The M14, Not Much For Fighting ( A Case Against The M14 Legend )

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Photo above is the M14 with its Technical Data Package. Shared from Daniel Watters.

Go on to any gun forum, and it won’t take you long to find people willing to tell you how great the M14 is. How accurate, like a laser, tough as tool steel with no need to baby it or clean it. Powerful as a bolt of lightning, and how well loved it was by those early users who refused the M16 because they wanted a “real” weapon made of wood and steel… But, is all that really true? Maybe it is a triumph of nostalgia over common sense and reality. One truth is, it was never really liked as much as people think they remember.

The M14 was having major problems even before ARPA’s Project AGILE and a Defense comptroller reported the AR15 superior to the M14. The famous Hitch Report stating the AR15, the M1, and the AK47 superior.

The study indicates that the AR15 is decidedly superior in many of the factors considered. In none of them is the M14 superior. The report, therefore, concludes that in combat the AR15 is the superior weapon. Furthermore, the available cost data indicate that is also a cheaper weapon. – ARPA

Although analyzed less thoroughly, the M14 also appears somewhat inferior to the M1 rifle of WW2 and decidedly inferior to the Soviet combat rifle. the AK47. – Hitch Report

“Report on Tests for Ad Hoc Committee on Accuracy and Testing of 7.62mm Ammunition and M14 Rifles.” Seven rifles each from batches accepted from H&R, Winchester, and Springfield Armory had been shipped to Aberdeen for testing to find and cure the causes of the M14’s inability to meet its accuracy requirements. Examination and testing of the 21 rifles uncovered the following:

All of the rifles from Winchester and H&R exhibited excessive headspace.

All of the rifles had loose handguards.

95% of the rifles had loose stock bands.

90% of the rifles had loose gas cylinders.

75% of the rifles had misaligned op rods and gas pistons.

50% of the rifles had loose op rod guides.

50% of the rifles had op rods that rubbed the stock.

Three rifles had barrels that exceed the maximum bore dimensions.

Only three rifles had an average bore diameter that fell below the accepted mean diameter.

One rifle was found to have a broken safety while another had a misassembled safety spring.

One rifle had a misassembled flash suppressor, which was actually contacting bullets during live fire tests.

A barrel from each manufacturer was sectioned for examination of the bore and chrome lining. The chrome lining was out of tolerance (uneven and on average too thin) in all three barrels. The H&R barrel also failed the surface-finish requirements. During accuracy testing, the M14 rifles produced greater group dispersion and variation in the center of impact than the control rifles (two T35 and two AR10). NATO testing was quoted indicating that the Canadian C1 (FN FAL) and German G3 were less sensitive to variations within and among ammo lots. Shutting off the gas port in the M14 rifles resulted in an average 20% reduction in extreme spread compared to those groups fired with the gas port open. This also reduced the variation in the center of impact. The design of the flash suppressor was singled out as a cause of inaccuracy.

An M14 Rifle Cost Analysis report that gave rounds used and overhaul schedules from rounds fired states M14 annual usage is 3,500 rounds to overhaul and 599rds MRTF. Does not sound much like a hard use fighting gun…

Full PDF of the honest technical Report that does not paint the M14 in a rose colored light, can be found here. http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/677383.pdf Take note of Page 32.

Production of the M14 was long and troubled. The cost of the weapon rose beyond claims of being able to produce it cheaper and with the same machinery used to make the M1. The story of the long tax money gobbling nightmare of the M14 is known to those who study the deep history of military weapons, and I encourage anyone interested to look into themselves but I am not going to go into that this time. For this post, I will be talking about the current niche the M14 is still hanging on to.

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After the M14’s near-complete death of cutting-edge combat use, the Army still wanted it as their sniper rifle. Of course, many systems were tested by the Army during the Vietnam war, including the USMC M40 sniper weapon, For debatable reasons, the Army decided the M14 was the way for them. This is where the rifle begins to show.

The USAMTU had been working with the M14 for years for use in competition and sniping. Indeed the AMU knew that the Army would need a sniping weapon even before the officers in charge did. So they had been working on the National Match M14 for a while.

The procedure to turn an M14 rifle into the M21 or the National Match service rifle is so long and complicated I have little desire to try to repeat it here. See “The Complete Book of US Sniping” by Peter Senich if you want all the details. I will say the process was time-consuming and expensive, and that is not even starting to discuss the search for an optic system to go on the XM21. It produced a rifle capable of 800-yard kills and usable accuracy. For a while at least.

