Loose Rounds on the M14

We have a soft spot in our heart for the M14 rifle, even though we experienced it in the service primarily as the M21 sniper system, a fiddly, unstable platform with, “no user serviceable parts inside.” (Seriously. The operator was not permitted to field-strip the gun — that was strictly for the armorers who built the thing. You could swab out the bore, but they’d rather you didn’t). Some of the fiddliness was caused by the Leatherwood ART II scope, an early bullet drop compensator telescopic sight. The Leatherwood was adopted, we always suspected, because Jim Leatherwood had been an SF guy, not because the scope was incredibly great. The replacement of the M21 with the M24 bolt gun, a gun that was developed primarily by SF marksmen (snipers and competitive shooters), was met by hosannas. Its Leupold mildot scope took the onus off the scope’s internals and put it on the shooter, and we liked that.


So when Shawn at Loose Rounds penned a post critical not as much of the M14 but of its somewhat unsupported legend of battlefield prowess, he was aiming right up our alley. He has technical support in that post from Daniel Watters, arguably the most knowledgable man on post-WWII US small arms developments not to have written a book. And his arguments are generally supported  by the M14-related books in our collection, some of which appear in footnotes or Sources.

The M14’s history is interesting. It had a long and arduous gestation, involving many false starts and dead ends, before finally settling on a weapon that was a little more than an M1 with a box magazine and improved gas system. This whole process took 12 years (from 1945 to 1957) and cost a surprising fortune, considering that what came out of it was essentially an M1 with a box mag, useless selective-fire switch, and improved gas system.

From the operator end, it looks just like an M1, except for that dopey and wasteful giggle switch,  but you can actually reload an M1 faster.


The M14’s prototype, the T44, came this close (Max Smart finger gesture) to losing out to the US-made FN-FAL version, the T48. The final test found the two weapons roughly equivalent.1 Previous tests greatly improved both arms, and made one lasting improvement in the FAL hat benefited FN and foreign operators: the incorporation of the “sand cuts” in the bolt carrier.2 One deciding factor was that the FN rifle did not have “positive bolt closure,” a way to force the bolt closed on, say, a swollen cartridge. (Never mind that that’s a crummy idea, it was Army policy. Some say, in order to accept the home-grown, Springfield-developed T44 instead of the foreign-designed FAL, but that’s certainly not written down anywhere important).

The M14 went on to have a surprisingly difficult time in manufacturing — surprising because it had been sold on extensive commonality with M1 Garand design, and sold as producible on M1
Garand tooling. All manufacturers (Springfield, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson, and TRW) struggled to make the guns. (Stevens calls M14 production, in a chapter heading, “A Tragedy in Four Acts.”3 In H&R’s case it was not surprising, as H&R had struggled with an M1 contract and only had an M14 contract because of political corruption in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, TRW, which is generally thought to have produced the best rifles of the four manufacturers.4

The M14 was supposed to replace the M1, but also the BAR, carbine, and SMG. Until you see them side by side, most people assume the 14 was smaller than the M1 (image: Rifle Shooter mag).

The M14 was supposed to replace the M1, but also the BAR, carbine, and SMG. Until you see them side by side, most people assume the M14 was smaller than the M1. This “M14” is actually a civilian Springfield M1A.  (image: Rifle Shooter mag)..

In fact, only a few M1 parts are interchangeable with the M14, including most internal parts of the trigger housing group, and some of the stock hardware, A few other parts, like the extractor and rear sight aperture, interchange but aren’t quite “right.” (The M14 extractor works better in either rifle; the M1 and M14 sights are calibrated in yards and meters respectively).5

The M14 had a short life as a US service rifle, and a controversial one. (Congress, for one, couldn’t believe the amount of money that had been spent for a relatively marginal improvement over the M1). But it has had a long afterlife as stuff of legend. And this where Loose Rounds’ most recent effort in mythbusting comes in. Here is a taste:

Go on to any gun forum, and it won’t take you long to find people willing to tell you how great the M14 is. How accurate,like a laser, tough as tool steel with no need to baby it or clean it. powerful as a bolt of lightening, and how well loved it was by those early users who refused the M16 because they wanted a “real” weapon made of wood and steel…. .. But, is all that really true? Maybe it is a triumph of nostalgia over common sense and reality. One truth is, it was never really liked as much as people think they remember.

The M14 was having major problems even before ARPA’s Project AGILE and a Defense comptroller reported the AR15 superior to the M14;the famous Hitch Report stating the AR15 , the M1 and the AK47 superior.

(Loose Rounds then quotes those exact conclusions from those reports, which are also referenced in many of the Sources we list at the end of this document).

My own Father had this to say. Dad was in Vietnam from 67-68 in the 4th Infantry Division.

“I liked the M14 in basic, It was the first semi auto I had ever fired. It got old carrying all that weight fast running every where all day and night. I qualified expert with it. Once I was issued an M16 right before we over seas, I never looked back.”

For every person who has told me how great the thing is, I have found two who had nothing by misery and bad experiences from it. I myself among them.

The M14/M1a  will be around for as long as people will continue to buy them.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with owning them liking them and using them. By no means is it useless or ineffective.   But its legendary reputation is something that needs to be taken with a grain of salt and careful study of the system if you intend to have one for a use your like may depend on.

If you are curious  posts on shooting rack M14s and custom service rifle M14s with Lilja barrels fired at 1,000 yards can be found here on Looseorunds using the search bar.  There you can read of the M14/M1A compared against the M1 Garand and M1903.

When we sat down last night to start writing this, we were going to analyze their post in great depth, but we can only suggest you go Read The Whole Thing™. The M14 is very beloved, but then, many soldiers come to love their first military rifle quite out of proportion to its qualities. (Indeed, we feel that way about, and retain a limerent attachment to, the M16A1, while recognizing that progress has left the original Army M16 behind).

If nostalgia drives you, LRB has this rifle on a new T44E4 marked receiver in stock -- for nearly $3k.

If nostalgia drives you, LRB has this rifle on a new T44E4 marked receiver in stock — for nearly $3k. We want it but not $3k bad!

Indeed, there is a space on the gun room wall marked out for an M21, sooner or later. But that;s where it is likely to stay most of the time. (Shawn’s post at Loose Rounds has some details about the fiendish difficulty of keeping one of these in accurate shooting trim).


  1. Stevens, North American FALs, p.106; Iannimico, p. 62.
  2. Iannimico, p. 59.
  3. Stevens, US Rifle M14, pp. 197-224l
  4. Emerson, Volume 1, pp. 41-70
  5. Emerson, Volume 3, pp. 129-130.


Emersom, Lee. M1 History and Development, Fifth Edition. (Four Volumes). Self-published, 2010-2014.

Iannimico, Frank. The Last Steel Warrior: US Rifle M14. Henderson, NV: Moose Lake, 2005.

Rayle, Roy E. Random Shots: Episodes in the Life of a Weapon Developer. Bennington, VT: Merriam Press, 1996.

Stevens, R. Blake, North American FALs. Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1979.

Stevens, R. Blake, US Rifle M14: From John Garand to the M21. Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1979.

108 thoughts on “Loose Rounds on the M14

  1. looserounds.com

    thanks for the kind words. I expect to be drug out of bed at 300AM this morning, and lynched by The Old M14 Boys Club. It is a relief to see some one else look at the old boat anchor for what it is. IE. not a tomato stake, but far from a good M4 or even its peers at the time really.

      1. Hognose Post author

        That’s an excellent video, Ian. I had watched it and should have incorporated it. ISTR some commenter was assuaging his hurt feelings by suggesting the stock (Sage? Troy? I forget) was how the mud got in the system. Nope, mud can some through the op rod slot into M1 and M14 and that was one of Stoner’s 1955-vintage AR-10 selling points.

        Looking at you in the mud… “You don’t just come here for the guns, do you, son?” Bwahahahahaaaa! Seriously, you’re a good sport about that. Starting about 1985, I didn’t get filthy like that unless I was getting some kind of a badge!

          1. Hognose Post author

            Yeah, ’cause everybody knows how biased you are towards modern alloyplastic firearms, and how insanely biased you are against firearms made of walnut and steel.

  2. seans

    As someone who traded a MK17 for a 14 my first deployment, and was quite pleased with its performance, I couldn’t agree with this article more. The M14 and all its variations only have been around due to due the lack of a good quality 7.62 rifle. I probably have a extremely unhealthy love of the 14, but I was ecstatic to finally see the MK17 get to the point I could turn my 14 in and never have to use it again.

    1. Expat

      I’m wondering what the comparison of actual effectiveness (dead bad guys vs number shot at) would be between the M4 and M14 (or M1) in combat? I do know that when I really want something to die I leave the AR home and take the old 06 autoloader. Course I don’t have a Warthog for backup so perhaps noise counts more than a steady aim?

      1. Kirk

        Here’s the thing that everyone misses: Combat is more an interaction of man and conditions than it is a pure event of weapon and marksmanship. You’re not on a range, you don’t have all the time in the world to be taking your carefully-aimed shots at the bad guys. People are shooting at you, and you’re trying to kill them before they kill you. The great, big M1 rifle you’re picking out of the closet is a great gun, for certain tasks. Certainly, were I engaging in long-range interpersonal relations, I’d prefer it. On the other hand, for the close encounters that you run into? I’d leave that thing behind, and pick something I can get into action and manipulate more quickly. Yes, it may indeed require me to put a few anchor shots in, but I’d rather distract the guy shooting at me with a quickly aimed shot which only wounds him than have a rifle I can’t bring to bear or recover from firing as quickly. The name of the game is speed, period. A lot of people just don’t grasp that concept. You’re actually better off getting some rounds down range at the enemy in order to make him duck, getting to cover, and then taking your time to kill him. Ask any of the guys who first used silenced Swedish-K submachineguns in Vietnam. There are a couple who tried it once, and wouldn’t do it again, because silenced suppressive fire… Isn’t really that suppressive. Likewise, the shots you don’t take because you’re carrying an uber-lethal elephant gun around with you, instead of something you can afford to do some inaccurate and yet intimidating fire with while your ass is running to cover.

  3. WellSeasonedFool

    One positive for the M-14, it eliminated the M-1 thumb. Slightly different manual of arms which could be a problem if you first learned on a M-1. I was never a fan, but all my service was in Germany.

  4. Kirk

    What’s an interesting contrast to the M14 is the Italian project to update the M1, the BM-59. Friend of mine had a set of those, all original Beretta production that were brought in back in the 1960s. His contention, and I honestly don’t know enough about the details to say if he was nuts or not, was that the people at Beretta had done what the US had done in creating the M14 in much less time for much less money, and gotten a superior weapon out of it, to boot. The BM-59s that he had and that he let me shoot with him were amazingly accurate and reliable. His M1A examples? Not so much.

    Might be interesting to do a compare/contrast between the two programs. I’m not clear on the details, myself, but surely someone out there is. I’ve also never seen an equivalent to the Collector’s Grade books on the BM-59–It’s always been a bit of a red-haired stepchild when it came to that sort of thing.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I think there have been articles in Small Arms Review and, back in the 1980s, Soldier of Fortune. I do have a complete set of 1980s SOF mags but I’m not aware of any index, and they’re unsorted, in boxes.

    2. MtTopPatriot

      Saco has a BM59 kit, with blue prints for reference to machine an M1 receiver to convert it to fit the kit. I think one runs about $595, plus the cost of a receiver. If you have the tools and skills, it is reasonable costs for a rugged automatic rifle in 7.62. Probably have to figure a modification using M-14 magazines as the BM59 units are high dollar and uncommon.
      I figured it was a common sense conversion on the part of the Italians all things considered at the time in history.

  5. medic09

    Entirely a side point, but your observation about first love (at least for infantry soldiers) is entirely correct, in my experience. I will always have a soft-spot for the Galil, which I think was a fine weapon in many ways; but it took a while to admit how grossly over-heavy it was for the demands of our tasks. Until the first time I was issued an M-16 short, and realized what a beautiful thing discarding unwanted weight is, and that the maligning of the M-16 was more myth than anything by my time. The Galil short wasn’t so bad, but the full version with wood furniture and the bottle opener was ridiculous.

  6. Raoul Duke

    Thanks for putting this out. I’m so freaking sick of hearing random generic random gun guys say “Yah, that Mickey Mattel M-16 is a piece of crap. We shoulda kept tha Em-Fourteen instead a that poodle-shooter.”

    I usually ask them if they’ve either: a. Had to operate in and out of a vehicle or confined space with an M-14. b. Ask them if they’ve ever had to carry an M-14 any farther than the distance from their car trunk to the firing line.

    Usually I get silence or a confused look.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I bite my tongue a lot in gun shops. I have a hard and fast rule — I will step in if it will help the counter guy make a sale, but if it will undermine him or queer a sale, I won’t do it, unless he’s screwing a customer (something I’ve never seen, actually, but I’m ready if I do). Most counter guys like to sell but don’t know as much about their product as they would like. I was teaching Kid the history of Windham Weaponry at a shop that had a Windham gun on display, and noticed by the end of my pontification instructional interlude there was a sales guy hanging on every word. “I never knew that!” he said. Hopefully knowing the backstory will help him sell these decent and reasonably priced guns.

  7. emdfl

    Yeah, the BM-59 is what the 14 could have been. ANd the Italians did the conversion in about three year. Somewhere in the bunker is a Nigerian stock – which if I ever find it will be swapped onto the ’59 I have. And yeah the mags are ‘spensive, $50-60.

