The M-14

At the end of WWII, the Army was pleased with the performance of its main rifle, the M-1 Garand, chambered in 30.06, but understood that the variety of other weapons found in a typical infantry platoon made resupply difficult. For instance, in addition to the M-1, a platoon would also have submachine guns, carbines, and Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR). The Garand was too large to be suitable for carry by all members of a platoon. There was also a desire to increase the ammunition capacity of the rifle.

Following a lengthy development period and the design of the 7.62mm x 51 cartridge, the Army adopted the M-14. The rifle was pretty much a cut-down M-1 with a 20-round magazine (in lieu of the old 8-round en bloc clip) chambered for the new 7.62mm. While the rifle was usually fired in the semi-automatic mode, it was capable of fully automatic fire.

Beginning in 1955, M-14s replaced M-1 Garands, as well as carbines and submachine guns. An attempt to field a heavy barrel version known as the M-15 to replace the BAR was not successful. Instead, a modified version known as the M-14E2 was fielded to be the squad’s primary automatic rifle.

With the deployment of the1st Air Cavalry Division to assist the South Vietnamese government in their struggle against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, the US Army switched to the M-16, originally only for those units deploying to Vietnam, but soon across the entire Army. This brought an early end to the story of the M-14 in the US Army. Except that it didn’t.

Pretty soon, the Army was looking for a sniper rifle for the jungles of Vietnam. Existing M-14s were modified with a scope and other accuracy improvements and fielded as the M-21 sniper rifle. The M-21 served for many years as the primary sniper rifle for the Army. In the late 1980s, the Army sought to replace the M-21 with a bolt action rifle, eventually fielding the M-24, a highly modified Remington 700. But with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 21st century, the Army took a second look at some of the favorable attributes of the M-21. Primary among these were its semiautomatic fire and its large magazine capacity. It wasn’t long before units were clamoring for M-21s. And they got them.

Click to enlarge- An M-21 on patrol
Click to enlarge- An M-21 on patrol

In addition, some units have found older stocks of unmodified M-14s and have issued them to selected members of their units. These rifles are prized for their greater accuracy and penetration at long range. Often, they have been modified to accept commercially available rifle scopes.

I first fired an M-14 in high school. I carried an M-21 for a short while during my first enlistment (I never went to sniper school, however). It is a great rifle. I loved my M-16s and never had any problems with them. But I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the M-14.


No, that’s not me. I just found it on youtube. I just wish it were me.

Update: Strategy Page has a good blurb on the current state of sniper rifles in the war zones.

15 thoughts on “The M-14”

  1. I really need to get one of those. I have always wanted one. If you come across one let me know.

  2. In California? Not likely. You can’t buy surplus because of the full auto capability. Springfield Armory still sells them. Just don’t buy one of the Norinco rifles. They had all kinds of problems. I shot one and every 3-4 rounds would separate from poor tolerances in the chamber.

  3. I have a bum shoulder, so it’s AR-10/AR-15 goodness for me.

    Vmaximus should try the
    civilian marksmanship program

    “The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is a U.S. government-chartered program that promotes firearms safety training and rifle practice for all qualified U.S. citizens with special emphasis on youth. Any U.S. citizen who is not legally prohibited from owning a firearm may purchase a military surplus rifle from the CMP, provided they are a member of a CMP affiliated club. The CMP operates through a network of affiliated shooting clubs and state associations that covers every state in the U.S. The clubs and associations offer firearms safety training and marksmanship courses as well as the opportunity for continued practice and competition.”

    I love wikipedia.

  4. Chock, (and Vmax) just understand that you can’t get an M-14, since it is an automatic weapon.

    You can get an M-1 Garand for a reasonable price. They also have excellent offers on surplus ammo for them.

  5. +1 on the CMP. Got a M-1 Carbine from them. Great customer service and it’s tough to beat the price, especially on the medium to high grade Garands and (if they ever get any more) Carbines. In addition to Garands and Carbines (going fast) they occasionally sell 1903s, M1917 Enfields, and Krags in varying condition. They’ve got a M1917 sale coming up in September, I’m debating whether or not to drop $500 on one.

    As for the M-14, the best ones that I’ve seen that are easily purchasable are the Springfield Armory M1As that Brad mentioned.

    And technically, you could buy a full auto one legally…you just have to live in a relatively gun friendly state (i.e. – not California) and jump through the ATF hoops.

  6. The original idea was the the lighter M-16 was easier to use in the jungle, and its shorter effective range wasn’t so important in a theater where engagements took place at very short ranges. The M-14 was still wanted for the longer range that would be useful in places like Europe.

    One of the major problems with the introduction of the M-16 was the poor level of training troops recieved upon issue (but far from the only problem). They had gone through basic with the M-14 and trained with it during their time prior to deployment. Then just before deployment (or even after) they get handed a new weapon they’ve never seen before. It wasn’t a very happy first date.

  7. “One of the major problems with the introduction of the M-16 was the poor level of training troops recieved upon issue (but far from the only problem).”

    “Self-cleaning rifle,” anyone?

    I mean, that would be bad enough on a normal gas system, but with a direct impingement system…hoo boy.

  8. It’s my understanding that “Wild Willy” gave orders that the surplus M-14s be destroyed rather than sold under the CMP. I trained with and carried an M-14 in Vietnam. For my money, it is the finest battle rifle (NOT assault rifle) ever made. (At least it wasn’t made by Mattel…) I would dearly love to have one now, but circumstances conspire…

    Of course I also carried an M3 made in 1943 by General Motors Hydramatic Division.. THAT was an interesting-if-not-particularly useful weapon. But useful in an ambush.

  9. “Wild Willy”= Bill Clinton? Nope. There was a big flap over destroying M-14s rather than keeping them as war stocks. That was in the early 70s and the Army made the decision and Congress stopped it.

    They could not, and still can’t be sold under CMP because they are fully automatic. Even though many had the selector locked to semi, they still were capable of easy modification to auto.

    And I was never assigned an M3, but tankers were still carrying them well into the 90s.

  10. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


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