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Over the next several years, the Army spent millions trying to perfect the system while it was used as the service rifle in high power. Between those two pursuits, some interesting things were learned about the accurized M14. It turned out it was not as rough and tough as some think. To keep an M14 made to NM-spec accurate, it requires careful tuning and extensive PM. If you doubt this, go to your local range and find a high power shooter who still uses one. Ask them if you may look at the rifle and grab it by the top handguard and watch the fellow go from deathly white to red with rage and horror of what you just did. It needs to be carefully babied. And the Army spent millions and years relearning that lesson over and over with the M21 until finally dumping it for the M24 in the later 80s.

Though people who have many believed the Military and the end users long for the return of this big heavy beast, this is not really all that true. this is best illustrated during the time period in the late 80s to the late 90s of the USMC’s DMR program when so many tried to bring it back as the DM rifle or the Sniper teams spotters weapon.

Around, during or a little before this time, the Army Rifle team commander decided since the Army’s standard issue service rifle was the M16, then that is what the Army service rifle team needed to be, and should be using. The AMTU armorers put their heads together, took some tips from civilian high power shooters who had already woken up and got by the absurd notion that service rifle meant “wood and steel,” and soon after the Army was beating the USMC rifle teams at Camp Perry by a long shot. Not long after, the Marines found themselves going to the M16 for service rifle to keep up. Few people, who want to stay competitive have looked back. Especially after the development of the 77 and 80-grain HPBT match bullets.

But, the DMR program is where the trouble of the M14 as a precision combat rifle really became clear.

To quote Lt. Colonel Chandler owner of Iron Brigade Armory and former Officer in Charge of many USMC marksmanship and sniping programs:

“Remember that the US Army struggled for more than twenty years to transform the M14 into a sniper type weapon. The Army finally abandoned all attempts to salvage the M14 rifle. Continued use of the M14 as anything other than a drill rifle is better described as DISASTER. ( emphasis Chandler’s) The M14 is old and has never been more than a modified M1 Garand. “

“Unfortunately the M14 rifle is costly to modify and modification requires many man-hours of skilled labor. In the field, the M14 cannot maintain accuracy. The Army refused to admit that they could not solve the M14’s accuracy problems and wasted two decades attempting to make a silk purse from an old infantry rifle. Milspec spare parts are no longer made and those that can be found are often inferior, and ill-fitting. “

“The M14 requires constant ( continual ) maintenance. Maintenance on an M14 progress geometrically. That means if you double an M14 rifle’s use, you quadruple its maintenance. “

“The world has moved beyond the M14. The weapon remains a standard piece only because it is used ( though less and less) in service rifle competition marksmanship, which is very different from field use. If anyone recommends it, run them through.”

“It is ironic that some of the USMC rifle competitors whose accurized M14s have been consistently waxed by the Army’s M16s are supporting the use of the M14 as accurate rifles.”

“As we discuss the costs of bringing scoped M14s onto the line in large quantities, allow me another digression. The M14 is a bitch to keep in tune, and an untuned M14, no matter who did the accurizing is about as accurate as a thrown rock. Unless the M14 is continually babied it will not retain accuracy. ( this is an important note from LT Col Chandler for those who fire 100 rounds a year and tell you the M14/M1A is wonderful). Imagine the hardships and brutalities a scoped M14 will experience as a DM weapon in combat. (One recalls the story of Carlos Hathcock walking back to the shoot house and starting to pass out, another Marine grabbed the accurized M14 and let The Ultimate Sniper fall face first into the asphalt. Letting a weakened man fall to keep the pathetic NM M14 accurate). No M14 ever built will stay accurately zeroed and tight group shooting, (meaning close to MOA) under field conditions. ”

Chandler goes on to point out the requirements in specially qualified armorers who know how and can keep an M14 accurate and how even in the early 2000s those men are almost extinct in the USMC accuracy and Sniping world.

“To create accurized M14s with their special mounts and scopes and stocks, chassis etc. will cost more than twice as much as modifying M16s. Worse, while maintenance on M16s/AR15s remains routine, the M14s require more than six times the labor and dozens of times more replacement parts to maintain. Anyone who claims that going to the M14s is economically comparable to adopting the M16s is utterly ill-informed or is simply parroting the party line.”