    1. Brad

      Is it fair to blame the M14 for the development cost to replace the M1?

      It is my understanding that the bulk of the money spent by the Army to develop an M1 replacement after WWII went to rifle projects other than the M14, such as the T25. The M14 was a backwater backup that mainly relied upon the money spent developing the M1 during WWII. It was only when the primary rifle development efforts failed that the Army fell back on the T44 which was the prototype for the M14.

  8. Keith

    I know I am a bit late here but is there a place where I could read WHY the M-14 had all these issues with manufacturing, accuracy etc. while the rifle it was based on didn’t seem to have nearly as many issues?

    1. Tam

      The Garand isn’t all we mythologize it as, either. An early service nickname was “Jammin’ Jenny”, after all.

  9. Brad

    Of all the military rifles, I think the M-14 is the best looking rifle. And I also have much love for the iron sights, stock and trigger compared to other military rifles. But I have no illusions that it is some magic wand. When it comes to large caliber semi-auto military rifles I like the rock-like simplicity of the MAS-49 action.

    It’s funny how today there is still so much controversy when it comes to the M14 and M16. And a reluctance to admit how grey the whole topic is. For example the whole notion of handheld full-auto fire which was so desired in the immediate post-war era (which any 7.62 NATO caliber rifle would fail at including the M14) which is such an obsolete doctrine today. Or how the first several hundred thousands of XM16E1 produced were rushed into combat service despite a lack of testing which could have revealed how buggy and unready they were for duty.

    1. Kirk

      Brad, you are entirely wrong where you’re saying “For example the whole notion of handheld full-auto fire which was so desired in the immediate post-war era (which any 7.62 NATO caliber rifle would fail at including the M14) which is such an obsolete doctrine today.”.

      If you disagree, ask the guys at Wanat. I’m sure they’ll look at you like you’re nuts, because you are. Fully-automatic fire from an individual weapon is a tool we don’t routinely pull out of the box, but when you need it, there is no substitute. Yeah, aimed semi-auto fire is more effective in a lot of situations, but it is also entirely inadequate in others, or the M4A1 wouldn’t still have the “happy switch” that it does. Thank God someone saw the light and decided to get rid of the idiotic three-round burst feature.

      In routine training and combat, yeah… You rarely need to go full-auto. However, when the bovine end-product has hit the fan, you need to be able to go cyclic. Whether you’re trying to break contact in the jungle, or clearing rooms in Kandahar, there are times and places where that final position on the safety-selector switch is absolutely necessary, and you need to be firing a cartridge where you can effectively control that sort of fire in a relatively lightweight individual weapon. Full-auto on an assault rifle is like that old “WAR POWER” notch on the throttles in the old fighters–Yeah, you never wanted to go there in routine operations, but if you needed it, you NEEDED it.

      1. Brad

        The USMC have a serious disagreement with you. It’s the whole reason why we replaced the M16a1 with the M16a2 plus M249 SAW in the 1980’s. And even after all the combat experience since adaption of the M16a2, the USMC seem to have no desire to return to old doctrine.

        1. Kirk

          Say WHAT? Are you delusional? What the hell do you think the procurement of the M27 stemmed from? That’s sure as hell not meant to be fired exclusively on semi-auto, my friend. I don’t think you understand squat about this “old doctrine” you’re referring to, or even understand whatever it is you think it’s been replaced by.

          I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that your background on these issues is entirely theoretical and based on no real experience.

          1. Brad

            I think the M27 was procured to replace the M249 inside the USMC fire team. Do you think it was procured to replace the M16a2?

          2. Hognose Post author

            You’re correct. The M249 in turn replaced an M16-armed “automatic rifleman.” In pre-SAW Army doctrine, one guy per fire team was designated to fire his gun on auto, in a shadowy reflection of the pre-1960 BAR role. The Marine doctrine was slightly different (Marine squads’size was not dictated by the size of helicopters or armored vehicles, for one thing) but their auto rifle had a similar function. The M16 was never adequate in that function (nor had the M14 been, nota bene, hence the development of the SAW — which has probably been explored more here than anywhere else on the net, or in print for that matter).

            The Marines’ problems with the SAW were two: (1) their 1980s and 90s-vintage SAWs were old and worn out, which they could have solved by buying new SAWs, and (2) it was too heavy for dismounted patrol with all the other crap a GI has to carry these days, especially in Afghanistan (extremely steep mountains, rarefied air — imagine patrolling in the highest Rockies). The weight problem could not be fixed to the Marines’ satisfaction. None of the other things in the pipeline met with their needs. (Ti receivers, etc. reduce the gun’s weight but at the cost of durability, and they don’t reduce the weight enough). The USMC conducted this program with great transparency, were always up front about their goals, and got the weapon their doctrine requires — they’re quite happy with it. The Army probably has enough M14s in warehouses to give every Marine a beater for the field and a shiny one for inspection, but the Marines weren’t interested.

            The Marines also could have specified 7.62 for their IAR, and they didn’t. They wanted a 5.56 gun.

          3. Kirk

            The contention of yours that the Marines have somehow chosen to eschew fully-automatic fire within the squad is what I’m getting at. The last few versions of the Marine marksmanship manual still have full-auto as a part of the training regime, and offer pointers to its use with the M16A2 and M4 Carbine. Then, there’s the M27 IAR, which is for all intents and purposes, a product-improved M16.

            In other words, your idea that the Marines have somehow “left behind” full-auto on their individual weapons is wrong on so many very different levels. Yes, it is not emphasized, and the preferred mode of fire is aimed semi-auto, but it is still there for emergency use.

  10. Kirk

    I’d like to address this at Brad, Kieth, and Tam, with an aside to Hognose asking him to give what I’m saying here a bit of a sanity check.

    Bluntly put, the people we had running our small-arms programs during the WWII and post-WWII era were… How should I say this? Idiots? Well-meaning bureaucrats who were more concerned with maintaining power in their little fiefdoms than in providing the best weapons to our troops? Utter morons?

    I honestly don’t know what it was that went wrong, but I have my suspicions. One of my troops back in the 1980s turned out to have an uncle who’d worked at Springfield Arsenal, back in the day. I met him when he visited his nephew, found out what he’d done, and picked the living hell out of his brain. His description of what went on around the Arsenal when the Congressional subpoenas started rolling in for the Ichord Committee hearings really make me wonder if we really have a good idea of just what the hell was actually going on–At the time he was there, he was a trainee engineer/draftsman, and didn’t have a lot to do with what was going on. He did recall, however, a whole lot of closed-door meetings, and several tons of documents being hurriedly pushed out the doors and sent off for destruction. I do not know for sure that something nefarious or criminally negligent was going on, but I also suspect that something probably was–Else, why all the fear and panic, and the destroyed documents? We’ll never know the real story, I suspect.

    In any event, the root of the whole small arms debacle, and I include the M60 here with the M14, is that the Army utterly failed to comprehend the implications of how we were really fighting the war. We’ve always been horrible with this stuff–Our doctrine and documentation, more often than not, reflects the fantasies projected by the writers instead of the distilled wisdom of the practitioner. That’s just how we roll–In the British Army, they task the guys out in the field with writing the manuals. US Army? It’s usually a braintrust comprised of company-grade officers fresh out of the company commander’s course, waiting to go to the course, or senior NCOs who got thrown off the drill sergeant program. That’s who is manning most of the directorates that write the manuals, and the odds of something relatively recent percolating back up the tree? Infinitesimal. One of the things about the British Army that flat-out blew my mind was discovering that the platoon sergeant-equivalent for their engineer platoon that they’d sent over for Trumpet Dance (annual exercise they used to hold at Fort Lewis) was in the process of proofing the route clearance manual he’d turned in as the most recent revision. He’d just come off a tour in Ireland where they’d been doing that exact mission, too. In US practice, something like that would never happen, not in a million years. And, that’s precisely why a lot of the hard-won lessons from WWII and Korea never penetrated up to the level where they were deciding what new small arms were needed.

    At the start of WWII, there were two main schools of tactical thought–You had the German approach, where they believed in the primacy of sheer, distilled firepower (whence came the GPMG concept) and you had the American concept where the individual rifleman was deemed the dominant force on the battlefield. The small arms prioritization of both armies going into the war shows this–The US went with making sure they had the first mass-issue semi-automatic rifle, and the Germans made sure they had the had the MG34/42 family. By the end of the war, the interesting thing is that the actual practitioners of the fighting had sort of converged on what they thought worked, sort of a mish-mash half-way house between the two schools–The US, for example, had decided that having a belt-fed MG in the squad was a must, and a whole lot of cobbled-together M1919A6s were de facto on the squad MTOE, along with as many BARs as the guys could scrounge. I had an acquaintance who’d been “Infantry on the half-shell”, as he referred to it, what we’d call mechanized infantry today, and the pictures he showed of what his squad hauled around in their half-track look like somebody had given them the full company issue of machine guns. I counted six or so belt-feds, including a pair of fifty-cals, and enough BARs to give everyone but the driver an MG.

    The German army found that their machine-gun centric ideas weren’t quite ideal, either, so they started putting together units with the newly-developed StG44 issued to every man, with supplemental belt-feds held at platoon level and detached down to the squads. Convergence, see?

    But, did any of that “War as she is fought” stuff make it back into US documented practice? Was it captured, and made doctrine? Hell, no. We somehow made believe that the stuff in the books we threw out on first contact with the Germans and Japanese was what won us the war, and so we didn’t change squat. There was a huge disconnect between “practice” and “documentation”. Why? Institutional blind spot, I’m afraid–You can see the same syndrome in today’s Army.

    Essentially, the folks in the small arms business for the US army utterly failed to understand what was going on out in the real world. Doubt me? Look at their appraisal of the MG42, for an example. They just did not grasp the essentials of the fight. The WWI idea of the primacy of the individual rifleman was still warping their minds, or we wouldn’t have ignored the implications of what the Germans were doing, and what our line troops had done in response.

    This is why they insisted on the 7.62mm NATO over the British .280. They honestly believed that what was in the books was how we were fighting, marching fire and all. I think a lot of those guys missed out on WWII combat, and didn’t understand what had been going on out in the line. There were lots of people in the US Army saying “Hey, we need an intermediate cartridge and an assault rifle…”, but they were not the ones in decision-making authority. The studies were done, the data was gathered, but the guys running the show ignored all of it.

    Which was why we got the 7.62mm NATO, and then compounded the problem with by adopting the M14. One of the big selling points for that weapon were that it could be built cheaply on existing M1 machinery (which was mostly worn the hell out and obsolescent, by that point), and that they could leverage their experience with the M1 to build it, instead of this new-fangled T-48 FAL that had all these stampings. Turns out, they were very, very wrong–They needed brand-new machinery for the M14, and it wasn’t until TRW came on as a production source that they got it. By then, the delays and production problems had just about killed the M14’s chances for success.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here, and state that the root problem is that they did not understand modern warfare or how we were fighting it. It wasn’t until Vietnam, where the M14 encountered a small arms system built around an intermediate cartridge that the issues became clear, however. As soon as that happened, well…

    What we should have done, in my mind, was eaten crow, gone back to the Brits and said “Hey… Y’know that .280 thing? We were wrong… Y’all got that TDP, still?”, and then pulled up the paperwork for the FN FAL, had them dust off their blueprints for the version in .280, and put that into a fielding program. Unfortunately, that would have cost them too much face, and we instead pulled out the SCHV concept, and made like that was our plan all along.

    Factor in the politics of the situation, as well–The powers-that-were were fully invested in the SPIW program, and thought that that would be ready for prime-time in the late ’60s. For that reason, I think that there was a little bit of enlightened self-interest involved with the whole M16 adoption–They wanted a stop-gap that was just good enough to work in Vietnam, but which wouldn’t work so well that the SPIW wouldn’t get fielded. So, grab this thing that the Air Force is yammering about, throw it at the troops without really going through a thorough wringing-out, and call it good. We don’t want this stop-gap to be so good that it interferes with the projected fielding of the SPIW, so let’s do everything we can to make sure that it has problems. Example? Why the hell did the Army Ordnance guys go against their own “lessons learned” in the Pacific Theater, and ignore Eugene Stoner when he told them the bores and chambers needed to be chrome-plated? The M14 was specified as requiring chrome, so why not the M16? I look at all the other little things they did, like failing to really test out the changes they made to the ammo, and what I see is an almost deliberate attempt to sabotage the entire program. It’s like they were building a case to replace the M16 with the SPIW as they were pushing the M16 out the door into the war zone. Whether it was criminal negligence, incompetence, or deliberate? Who the hell knows? I would love to know what was in all those file cabinets my informant saw getting hauled off from Springfield Arsenal, though.

    As we know, the SPIW didn’t work, and probably never would in the way it was conceived. The M16 procurement turned into such a fiasco that the Arsenal got shut down by McNamara, and hey, presto… The bastard-stepchild 5..56mm/M16 family has now become the longest-serving individual weapon in the US Army’s history. It is really a miracle that the combination of the two things has managed to function as long as it has, to tell the truth.

