The Re-emergence of the M14

The Soldier of Fortune magazine for May 2005 contains interesting information on the re-issue of M14s to certain US troops being posted to Iraq. Comment from John Farnam's Combat Weaponcraft goes as follows:

"Beating us to it, British Special Ops folks in that part of the world have already 'rediscovered' the •303 Enfield cartridge." ...

"It's (i.e. the 7•62 x 51 or •308 cartridge — Ed.) a tremendous force multiplier," we are told. Isn't every battle rifle supposed to fit that description? What does that make the M16 and M4? A non-force-multiplier and a non-asset on the battlefield? ...

"What no one will say (in public) is that, in a battle rifle, the 223 round is a joke, critically lacking in both range and penetration, yet another sad leftover from the lamentable Johnson administration. It is embarrassing that it has taken so long for this 40-year-old procurement mistake finally to be addressed."

All this is an interesting development seeing that the Remington 68 x 43 SP cartridge has been allowed to languish. Perhaps a little history may be in order.

WWII combat experience in Europe convinced the ordnance experts of many countries that the full power rifle cartridges in vogue (e.g. 30-06, •303, 8 x 57) were overly powerful, and that a less powerful cartridge such as the German 8 x 33 Sturmgewehr cartridge was the way to go.

Accordingly, the U.S. in 1944 developed the T65 cartridge (a shortened 30-06) and it was later known as the 762 x 51 or 308 Winchester. Development of a modified, shortened Garand with a 20 shot detachable magazine took longer, but the final trials rifle, known as the T44, was approved for production as the M14 in 1957. Actual production began in 1960, with four contractors eventually supplying a total of 1,381,581 rifles, until production came to an abrupt end in 1964. Contractors were the National Armory of Springfield, Mass., Harrington and Richardson of Worcester, Mass., Western-Winchester Division of Olin Industries, New Haven, Conn., and Thompson-Ramo-Woolridge Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio. The new player and usurper of the M14 programme was the AR15/M16 "Black Rifle", known in some disapproving circles as the "Pentagon Pansy", but that is another long, involved story.

By the time the M14 programme was officially ended work had already stopped, and in 1967 the M14 production machinery was sold to the Republic of China (Taiwan). I have heard stories that passable copies had been made by the Communist Chinese arms factories on the mainland. Perhaps somebody can confirm or deny this.

Originally the M14 was intended for use with a full auto selector switch, but most were issued with a semi-automatic mechanism. The semi-auto versions were unofficially known as the M14(M) i.e. modified. A notable derivative was the M21 sniper version, which had a favourable reputation. .

I just wonder how many SLRs the Australian Army has in reserve, or have we given them all away to Indonesia?