Tuesday, December 9, 2008

seven point six two millimeter full metal jacket

No, no, no...this is not a plug for the (most excellent) movie. This is a plug for the round (& rifle) that MADE the movie.

God's (and John Garand's) gift to the American rifleman, the M14 rifle. Chambered for the 7.62 NATO (or 7.62X51 or loosely the .308 Winchester). The LAST USGI Main Battle Rifle. The last (and best) of it's breed. The M14 is a Rifle, not a carbine or an intermediate rifle. It is designed to shoot distance, with power and accuracy.

The M14 is a product of the M1 Garand - it's posterity, next of kin, son, replacement. The Garand served the nation well in "the big one" (WWII) and in Korea. Some, though saw shortcomings with the design, and the M14 sought to overcome those shortcomings... The M14 was brought into service toward the beginning of the Vietnam war.

I'm not going to go into a lot of serious discussion of the M1 to M14 transition here, but I think that I prefer the 20 round magazine to an eight round en-bloc. The US military preferred the "one rifle to replace 4" economics of the M14 (the BAR, M1, M1 carbine, and the M3 grease gun). The M14 was itself torpedoed by Robert McNamara and his poodle shooter (the M16).

The M14 is still even in service, really it never went "out of service." It was merely regulated to a could specialized duties: Sniper rifle, designated marksman rifle (DMR) rifle, and Navy SEALs seem to like them too...

We will now begin speaking of the "civilian" or semiautomatic M14. I will not type M1A or M14S or M14SA or (LRB) M25 - they're all M14's to me. If you want to differentiate, fine, but for the purpose of this written piece, from here on out, the phrase "M14" refers to any of the semiautomatic "M14 clones."

The M14 is capable of shooting targets out to 1000 yards, and a good one can shoot Minute of Angle (MoA or about 1" per 100 yards) at that 1000 yards. Yes, a ten inch group would be MoA at 1000 yards. Smith Enterprises did it at Fort Benning earlier this year with a rifle they built. A non-bedded LRB receiver'd M14. Link here, maybe a fifth of the way down the page...

The M14 has significantly better stopping power than a poodle shooter (M16 / AR15 / M4). One way to look at this is the fact that in some states you cannot hunt deer with a .223 (5.56mm - M16 round) but in every state that hunting is allowed, you can hunt deer with a .308. If you can look at a deer and see that it is around two hundred pounds, an animal of some significant strength and will to live, and then compare that to a human - around two hundred pounds, strong, and generally a will to live - you can see that a cartridge that is minimal or marginal for a deer should likewise be minimal or marginal for humans.

What else can you ask for? Something lighter? Well, you can lighten a M14, but you are going to pay for that, depending on how you lighten it - if you cut down on weight in any fashion, you increase the recoil of the rifle. Something shorter? If you cut down on the barrel, you reduce the effective range of the rifle; if you were to make it into a bullpup, you cut down on the ability to share parts. Costs too much? Check out the current situation at Springfield Armory, Inc (makers of the M1A M14 clone) - their rifles of late (which are cheaper than a high end M14 like LRB or Smith Enterprises) have issues right out of the box. See also the Chicom rifles (which can really have problems with metallurgy). Sometimes cutting costs cuts deeper than the wallet.

Now I am not saying that a lighter, shorter, and cheaper M14 would be a piece of garbage, what I am saying is that there are trade offs for doing those things to a battle proven piece of equipment. I own a SAI M1A, and after replacing the bolt guts, it seems reliable - much more so than it was when I got it - it left about 2 of 3 empties in the chamber... I also own a Chicom receiver that I'm going to barrel with a "scout" 18" barrel - the receiver is awaiting me to send it out for heat treatment, and the rifle will likely not be as long-reaching as a 22". But, I do have a standard length, all USGI or better parts, forged receiver M14. It is the yardstick that I will measure the other two by.

A note on the fully automatic M14 - if you have fifteen grand you can look around for a full auto M1A or if you're willing to part with twenty five grand for a real deal USGI M14, you might be in the ballpark. Check sturmgewehr, then pay for a tax stamp, deal with the ATF, and pray that when it's all over, you have a rifle... I am not telling you how to spend your money, but these things like to eat, and a 20 round magazine weighs over a pound, costs around $10 to fill... and you're going to have to carry quite a few of them to keep her fed!

Well, there's our primer on the M14. The next installment will go into some detail on manufacturers and parts; what's old (USGI) and whats new (better than USGI) and what's crap (Chicom bolts, for example!).

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