    Honestly, when you go back and look at it, the root of the problems have stemmed from the essential fact that we have signally failed to take a holistic approach to the entire issue. How you fight, in what environment, and against what enemy are where the starting points ought to be for these things. When you’ve got them figured out, then you work out your ballistics, develop a suitable set of cartridges, and then design the weapons around them. We keep going at this stuff from the wrong end–We pick the weapon and caliber, and then design the way we fight around them. Whether you’re talking about the approach we take to small arms, or the way we design things like the Bradley, the biggest systemic flaws all stem from putting the cart in front of the damn horse. Gee, we can’t fit more than a 7-man squad into this thing, with all the crap we threw at it for seven different missions? Well, golly… We simply reduce the squad size. Which leads to the embarrassing discovery that we now have to assign platoons to missions which were once assigned to squads, and that we don’t have enough boots on the ground to perform some very basic infantry functions, like clearing buildings and what not.

    The way it should go is this: Doctrine (how we fight)->ballistics->cartridge design->weapons design->validation testing->performance appraisal->back to Doctrine. Why the hell we’re not doing it this way, I’ll never understand. We should never let the weapons we pick drive the train for our tactics, period. But, that’s exactly what we’re doing, and we’re doing it with the small arms realm, and again with the IFV realm. We just don’t seem to learn very well, I’m afraid.

    Completely, T-totally ‘effing insane. And, we keep doing things this way, which is even crazier…

    1. Hognose Post author

      Great comment. I’ll say one thing, on chrome barrels and chambers, the superiority of it from a maint and durability problem was known but it was believed to be inferior on accuracy. Also, Springfield claimed it was impossible to chrome the .224″ barrel, yet the very first rifle barrel chromed when Olin was working out the patent was a .25″ so that’s probably covering up “impossible to chrome with our extant equipment” as a factor.

      For some inside baseball on Springfield, read Roy E. Rayle’s Random Shots. Quite revelatory about what they were thinking.

      I believe the insistence on .30 caliber came not from ordnance but from line generals, both in the .276 Petersen and .280 British cases.

    2. Daniel E. Watters

      I wouldn’t read too much into your informant’s comments. The transfer of Springfield’s project files to Rock Island was well underway in preparation for its closure. I also don’t imagine that Springfield had much to hide as the majority of decision making for the M16 was coming out of the Project Manager Rifles’ office in Rock Island.

      I also don’t remember seeing evidence that Stoner wanted the chamber or bore chromed. I seem to remember his Ichord Subcommittee testimony indicating that he thought it was unnecessary.

  11. Keith

    Thanks for the explanation. The M-1, if nothing else, has a rep for being properly manugactured. The M-14 less so. Wanted to know how they could have messed up a known design so badly, and now I do.

    1. Kirk

      Part of the reason the M14 failed was that Garand was no longer around. Garand was a production engineering genius, and a major reason behind the success of the M1 program.

      1. Andrew E.

        For what it’s worth, John Garand was actually called in to fix some of the T-44’s problems prior to attempted fielding.

  12. Pingback: Lots of Discussion on the Venerable M14 Lately | The Everyday Marksman

  13. Ray

    So the writer has never used an M-14, Knows nothing about M-14 , but will trash M-14 because AR IS THE ONE TRUE GOD! Well Armalite Ackbar Y’all. AR-15s SUCK. After 40 years shooting; It is the one weapon I most regret buying. The Garand WAS (and is) better than the M-14, But then I think it(the Garand)is better than everything else except maybe the AK and SKS (and then only inside the 200 yard line and only because they have a higher tolerance for dirt). It must be fun to be right about everything all the time , even when you have never seen or used the weapon in its factory new un altered state and have no idea what you are talking about. And Tam, The XM-16 and M-16a1 were nicknamed “jammin’ Jenny”. Not The Garand , Not even the gas trap Garand.

    1. Tam

      I will bet that the epithet has been applied to more than just the M1 and M16 at one time or another by US servicemen.

    2. Mr. van Warren

      One question to the author….no two questions
      First to Ray whose commdntary us above and before mine…well done Sir.
      To the author….What is your point? Its all talk, get shot by M-14 and use tour article to stem the hemoraging before you bleed out…aprix 20 seconds.
      Where is your jounrnalistic neutrality.Or was the se meaning if this article was to convince all M-14 owners to burn their M-14’s and but a Panther Arms ar-15?
      M14…those who hate it most commonly bitch about its weight.
      Do some push ups and you can carry more than a Mattel ar-15. You make a convincing argument but I shall not be swayed. Is the massive destructive power of the M-4 carbine the reason for the triple tap? Two in the chest one in the head.
      Pick any…ANY fire arm and and s skilled journalist can have you melting your firearm into pig iron.
      You have compelling reasons ….but for every reason you have I can point out that 10 soldiers skilled with the m-4 and 10 soldiers with M1a’s and many will agree that even with the well thought out, properly accredited mud slinging article they still prefer the 14.
      You are free to hate anything in American and you put forth a convincing argument , but it hasn’t swayed me. Of course with all the toys that can be picatinnyied to a M-4;how could you not resist the appeal to have the rifle with $400 flashlight and no lug for a bayonet.
      I enjoyed your well thought out article. It had the feel of a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering thesis, kind of desparate for a good grade. Good reasoning and facts. But it will fall o. Deaf ears as the American military buys back the 14’s sold to other countries. I sure did enjoy your srtivke and if you get around to why child labor is not a bad idea send me a copy .

      1. Hognose Post author

        Damn, sorry I didn’t sway you. You made that point so many times I lost count.

        I don’t “hate” the M14 — there’s some really clever engineering in it (read Rayle for that, or Emerson, whose books are great). But it belongs in the past with the K.98k and the rifle-musket. The M14 didn’t suck and I never said it did. It wasn’t a very big advance for the money that was spent, but that’s kind of normal for US weapons development. (Look at all our programs to improve and replace the M16 since 1960-whatever, and the successful ones have been — CAR-15, Colt private venture; M16A2, done on a shoestring by the USMC; M4 & SOPMOD, done on a shoestring by SOCOM and NAVSEA Crane). The billions have been spent on the unsuccessful programs.

        I get the love for the M14, just like I get the love for the 1903 (and real ’03 snobs don’t like the A3 with its stamped parts, but the sights sure are better than the original 1903 if you’re actually going to shoot the thing). If you like it, good for you. (My runnin’ buddy in Afghanistan, Brian, liked and carried one, and one of the few photos of me from there shows me holding his M14). The fact is, troops in general miss more and hit less with it, at every range, and can carry less ammo. Even target shooters have had to give it up in competition, at least, if they wanted to win.

        And no, I wouldn’t recommend a Panther AR for anybody (or Vulcan/Hesse any of that crap) any more than I’d recommend a typical reweld M14 or a cast-receiver one.

        As far as “the US buying back the M14s” please name a country that adopted the M14, besides the USA? I come up with one, Taiwan ROC. And they made their own as the Type 57.

        2 Nations, counting the USA, adopted the M14. Ninety (!) other nations in the rifle market went for some version of the FAL instead. They must have been trying to curry favor with that mighty world power, Belgium. And another handful of them bought the G3. Let’s not even get started on the Commies with their AKs. Damn foreigners.

        1. Brad

          Now now, be fair.

          The kinds of rifles adapted by the nations of the post-war world have almost everything to do with which power they were a client of, rather than the merits of the rifle, including the FAL. Why would American clients adapt the M14 when even America rejected it and halted production?

          If anything the real victor of the post-war rifle race was the G-3. There was no British commonwealth, America or Soviet Union promoting adaption of the G-3. Yet look at all the nations, both rich and poor, which choose it.

          1. Kirk

            The fact that the US had rejected it wasn’t at all apparent until well after most of those nations did the testing and chose the FAL. If I’m remembering my history correctly, the M14 wasn’t even ready to participate in a lot of those tests, nor was it ever offered up for them, since we were having enough trouble making them for our own use. You have to remember that the M14 was so far behind schedule for fielding that it wasn’t even funny, and that the US was taking flak from NATO because so many of our units weren’t equipped with it. We type-standardized on a weapon we couldn’t build, to be quite honest.

            As for the G3? The main reason it got fielded as much as it did stems from the sweetheart deals HK was able to make with financing from the German government, and due to the fact that the Belgians were pretty much over-booked when it came to production. And, the guys at FN Herstal were a little bit arrogant, as well–They felt like they had a monopoly, and weren’t willing to sell licenses to manufacture the FAL as cheaply as the Germans were. If I remember the history, there was some bad blood between the two camps because the Belgians weren’t getting the state subsidies the Germans were giving HK.

            Having fired all four of the most-issued 7.62mm NATO rifles of that era, I really have to say that the FN FAL was the best of the lot. The G3 was too heavy and had really poor ergonomics, while the M14 and BM-59 were just not as easy to handle or maintain. I could have lived with the BM-59 or the G3, but the fussy nature of the M14 just turned me the hell off. I swear to God, there wasn’t a single range session where the “finely-tuned, Match-grade M1A ” that my buddy had didn’t require some work done on it. The other 7.62mm rifles? You took ’em to the range, fired them, and then took them home again. No muss, no fuss, no bother. Although, you’d note a lot more bruising on your shoulder with the G3, for some damn reason. Recoil-based operating systems tend to do that to you.

          2. Tam

            The stamped G3 is probably easier to manufacture in countries whose current highest-tech industry is cookware, too. ;)

          3. Kirk

            Tam, I think you’d be surprised at just how hard a delayed roller-lock breech weapon is to design and mass produce, especially with the higher-pressure cartridges.

            The CETME Modelo “L” is a good example–The Spanish were not able to lavish the care and attention on that thing that the Germans did with the HK-33, 93, and 41 rifles. From what I understand, the root problem behind that weapon’s failures in Spanish service all stemmed from them loosening up the criteria for parts rejection because it was becoming too expensive to manufacture. This led to issues in service, which is what led to the Spanish adopting the G36.

            From what I’ve been able to glean of the matter, the pressures and the curves at which they develop in the 5.56mm cartridge do not lend themselves to the roller-locked action. Some even claim that recoil-operated actions in that cartridge are a major pain in the ass, which was why the FAMAS specified steel cases for a long, long time. For whatever reason, you want roller-locked 5.56mm, you either need to have really fussy people doing all the work, or you have really fussy inspectors and tight criteria. Slack on the first, and the weapon becomes unaffordable to produce. Slack on both, and you apparently get the Modelo “L”.

            There is a reason everyone is building gas-operated rotating bolt weapons, these days. And, apparently, some damn good ones. About the only successful recent weapon I can think of that don’t use a rotating bolt would be the South African SS-77.

  14. Publicola

    I’m curious – what’s the source that claims H&R had trouble with the Garand contract? Canfield’s latest book about the M1 infers otherwise – that H&R did better than any of the other civy manufacturers of the Garand & they even helped troubleshoot one of Springfield’s screw-ups that was plaguing IHC.

    & as an aside, I would argue that the M14 gas system was an alteration, not an improvement, if only such an argument wouldn’t reveal my bias… :)

    1. Hognose Post author

      ISTR my great uncle Dan (employed at HR) making two points about government contracts, one, H&R was always on the bubble over quality, and two, H&R only had contracts because of the seniority of the MA congressional delegation. H&R’s M14 problems were due to a bad batch of steel, which resulted in bad receivers, and the problem was compounded because not all the receivers were bad, and H&R furnished unengraved receivers-in-white to others, notably Winchester (Winchester didn’t get all its receivers from Springfield during the period when the Gorton lateral transfer machine was teething, even though many sources say this). Ordnance’s answer was to develop a machine that could test the recievers; the bad steel had different electromagnetic properties than the good.

      I don’t have enough good M1 references here to track down the issue with the M1, though. I happen to have all the key books on the M14 at hand.

  15. Colorado Pete

    It was International Harvester that had the problems making the M1 receivers, not H&R. Springfield ended up supplying IH with receivers that were then stamped by IH.
    I like M14’s but never could afford an M1A. Never did care for the M16 type but will probably build my first one this year. I guess I’ll just stick to my beloved Garands for the time being…

  16. Matt

    Wow! so many learned people here putting down the M-14! Well, I’m not much of an egghead, but having read all that was posted here. I still have no urge to turn my M1-A into slag. You see, I know that the M-14/M1-A was not a magical wand which would never require cleaning or repair. And yes, shoot enough bullets out of the barrel and it will wear out. And yes, dropping an M-14/M1-A to the ground might mess up it’s sights. And blab,blab, blab. All the things being posted here are just as applicable to the M-16 service rifle, and I’ve seen the souped up ones used for DCM matches and a few used in Camp Perry. Those rifles as just as decked out as all get out and for some reason, their barrels get changed out after so many rounds. go figure.

    So, since most here are looking forward to getting rid of their M-14s, I’d would be more that happy to buy them from you for $50 -100. a piece depending on condition. (They are nothing but junk right?) But please, no Federal Ordinance please. Now those are pieces of junk.

    P.S. Look up mil spec.

  17. Tam

    I am not surprised at the butthurt generated by Looseround’s post. There is a lot of not-entirely-rational love for the M14 out in gun nut land. There’s a persistent fantasy among fans of ads in Shotgun News that the Bulgarians will invade to back up the poodle-shooter-wielding thugs of FEMA/DHS, and our noble heroes will sling up on a hilltop and pot ’em down at 500 yards because they just have the guns of cooks, like AKs and M4s, and not Riflemen.

    It’s oddly reminiscent of the guy who thinks the thug… sorry, goblin‘s .25 or .32 bullets will bounce off him because he carries a .44 or .45.