“Allow us to remind again that the US Army, which has far more research, repair, and maintenance capability than the Corps, tried for twenty-two years to make the M14 into an accurate rifle. “

Compelling stuff from a man who spent most of his career working around the best weapons and men in the world when it comes to accuracy, sniping, and the marksmanship community. But he goes on:

“So how on earth does this bizarre situation develop?” ( the idea the M14 is still some wonder rifle fit for serious use for anything beyond the parade ground of the nostalgia of the thing)

“How an idea germinates is difficult to determine. Perhaps a shooter who liked the M14 dreamed it all up. You know-==” A great old piece. let’s put it back to work!” The M14 concept has been allowed to develop into a full-blown program because individuals involved were sometimes not weapons experts, possibly not infantry experienced at all and almost never sniper trained. The fact is line NCOs are not marksmanship literate. The M14 DM program is driven by those type of NCOs. NOT SNIPERS. “

“The M14 in all its forms has been a pain in the ass to its users, and when Marines speak candidly they do not proclaim their M14s to be ” the finest DM rifle in the world “. They refer instead to inability to stay zeroed and almost as often, to frustration in keeping their weapons in service due to the unending, never easing, repair requirements.”

Chandler went on to talk about how, after retiring from the USMC and starting Iron Brigade Armory, one the best makers of combat-hardened, nearly bombproof sniper rifles in the world and the makers of the legendary DARPA XM-3 sniper rifle system. He gathered and employed the worlds best retired USMC 2112s that he could find and attempted to make a tough super accurate M14s. Making money no object in the pursuit in an attempt to see if it could be done.

” We, who have no bottom line, to worry about who can and do use the ultimate materials and the finest skills known cannot expect our M14s to maintain accuracy under combat conditions. We do not believe the M14 design allows accurizing that is combat condition durable. ”

Chandler’s quotes and feelings on the M14 as well as his belief the M16 with an optic is the ideal Sniper’s Spotters weapon, as well as DMR, can be found in “Death From Afar Vol. I-IV” as well as “The One Shot Brotherhood” and various other technical publications such as Precision Shooting magazine as well as technical papers spread internally in the USMC.

The M14 remains popular in the civilian world and not just from service rifle shooters. It still has a life among collectors, plinkers, and even serious shooters. The new variants trying to breathe life into it as well as pictures on the news of M14s forced into use in the first half of the GWOT. Some still get caught up in its legend and its lore. The romance of the piece has lulled many away from the fact it is not a fully capable modern fighting tool. Many of its fans overlook its many drawbacks. The safety needing a finger inside the trigger guard and to push forward to deactivate. The limited capacity and reload time that is slow (which when compared to a practiced user of an M1 Garand is actually slower to reload than an M1).

The maintenance, as Chandler said above is a nightmare if the gun is used often. Every time it comes apart, the bedding gets worse and worse. It may seem like no big deal for a combat weapon, but it is. The gun is heavy in all its forms and is as slow as a monkey doing Chinese algebra compared to the faster more natural manipulations and ergonomics of better designs. The oft-used excuse of “I will pick them off at 500 yards before they get close enough to worry about” is absurd. The last 15 years have shown very few cases of infantrymen laying prone and picking off enemy soldiers at 500yds. It is laughable to consider using the M14/M1A on your lonesome in an urban or CQB role. Sure, some SOF have done it, but they have someone covering them.

While the ergonomics of the M14 are already not wonderful for modern TTPs, the use of some of the newer stocks, like the Sage exaggerates the difficulty for anyone other than a giant who drags his knuckles when walking Never mind the astounding increase in weight, let alone the cost of such an “upgrade”.

Howard, fellow LooseRounds writer, co-owner with me of this website, friend, and USMC rifleman, and Iraq war vet gives his opinion and experience with the rifle as well as what he observed of it in Iraq.

“My experiences with the M14 type rifle lead me to have little interest in it. I owned a Springfield Armory Bush rifle that had various issues. I sold it to a guy who liked M14s. Later I received a SOCOM II in trade and found it overly heavy and was not a gun I would want for long distance shooting or for close quarters.

While I was in the military, I did see a couple of M14s in or near Abu Ghraib prison. Guys liked the idea of the rifle but didn’t want to carry them. They were often left in vehicles or in guard towers. Issues included lack of support gear(mags, mag pouches, etc), and that the majority of the soldiers and Marines didn’t know how to use or maintain the M14 rifles.”

Lt. Col. Chandler would feel a sense of deja vu I have no doubt. Maybe even frustration that so many refuse to see the evidence from many decades.

Other opinions, from a man who was more or less my mentor in the olden days. An SF vet from Vietnam who used the M14 in training and in his early days of combat. He went on to be a ballistic reconstruction expert. Tested Federal 22 Long Rifle match ammo to be used in that years Olympics and T&Ed guns for Ruger and High Standard. In addition, he is an accomplished BR and service rifle shooter as well as bullseye small bore and pistol.

When I first got to Vietnam, I was scared to death of the M16. I feared a jamming M16 would get me killed. Poison snakes, spiders, and a jammed M16 was such a worry to me I opted to carry an M60 on my first LRRP patrol. Later I learned to love it. I hated the M14, it proved not as reliable and was heavier and I could not carry near enough of its ammo. When it comes to combat I would walk over 100 of the best M14s ever made for one good M16.”

