measure, have your mortar team drop a round or two in for good measure. Anything else? You’re not fighting a war, you’re playing a game.

          • Those open fields are almost non-existent in practice.
            There are relatively few places in Europe where you can see someone standing in broad daylight at 300m distance (and, in those, usually there is nothing valuable to fight for), unless he purposely places himself on the most elevated spot around or right in the middle of a straight road. In all the others, there is something in between.

          • Main US problem in Afghanistan came from not having propper 7.62×51 LMG and DMR in each rifle section. If they did there would have been zero talk about “overmatch”, since those two weapons cause something like 75% of casualties caused by the rifle section at ranges up the 500m. At extended range that number would go even more up, up the their terminal effectiveness range of about 800m (bipod mounted LMG simply can not create good beaten zones at longer ranges).
            Brits went to Afghanistan with all 5.56 rifle section (2 x Minimi, 2 x L86, 4 x L85), their LMG gunners started carriyng MAGs, despite it weighting like two Minimis because it was effective. They got DMR to squads also. And complains about “being outranged” have stopped.

          • @Bojan,

            Yeah, I keep harping on that MG tripod thing for a damn reason…

            The US Army has a huge blind spot when it comes to the MG and MG team. They don’t get the most out of what they’ve got because of improper and inadequate training, coupled with an insouciant idea that the tripod is a fixed-defense only sort of thing. You show a senior commander what can be done with a better tripod like the one the Danes put under the Madsen back in the 1930s, which became the same tripod the Germans used from those years into the present, and their little piggy eyes glaze over because it’s too esoteric a topic for their highly rarefied and evolved minds to encompass…

            I’ve had that conversation, several times. They never once “got it”, and so we’ve never had anyone ask for better tripods, so no “need” paperwork was ever generated and thus, no new tripods… Vicious circle, that.

            I’m reasonably certain that every one of the issues identified for the NGSW program to “fix” could have been addressed by better, more realistic training and some judicious purchases of proper gun team equipment. There’s absolutely no need for a modern version of the Lafette to weigh more than maybe 10-15 kilos and be way more portable than it already is. But, we don’t have such a thing because nobody with the authority also possesses either the cunning or the knowledge to know any better…

            System’s broke, yo…

        • I will only observe that in this specific scenario, the shooter may have observed more fire discipline, but also, having achieved hits on each target, might have found them to be more satisfactory, i.e, the second guy doesn’t get up and paralyze him.

          • If you’re talking about the link I posted, the problem I was trying to illustrate is the more accurate way his experience demonstrates what the actual requirements are for a combat rifle. The reality is not shooting a National Match course at extended range; most of those targets should be addressed by crew-served and support weapons. Assuming you want to win the war, that is…

            The actual role of a combat infantryman’s rifle is dealing with the up-close and personal, clearing trenches, buildings, and close-in terrain. If he’s ever in a position to even take a 600m shot, someone’s fundamentally mistaken what they’re doing, and that shot should be addressed by something in the range of an MG, minimum.

            The other sad fact about that vignette from M4carbine.net is that the poor bastard writing it was betrayed by his trainers. I don’t know where the hell the bubble was lost, but my former Marine Vietnam-vet mentors when I was a private were some of the ones teaching me all about the right way to run a rifle under fire; and they’d beaten that into me to the point that to the day I retired, I periodically practiced running through every magazine on my web gear while maintaining eyes-on my environment. I’m not saying I would have done better than he did, in that situation, but I was certainly better prepared to survive it than he was.

            And, it goes back to that “Maintain fidelity with reality” thing for your training. His trainers mistakenly focused their training for the rifle on those edge-case 600m shots; meanwhile, the real world was waiting at less than 30m, and he should have been preparing for that by doing immediate action and reload drills until his hands bled and he could do it semi-conscious. As well, they should have taught him to constantly evaluate his environment and identify then eliminate any threats in sequence of how much of a threat they represent…

            There’s a lot to unpack in that one thread, but I remain convinced of what I’m saying here: The way you win wars is not by relying on your individual riflemen shooting things past 300m or so… At least, not on a regular basis.