    1. Brad

      “There is a lot of not-entirely-rational love for the M14 out in gun nut land.”

      That is hardly unique. There is plenty of not-entirely-rational love for AR’s and Kalashnikovs too, out in gun nut land. Or particular handgun calibers. Or particular handguns. Or or or…

      I think what might be unique is the not-entirely-rational level of hatred for the M14 and for the M16, out in gun nut land. It’s truly nutty.

  18. Pingback: The Captain's Journal » Notes From HPS

  19. Kirk

    Overall, the thing that strikes me about all the M14 defenders is just how much they and their ilk contributed to the general dysfunction of the small arms procurement programs, over the years. The syndrome goes back to the pre-WWI era, and it’s warped the hell out of our national thinking about this issue.

    The primacy of the individual rifleman in combat was going out the window during the Boer War, and was gone entirely by the time WWI started. Trouble was, nobody really recognized it, and you could arguably say that many here in the US still haven’t. Coming out of the WWI era, many forward-looking thinkers in many armies around the world looked at the cold, hard facts and said that the full-power rifle was an outdated concept. The only people that actually did anything about that were the Germans and the Russians, both of whom got stuck in the past during WWII strictly due to bad timing. Nothing in WWII experience refuted the idea that an intermediate cartridge, capable of being fired controllably on full-auto was the way of the future. The only people who were still in denial about that were the Americans, and you can trace a direct thread from the pre-WWI era through to the 1960s, when the US finally figured out what everyone else already knew–The full-power, so-called “Battle Rifle” is a concept whose utility is highly questionable outside of the realm of DMR. The fact that we went through two full-scale rearmament programs after WWI before figuring this out is a marker for how childishly obsessed most of the parties responsible were, and still are.

    You do a cold, hard reading of the facts, and it becomes clear that the average individual rifleman is not going to engage at ranges much beyond 300m on a routine basis. We knew that in WWI, we knew that in WWII, and we knew that in the 1950s. The numbers and the analysis were there, and we just kept right on making believe that the average combat range for a in individual rifleman was something on the order of 1200m or greater. Never mind the fact that you can’t see the damn enemy and distinguish him very well at that range, unless you’re talking an extraordinary set of circumstances, these man-children were bound and determined to have their little “hoo-ah-er than thou” way. And, they got it, much to our ensuing disadvantage.

    We really should have adopted something on the order of the British .280 for the individual weapon, and gone with something a bit heavier for the GPMG support weapon, perhaps something akin to the Swedish 8mm machinegun cartridge. The mix that we wound up with, the 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO cartridges are unfortunately distributed in capability far differently than would be the ideal, something we’re learning the hard over the last few years. Whether or not that will sink in, we’ll have to see.

    The M14 enthusiasts are, in my mind, a bunch of childish manques. We did what they wanted to do, back at the dawn of the NATO alliance, and it didn’t work. The cartridge they wanted for the individual weapon was too heavy, uncontrollable on full-auto, and yet too light for long-range anti-material and penetration of cover. That entire concept failed in Vietnam, but instead of admitting they were wrong, they forced through an entirely unproven new idea called SCHV. God knows how much better off we might be had they had the humility to admit that they were wrong about 7.62mm NATO, and gone back to the .280 British, finally admitting that the experiences of war meant what they meant.

    I met an old-school Infantry officer at a dining-in. His grandson was a captain in the Engineers, and while we were standing around doing the usual meet-and-greet there at the beginning, he and I got to talking. He’d been involved on the periphery of the caliber trials back in the 1950s. Interesting thing was, he was a combat-promoted officer who’d been in the ASTP, and then transferred to Northern Europe as a replacement. He later made a career out of the Army, serving in Korea and the very beginning of Vietnam. His only comment about the whole caliber controversy? “Well, the Camp Perry boys wanted a rifle they could compete at the matches with, and they got it…”. Asked him to elaborate, and about all I could get out of him was that a lot of the irrationality that we see looking back about the whole issue stemmed from one thing, and one thing only: The people who’d gravitated towards running the small arms programs were all enthusiastic competitors for the games we played at the National Matches, and almost none of the men who’d had real combat experience in WWII were allowed any say, whatsoever. The men who’d had to deal with the StG44/MG42 combination in Northern Europe came away with a strong desire for a similar family of weapons, but they were unable to even get a solid hearing when it came time to choose the new caliber and weapon.

    It was interesting talking to him–He was the only guy I ever met who was a strong firearms enthusiast in the Army, and who thought that the NRA/Camp Perry/National Match community was an inimical influence. Given the history since the period we chose the 7.62mm NATO, I hate to say I think I’m coming around to his opinion. Gamesmanship apparently trumped experience, at least from his perspective, and I can see the outline of his point, when I review the history.

    Which is probably a good argument for making damn sure your games that you play have fidelity with the real world. Unfortunately, the Camp Perry community didn’t maintain contact with real-world combat conditions, and that fact has had a ripple effect down through time.

    1. looserounds.com

      the gravel bellies at Camp Perry have at many times been a set back. The size and shape of the M40A3 is a great example. USMC rifle teams shooters selected that McMillian stock because of its comfort when laying prone and shooting small groups. Having no idea what it would be like crawling through mud or over urban windo frames and crawling through atics. Same with the fixed 10x scopes on guns in the 80s.-90s .

      I used to shoot service rifle and high power, but a lot of those guys confuse that with real world use

      The Old M14 Boys Club is a perfect example of this line of thinking, You can tell how on the money you are, by how pissed they get and start with the personal insults.

      1. Brad

        Those “gravel bellies” were primarily responsible for the M16a2. Was that a great leap backward from the M16a1?

        1. Kirk

          In a lot of ways, yes.

          The A2 had overly-complex rear sights, a too-long buttstock, a truly idiotic three-round burst mechanism that was inimical to consistent trigger pull, a barrel whose profile made no damn sense, and zero real improvement to things like the bolt carrier.

          There’s a lot that could have been done, in that era, which was ignored. There’s a whole Army white paper discussing why the Army shouldn’t adopt the A2, and I have to agree with a lot of what they were saying. The only real improvements that I find on the A2 were the flash suppressor, the front sight post, handguards, and stronger butt stock materials. Everything else was a waste of time and money.

          What they could have done? What they should have done? How about a rotary hammer-forged barrel, like the Canadians put on their version? Better materials and coatings for the bolt carrier and bolt? Improved features for ambidextrous use? A better system for sling mounting? Hell, why couldn’t they have integrated decent night sights into the weapon, like the Galil or Valmet had back in the 1970’s?

          Any of that would have been of more utility to combat soldiers, as opposed to target shooters. The sling mounts alone, for God’s sake… Who the hell has the time to get into a sling-lock in the middle of a firefight? It’s a nice-to-have feature on a rifle you’re using in a DMR role, but for a combat soldier? Useless–Give him something like the British three-point L85 sling, and call it good.

          They also should have put a collapsible stock on the damn thing, back when they made the A2, just like the Canadians did with the C7A2. That makes the weapon so much easier to get in and out of vehicles that it’s not even funny, and allows for use with heavy winter gear and body armor–Both things we knew were an issue, even back then.

          No, the M16A2 was not much of an improvement on the A1. About all it really amounted to was a refresh of the fleet, for the Army. Frankly, looking back on it, about all I would have taken from the A2 were those things I named earlier as actual improvements.

        2. looserounds.com

          yes ,Brad, mostly it was. No one was happy with the A2 but those Marines who wanted to see their bullseye scores go up have a target sight and a longer stock for prone. that is what they got. I personally like the A2, but its not better than the A1 in every possible way. I think the 1/7 twist was a leap forward. I think a slightly heavier barrel was a good idea, though poorly done on the A2. I like the two different rear sight sizes. but I don’t think that target sight got used too much in a real fight

          you are asking that question to a guy who shoots rack grade A2s out to 1,000 yards using the irons sights fairly often. But. I do not think that makes it a handier rifle than the A1 in every possible way.

    2. Brad

      I think your desire to find convenient villains for the story of American small arms is the wrong path. That way leads to the dumbness of James Fallows, and believe me you don’t want to accidently find yourself sharing his camp.

      The main problem with American military small arms is they have always been a sideshow. Between WWI and WWII the Army was tiny, barely paid, and sitting on a mountain of small arms left over from WWI mobilization. That the Army ended up fighting in WWII with something as good as the M1 rifle is a minor miracle.

      After WWII the Army again demobilized. And when the Korean War turned the Cold War hot, the Army was focused on higher priority topics than small arms. Weapons that could make all the difference in the new era, such as guided missiles and nuclear weapons. Is it such a surprise that Army small arms policy then seems so mediocre to us today?

      And what if the Army had gone with the far-sighted thinkers in 1952, paid whatever it cost, and we ended up with something like a functional T25 in the British .280 caliber. Would that really have been better? Would we be in a better place today if we had?

      The fact is smaller caliber rifles are really all about better control of hand-held full auto fire, and not about weight. The far sighted thinkers of that day, who also promoted replacement of the M14 by the XM16E1, believed in attrition warfare and spray and pray fire by barely trained conscript riflemen. (A doctrine shared by the Soviets) We tried attrition warfare in Vietnam, and all it generated was lots of American casualties without producing any victory.

      Yet beginning in the 1980’s those ‘gravel bellies’ (which some commenters hold such contempt for) began to push back with the M16a2 and re-emphasizing accurate semi-auto fire. The post-Vietnam volunteer US Military began to emphasize training more than ever before during peacetime, even for the poor bloody infantry. An emphasis on training and aimed fire which directly led to optical sights for US military rifles.

      In my opinion, the desire for a universal automatic infantry rifle, whether it was the Soviet AK, the American M14, or the Colt AR-15 was a mistaken dead end, a dead end which did not properly account for the complexity of small arms mixtures within contemporary infantry formations. A complexity which began in WWI and fully flowered by WWII. It’s almost as if some ‘thinkers’ pined away for the old Napoleon era of combat when infantry were practically interchangeable the world over and only armed with the bayonet fitted musket, a weapon system in use for 150 years.

      1. Kirk

        I have to ask you this, Brad–Do you have any experience as a soldier/marine, or are you someone whose sole experience is as a civilian small arms enthusiast? And, I don’t mean to denigrate you if you don’t have a military background, at all–It’s just that we who have spent decades hauling these weapons around, training with them, and taking them to war have a much different perspective on the various issues.

        Your last two paragraphs are what make me wonder if you’ve ever been on the pointy end of the stick, because you’re really distorting the reality of the situation with regards to the way we trained. The Army never emphasized full-auto fire with the M16 during my entire career, which went from 1982 to 2007. I can’t think of more than one or two occasions where I actually fired the weapon on full-auto during a range session, and those occasions only came about because some knuckle-dragging Neanderthaler like myself though it might be a good idea to give the troops a feel for what full-auto or burst really felt like, before they had to find out on the job, so to speak.

        The thing is, fully automatic fire is one of those things that you need to have, but only in major emergencies. Wanat, for example. Read the after-action reviews on that little cluster-f**k, and you get a good feel for why that position is still on the switch. Same-same with trying to break contact in a jungle, or any one of the multiple other situations where full-auto is a literal life-saver. Sometimes, aimed semi-auto is just not enough, or even effective.

        You guys who’ve never been out there just don’t get how firefights actually work. Winning one has just as much to do with achieving mental dominance over the enemy as it does with actually killing them. If your volume of fire is too low, they don’t get discouraged and turn and run, even if you’re killing them in job lots. Why? Because they don’t “get” that they’re losing, especially in compartmented terrain. There are a couple of Vietnam vets who took silenced Swedish “K” submachineguns into combat in Vietnam and who came back swearing never to do it again. Why? Because suppressive fire that isn’t accompanied by signature isn’t really that suppressive. When you get into a firefight, sometimes the difference between winning and losing is strictly based on the intimidation effect of volume of fire, and not its effectiveness. Nobody is going to get up to charge through a unit that’s putting out bullets like there’s no tomorrow coming, even if they’re not hitting anything on your side. That’s just a fact of life in combat. On the flip side, if you’re only hearing/seeing a couple of rounds come back at you, you tend to discount the threat those guys are putting out, even if every round they’re firing is killing one of your comrades.

        Combat is probably more mental than physical, in some ways. Convince the enemy that you’re dangerous, and they’ll leave you alone, Convince your own troops that you’re dominating the firefight, and they won’t break and run. Do the opposite, and instead of leaving you the hell alone, they’ll try to overrun your position, and maybe your own troops will break and run, even if they’re veterans. A lot of people discount the fact that the reason we like guns that make a lot of noise is as much a morale thing as anything else. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of MG42 fire will tell you that the experience is unforgettable, assuming you live to remember it.

        Sometimes, it’s a mixed bag–I remember when we took on some Force XXI guys in order to provide them with a training opportunity. From dusk of one summer night to dawn the following morning, we suffered something like 80% losses. And, yet… Never during the night did the traditional panic reaction you really want to cause in the enemy under those circumstances arise, simply because what they were doing was not intimidating enough, in some respects.

        The Force XXI guys had every man in their platoon operating with a set of night vision goggles, infrared laser pointers on their rifles, and full-up comms for every man. There were a few thermal sights in there, too. For them, it was like shooting fish in a barrel–They literally just walked around the battalion defense we put together, found the defensive positions and then just sniped our asses with aimed single shots. Until you’ve been on the receiving end of people with infrared pointers and night vision goggles while you barely have any night vision equipment, you just don’t get it. We couldn’t even see where they were, or determine where the shots were coming from.

