Friday, December 12, 2008

7.62 NATO US Rifle M14

Welcome to Part II of the M14 Rifle. In this installment we will take a look at various manufacturers of rifles and of parts, and try to compare them in cost and worth.

First, complete rifles today are made by:

LRB Arms - Mostly USGI, very good rifles that are semi-custom, you can order whatever you like.

Springfield Armory, Inc, -SAI casts recivers, they use non-USGI (now) parts. Previously the rifles were mostly USGI parts. Off the shelf rifles in various configurations.

The Chicoms(Norinco and Polytech) - Non-USGI and suspect due to heat treatment / hardness of parts, particularly bolts. Most threads are metric pitch versus USGI and others which are SAE pitch. Currently only available new in Canada and abroad, thanks to wonderful US import laws of "assault weapons". Used rifles common in the US.

Smith Enterprises, Inc - SEI uses LRB receivers, they used to machine their own from billet. Semi custom, you can order what you like - but current government contracts due to the war limit their production.

By a handful of private armorers/gunsmiths/ etc (who use various receivers). Some of these are turnkey match rifles, but some are run of the mill simple. Quality varies tremendously.

Past M14 rifle manufacturers:

Armscorp - Cast receivers, most, if not all, USGI parts. Fairly common in used condition.

Enterprise Arms - very low production, I have not heard much about them.

Federal Ordnance - two kinds of receivers, one for USGI parts (good) and one for Chicom parts (not so good). The "Chicom parts" rifles had suspect components (the same suspect components on a Chicom rifle). Uncommon, but out there. Used condition.

Hahn Machine and Specialty Arms - rewelded USGI receivers. USGI parts. See below.

With the M14, the receiver is the integral part of the rifle. The barrel attaches to it, the trigger attaches to it, the rear sight attaches to it, the stock is locked on to the rifle via it, the magazine attaches to it, most scope mounts (the traditional ones) attach to it, and the bolt rides within it... Therefore we will begin our discussion there.

Originally, the M14 rifles built for the US military were forged. For most commercial ventures, the forging process is or was too expensive to handle, so rifles were built by casting or by machining steel billets (blocks) into receivers. Some firms (Hahn comes to mind, also Specialty Arms) actually rewelded USGI demilled receivers. LRB and the Chicom receivers are forged like the original USGI ones. Springfield Armory, Inc. and Armscorp (now defunct) are cast. SEI (Smith Enterprise, Incorporated) used machined billets (though they did forge a very few) when they did manufacture their own receivers, currently they use LRB receivers.

LRBs receivers are as close to a USGI receiver as can be bought. Their dimensions and hardness are a close duplicate of the original ones, the only thing lacking is the full auto lug - which is due to the Hughes amendment to the FOPA of 1986 - no more 'civilian use' full auto receivers can be made. The LRB receiver costs a premium, because it is a premium receiver. LRB also makes a "M25" receiver which has a picatinny style rail intergrated into the receiver, for a few dollars more.

Chicom receivers are suspended (indefinitely) from importation, but they are available as many of them were brought in before the ban. They are forged, reverse engineered from battlefield captured US M14s in Vietnam, but their heat treatment can be suspect. But they can be reheat treated and are truly excellent receivers when reworked. Fulton Armory and SEI are the two places that I know of who do a hardness inspection and can reheat treat the receivers.

Springfield Armory, Inc. receivers are cast, and are sometimes very suspect in their dimensional honesty. Sadlak (we'll get to them later) who makes scope mounts that mount on the receiver actually sells a gauge to check your SAI receiver for dimensional errors that might make their scope mount unmountable! On the other hand, SAI offers a lifetime warranty on their rifles... Which may not amount to a hill of beans when the S has HTF and a new ban is in place...

Armscorp (sadly out of business now) made cast receivers, and although they suffered from the same problems that SAI currently does, there is no warranty that exists.

The SEI billet receivers are said to be an excellent compromise, but are hideously expensive due to their being out of production for a time, and still highly regarded (and thus in demand). They have since changed their operation over to using LRB forged receivers.

The demilled rewelds (that is to say the government had the receiver cut in half to demilitarize the receiver and then someone took 2 parts (front and rear) usually from different rifles to get the overlap they needed and welded them back together) in my opinion are not worth having for two reasons - you are trusting the welds and there is a small problem legally with a "once full auto" recevier being "always" a full auto receiver, and if it was not registered before 1986, is can never be legal to own as a civilian.

Okay, short and sweet, Receivers are covered. Next installment soon!

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