The M-14 Type Rifle
The M-14 was and continues to be a shoulder fired selective fire weapon used by the US military. This article is a first attempt to assist those who may be interested in purchasing their first M-14 type firearm.
The M-14 types sold new are available as semi-automatic rifles only. The caliber of this firearm is .308 Win or 7.62mm NATO, depending on the chamber specifications, and most commercially available clones will safely fire both.
The semi-auto only, M-14 type, commercially available clones represent a uniquely American tradition of adapting military specific firearms for legal use and possession by civilians for sporting, match competition, and home defense. As a result of capitalism and competitive forces, the quality of these clones tends to be fairly good, and if properly operated and maintained should provide a lifetime of service to current and future generations.
The full history of the M-14 is beyond the scope of this article, but a synopsis of its history reveals it was first adopted for military service in 1957 with production beginning in 1958 by the Springfield Armory. (The U.S. Government manufacturing facility, not the firearms importing company that uses the name today.)
The reason for the development of the M-14 was to create a shoulder fired weapon that would replace four of the existing military firearms of the era. There were many subcontractors producing parts for the original M-14 and the government's quality control program was very good, thus making USGI parts from this era highly sought after components.
Current commercial producers of the semi-automatic M-14 type receivers are Armscorp USA, LRB Industries, LLC, Springfield Armory Inc., Fulton Armory, and Entreprise Arms. Of these, only Springfield Armory Inc. offers a lifetime warranty, and only LRB Industries offers a made in the USA hammer forged receiver that closely duplicates the drawing specifications of the original USGI M-14 receiver.
There are also foreign producers of complete M-14 type rifles and receivers, including Polytech and Norinco. There are some problems with headspace on the Chinese produced receivers, but a competent gunsmith can address these issues.
There are currently too many variations of the commercial M-14 to provide a complete listing; however, there are three major categories. The first is standard grade. It would most likely be outfitted with a standard contour barrel, a standard trigger pull weight of 5-6 pounds, and spec USGI or newly produced commercial parts. The second would be the "bush rifle," which is typically outfitted with the same components as the standard grade above, but with a shorter barrel, forward mounted scope and accessory mount and a compact type stock.
Next in the line up is the match rifle. The match rifle typically has a match grade barrel, national matched tuned trigger, match sights and a glass bedded wood or fiberglass stock. In addition to these enhancements, the match grade rifle might sport a modified and unified gas system, a national match spring guide and a reamed muzzle break. There are also various other modifications varying by manufacturer or gunsmith.
Another option is to buy USGI parts for assembly by an experienced gunsmith. Most M-14 gunsmiths will assemble the parts kit, install the barrel, headspace the bolt, and assemble the rifle for a very reasonable price. For most consumers, this is a very feasible option. Being able to buy your own parts, which are then assembled into a configuration of your choosing, seems to have a very positive effect on the owner. This option is gaining popularity, as more consumers become aware of the possibility.
Expect to pay $1000 for a complete USGI parts kit, $200 for a barrel, $100 for a good stock, and $400-$600 for a quality receiver. The cost of assembly can be anywhere from $200 to $400, depending on what you want done.
The pricing I have listed here could vary significantly, especially if you find a good deal on an older rifle with all USGI parts. The important factor here is to take your time and be patient. You could easily wind up getting all the parts you need for less than $1000 if you are prudent and resourceful. There are many options when you buy your own parts and following is brief outlay of some of these options.
One of the important considerations is the barrel. The M-14 is not an inherently accurate rifle due to the many components that connect and extend from the barrel. The barrel in addition to being connected to the receiver is connected to the gas cylinder, which impacts the operating rod, which is connected to the operating rod guide, which is connected to the barrel. All of these barrel components make for a lot of variation in barrel harmonics. In spite of all this, most of this variance can be controlled to create consistency from shot to shot.
Here are some of the most common barrel types for the M-14 type rifles. The standard contour USGI and commercial barrels, which are chrome lined, the standard contour USGI match barrel, the medium weight national match barrel, the bush barrel, and the heavy weight match barrel. All barrels are 22 inches long except the bush barrel, which is roughly 18 inches long. In addition to those previously mentioned, Springfield Armory, Inc. makes a 16 inch barrel, which is used on their Socom.
The next selection is the type of stock. There are thousands of USGI stocks for the M-14 rifle and supply is plentiful at this time. Options include, wood, walnut or birch in standard weight or heavy weight, fiberglass, synthetic, synthetically reinforced wood, and the new modular accessory rail type stocks made of aluminum.
After market stocks are available from McMillan, Sage, and Boyds. One of the best options, in my opinion, is a standard USGI synthetic stock. These can be had for less than $50, including all hardware. For wood aficionados, a good solid walnut or birch stock with a tight fit and all hardware costs less than $75.
Selecting a receiver can be tricky in that there are a few companies pedaling factory rejects on the Internet. These should be avoided. It is best to buy quality from a reliable source when purchasing a receiver. Springfield Armory Inc, LRB Industries, Fulton Armory, and Armscorp are reputable producers of receivers. As mentioned earlier (but it is worth reiterating), LRB offers the only made in USA, hammer forged receiver. They are more expensive, but if you buy an LRB, you should never have to by another receiver. These receivers should last for at least 200,000 rounds. The USGI receivers had a 400,000 round life expectancy. The point being that a good receiver should last a lifetime.
The components on the M-14 rifle can be divided into two categories; those commercially produced, and those produced under past or present US government contract. The later is by far the most desirable. However, the supply is dwindling and at some point the supply of USGI parts will be exhausted. With the M-14 being issued to US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world, it is my hope that newly produced USGI parts for the M-14 will once again be produced. The major USGI/commercial components of an M-14 type rifle are the operating rod, bolt, trigger group/hammer, flash hider, gas cylinder, gas piston, front and rear sights and the barrel. These components are made to exacting specifications and are completely interchangeable from one rifle to another.
All of the above mentioned parts were marked with the manufacturer's code when they were produced, with the exception of the gas cylinder, piston, and the flash hider. Most USGI parts are easily identified, except for those that are marked SA. These parts are often confused with the commercial producer, Springfield Armory, Inc. All USGI parts will be marked with a drawing number, and the producer's code. Some of the most popular producers of components were TRW, Winchester, SAK, HRA and SA.
If one desires to top their civilian M-14 rifle with a scope, several high quality mounts are available. It has been my experience that aluminum mounts do not perform as well as steel. Smith Enterprises, Sadlak Industries, and Arms, Inc make excellent scope mounts of heat treated steel. I have personal experience with the Smith Enterprises scope mount with the Weaver rail, part number 2005. It is reasonably priced at $105 and is the best mount for the money.
The M-14 type commercially available semi-automatic rifle is a useful and practical firearm for self defense, match competition, and sporting purposes. If I could only have one rifle for these purposes, the M-14 would be my choice. The versatility of the M-14 allows it to meet the demands of farmers, ranchers, hunters, and American patriots.
Copyright 2006 by Jon Y. Wolfe. All rights reserved.