        Of course, once they ran out of battery power and laagered up for daylight, we found them and our survivors basically just overran them. Thing is, the essential element of defeating the enemy, which is engendering panic, never happened happened to us. Had they inflicted those losses on us via a traditional human-wave Chinese/Vietnamese style mass attack, I don’t think we’d have been in mental shape to even think. The lack of mass, the lack of firepower, and the way that we were just being sniped to death while not being able to inflict a single casualty on the people that were doing it to us was just something that pissed us off. We knew there weren’t that many of them, and we knew that once we had daylight, they were done. So, we waited, absorbed the casualties, and then utterly crushed them when we got the light to do it.

        Combat is a funny, funny thing–Sometimes, it just doesn’t work the way you think it will. Other times, it’s sadly stereotypic.

        1. Brad

          Kirk if your service began in 1982, then obviously you were part of the revamped volunteer post-Vietnam Army. An army with entirely new focus on improved training thanks in part to efforts of men like General DePuy.


          I would be very surprised if your rifle training resembled that of a Vietnam era conscript, the infamous ‘grunts’ of Vietnam. The doctrine supporting the M16 when first adapted was that a mass conscript force could not be trained to exploit the accuracy of an ordinary rifle, because the Army did not have the time or resources to train accurate shooters. Riflemen with the M16 were expected to just blast away on full-auto. The studies of that era are full of such talk.

          1. Kirk

            Brad. you know nothing about what you’re talking about.

            The Trainfire crap I went through in the 1980s was virtually identical to the training they gave the guys going to Vietnam. The manual I was trained out of was unchanged from the Vietnam era. Hell, if anything, they dumbed the training down for us, and cut whole swathes of stuff out of what they gave the Vietnam-era troops.

            You’ve read too many bullshit “Vietnam memoirs”, and don’t know squat about the actual history. I’ve dug into this crap going back to the 1950s, and I’ve got the majority of the manuals covering the training that was actually done, plus a lot of the actual training material kept by instructors of that era. Hopefully, it’s all still intact and not water-damaged.

            You think you know what you’re talking about, but all you’re doing is recapping all the bullshit passed down by generations of people who didn’t know what the hell they were talking about, either. The blather you’re passing on about Vietnam-era soldiers being trained to “blast away” on full-auto is pretty much complete fantasy. That may have been a practice once in-country, in response to conditions where the enemy was virtually invisible, but it was most emphatically not what the training base was teaching them to do before going overseas. The qualification courses fired by Vietnam-era troops were virtually identical to the ones I fired for the vast majority of my career, right down to the type of target and range.

            If you’d have spent a year or two on active duty, you’d bloody well know this.

          2. Hognose Post author

            Actually, Vietnam era soldiers learned on bullseye ranges or on Trainfire once it came in (starting, IIRC, 1966). Marines learned on the KD range exactly like today. Either in infantry training or in in-country training they got exposure to what was the latest in point-fire technique, Quick Kill. None of this involved spraying on full-auto.

            One of my biggest beefs with Big Green training is that nobody teaches (even now) the pros, cons, and limits of auto fire. You’ve got to go to something like SFAUC to pick that up, which locks out 97% of the Army, or learn it in your unit, if your unit figures it out. For example, not too long ago we covered the limits of sustained auto fire on the M16/M4 platform, and the mayhem that ensues if you exceed them. Last night I looked at the M14 -10 technical manual and found that it had even stricter limits than the M16 on sustained fire.

            Finally… an old saying of mine is that “If you look like a tank on a combined arms battlefield they will treat you like a tank,” meaning an ATGM or tank main gun is coming your way. If you try to sustain fire from a single position in infantry combat, any sentient enemy will not you acting like a crew-served weapon, and target crew-served weapons on you. This is not conducive to long life and health (in World War I, it may have been a doughboy/tommy/poilu/Landser legend, but every set of grunts had the same saying, “The life expectancy of a machine gunner is…” with a ridiculously short number like 7 seconds. That’s because bored artillerymen would amuse themselves by dropping large quantities of HE on the gun in question, and enemy MGs would begin talking to it.

          3. Kirk

            I’ll have to go digging into storage, Hognose, but Trainfire came in roughly around 1956, not ’66. The KD ranges were a part of BRM, just like it was for my generation. We still qualified on the 40-round pop-up target range, just like the guys in the late Vietnam era did. Or, at least, the ones I knew, who’d gone through Fort Leonard Wood.

            I’m trying to remember when they changed the BRM programs for Basic Training, and I think it was the late 1980s or early 1990s. I know the troops quit showing up in that era with any knowledge at all about what a bullet going overhead sounded like, because I was on the ranges with a couple of them back around then when we discovered that range control had failed to connect the dots when it came to where we were working and where the surface danger zone was for one of the MG ranges at Yakima. We started having rounds come downrange with us, and the majority of the new troops were standing around going “What’s that funny sound…?” while the rest of us were crawling under the trucks…

            Spend a couple of days pulling targets for the KD range, and you KNOW what bullets going overhead sound like, if nothing else. Still think they should have kept that training going, if only for that reason.

          4. Kirk

            Hognose–Without digging through the mass of crap I put together over the years, I went looking online for Trainfire dates.

            I found this:


            Bottom of page A-7, I found where they talk about Trainfire. The date the first manual was published on it was 1957, and there were two different ones out there–FM 23-71 and -72. The -71 was for the rifle, I’m assuming for the M1, and the -72 was for the carbine.

            This goes back to before the timeframe I’ve got stuff for. The entire DTIC report looks interesting, and I’ll have to read through it for what else may be interesting.

            I think the M16 marksmanship training in Basic was pretty much the same from the late 1960s to at least the mid-1980s. If you go look at the FM 23-9 from 1966, it is not that different from the 1974 edition, which was in force until 1989.

            FM23-9, XM16E1 Rifle Marksmanship, 1966:


            FM23-71 M14Rifle Marksmanship, 1964:


            Brad’s basic contention that the Vietnam guys were somehow less trained than we were later on is pretty much refuted by a linear examination of these manuals. The ’66 version of the M16 manual references the M14 manual for course of fire, which was virtually the same for the two weapons in that era, and then lays out the qualification standards. If anything, Vietnam-era soldiers got more detailed training than my generation did, which isn’t surprising–They were going to war straight after basic and AIT, and a lot of the excuses they used on us, like “You’ll get that at permanent party…” were just not on.

            Somewhere, I’ve got the notes and training guides they were using on Fort Lewis for all the pre-deployment training they were doing at North Fort, back in the day. That was the final jumping-off point for a lot of Soldiers, and they ran jungle orientation courses up on the bluffs above the Puget Sound, slightly south of Steilacoom. I found a footlocker of that stuff out at one of the surplus stores back in the 1980s, and it was interesting to go through it. Bunch of otherwise undocumented stuff that ties in with some of what LTC Herbert and Hackworth were talking about when they discussed inspecting training back here in the states.

            Anybody who tries to tell you that the typical Vietnam-era soldier was a victim of inadequate training ought to read through that stuff–While there may have been cases and units where the training wasn’t what it should have been, the institution was trying hard, and at least some organizations and people were getting good training. You walk those bluffs out over the sound and wander around all the old ranges they were using, and it’s very impressive. Having done that, I really have to wonder about what the hell the real truth was about the state of training back in those days. In some respects, the information and artifacts I’ve seen lead me to believe that it may have been better that what we were doing in the “good old days” from my period of service. Then, I hear from actual vets stuff that is just appalling about how poorly they were prepared, and I have to wonder which set of facts is “the truth”. The reality likely is that there were some people who got good training and preparation, and then there were others who got screwed. The question is, what was the proportion?

      2. looserounds.com

        yes Brad I second Kirk’s question. I also would like to know just how familiar you are with the Service Rifle/ High Power community and the average thought process they have with military small arms. your romanticizing of the old square range KD shooters over the guys who use the stuff to kill, is odd. I have been around them my entire life and i would not let any of them decide the type of rifle I might have to go fight with

        they are one of the reasons the absurd M14 is still being pushed. they pushed the M40A3 which few wanted to carry while they had to crawl though the weeds wearing a ghillie, They brought up fixed 10x sniper scopes. They think up some real doozies. Because its sooo comfy when laying prone on a fresh mowed KD range on a cool fall morning. service rifle shooters very rarely = combat weapon innovators. get over it. they come up with fine target and competition rifles, innovate accurate ammo and are fine athletes , but its best they dont have too much say on what the guys out in the field have to carry.

    3. Chas S. Clifton

      Good points. If you read the Army’s “musketry” manual by Oliver Prescott Robinson (available on Google Books), published just before we entered WW1, you will see that the expectation was that the individual soldier, guided by his platoon leader, would engage the enemy with aimed fire at 500+ yards.

      I still think that they had in mind fighting Comanche Indians on the Texas prairie.

      1. Kirk

        I think the Boer War had more influence than the Indian wars. And, if you were fighting on a battlefield where machineguns and automatic fire wasn’t a major issue, they weren’t that far off the mark for “what worked”. The issues with that style of fighting not working started arising about the time that things like the French quick-firing 75mm cannon and machineguns became common, along with innovations like using barbed wire for combat field fortifications. The real root problem is that the thinking of that era did not take into account the amount of innovation and change that was going on.

        I don’t have a major problem with things like that Robinson manual. The state of the art was changing so rapidly in the era from about 1890 to 1914 that I can’t quite bring myself to blame the people running the various armies for not being adapted to WWI conditions before the war. The Russo-Japanese War showed the way, but one example in a far-off theater isn’t going to serve as a warning sign, particularly when the two opponents fighting it aren’t well-reputed.

        However, after WWI? There was no damn excuse. The lessons were there for the taking, you just needed to have the self-awareness and honesty to acknowledge them. You can argue budget and attention all you like, but then you have to tell me why it was that there were people in every army who were prescient and honest enough to point out that the emperor was wearing no clothes, yet who were ignored in every army but the German and Soviet ones?

        And, hell, even with those two, it was probably only the hard lessons of WWII that brought home the need to overcome the self-delusional notions that many of the authorities still maintained.

        What really aggravates me, looking back over the histories of these things, small arms and minor tactics, is how many lives we expended uselessly due to the inability to learn lessons that experience was plainly laying before us. We finally issued the rifle we should have fought WWI with in the 1960s, and then promptly found out that the nature of war had changed so much that it was completely untenable as an issued weapon. If people had been paying attention, however? We might not have lost so many good men in WWII, Korea, or the early days of Vietnam.

        Hell, just as an example: Why in the hell did it take us until the late 1950s to realize that it might be a good idea to produce and issue a ready-made fougasse, like the Claymore? Is there anything in that weapon that we couldn’t have been making and issuing in the 1920s, for God’s sake? How many lives would the Claymore have saved, in the Pacific theater during WWII, for example? You look back at things like that, and you just have to shake your head.

  20. Keith

    You know that thing where you can’t tell if someone is actually serious about their position or is just doing a parody to mock said position? That’s how I am seeing these pro M-14 posts here. I can’t tell if they are serious or just messing with us.

    1. looserounds.com

      no kdding. Poe’s Law I believe it is called

      its like reading some liberal saying they want to murder kids because you like guns, and guns kill kids

      I am soooooo glad I disable comments on my article. Weapons man has more balls than me!

  21. Scott

    And yet –

    When the Taliban started sniping out our boys from 600 yards away with WWI era British .303’s we found out that a unit with nothing but 5.56 weapons couldn’t effectively counter that.

    So, the army scrambled to find, wait for it – M14’s. For the designated “marksman” program. Seems that .308 was superior to the M16/M4 when it came to putting a projectile out to those distances with any effect. Oh yeah, and they wanted a “marksman” to do that too. Guess that concept isn’t entirely outmoded either.

    When your enemy doesn’t want to fight your “modern” war it kind of messes things up.

    I have 4 AR-15’s. They are fun to shoot compared to my Garand(s) and M1A.

    But somehow I think there isn’t anything they can do (ignoring select-fire and even 3 round “bursts”) that I can’t do with the M1A. And that if I started off at one end of a large industrial building with 20 rounds against somebody else on the other end with an M4 and 30 rounds that I would be at a distinct dis-advantage. I think I actually would have the advantage.

    If you want to argue that the 3 round burst gives my opponent the advantage then give me the M14. I can shoot 3 round bursts with it too.

    There is no perfect weapon. The M4 is not one, nor is ANY weapon ever used by any army.

    But the idea that the M4 is so obviously superior to the M14 was put to bed when the Army had to scramble to find M14’s for the DM program.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Many of your facts, well, aren’t facts.
      “Taliban sniping our boys from 600 yards with .303s…” Didn’t happen. In 2001 and still today, Taliban and HIG (etc). are armed with Soviet pattern weapons. 7.62 x 39 AKs. The 600 yard threat is not a .303, but a PKM.

      “The Army scrambled to find M14s.” Didn’t happen. The Army knew where the M14s were for the EBR program, all 8,500 of them — in Army storage.

      The EBR, after Rock Island (the real arsenal, not some civilians pilfering the name) is supposed to come out as a 1.5 MOA rifle minimum, and they’ve averaged below 1 MOA, but they don’t stay that way indefinitely in the field. It’s permanent employment for Rock Island refreshing them after tours.