          • I think my interest is in the greater killing power of a larger round, at whatever range. If small arms are just for squirting in phone booths and breaking contact, I’ve got another idea.

            How about simulators? SFX machines generating weapons like effects. Or instead of “every 5 a tracer” on MG belts, why not every 5 a live round? Save money with blanks-they could be made of rolling paper for all it matters.

            Or just issue SMGs with noise enhancement so a MAC-10 sounds like an MG42. Cheapest best, make it a .22 LR. America leads the World in belt fed rimfire machine guns. Get that Tippmann Gatling and put it on a power drill. Hey, nobody wants to get hit with a .22, right?

          • @Nichevo,

            I get your frustration, but… The thing that has to be remembered about infantry rifle combat is that it’s a lot more like that vignette from M4carbine.net than it is like Camp Perry. You give the infantry a great big honking “one shot; one kill” rifle that they can’t maneuver with, that’s hard to get on target for snap shots at seriously close range?

            You are probably going to kill more of them that way then you are because you gave them that “mouse gun” M16/M4.

            This is why I’m no longer a believer in the things I thought when I was young. Back when, I thought that it’d be way better to have a heavy rifle and cartridge that could “reliably put them down”. Now? Not so much… I recognize now that “putting them down” is more a systems thing than anything else, and that your systems should include the MG team for anything out past 300m, with those bigger cartridges doing the necessary. Up close? 5.56mm is adequate, and I’m morally certain that the “desire path” for infantry combat is going to continue to run through the M4 more than it is the M7. Why? Lighter, handier, and far easier to use in the close-in fight.

            As for your other suggestions? I think I’ve pointed out that a considerable fraction of the actual impact of a given weapon is psychological, which means that while a silencer is nice… Occasionally, what you really need and want to have is a “loudener”, to increase the impact on the enemy’s mind. I’ve often wondered why the hell they don’t have standard “effects packages” like we used with the Ruperts in Normandy, if only to be able to confuse the enemy during an attack or defense.

            Of course, that sort of thing is more what a real professional military would think of, procure, and use. Ours? Not so much… We can’t even get out of our own way buying basic rifles.

        • I like how you specified “mid-20th century.” Unconventional war means that whatever poor folks are being invaded by a Great Power will develop whatever tactics disrupts the rigid doctrines that the Great Power necessarily imposes on forces it sends to intervene worldwide. Unsurprisingly those tactics are dependent on local culture and physical conditions. And since the mid-20th century was the age of decolonization, a disproportionate # of those interventions involved equatorial nations with lots of forests and jungles that impeded tanks and artillery. In the late 20th century, the new friction point between 1st and 3rd Worlds became Islamic militancy, and Moslems are disproportionately located in the great dry regions from Morocco to Pakistan, many also mountainous. But also the new universal 3rd World condition, densely populated cities.

          Which is why Vietnamese insurgency whipsawed US doctrine one way, and Iraqi insurgency the other and Afghan insurgency the third.

          Weapons must adapt to biospheres.

          • What was true in the bocage of Normandy was true in the jungles of Vietnam…

            Either way you looked at it, the US Army was abysmal at generating fire dominance against the German MG-centric doctrine. Absent support arms like armor and ground-attack aircraft, the conditions of that part of WWII would have resulted in some really nasty casualty levels for the US with its rifleman-centered doctrine.

