*The M-14 Type Rifle*
The M-14 is 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 fire 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 personal/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 none other than Springfield Armory. The task of 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 producers of parts for the original M-14 and it is purported that the quality control program of the government 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., and Fulton Armory. Of these, only Springfield Armory Inc. offers a lifetime warranty and only LRB Industries offers a made in the USA hammer forged receiver, which 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 issues with headspace on the Chinese produced receivers, but these issues can be easily fixed by a competent gunsmith.
There are currently too many variations of the commercial M-14 to be 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 lbs. 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 option is a very feasible. Being able to buy your own parts, which are then assembled into a configuration of your choosing, seems to have a very positive end result on the owner and this option is gaining momentum as more and more consumers become aware of this practice. Expect to pay $1000 for a complete USGI parts kit, $200 for a barrel, $100 for a good stock, $400-$600 for a quality receiver and 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 in your methods.
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 of this, most of this variance can be controlled thereby creating consistency from shot to shot. Following 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 finally the heavy weight match barrel. All barrels are 22 inches long except the bush barrel which is roughly 18 inches. 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 a 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. Aftermarket stocks are available from McMillan, Sage, and Boyds. One of the best options in my experience is a standard USGI synthetic stock that can be had for less than $50 including all hardware. For those wood aficionados, a good solid walnut of birch stock with a tight fit is easily obtainable for less than $75 with all hardware.
Selecting a receiver can be tricky in that there are a few companies pedaling factory rejects on the Internet. 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, with LRB being the only made in the USA hammer forged receiver. They are more expensive, but if you buy an LRB, you should never have to by another receiver during your lifetime. 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 for USGI parts will be extremely scarce. It is my hope, with the M-14 being issued to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in other parts of the world where the US military is deployed; that a strong possibility exists 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 exact specifications and are completely interchangeable from one rifle to another.
All of the above mentioned parts were marked with the producerís 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 producerís code. Some of the most popular producers of components were TRW, Winchester, SAK, HRA and SA.
If one desires to top their M-14 type with a scope, several high quality mounts are available. It has been my experience that aluminum mounts do not perform as well as steel and Smith Enterprises, Sadlak Industries, and Arms, Inc make excellent scope mounts, which are made of heat treated steel. I have personal experience with the Smith Enterprises scope mount, part number 2005 with the Weaver rail. I t is reasonably priced at $105 and is by far the best mount for the money at this present time.
The M-14 type commercially available semi-automatic rifle is an extremely useful and practical firearm for self defense, sporting, and match competition. If I had one choice of firearm to satisfy all of my needs from a shoulder fired rifle, the M-14 would be my choice without question. It could be said the versatility of the M-14 allows it to be the one rifle that is capable of meeting the demands of every farmer, rancher, hunter, and American patriot.
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