      The Army built the EBRs not because they’re better than SR25s but because they’re much much cheaper. The Army already owns the guns and they can go through, give ’em the national match treatment, and accessorize each one for <$3k. An Mk11 or M110 is a more capable system but is $11k all in, so they get three EBRs (with scopes and everything) for the price of one of the new sniper rifles. A rack grade M4 with a 4x scope is perfectly adequate for engaging targets at 600m. Like a rack grade M14, it's a sub 2MOA rifle without any tuning.

      1. Kirk

        And, let’s not forget the fact that had the idiots not insisted on the 7.62mm NATO in the first place, we’d have an individual weapon cartridge that has far more potential at the named problem range than the 5.56mm NATO we are currently issuing, and wouldn’t need to be pulling the M14 out of storage in the first place. Whatever we’d have adopted to fire the .280 British would likely still be on general issue, and fully refined, to boot. Maybe a Stoner AR-something design? Wouldn’t that be nice, a built-to-purpose weapon firing a cartridge that just about everyone now admits is the ballistic ideal for intermediate cartridges?

        The .280 British has a better ballistic coefficient than the 7.62, and in some loadings, actually maintains more energy at long range than the 7.62mm NATO. So, yeah… If they’d have kept their toys restricted to the games they were playing, we’d have all been a hell of a lot better off, and retained a bunch more money in the Treasury.

        The more I hear from these unreconstructed mental deficients, the angrier I get. Sure, now we’re pulling the M14 out of storage, but the only damn reason we’re doing it is because their shortsighted gamesmanship is what forced us into adopting the caliber we did in the first place.

        And, let’s be blunt: The Camp Perry National Matches are so far behind the times when it comes to what their original intent was that it’s not even funny. The NRA and the folks who started that program out were intending to help foster marksmanship for wartime use. Instead, it turned into a game that has very limited application to the world of modern combat. If they had maintained fidelity to what we are actually doing in combat, Camp Perry would more resemble a three-gun match than the esoteric little paper-punching joyfest that it’s become.

        And, frankly, the influence these people have wielded has been entirely inimical. The M16A2 is what it is mainly because the Marine Corps gravel-bellies wanted to turn a good assault rifle into a target gun, and the Army just went along for the ride. Whether you’re talking the fiddly overly-adjustable rear sights. the longer stock, or any of the other “improvements” they came up with, the intent wasn’t to make a better combat rifle, but a better target rifle. Arrant idiocy.

        What just aggravates the hell out of me is that these clowns pretend that they have relevancy, and the fact is, they don’t. Combat marksmanship has more to do with finding and ranging the target, and weapons-handling skills than it does with pure target shooting. We train people to hit targets in an artificial combat environment, and then wonder why the hell they get killed at close quarters, when they try to do a speed reload they were never trained the proper technique for. Hell, some Marine infantry units never trained on that sort of shooting, at all. Disbelieve me? Take the time to read this thread, over at M4Carbine.net, and then ask yourself how much good Camp Perry-style paper-punching did this Marine:


        The Army had to run people through the Close Quarters Marksmanship training classes before they went into Iraq, when that sort of thing should have been integrated into training from the beginning.

        It’s absolutely criminal, when you get down to it. I learned more about keeping myself alive in combat from word-of-mouth lore and teachings I picked up from the Vietnam veterans that were running the show when I enlisted back in the 1980s than I ever did from the formally run and managed training programs that the institution put into the manuals. When they ran my unit through the Close Quarters stuff, there wasn’t a damn thing in that training that I hadn’t already been taught back when I was a Private. What was different was that instead of me getting in trouble for passing that stuff on, as happened in the 1990s, they had civilian trainers they were spending huge amounts of money on, doing the training at the last minute out in the Kuwaiti desert. Go figure.

        So, yeah… Here’s a hearty and sarcastic “Thank YOU!” from me to all the soi-disant gravel bellies that brought us the 7.62mm NATO and the M14. You successfully procured the perfect rifle for us to fight WWI with, some forty-odd years after we needed it. I’d rather say something far more profane, but this isn’t my blog.

        What we should have had was a family of cartridges and weapons that actually match and support the way we fight: A true intermediate cartridge that is both controllable on full-auto and able to retain enough energy out at the far end of its range envelope of 600 to 800 meters to be effective, and a full-power machinegun cartridge that we can rely on out to about 1500+ meters. Neither of the cartridges we defaulted ourselves into thanks to these idiots really support what we’re doing in the fight, these days. The 5.56mm NATO is too light for what it’s role has become, and so is the 7.62mm NATO. We’d have been a lot better off if we’d have adopted the .280 British for the individual weapons, and kept the old .30–06 for the machineguns and DMR/sniper roles. Ideally, we’d have come up with something in between that and the .338 Lapua, though.

      2. Big Joe

        Hognose I’m glad you finally brought the EBR into the discussion.

        I really think that the M14 is the awkward child produced in a broken home where two parents were always fighting. It stretched to be all things that both sides wanted, but ultimately doesn’t do any thing particularly well.

        In its day, the FAL, G3, and M14 were the individual services rifles representing the NATO forces standing up the Communists. Obviously, we already know this. However, I find them all to be roughly equivalent in their intended use. They each have features unique to their design, however the common feature, the 7.62 NATO, is where they all show weakness. The FAL, and the CETME/G3 were originally designed for intermediate cartridges. Their designs were stretched to accommodate the new standard round. Now the issues surrounding the cartridge have been covered, but I believe that all would agree that 7.62 in a rifle platform where light weight is the emphasis, means for short service lives on operating parts. Stories are common of worn out Argentinian FALs detonating in the hands of troops in the Falklands, probably more exaggeration, but I believe there are durability issues in all these platforms.

        The M21 from all I’ve read is a poor sniper weapon, but I feel we’ve moved on to better options anyway.

        I feel the M14 DMR is a product of our times, we had a stock pile of these weapons, that when upgraded were able to fill a need. Would MK17’s have been a better alternative, I believe yes, however M14’s could be fielded faster and for lower cost at the time, because we already owned them. Why let them sit on shelves? Wear’em out, and replace them with something better.

        I am not discouraged by any of these articles from owning My M14 clone rifles, but they also aren’t the only rifles I own. If I have to hump my own ammo and equipment, I will take my Recce-type AR with MK262 Mod 1 spec ammo, over my M1A in a SAGE chassis. But it is comforting to have a 7.62 for hard cover and vehicles.

        I accept the M14 for what it is, I recognize its faults, but its still a damn fun rifle to own and shoot.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Quite a sensible set of points, Joe. I’ve shot the M21 and when it was all we had we loved it. The M24 was a great leap forward in gun (and scope) uptime and maintainability and durability, all of which are issues in the real world. We didn’t really trust a gas gun again until Crane showed us the Mk11. In the real world, your sniper weapon may deploy around the world in its case on a pallet that falls off the end of a K-loader. Or plunges into a valley on a jingle truck and has to be recovered from the wreckage thereof.

          The US insisted that the 7.62 NATO be ballistically identical to the retiring .30-06, and in ball rounds, it basically was. I’ve fired all those guns (plus the original AR-10) on full auto, and none of them is really controllable; the FA setting is basically useless. The AR-10 was the best of them at that, but it’s not what they’re good at and every army emphasized aimed fire, some to the extent of locking out or deleting the FA switch, like the US and the UK (note also that there’s a switch lockout for the M16 that some civilian agencies and foreign military sales customers have applied). The Thompson shows its century-old roots but you can hold it on target because it’s heavy, has a lower recoil impulse than a rifle cartridge, and has a slow rate of fire. It’s not especially accurate in semi, like any open-bolt gun. But it was a revelation to its original users, and it’s still popular with collectors today.

      3. wd


        They DID PULL M14s out of storage. I was there when they were handing them out to battalion. We had trouble with the 556 round punching through the brick walls. And yes they were using M14 to snipe at longer distances. They were heavier but not heavier than an M4 loaded down.

        After I became a fan of the M14- If we could have been supplied with Springfield Socoms that would be a game changer, 16 inch barrel, and not as much punch as before. Over the past 10-15 years it has had some tremendous improvements. Springfield was about to dive into major improvements when they lost their contract.

        The M4 had TREMENDOUS problems over there dont kid yourself. I saw them first hand, half of our troops hated that gun. And as far as sniping at 600 meters. That round starts to “wobble” after 250-300 meters.

        I am not completely in love with M14 but they performed beuatifully over there. And their Scout and Socom models are much much improved. So speak the truth bobble head…

    2. Keith

      “And that if I started off at one end of a large industrial building with 20 rounds against somebody else on the other end with an M4 and 30 rounds that I would be at a distinct dis-advantage. I think I actually would have the advantage.”

      Good thing we don’t fight wars by having individual infantryman square off against each other at opposite ends of an industrial building. This goes back the “myth of the rifleman” that was discussed before. While having your rifleman shoot well is a good thing it is important to realize that both they and their rifle are cogs in a larger machine consisting of everything from M-16s to GPMGs to heavy artillery and beyond. As for fighting mano a mano in abandoned buildings, my money is on the guy with the better training, not the “better” rifle.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Actually “if I started off… against somebody else” sounds more like a committed player of first-person shooter games, doesn’t it?

        1. Scott

          Sorry, never played any video games like that, too old I guess.

          But I have shot hi-power matches with my Garand (no, I’m not good enough to be anywhere near the top – maybe 350 out of 500 with a dozen or so X’s). With open sights of course on a 200 yd range with the prone targets downsized to approximate a 600 yd shot.

          Again, there is no perfect weapon.

          My complaint is really against the 5.56.

          If the M4 in 5.56 is so great why did the Army pull the M14’s out of storage for the DM program.

          Couldn’t the “marksmen” use M4’s?

          We evidently know the answer to that.

          So in that instance at least the M-14 or another .308 weapon was superior.

          As for your other complaints with my narrative, why are your “facts” better? All I know about it is what I read (including on forums like this). Can you point me to a definitive source for the genesis of the DM program?

        2. Scott

          ps: I’ve seen a fair number of stories with pictures of Afghans with all sorts of weapons, including Brit bolt-action rifles. The British were in Afghanistan long before and a lot longer than the Soviets.

          1. looserounds.com

            yea Kyber pass garbage British weapons, that they carried but probably did not ever use since the GWOT began. . I have seen pictures of them with Martini’s you think they got a big supply of 577 or 310 over there, Scott? please leave wonder land and come back to reality. no one is questioning your manhood or shooting skill because you like the M14

          2. Hognose Post author

            Oh, okay, I’ll believe your pictures over my experience. On the ground. In the place. Suuuure.

            Guys, anybody take a Lee Enfield off an actual dead TB? As opposed to having one turned in, or finding one in a cache with a bunch of other obsolete junk?

            Mind you, I did bring back an Enfield from Afghanistan, but it was a rifle-musket made in the 1850s, and was not what the TB were shooting at us. The Afghan insurgents were not armed with anything but Soviet pattern weapons, including 7.62 x 39 rifles, 7.62 x 54R machine guns, and RPGs, and a variety of mostly Chinese made rockets and recoilless rifles.

      2. Scott

        So, we didn’t need the DM program with a .308 weapon?

        We could have just called in artillery or air-strikes.

        So why didn’t we do that?

        Why did the Army feel it necessary to use the awful M-14?

        1. Kirk

          The Army had a set of Rules of Engagement forced on it that essentially destroyed the system they relied on in combat, reducing it to fighting it out with small arms. As such, the M16 5.56mm weapons were outranged by the PKM-armed insurgents.

          The problem is that despite the fact that we don’t tend to think of things this way, the small arms we issue are integrated into everything we do. 5.5.6mm is just fine, so long as the artillery, mortars, air support, and everything else is there. About all you’re really going to use 5.5.6mm for is self-defense during the close-in fight, and the closing moments of the assault. For those tasks, it’s perfectly adequate.

          The issue comes in where you take away all those other support weapons, and try to rely solely on small arms fires. Under normal circumstances, if I start taking fire from somewhere outside my small arms fire envelope, my next step is to call for fire and blast that location off the the map. When ROE takes that capability away from me, that’s when I start discovering that my 5.56mm weapons have issues.

          Modern infantry combat isn’t so much a matching of small arms against small arms–If you’re doing it that way, you’re wrong. Modern infantry combat is more about getting your forward observers and tactical air control people up close to the enemy, and keeping them alive while your indirect fire support does your work for you. The prediction made a few years ago that things were trending towards making every infantry unit like the SOG recon teams in Vietnam is actually happening, although its not quite all the way there yet. We’re pushing fire control further and further down the chain, these days. Where once you had indirect fire authority on the company level, there are some units where they’ve actually pushed it down to the squad level–Which is mind-boggling by classical WWII-era thought on the matter.

          The real issues with our small arms systems in Afghanistan are that we’ve stripped away vast swathes of the supporting arms those weapons were intended to be integrated with. Which, in my mind, indicates a flawed process in our doctrinal thinking. With a little bit of forethought, anyone looking at those ROE should have been able to easily discern that there were going to be problems, and I think every one of us who did minor tactics for a living saw that coming a mile off. Trouble was, the JAG types don’t grasp how combat works, or why taking indirect fire authority and availability away from the lower level units makes such a big damn difference.