            I don’t think that the conditions the US encountered in Afghanistan would have been all that confusing or challenging to German Alpenjager; as a matter of fact, I think that they’d have dominated there as they did in the Pamir Mountains. The thing was, they had superior doctrine and technique for a small-arms centered fight, and even with their riflemen carrying bolt-actions, I think the Afghans would have gotten their faces pushed in by the MG42 teams and mortars. Mainly because the Germans would have absolutely plastered anything within about the 2000m range with heavy, accurate MG fire and mortars, both delivered at speed from the march. I’ve seen film of German Alpenjager having a tripod-mounted MG in action within less than a minute, and delivering heavy fires 1500m away on unsuspecting Soviet troops they encountered in a meeting engagement in the mountains. If they could do that then, they could have done that in Afghanistan, and I would wager that they’d have been more effective than our own troops would have been, everywhere where we chose to make the ROE too restrictive to really use supporting fires.

            If you’re going to restrict yourself to small arms, then you had better make sure your small arms, their doctrine, and the training actually, y’know… Work.

            Ours does not, and it’s got nothing to do with “overmatch”, and a lot more to do with how we’ve de-emphasized things like the MG team and light mortars. None of the problems with what we faced in Afghanistan could not have been addressed by more and better training, and some judicious re-equipment choices in terms of things like tripods and accessory equipment for the gun teams. When you go out with just bipods, no binoculars and no rangefinders in the gun teams? You’re programming to fail. And, we did.

  11. Perhaps 1 million of the Taiwan Type 57 rifle (copy of M14) were made.
    I wonder what became of them all? Still stored in some Taiwan military depot?
    Wouldn’t it be grand if under more reasonable USA gun-control laws, all those old rifles could be reimported back into the USA?

    • Brad:

      Depends if they are selective fire. As things stand with China, I think Taiwan ought to hold on to them.

      • The profit the Taiwan government could make by selling obsolete Type 57 rifles to the USA market, could pay for an even greater number of modern Type 91 assault-rifles in replacement!

        As far as the USA gun-control laws, well, those might change quite dramatically for the better, within the next ten years.

  12. Army Ordnance has a long and storied history of screwing up rifle designs. Their one sterling success in almost two centuries came from copying the 1898 Mauser to the point of having to pay for patent infringement. They wouldn’t have needed the M14 at all if they hadn’t make John Garand change from a detachable magazine to an en-bloc clip.

    • Probably even better if the Garand design had stayed in its .276 Pederson calibre. with its TEN round en-bloc clip or with a detachable mage.

      Eight rounds in .30-06?

      PURELY to keep the “clean” lines of a parade rifle. The Germans and the Russians eventually cottoned on to “serious” detachable mags.

    • Misfit:

      I agree about Ordnance. If they had adopted the FAL, as they should, there would have been no M16, because the FAL is a good rifle, and I expect SAC would have adopted it, instead of the AR15.

      I find it amusing that the longest lived rifle in US service, the AR family, was adopted by accident and had nothing to do with the Ordnance Board.

      • I doubt SAC would have wanted the FAL. The FAL comes in at 9.4 pounds and 43 inches. The AR-15 was three pounds lighter and 5 inches shorter. A lot lighter for a shift as close-in sentry for an alert bomber, and easier to get in and out of a pickup or SUV if you’re on an alarm or a security response team.

      • If they’d have adopted the FAL in either the original .280 British or the 7mm Liviano, they’d still be on issue today.

        In 7.62 NATO? I think everyone would have eventually come to their senses, recognized that 7.62 NATO was an adequate GPMG round, and that the individual weapon needed something else… For the US, that realization would have hit sometime in the 1960s in Vietnam, and for everyone else, once they amortized the expenses of the FAL in 7.62 NATO.

        You have to keep in mind that we got two failures in one with the M14: One was the rifle, for a multitude of reasons, and the other, bigger one was the cartridge. Single-caliber “One size suits all” design philosophy works out to a real-world iteration of “a jack of all trades, master of none…”

        They’d have figured that out. Eventually.

        • Woulda coulda shoulda had the AR-10 if not for the toy barrel. What FAL? And sure, do it in . 280, etc.

