Pros: Great research, rare photographs, information found nowhere else
Cons: More Collector Grade Publications should be listed and sold on Epinions
US Rifle M14, by R. Blake Stevens
America's most controversial service rifle was the short-lived M14, the individual rifle that bridged the gap between the WWII era Garand (M1) rifle and the Vietnam era M16 rifle.
US Rifle M14 by R. Blake Stevens covers the life cycle of the M14 in his inimitable fashion, revealing tons of hard to find information in its 350 pages. Like all Collector Grade Publications, US Rifle M14 is chock full of rare photographs and contains information that makes it well worth acquisition by the serious firearms student or collector.
Following WWII, a new rifle was sought to overcome some of the shortcomings identified during service use of the Garand; i.e, the low capacity integral 8 round clip. The military also wanted to reduce the weight and length of the individual weapon and to streamline the inventory of individual weapons from four down to one. This would have the added attraction of reducing the supply requirements for ammo and accessories down considerably, also. The M14 Rifle was supposed to replace the M1 rifle, the M1 Carbine, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and the M3 submachine gun - or grease gun. This would eliminate three cartridges that had to be maintained in the supply chain, reducing infantry rifle requirements to a single cartridge, the 7.62x51mm or 7.62 NATO.
Blake Stevens covers the various prototypes tried, from the WWII era T20 (a selective fire Garand fitted with the BAR 20 round box magazine) through the various iterations that resulted in the T44, the prototype for the M14 rifle. The M14 is a gas operated, selective fire, magazine fed weapon, firing the T65 cartridge, which became designated the 7.62 NATO, or in civilian parlance, the .308 Winchester. The only other rifle tried was the foreign designed and built Belgian FAL from the well respected firm of Fabrique Nationale or FN. Stevens implies that Springfield Armory rigged the tests, allowing the domestic product to win.
Although arguably offering improvements over the Garand, the M14 was a Garand derivative and already obsolete at the time of its birth. There were many problems with the design that Stevens covers admirably and I won't bother in mentioning, except to note that, of the four contractors selected to produce the new M14, only TRW was capable of delivering usable rifles. The upshot was, the M14, when adopted in 1957 still had not reached the users in 1960. Meanwhile, the concurrently developed AR15 had already been fielded by the time the M14 contractors accumulated sufficient experience to make acceptable rifles. On that basis, Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara cancelled the M14 program and directed the services to adopt the Colt AR15, which became designated the M16 Rifle.
The inability of Springfield Armory, Winchester, and Harrington & Richardson to produce rifles to specifications directly contributed to the M14's demise and the uncooperative attitude of officials at Springfield Armory convinced MacNamara to order the government armory closed in 1968.
In the short production life of the M14 some 1.3 million units were produced. Most of them found their way into mothballs from which they were supplied to foreign countries as foreign aid although they have been issued to US troops from time to time as designated marksmen (sniper) rifles and are presently serving honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan as you read this (2005).
The M14 Rifle is a coffee table-sized hard covered book with a wealth of information on the controversial weapon. Many photographs available nowhere else as well as the highly informative text will give the student of arms or gun collector many hours of pleasure reading and re-reading this book.
Also for the serious arms student, I recommend The Black Rifle another Collector Grade Publication
Book of the Garand by General Julian S. Hatcher
Thanks for reading!