          Friend of mine spent a lot of time working in all the rural areas around Kandahar, the ones that gave the Canadians so many fits. For him, he damn near had to go up to the people he wanted to target with indirect fires, and hand them a questionnaire: “Are you, or have you ever been a member of the Taliban? Are you firing on American troops out of a desire to harm them and overthrow the legitimate elected government of Afghanistan, or are you merely expressing joy through rifle fire at their presence?”.

          Under the current ROE, yeah… The small arms we’re issuing are inadequate, but that’s something that could be fixed with a stroke of a pen. Don’t want to change the ROE? Then, we need different weapons. Something that should have been recognized in doctrine before we made the ROE changes, but that’s the way it goes when you don’t have a good concept of how we fight that’s been indoctrinated in everyone making the decisions. You’d be astounded at how ignorant a lot of the JAG types really are.

      3. Scott

        But the military thought the M-14 was necessary, go figure.

        Guess they needed another cog in the larger machine, since the other cog couldn’t do the job.

    3. looserounds.com

      I laugh out loud. no joke when people throw up the idiotic claim that the M4 or 556 can not make hits at 600 and beyond. Like it takes a 30 caliber round to do that.

      I guess maybe people get individual marksmanship skill confused with a weapons ability?


      irony here is the the guys above talking about what a great long range gun the M14 is while defending the KD boys and their M14, while the AR15 and the 556 beats the panties off the M14 at Perry year after year after year after year,

  22. Scott


    I asked you for a definitive source on the genesis of the DM program. That would include why the Army chose to put M-14’s back in the field.

    Obviously for some reason they did. Even though it is such an awful weapon.

    If not because of Brit .303’s then because of your PKM’s.

    Thank you for not answering my question and admission that all I know about that decision is what I read, and for the assertion that I’m asking you to take what I’ve seen on the internet OVER what YOU experienced on the ground. I did not do that.

    Also, thanks for the smear that I’m Adam Lanza playing video games.

    Bottom line is the military thought the M14 was needed over the M16/M4. I can only suppose that is because it has more punch at a longer range.

    Kirk above says – “About all you’re really going to use 5.5.6mm for is self-defense during the close-in fight, and the closing moments of the assault”. Ok, go slam him.

    As for looser rounds below, I never claimed you couldn’t hit or kill anything at 600 yds with a 5.56. Sure you can. But the military thought the .308 M-14 was a better choice – see Kirks’ comment above. People can call him an idiot too I guess now.

    As for wining matches, well I could do better too with the lighter kick of the M16/M4. But I don’t think they shoot 600 yd courses even at Camp Perry. Regardless, it was in Afghan that the military chose to bring back the M-14.

    So, either they were wrong – and it wasn’t necessary – “marksmen” with scoped M4’s could have handled the job, or the M-14 has an advantage there. And that advantage is more punch at longer ranges.

    I haven’t seen anything here to refute that.

    1. Kirk

      Scot, your reading comprehension needs some work. You completely missed the point that I was making, in that the 5.56mm weapons are perfectly adequate, so long as the supporting arms are there. And, that’s where that line of mine you quote comes in–All we’re calling on individual weapons to do, in normal circumstances, is the close-in fight. Take away the ability to call in fires, and you ought to plan for the fact that our weapons systems are not well-suited for a purely small-arms fight.

      Normally, if I’m taking fire from a machine gun that’s out past my individual small arms range, I’m going to use my organic mortars or call for either artillery or air support to turn that position into a cloud of dust. Take away my indirect fire? I’m screwed, because the weapons you gave me aren’t quite up to the task. At 500-600m, the 5.56mm is right at the ragged outer edge of its performance envelope, especially out of an M4 carbine. Yeah, I probably have a couple of guys who can hit with that thing at that range, but the problem becomes what effect that projectile has at that range. Generally, you’ve bled off enough energy that you’re not going to take the enemy out of the fight instantly, so you need more hits, which aren’t that easy to produce. God help you if they are under some kind of cover, as well–I’ve heard a lot of complaints from friends of mine that the 5.56mm doesn’t do that well against men screened even by light brush at those ranges.

      Bringing back the M14 had a lot more to do with misguided enthusiasm than anything else. I was there when the second Stryker brigade to go to Iraq was ramping up, and there was a lot of enthusiasm with the guys over there for the M14 being brought back. They went over to Mosul with a bunch of them, I think like at least one per squad in the infantry outfits. By the time they came back, most of that enthusiasm was gone, and nobody wanted to carry one as an individual weapon. The commanders started bucking for something like an AR-10 or a Stoner 25. I think they really wanted the M110, to be honest.

      Rood problem with the M14 is that it is not a modern weapon. It’s a fussy little toy, requiring a massive investment in support by the using units. When you have to send the damn things back to Rock Island after every deployment, that, my friend, is what a normal person would call a “clue”.

      Most of the enthusiasm for the M14 when I was still in came from people who didn’t know any better, and who just wanted a 7.62mm NATO individual weapon. After having been told that the only thing on offer was an M14, and getting some experience with it, quite a few of them basically said “screw this”, and went back to the M16 family, even for the DMR role.

      The M14 was a bad rifle, especially considering all the money and effort that’s been lavished on it, over the years. Its really sad that so many have bought into the cult, but that’s what it is: An irrational, faith-based cult. If the weapon was as good as everyone says it was, someone else besides us would have bought the damn thing. The fact that nobody did ought to be taken as a sign that there’s something profoundly flawed, there. Hell, the UK needed a 7.62mm NATO rifle, and what did they do? Did they go to the Taiwanese, and offer to buy their stocks out of storage? Did they try to get any from the US? Nope–They went with an LMT AR-10 design, and are reportedly quite happy with it. As cheap as the Ministry of Defense has gotten, these last few years, I think that they would have gladly bought surplus M14s, instead of spending the money on new-production weapons. The fact that they chose the LMT? Might be a bit of a clue. From what I remember, I think Troy was offering them an upgrade kit for the M14 when they ran the competition that resulted in the LMT weapon getting the nod.

  23. Scott

    No Kirk, I can read.

    “if the supporting arms are there” – then the 5.56 is “adequate’.

    If they aren’t then it is NOT (or MAY be not depending on the circumstances).

    A .308 (or something more potent than the 5.56) was needed. That, if YOU read my post was the point – I said my main complaint was with the 5.56.

    I’ve never made any claim that only the .308 M14 would fit the bill.

    A man I work with and for was in Nam with Marine Recon in 65-6 for 19 months (3 purple hearts, 3 helicopter crashes, 100% service disability due to taking a round in his foot – thru the side of the helicopter – point is I believe what he says).

    He carried a 14. Never a M16 but relates at least 1 story of a unit coming back in and the NCO throwing the 16’s at the feet of the CO saying he would never use them again.

    Pat relates a story of having his 14 stomped into the mud, washing it off in the rice paddie and returning to the firefight. And he says he has a confirmed kill in excess of 500 yards with it. And never had it serviced.

    Maybe he had a rifle built on a Tuesday, maybe in general the 14’s weren’t the weapon they coulda shoulda been, but the .308 packs more punch at longer ranges.

    And in Afghanistan we find out that the 5.56 doesn’t do the job the .308 can do.

    1. seans

      I always love when people try to base their argument off of one man who they say is Special Operations. Why did SOF abandon the M14 so fast for the M16.
      You say things like getting outshot with .303s in Afghanistan. Not understanding that we are getting outshot not on the rifle level, but on the machine gun level.
      You can state the 5.56 is the inadequate in long range combat with Afghanistan. But even the units that have M14s, aren’t seeing some magical success with them. The vast majority of your work is going to be done by your belt fed machine guns, mortars and arty/air.
      As a guy who was issued one in the Stan, owns one personally, and has more experience with them then the vast majority of the military, it’s a gun that needs to go away. It’s a gun that was outclassed at its start of its life. I would take my MK12 back well before I ever take any 14 for any long distance shooting in the Stan.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Yeah, did you ever see a bad guy with a .303? In 2002 and 2003, there weren’t any .303s except in caches without ammo, or in the hands of civilians who were not shooting at anybody, but still had grandad’s old gun (and, usually, no cartridges). If they were shooting at people, they got AKs.

        1. seans

          Never even saw any thing other than Warsaw pact style weapons except those single shot hunting shotguns. And the only thing we got ever engaged with was either rockets or machine guns past 1500 meters. We had good leadership so can say did not have the usual Afghan deployment. Most of our kills came from the last two weapons you would expect to be racking up kills in the Stan.

  24. Brad

    This is my reply to Kirk’s reply upthread.

    Kirk said, “The contention of yours that the Marines have somehow chosen to eschew fully-automatic fire within the squad is what I’m getting at. The last few versions of the Marine marksmanship manual still have full-auto as a part of the training regime, and offer pointers to its use with the M16A2 and M4 Carbine. Then, there’s the M27 IAR, which is for all intents and purposes, a product-improved M16.

    In other words, your idea that the Marines have somehow “left behind” full-auto on their individual weapons is wrong on so many very different levels. Yes, it is not emphasized, and the preferred mode of fire is aimed semi-auto, but it is still there for emergency use.”

    Let me disabuse you of several misconceptions you have made.

    I never claimed nor do I believe “the Marines have somehow chosen to eschew fully-automatic fire within the squad”. I claim the USMC emphasize semi-auto fire from M16 armed riflemen. Which is why the M16a2 eliminated the full-auto selection, and why the replacement for the M16a2, the M16a4 still doesn’t have full-auto capability. It wouldn’t surprise me if the remaining burst fire selection was a throwaway gesture because the Marines couldn’t get away with reverting all the way back to a semi-auto only rifle.

    Of course automatic fire is vital to the infantry, and vital to the USMC all the way down to the fire-team level. For the USMC they believe, and I agree, that full-auto fire within the fire team should be provided by a man dedicated to the task and using a weapon specialized for the task.

    I think all this arguing about rifles and the anger level it seems to bring out is hilarious. Rifles aren’t very important and haven’t been since WWI. The real firepower of infantry and the real mobility tradeoffs have nothing to do with rifles and everything to do with organic supporting arms.

    That’s one reason why I think a smaller caliber for squad or fire-team automatic weapons is an excellent idea, even if the caliber is as small as 5.45mm, though I tend to favor 7.62×39 for that role.

  25. Brad

    I just want to post my thanks to our generous host. Thank you for letting me, an internet nobody, participate in this interesting discussion. Your courtesy and common sense are invaluable.

  26. Brad

    It’s been really interesting to follow the progress of the USMC IAR program, which led to the adaption of the M27 IAR. I’m particularly amused by the conspiracy theory which claims the USMC schemed to bypass normal procurement, and the M27 result was just a backdoor way for the USMC to field a replacement for the M4! Quite a feat considering all the contestants participating in the IAR program and the transparency with which the USMC ran the program.

    From my reading the, Marines seemed particularly influenced by the battle for Fallujah and the problems the M249 SAW had in keeping up with riflemen during close assault. That experience also seemed to influence the size requirements for the IAR, as the Marines wanted an automatic weapon more maneuverable in the confines of urban terrain.

    One thing the battle of Fallujah didn’t seem to influence? A desire by the Marines to restore full-auto fire capability to M16 armed members of the fire-team. How about that.

    1. Kirk

      One thing the battle of Fallujah didn’t seem to influence? A desire by the Marines to restore full-auto fire capability to M16 armed members of the fire-team. How about that.

      Funny thing, that… You’re rather ignoring the fact that they likewise didn’t take the opportunity to completely delete that burst feature, either. Which is sorta odd, considering the effect it has on randomizing the trigger pull, which you’d think they’d have wanted to eliminate if they really believed in the idea of always firing on semi-auto…

  27. Pingback: More Thoughts And Follow Ups From Some Others On The M14 | LooseRounds.com

  28. Kirk

    Y’know, I’ve heard so many tales of how good the M14 and M60 were from Vietnam veterans, and how bad the M16 was that I can only laugh at them. They’re just not credible–Especially since my own personal experiences spread over twenty-five years of service with those weapons were so diametrically opposite. Not just a little different, totally different. When I joined the Army in 1982, I expected to find that the M16 was a piece of junk, and that the M60 was going to be my lifesaver as a combat soldier. Took me two years to realize that the “received wisdom” of my elders was full of it, and that if I wanted to survive as a machinegunner and still provide fire support to my unit, I’d better plan on mugging a German or some other poor sod for their weapon, instead. About the only thing I think I wouldn’t have looted was that equally miserable AAT-52 the French were handing out. MG3? L7? MAG58? Yeah, don’t leave one of them laying around unattended, or you were going to wake up to find my M60 dropped off like some demented fairy was leaving a changeling in your fighting position. That gun never lived up to even a little bit of the reputation that it was supposed to have, according to all my Vietnam-era mentors.

    Why is it that so many people had such different experiences of the same weapons? You tell me. All I know is that I spent a considerable amount of my time as an armorer, gunner, and leader trying to keep that miserable abortion of a machinegun operational, and found very few, if any, real reliability problems with the M16 family. People I know and rely on who took the M14 off to war with the Stryker brigades all reported disappointment with the weapons, and lousy performance. I’d willingly ascribe that to the weapon being out of the system, and not having personnel familiar with it still around, but the fact remains: The weapon did not perform per its vaunted reputation for them. If it was as good as the true believers say it was, it should have done just fine, but the damn things were finicky as hell, and not at all well-liked by the end-users. Everyone who took one over in 2005-06 that I knew didn’t want to take one again, and were, to a man, agitating for something else, anything else, in 7.62mm NATO. The M14 coming back into use wasn’t because of any particular virtues it possessed as a weapon, but because it was the only thing out there for us in 7.62mm NATO. We wanted the cartridge, not the weapon. Saying that we pulled them out of mothballs to go to war with by choice? Disingenuous, at best, and an outright lie at worst.