  13. Let’s face it. The US Army Ordnance Corps screwed up so badly at actually designing weapons to meet different infantry engagement scenarios from 1914 through 1949 that they gave other development teams the opportunity to shine in other NATO armies. What could the FAL in its original caliber do that the M14 couldn’t do? PLENTY! What could something like the Rheinmetall MG3 and its supporting kit do that the M60 couldn’t do? PLENTY! And yet the US Army keeps paying the armchair nitwits in charge of arms procurement go on about how “every soldier a perfect shot, every shot kills an enemy” is the best doctrine ever. To me, the production costs for bullets that don’t kill an enemy pale in comparison to the burial costs (AND LIFE INSURANCE PAYOUTS) for friendlies who get killed trying to line up “picture-perfect movie kill shots” while standing straight up or while lying on gravel in plain sight of the enemy. I call BS on rifle-centric doctrine as a taxpayer. In fact, I’d like plenty of those tax dollars back. I could be wrong.

    Unrelated: I once read a horrible (“horrible” being an extreme understatement) WWII fiction featuring a squad of “US Special Army Service” men trying to raid what they believed to be an undefended supply depot during the Battle of the Bulge in BROAD DAYLIGHT. It turned out to be a heavily defended tank repair stop. 1 dozen “bog standard” GIs, WITHOUT ANY SUPPORT OF ANY KIND, selected for their state-side performance on rifle ranges versus two companies’ worth of pissed off German soldiers with machineguns, mortars, and TANKS. It SHOULD have ended with the Americans machinegunned to death, with their vaunted M1 Garand rifles STUFFED UP THEIR ASSES. Instead, somehow the constantly goose-stepping Germans are dumb enough not to notice the GIs waltzing around literally juggling live frag grenades and get their butts blown up for their trouble. You may cringe now.

    • Which is the reason I don’t read “war novels”, and don’t watch “war movies”. Every time they get something wrong or do something stupid, I want to throw the book at the wall, throw something at the TV or both.

      Do not get me started on Alistair MacLean’s “war” or “spy” novels. Just. Don’t. They’re even farther out in la-la land than Ian Fleming’s.

      Gordon Rottman did a very good book on this sort of thing;


      His “review” of The Guns of Navarone (1961, based on a novel by, yes, A.M.) is a hoot. Because it’s absolutely devastating in its accuracy.

      He demolishes a lot of myths in that book. But then he is also the author of the Osprey books on the M16, the RPG, and several other light weapons.

      In the M16 book he goes into great detail on the ways Ordnance sabotaged the AR15 trials, to make it fail so their pet M14 would remain the standard service rifle. Thanks to Armalite’s staff outmaneuvering Ordnance at every turn (i.e. fixing what Ord deliberately f**ked up), the AR won anyway.

      clear ether


      • You have to see them as slapstick comedies.
        The final battle of “Fury” is funnier than “Hot Shots”.

        • Dog:

          You are right about Fury. A good film, but any tank crew in their situation, with the tank knocked out, would have just got the hell out of there. Who could blame them?

  14. Guide rod as magazine catch is really nice “novel” dual use part. Who knows any such other examples ?

    • I always thought that that was one of the M14’s more questionable “features”.

      Look at the front magazine “hook” on the AK. Welded in place, isn’t going to move, ever. Hook the front catch of the magazine on it, rotate it up and in, snap- it’s seated and isn’t going anywhere.

      Now consider the M14. The guide rod has to be free to move at least slightly to avoid binding the spring. So that front “catch” is constantly in motion, at least to some extent.

      In doing so, it is also constantly in moving contact with other parts; the receiver, the magazine, etc. That sort of movement leads to battering over time. It also leads to work-hardening and embrittlment.

      Sooner or later, that piece is going to fail. Most likely a stress fracture, meaning it breaks off.

      The rear magazine catch might hold the magazine in place against recoil and bolt movement. Then again, it might not.

      Instead, it might dump the magazine at your feet, leaving you with a self-ejecting single-shot rifle. This might put you one up on somebody with a Trapdoor Springfield, but nobody else.

      Pretty much everything about the M14 was a kludge, based on the principle of “How can we get away with not changing the M1 Garand so we can build the new rifle on the existing machinery?”

