SOFREP- The M14 Was a Terrible Service Rifle: An In-depth Analysis


Well, well. One of my pet topics has popped back up over on SOFREP. A track back yesterday showed that my much beloved article on the M14 was referenced in an article over there. I’ve excerpted some of it below with link. I always like to show some love to fellow men of culture and learning.

The M14 Was a Terrible Service Rifle: An In-depth Analysis

One pervasive myth that’s continually floated around is the legend of the M14. I hear it all the time and have heard since I was a young buck with dreams of joining the USMC. I thought the M14 was a legendary rifle, and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would be well benefited from it. Of course, this wasn’t based on experience, but on me repeating what the gun rags said. However, the truth is completely different, and the truth is that the M14 was a terrible rifle.

Why Does It Seem Beloved?

So, why has the M14 seemingly been getting so much love? Well, the most obvious answer is the M16: more specifically, the M16’s terrible rollout. The Army goofed it up big time. Specifically, the XM16E got a bad rap because Big Army knowingly used the wrong powder in their ammunition, and the chamber and bore were not chrome plated.

Big Army goofed hard, but not every grunt in Vietnam hated the M16. That seems to be the prevailing narrative, but a survey from the U.S. Army shows differently.

Infantry Marines, who had been in Vietnam for more than six months, were surveyed for a report titled Small Arms Use in Vietnam: M14 Rifle and 45 Caliber Pistol. These men were all below the rank of captain, and if possible, were squad leaders. Sixty-seven percent carried the M14 at the time of the survey.

As Hognose would say, do go read the whole thing.


  1. I read the whole thing. The first pic brought back terrible memories of a veteran warrant officer reaming me terribly back around 1983 for taping two mags together like a cool guy. No surer way way to ensure a malfunction than jamming your upside down taped up mag into the mud as you go to ground. Getting reamed by an Australian combat veteran infantry WO is the sort of experience that will leave a man shaking nearly 40 years later. I’d almost rather go to war than do that again.

    And that bunch of SF dudes….sheesh….they look like men who are not to be fucked with. Particular Lt Strickland, who is about twice the size of his troops.

    Thanks for the link. A great read, and I’m really starting to understand the like of love around here for the M14.

  2. This always makes me a bit sad. I bought into the M-14 myth for many years and lusted after a National Match M1A. Of course, I also looked down on the M-16 and all the civilian versions – poodle-shooters, etc. The first clue I was wrong was when I considered getting into High Power and the local shooters patiently explained that I could shoot an M1A it I just wanted to play but, if I was looking to win and build points toward Distinguished, I needed an AR. Then I stumbled on your material and all the sources you linked.

    I guess it’s a good thing I was too poor to buy one back when I was in love with them…

  3. I ended up with an M1A because it was during the Clinton ban and in CA. This was pre all the bullet button type work arounds. So the only two options in the gun stores were M1A’s and Mini-14s. I still enjoy it though. I think a good way to explain them to people is it’s sort of like an old Cadillac, they’re real nice and comfortable but I wouldn’t want it to be my commuter/daily driver.

  4. I gotta wonder, sometimes, if Shawn does these every so often whenever he wants to ramp up the hatred, which I further have to presume is what keeps him warm at night… 🙂

    I’ve never, ever been fond of the M14. My service started long after it had been supplanted, but I knew people who’d been around for it, and they were not at all positive about it. The Small Arms Repair warrant officer I knew who’d spent Vietnam trying to keep the M60s running would swear even harder when you asked him about the M14. That sort of clued me in to the issues, and then watching one of my range buddies trying to keep his Springfield M1A running and accurate enough to compete with…? Lord of love duckies, did that teach me something about the issues involved. I swear to God, the only thing that wound up costing more money and taking more time was my other buddy with the 10mm Colt Delta Elite, whose initial pistol went back to Colt more often than the fat guy down at the Chinese buffet goes back for more shrimp. I think that one pistol probably cost Colt more in warranty work than their entire “profit” share from all of the other Delta Elite pistols they sold, combined… I mean, seriously: It got its everything replaced at least three times that I know of, and they eventually said “Screw it…” and sent him a completely new gun. Which had the same set of issues, only somewhat lessened. I think that by the time he hit the third frame, he’d transitioned to a Glock 20, and his round count was down on the Delta Elite such that he wasn’t breaking things any more…

    In any event, Shawn ain’t wrong. The M14, like most of the crap-fest that was the US military small arms procurement system in the 1950s and 1960s, was a POS. There are only two weapons that came out of that era that I have any respect for, and that’s the M79/M203, the various flavors of GE Miniguns, and the Claymore. Everything else was a shiite-flavored lollipop of failure and utter misadventure, led out of the gate by the M60 MG.

  5. I followed the reports on the M14 ( America’s new Murkle Rifle!) and the M16 in the “American Rifleman” avidly back in the day and first handled an M14 at a US Army recruiting event in 1967.
    I had fired M1 Carbines, M1 Garands and of course 1911’s by then and was not impressed with the handling qualities.
    The Garand was a fucking club, not a bad design for the late 1930’s but no more accurate than needed only and reliable with ball ammo.
    I later had the chance to fire both the M1A and an accurized Garand, the Garand was a superior rifle for service competition and inarguably a better battle rifle, if flawed.
    If they wanted an improved Garand in .308 to save money both the Italians and the US Navy came up with a better alternative than the M14.
    M14, heavy, not very accurate, not very reliable, handles like a 4X4.
    One other problem the M16 had in ‘nam during the early days was a lack of .22 cleaning rods, apparently someone in supply assumed that a .30 Cal cleaning rod would fit in a .22 bore….

    They handed off that sucker to a committee to “Improve” and got the usual result, just like they have with the do everything F35.

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