    I know what I experienced and saw. Someone tells me the M60 and the M14 were wonderful weapons, and I immediately put the person telling me that into a category I’d charitably describe as “at least somewhat delusional and misinformed”. The Vietnam vets who speak so fondly of the M60 aren’t even aware, much of the time, just how much work went into keeping what was essentially a disposable gun in service. Those of us who experienced the M60 as a weapon that didn’t get exchanged for new every time we put it to heavy use know full well what an utterly deficient weapon it really was. The M60 in Vietnam enjoyed a level of support so lavish that it boggles my later Cold War-era mind–They were doing a direct exchange on those guns just about every time they came in from the field, in at least a couple of units. I have that bit of info straight from a former small arms maintenance warrant officer who spent most of his war in Vietnam fighting a never-ending battle to keep his unit’s weapons operational. In his memory, there were more than a few occasions where they had to fly parts in from the states on emergency orders in order to keep them going. After Vietnam, that level of support went away, and the weapon showed its true colors. I had 9 M60s, 20-odd M203s, and roughtly 130 M16A1 rifles in my arms room, along with a set of 90mm M67 recoilless rifles, one M1911A1, and an M2HB. Care to guess which weapon system took up 90% of my maintenance efforts, just to keep the damn things running? It wasn’t the much-maligned M16s, I’ll tell you that much–It was, rather, the vaunted, much-loved “Pig” of the Vietnam-era veterans, the M60. Mine spent more time in 3rd Shop having the receiver rivets restaked than they did firing. Every time I issued them out for actual use, either with blanks or with live ammo, I could count on at least 3 of the 9 needing to go back in because the rivets holding the receivers together had loosened up enough to notice. Or, the welds would have cracks in them. It was always something, with those damn guns.

    And, I can tell you this much: It wasn’t because they were “old and worn-out”, either. I pulled a brand-new example out of factory wrappings when I arrived in Germany in 1984. We went to the range one time with that gun, and because we had the only competent armorer in the battalion, our 9 guns wound up qualifying every gunner across the unit. My M60 probably fired somewhere around 10-15,000 rounds during that exercise, and we lavished them with meticulous care, paying careful attention to rates of fire and letting them cool. The guns were not abused, and we even extended the range over an extra day to make sure we weren’t abusing the damn things. We returned to garrison, and immediately had to send five of the nine guns we had to the people at third shop. Three were coded out, as having receiver wear beyond repairable limits. Mine was one. Later in my career, I did the same thing with an M240, taking it out of the factory packaging. Rough round count on that gun, after two trips to Iraq? God knows, but it was a hell of a lot more than 15,000 rounds. We did that many rounds just in training before they left for Iraq, with that weapon. Last time I did the arms room inspection as the Brigade S2, I was careful to take a long, hard look at that specific gun: Other than exterior receiver finish wear, the thing looked like it did when I took it out of the packaging some three-four years earlier. None of the interior mechanical surfaces showed discernible wear issues, or even much sign the gun had been fired extensively. By that point in the life of an M60, I’d have found so much peening on the sear, operating rod, and interior bolt track that the weapon would likely have already been coded out.

    So, yeah… Cite someone’s Vietnam experience to me, and I’m probably going to smile, giggle a little bit, and ignore it. It’s not relevant, in terms of knowing anything about the merits of a particular weapon system. There are, believe it or not, still Vietnam-era M16s in use by Karen insurgents in Burma, right beside AK47s. Those guns haven’t seen the inside of a service depot since the 1970s, at the latest. Are there any M14s in similar use? You’d think there might be, given that its such a great weapon, and the M16 is such a piece of trash, right? Right?

    The weapon people are defending here had such a short service life that it borders on criminal, when you consider the money expended by the Treasury on it. It went into service in 1957, and by 1962, they were already planning on replacing it for a whole host of reasons. The M14 program was so flawed that it took down the entire agency that designed and produced it, and people are still defending it as some kind of lost uber-weapon. It was not, is not, and never will be more than a highly flawed footnote in the history of small arms design. There isn’t a single mechanical design feature on the M14 that has been copied by anyone else, while the Armalite and Kalishnikov weapons that were its competitors have spawned entire families of weapons emulating their design features. Go down the ranks of modern weapons design, and look for a single one that has the entry “Based on the M14…”. They’re all going to say “based on the AR18” “based on the AR-10”, or “based on the AK47”. The M14 was a dinosaur, and the last of its line. That fact alone ought to tell you all you need to know about the merits of the weapon itself. If it was all that the M14 fanatics insist that it was, someone would have created weapons incorporating design features from it. Did anyone do such a thing? Nope.

    Do note that there isn’t a single such weapon on general military issue out there, anywhere. Although, I suppose that while you could argue that the Ruger AC556-series weapons are descendants of the M14, I’d also have to point out that nobody has been stupid enough to type-classify the things for military use in any major army, anywhere in the world. Police and civilian use, a good deal of which is based on the Ruger product’s lack of a “threatening military appearance”, would not be a good argument to say that the M14 design “legacy” lives in military service.

    The M14 was a piece of shoddy design, foisted off on the Army and Marine Corps by a highly flawed agency that was entrusted with replacing the M1. It is a sad footnote of folly in small arms history, no more, no less. Deal with it.

    1. Hognose Post author

      A couple of points: Any 60 you unwrapped in the 80s or 90s is likelier to have been an arsenal rebuild. I don’t know about 60s, but a dirty little secret of arsenal rebuilt M16s and M4s is, they do meet specs but when new the guns exceeded the specs by a wide margin. So a rebuilt is seldom as good as a factory new gun (both factory and arsenal produce the occasional perfect example and the occasional complete lemon).

      The Ruger Mini-14 has never been as accurate or as reliable as the AR platform. It sells based on its styling. I was amazed to see a million French cops carrying them (complete with M1 Carbine style sling/oiler arrangements). The French bought them based on the styling, to replace carbines.

      1. Kirk

        Hognose, trust me on this–I know what a depot-level rebuild looks like. God knows, I’ve put enough of the damn things back into service, over the years. The gun I’m talking about was a brand-new, virgo-intacta factory-fresh and completely unsullied by hand of private example, still in the sealed vapor-barrier packaging it left SACO-Maremont in back in the late 1960s. Our armorer was told that he’d gotten lucky, because they were clearing some prepo stocks out up in Holland, and this gun was from there. None of the post-Vietnam mods had been applied, and the markings were all pristine and of the correct era, with no sign of the depot stampings they put on the guns when they rebuilt them. It was a bona-fide Vietnam-era gun, without doubt.

        And it managed one field exercise in the 1980s, around 15,000 rounds, and a bunch of blanks before it had to be coded the hell out.

        Yeah, Vietnam-era weapons fans, tell me again how great those things were, and how horrible the M16 was. I don’t particularly like the M16, but at least I’m honest enough to recognize the implications of my personal experience with the weapons I was issued. The more I hear from the M14 fanatics, the less seriously I take them. They’re reflexively defending the undefendable, a weapon that would have never made it past its first field tests in a sane world.

        And you are absolutely correct–The Ruger weapons sell almost entirely because of styling, a criteria I always look at before choosing a weapon… Not.

  29. Brad

    Blown away. The comments above are fantastic. Very informative.

    A couple of questions from a guy who has zero personal military experience:

    Why do we avoid the 7.62×39 rifles such as the AK47 or the CZ58 for our infantry? I realize that the coefficient is lacking at greater ranges, but as was mentioned above several times, if the battlefield is shrinking for most confrontations, would this larger .30 caliber bullet be of value? To me (a nobody), I agree that .556 is insufficient and the M14 is a bit large for the task. So with proper supportive full auto machine gun support and also DMR support the AK style rifles provide durability and value with the increased stopping power….. Seems logical.

    1. Kirk

      Brad, the reasons behind avoiding a true intermediate cartridge solution are pretty much lost to history. We know what those guys were saying, what they wrote, but what they were really thinking? Lost.

      Personally, I find a lot of common ground with the guys like Anthony Williams, a British guy who’s written an awful lot about what he calls a “General Purpose Cartridge”. He and Max Popenker have written a couple of good books about modern small arms, and he’s run a website that makes good reading for many years.

      I really don’t like the 5.56mm Small Caliber High Velocity concept. It places too much reliance on a bunch of highly iffy factors, like whether or not the projectile tumbles, how much velocity it retains, and I just don’t like the low mass of the projectile it requires. But, I’m going to be the first to tell you, I do not have anything other than gut feelings to back that up. It’s entirely possible that the 5.56mm NATO is the best of all possible worlds. The problem is, we’re missing that last hundred metes or so of data, to be able to tell that or not. Mostly because nobody is really trying to get the data.

      There is an awful lot we don’t know about modern combat engagements. Nobody is going out to do post-battle data gathering to try and figure out if our weapons are working the way we think they are. We have lab tests for some things, but the fact is that the lab can’t actually tell you much until you validate your testing regimes by comparing them to real-world results. For all I know, the 5.56mm may be the most effective cartridge ever. I can’t prove that, however, nor can I prove that it’s the worst.

      There’s an intersection here, where the cartridge, weapon, environment, and the way that we’re using the weapons tactically all meet. We don’t know enough about that road, and what we do know stems from some awfully subjective data gathering.

      I spent time at the NTC, where the battlefield is quite literally wired for sound. If a vehicle fires a round, we know where it was fired from, what it was fired at, and how effective it was. You can replay battles fought there in real time, and analyze an awful lot of things, like how terrain masking allows you to miss movement of the enemy, and how the interaction of terrain, weapons, and tactics all interplay to produce victory or defeat. We’ve been pulling data out of there for years, and its stood us in good stead with regards to armored combat. The problem we have with regards to small arms is that the data we need to gather isn’t being gathered, nor is it being analyzed. We very badly need to be able to examine at least a couple of firefights/engagements from Afghanistan, and see what the hell is actually going on. Right now, we’re relying on things like “I fired at X, and we didn’t take any more fire from there…”. We don’t know why the hell the enemy quit firing from that position, nor do we know what weapon it was that actually had the effect on them. The battlefield is so subjective and confusing that you really can’t tell from after-action reviews with the participants what the hell really happened.

      Let’s say, for an example. that we examine a platoon ambushed by the Taliban. One squad says “We were taking fire from the building next to the road, at grid XX123456, so we returned fire and suppressed it with our M4s and M203s…”. Only trouble is, that enemy position was actually silenced because the MG team from another squad engaged it from a location invisible to the first squad, and that’s what forced the enemy to leave, not the return fire from the first squad’s M4s and M203s. So, right there, you start to realize the problems inherent to deciding what weapons to emphasize. If you’re the guy in the first squad, you think that the M4 and M203 does the job, and the guys from the other squad think that the MG teams are the solution. Interview them both, and you’d just get horribly confused when you go to use that data. And, unless you’ve got a good idea of just what the hell the actual sequence of events was… Good luck.

      And, then there’s the fact that we’re not looking at the results carefully, either. We should be actually going downrange and gathering some forensic evidence, as macabre as that may seem. Does the M855A1 actually work on people? Was it the M855A1 fired from the M4s that did in the guys firing at us, or was it the 7.62mm NATO MG team? Are those M855A1 rounds actually working in the field, per the design?

      You really cant’ get a good handle on this stuff without going out and looking at it, and we haven’t been. You can look at the wounded enemy troops we gather up and provide medical care to, but who is actually looking at the dead ones, and looking at how the kill mechanism worked? Anyone? Nope, not so far as I can see, anyway.

      That “last ten yards” of information is what we’re missing. We badly need to figure out a way to gather it up, and then work from there. I wish we’d have figured out a way to wire a unit for sound, dedicated a UAV or two, and then observed them in action in Afghanistan, just so we’d know. If people realized just how seat-of-the-pants a lot of our decisions about this stuff really are, they’d be horrified. We actually base real-world decisions on weapons on “user surveys” taken from junior enlisted, most of whom really couldn’t tell you jack squat even about the fights their squads were in, because they had a worms-eye view of the proceedings, and nobody bothered to verify the facts.

      My gut feelings are that we’d be a lot better off with an individual weapon firing something like the British .280, loaded to the edge of being controllable on full-auto in the individual weapon, and then a bigger and more powerful round, somewhere between the 7.62mm NATO and the .338 Lapua Magnum round for our GPMG and sniper rifles. Good luck trying to prove that, though…

  30. Brad

    Wanted to clarify that I am a different Brad from the one commenting in the earlier comments.

    I’ll now identify myself as Bradley.

    1. Kirk

      Well… That’s a bit of an embarrassment. If I offended anyone because I thought you two Brads were the same slightly schizophrenic person, my apologies.

      The commenting features on a lot of blog software just doesn’t work for the sorts of conversations you get into on them. I didn’t realize they’d let two different people use the same ID name.

      1. Hognose Post author

        To the system, the unique ID is the email. We don’t share that publicly (or commenters would be fewer, I’m sure).

  31. Brad

    Hognose said, “Last night I looked at the M14 -10 technical manual and found that it had even stricter limits than the M16 on sustained fire.”

    Would you please post some of that information? I would like to see how it compares to what was printed in FM 23-8.

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