      Most of the resulting “design features” were dubious at best. This is just one more example IMPO.

      clear ether


      • Eon, I agree that the interface between sheetmetal punched hole in magazine and that guiderod latch is flawed, it should be at least in the front of magazine reinforced with another layer spot welded, or better yet, have an L ramp like in AK mag.

    • The operating spring of the .30 cal M1 Rifle, not only powered the return cycle of the breech-bolt and operating-rod, the operating spring also powered the follower of the ammunition magazine.

      More simply, there was no magazine spring in the M1 rifle. The operating-rod spring did that job! One rifle spring did two jobs.

      • John C. Garand had the same basic philosophy as John M. Browning. “Never use two parts where one part will do.”

        The only drawback is that having one part do two different jobs, often at opposite ends, generally doubles the mechanical stress on that one part. So you’re dependent on extremely good metallurgy and machining as insurance against failure at the proverbial Just The Wrong Moment.

        The M14, a Garand design extrapolated in a direction Garand had not anticipated when he designed it, for the most part had neither extremely good metallurgy or machining. And it suffered as a consequence.

        Incidentally, having dealt with original M14s (mainly Springfield made), Springfield Armory “M1As”, and Norinco-made “M14SAs”, the reason for the accuracy bois’ love affair with the M1A is easy for me to understand.

        Take an M1A apart and your realize that every one was/is a hand-built masterpiece of custom rifle making. In terms of internal polishing etc. they make the M21 DMR look like a hunk of junk banged together by an apprentice while the blacksmith was out on a call.

        Everything about an M1A is light-years out in front of every other M14 variant ever manufactured anywhere. That’s why it works.

        The problem with the M14 as a service rifle is that it’s just not possible to mass-produce the M14, or really any service rifle, to that standard.

        It’s the French M1897 75mm field gun, aka the “French 75” of WW1 all over again. As U.S. manufacturers found out when they were contracted to produce it “Over Here” for use by the AEF and the French Army “Over There”, the “secret” of the “75” (which in fact was Top Secret in the French military) was the exceptionally fine tolerances inside its recoil system. All due to each and every one being literally hand-built.

        It was a beautiful piece of mechanical art, but it was not mass-producible. American-built examples (some of which were still in service at the beginning of WW2) generally had redesigned recoil systems that actually could be mass-produced by American production-line methods.

        (Ian Hogg goes into all this in detail in The Guns 1914-18, a book I cannot recommend too highly.)

        The M14 has the same problem. It has to be built to the level of a fine custom sporting rifle, and ruggedized to combat standards, to function at all.

        Once again it’s the “Accuracy, Reliability, Durability; Choose Any Two” problem all over again.

        M14 just is not a design that can easily achieve that two out of three at a reasonable cost as a service rifle.

        The M16 can. But then it was primarily designed by engineers used to designing parts for aircraft. Which is a different design path entirely.

        The AK can. But it was designed by a man used to working on agricultural tractors. Poorly-built ones, at that.

        The M14 was designed by an insular group of in-house specialists who were mainly engaged in telling each other how smart they were. Springfield Armory was a clerisy like one of the architectural “compounds” described by Tom Wolfe in his seminal book From Bauhaus to Our House (1981).

        (Read it, even if you don’t care two cents’ worth about “modern architecture”; it shows just how badly American society was served by that sort of attitude through most of the last century, and not just in “architecture”.)

        The moral is that you don’t let clerisies design anything you will need to fight a war with.

        For that matter, you don’t let clerisies design anything people really need to use. (EVs anyone?)

        clear ether


        • I’ve heard similar things from people who had to keep the guns going. The M14 is a lot like the M60, in that the end users didn’t see half the bullshit that had to go on in the background in order to keep their weapons functional.

          That old CW4 told me that they spent an enormous amount of time doing work on the M14 that they hadn’t had to do on the M1, and which was also unnecessary on the M16.

          I think a lot of it had to do with the production machinery. The original “selling point” was that they could do the M14 on M1 machinery with slight jiggery-pokery to make it work. The reality was that the M14 really required updated and all-new machinery to make it efficiently. Part of the reason that it took so long to ramp up production was that they were having to go in piecemeal and replace machinery and update techniques as they encountered problems. There was an article I read years ago by one of the production engineers at either Winchester or H&R that said they’d basically been playing a game of whack-a-mole, and by the time it was all over, they’d basically just recapped what TRW was doing and built an all-new production line. Just in time for it all to get shut down… There are reasons that the Taiwanese had a better time of it with making the M14 than we did… They bought what amounted to a brand-new package of machinery with all the bugs worked out.

          I’d love to see a contrast between the Italian BM-59 program and the M14. It would be fascinating to see where the Italians did things differently in order to produce such massively different results. As best I can tell from what limited resources I have, the BM-59 is basically the rifle that the US military was getting ready to issue at the end of WWII… A box-magazine Garand. I’ve never heard whether or not there was cross-fertilization, but from what has been related to me apocryphally, there were Italian engineers that came over and did sabbaticals at various M1 Garand plants at the end of the war. Did they get wind of the adapted Garand and take the ideas back to Italy with them?

          • Beretta started by making the M1 in .30-06 under license. That production system was in progress from 1946 to 1954.

            By 1955, they’d seen the advent of the 7.62 x 51mm NATO cartridge coming, and were modifying their domestically-produced Garands to use it.

            When it came time for a new infantry rifle in 7.62 x 51mm with a detachable box magazine, they simply copied the magazine and catch of the then-new FN FAL. Figuring that FN had already done the scutwork of designing and validating a workable twenty or thirty-round magazine.

            The shorter barrel and gas tube of what became the BM59/62 series was taken directly from Springfield’s “Tanker Garand” prototypes of 1944-45. The 7.62 NATO cartridge, being based on the .300 Savage, did not and still does not need as long a barrel for complete propellant combustion as the .30-06.

            Nor does it need a flash suppressor, as Springfield insisted the M14 did. That tubular “flash suppressor” found on most BM59s is in fact a permanently mounted grenade spigot for the MECAR rifle grenade that became NATO standard in 1961.

            The BM59/62 series was a good example of “adaptive evolution” in small arms design. And Beretta and the Italian government spent a lot less on it than the U.S. Department of Defense did on the M14.



          • Maybe they heard there had been attempts to make a magazine-fed, select-fire Garand, but I tend to exclude any direct lineage (while the M14 is a direct descendant of the Springfield T20, that already had, IE, the will-be M14 fire selector).
            Looking at the modifications:
            The magazine locking system (and the inclination of the magazine itself) is unique to the BM59. Also because the Ordnance wanted the magazine-fed Garands to use magazines that could be used on the BAR also(the contrary was not mandatory).
            Various muzzle brakes had been studied for the prototypes, but none similar to the tri-compensator. None also had the BM59’s gas-cutoff/grenade sight, nor the winter-trigger / grenade-trigger.
            The selector of the BM59 is simply the one of the M2 Carbine, adapted to the M1 trigger group. None of the prototypes used it.
            Also, none of the prototypes straightened the op-rod of the Garand like the BM59 did.
            For the rest, it’s a M1 rifle (apart for the bipod). The long 30-06 receiver turned out to be an advantage, since it reduced the fire-rate a bit, and gave to the recoil spring a bit more space to slow down the bolt.

          • @ Eon

            I don’t think the guys at Beretta thought about few prototypes of “tanker Garand) when they shortened the barrel of the M1. They simply had to shorten the barrel because they needed space for the tri-compensator, infact the BM59 is just 5mm shorter than a M1 rifle. Incidentally the barrel length of the BM59 is almost exactly mid-way between the FAL and the CETME/G3 (so it would have worked for sure).
            Also the gas tube is different, since, as already said, the guys at Beretta straightened the M1 op rod, that was still bent in all the “tanker” prototypes. An original BM59 is always spotted by the distance between the barrel and the gas tube.

          • It makes sense that by the time of M14 adoption, machinery that made garands was worn out and old, thus you actually, by idea of “we can use the same” get a detriment in that using this old stuff scrap rate climbs.

          • @ Storm
            It has to be said that tooling in the ’50s had become a lot less cumbersome and easier to produce than in the ’30s, and more accurate.
            Infact, Beretta, that received the Winchester tooling for the M1 Garand, used it only to understand the sequence of the operations, before making a new set of tooling for production. So did Breda. The Danish soldiers, that received both Beretta and Breda made M1, preferred the Breda made. Because the Breda rifles were made with all new and impeccably finished parts, while the Beretta ones were made with a mix of new parts and US made wartime spare parts, made on those old tools and much more roughly finished.

      • Brad, I didnt know that, its very interesting!
        I contemplated myself how the force of the bolt recoil is wasted and could be used to augment the magazine action.

  15. Nobody expected MacNamara. He was an outsider to the big governement bureaucracy machine and coming from car industry management had no scruples to shut down a department, if it did not deliver the results he expected. Be it a big car factory with tens of thousands of workers or an army arsenal with thousands of workers and soldiers. A car manager. Wasn’t he one of the wizkids that reformed Ford Motor Company with hard cuts? There is iirc also the McNamara fallacy named after him for looking too much at statistics nad numbers and not what os actually happening in reality.

    • MacNamara gets a bad rap for the M16. It worked just fine (as the AR15) until Ordnance got around to fiddling with it. Also, “Mac” never paid close enough attention to the piss-poor QC at Lake City, and the subsequent problems with M193 ball manufactured there.

      What he will really BIH for, IMHO, was the F-111/TFX. He took a superb, single purpose, medium range all-weather interdiction/bomber platform and tried to turn it into a naval fleet defense interceptor. WTF?

      It was completely unsuited to the job, which is what any halfway-qualified aeronautical engineer would have expected. It was of course what led to the superb Grumman F-14, which was suited to the job. Unfortunately, it was also a maintenance nightmare.

      In the end, the job (and most jobs in offensive/defensive naval aviation) are now being done by the F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornet. Aka “Grandson Of F-4 Phantom II”. Which is, as they say, no more complicated than it absolutely needs to be.

      “Mac” probably would not have understood.

      clear ether


      • MacNamara was one of the earlier iterations of MBA-fueled idjit class autist “experts” that have come to infest and destroy most American enterprise. His ideological acolytes are the ones responsible for destroying first McDonnell-Douglas and now Boeing.

        The thing that just floors me with these idiots is how they keep repeating the same failures everywhere they go, and nobody calls them on it. Ever.

        Go down to a local business that’s doing fairly well. The owner tells me, proudly, that he just brought aboard a certified gee-whiz business manager, a full-fledged school-trained MBA. He’s gonna “professionalize” the company, and make it even more successful… Or, so the owner thinks.

        I had to ask him, how he thought it was going to turn out, when the very thing that enabled his success was a couple of his competitors doing what he just did, and embracing modern MBA management techniques… I dunno if I changed his plans, but he did get a certain look to his eyes, when I pointed that out.

        The “I can manage anything; I have an MBA” mentality is demonstrably false. You can see it everywhere, and the root of the problem is what Henry Ford said about his accountants: They’re men that know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

        Henry Ford may have been a lot of things, but the one thing that he was good at was production engineering and building his business. Outside those realms, I would not listen to him, but within them? I’m listening…

  16. Main US problem in Afghanistan came from not having propper 7.62×51 LMG and DMR in each rifle section. If they did there would have been zero talk about “overmatch”, since those two weapons cause something like 75% of casualties caused by the rifle section at ranges up the 500m. At extended range that number would go even more up, up the their terminal effectiveness range of about 800m (bipod mounted LMG simply can not create good beaten zones at longer ranges).
    Brits went to Afghanistan with all 5.56 rifle section (2 x Minimi, 2 x L86, 4 x L85), their LMG gunners started carriyng MAGs, despite it weighting like two Minimis because it was effective. They got DMR to squads also. And complains about “being outranged” have stopped.

    • It’s not just the “carry the M240B” thing, either. Lots of units went outside the wire with their M240Bs… What they didn’t take outsider that wire were good, easily adaptable tripods, the necessary kit like binos with reticles, and rangefinders. I don’t think I’ve talked to a single M240 crew that had binos or rangefinders with them, and the majority left their tripods behind.

      The odd guy out who can deliver precision beaten zones out to 1200m off his shoulder, the average gun crew cannot. So, by not taking the necessaries with them, the infantry basically created their very own “overmatch scenario” before they walked out the gate.

      It’s a training and equipment problem, more than anything else. There’s not a hell of a lot to choose from, in between a PKM and an M240. Other than the PKM is a lot lighter and easier to haul around… So, to say that your M240B team was “overmatched” is simply to say that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing with the guns…

      Which is all too often the case. Interesting point to be made here, and an ironic one: A lot of the time, the supporting arms are better with their MG teams than the actual US Army infantry. Why? Because those guns are all we have, not being tied into the support fires network organically. Put an Engineer platoon out, by themselves? They’ve got to rely on their MG, sooooo… That concentrates the mind, wonderfully. It’s one reason why I put so much time into mine. An Infantry platoon sergeant has a goddamn cornucopia of support to pick and choose from, so he isn’t as focused on those machineguns as he probably should be.

      Hell, if you gave me the chance? I’d have had a 60mm mortar or two with me, and used that enthusiastically to provide job site security. Especially in places like Afghanistan. However, the MTOE gods do not allow such things to happen… I’d have still done my best to “borrow” a team or two from whoever we were supporting. MGs and mortars, so very, very nice…

  17. Much talk of the M1 Carbine and its .30 caliber ammunition. I am thinking that a submachine gun in .30 Carbine would have been a winner. Yes, the M2 Carbine was full auto, but not the normal form factor of a SMG. There were attempts at building such, but they never went much of anywhere. An interesting road not taken.

  18. I thought that damn M14 is used to qualify was a piece of junk I did every thing right with the knobs sigthinh in hit the target gret in prone and the sitting position by then I wasw getting the right number then i wound shot off hand and things wouldn’t go right I alwas thought was the weight with 20 rounds in mag but I was down to two /three and less weight what was gonna be in nine ring became a 7 or what gfonna a 8 went to 6 I made mayself that damn rifle steady But I went thru four platoons before I qualified as marksman the basic rifle class of the USMC i Wish I knew who made that piece of junk it wasn’t accurant at all Ilike the M 16 a hold better light weight carry more ammo who needs accurancy flip on auto and that great!

  19. 17:48 “Oh, by the way – if this trigger mechanism looks very much like the AK, it is, because Kalashnikov relied very much on it” should read “Oh, BTW – if this trigger mechanism looks identical to the French RSC – it is, because Garand copied it”

  20. As one who qualified ‘sharpshooter’ at Fort Ord with the M14, I must say that I experienced no problems. The weapon worked fine.

    • From all the comments I get the impression that the manufacturing quality of individual M14s was all over the place. You may have gotten lucky and gotten a good one.

  21. I qualified with the M14 one time during my initial training in 1969. The M14s we used were semi-automatic only. Some had nylon stocks at least I thought they were nylon. They were not wood. The one I used was wood, we had a mix of wood and nylon stocks. Why I do not know. One issue with the M14 was the kick. I had fired M1 and in fact I own one that I got from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The M1 does not kick like the M14. The next time I qualified was with the M16 so no kick issues.
    There is a rumor going around that CMP has M14 (semi-auto only) but is waiting permission to sell.

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