My own Father had this to say. Dad was in Vietnam from 1967-’68 in the 4th Infantry Division.

“I liked the M14 in basic. It was the first semi-auto I had ever fired. It got old carrying all that weight fast running everywhere all day and night. I qualified expert with it. Once I was issued an M16 right before we overseas, I never looked back.”

For every person who has told me how great the thing is, I have found two who had nothing but misery and bad experiences from it. I myself among them.

Among the other myriad issues of using the M14 as a match rifle and DMR as well as anything else required by it in combat, more recent problems popped up. Since most users trumpet the excellent accuracy of the M14 and its use in combat as a hard-hitting accurate battle rifle, this means military grade match ammo to take advantage of its legendary long-range man-killing accuracy.

Quotes below from.

7.62 NATO Long Range Match Cartridges
By Name Removed at request of author.

“With the start of the Gulf War II in 2003, the high temperatures encountered in Iraq (in excess of 115 degrees F) began to produce some M14 op-rod failures due to excessive pressure at the gas port. Both the Army and Marines found the range marking on their scopes to be off of calibration with the higher velocity M118LR loads in such desert conditions. The result was a decision to reduce the load to a more moderate level.”
“Although this cartridge remains the current M118LR standard, it apparently still suffers from excessive velocity variation as the temperature changes and less accuracy than might be desired for truly precise shots at mid-range to long-range distances. The specification for M118LR requires 14 shots in less than 8 inches at 600 yards.”

The military did get the bugs worked out on the ammo eventually so that is one less thing to worry about if you are in a fight and can get your hands on the good stuff.

“The MK316 ammunition is essentially the finest possible mass-produced match ammunition, comparable to the hand loads utilized by the various service MTUs. The cost is higher than M118LR, with a government cost of 78 cents per round for the MK 316 Mod 0 rather than 55 cents for the M118LR (2009 prices).”

The question is, why waste such ammunition in an M14 when 7.62mm pattern AR type rifles are now easy to get, more accurate, more familiar vastly cheaper and much easier to work on. Not to mention being familiar with the vast majority of military and civilian users.

The M14/M1A will be around for as long as people will continue to buy them. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with owning them liking them and using them. By no means is it useless or ineffective. But its legendary reputation is something that needs to be taken with a grain of salt and careful study of the system if you intend to have one for a use your like may depend on.

If you are curious, previous posts on shooting rack-grade M14s and custom service rifle M14s with Lilja barrels fired at 1,000 yards can be found here on Looserounds using the search bar. There you can read of the M14/M1A compared against the M1 Garand and M1903.

M14 Service Rifle pic

Thanks to Daniel Watters for additional information, sources and help. You can read Daniel’s excellent indispensable resource “A 5.56×45 Timeline” at the following link if you are a serious student of US weapons development history. http://looserounds.com/556timeline/

MOA and Mils summed up nicely.

Often at the range I have had to explain to people what Minute of Angle (MOA), and Milradians mean. Today I was reading about the Nemo .300 Win Mag ARs and I found they had a nice explaination of the two in their rifle’s manual.

Quoting from the Nemo manual:

Mils and MOA differ from an inch because they are angular, not linear, measurements. An inch equals an inch no matter how far away it is.

What is MOA? MOA stands for minute of angle. There are 360 degrees in a circle and each degree is divided into 60 minutes. If we round to the nearest 1⁄100 of an inch, at 100 yards 1 degree measures 62.83 inches. One MOA, 1⁄60 of that, measures 1.047 inches. While 1 MOA at 100 yards equals 1.047 inches, at 200 yards it equals 2.094 inches (2 x 1.047). To calculate MOA at any distance, multiply 1.047 by the distance in yards and divide by 100.

What is a MIL? MILS (milliradians) is another angular measurement. There are 6.2832 (π x 2) radians per circle. There are 1,000 mils per radian so, there are 6,283.2 mils in a circle. There are 21,600 MOA in a circle, so a little quick division determines there are 3.4377 MOA per mil. At 100 yards, 3.4377 MOA equals 3.599 inches (3.4377 x 1.047). Rounded up, one mil equals 3.6 inches at 100 yards. A mil is so large, it’s broken into tenths in order to make precise adjustments. If you have a riflescope with mil adjustments, each click equals 1⁄10 mil. A tenth of a mil equals .36 inch or .9144 centimeter at 100 yards. Since 1⁄10 of a mil is an angular measurement, it will be slightly larger at 100 meters than at 100 yards because 100 meters equals 109.361 yards. At 100 meters, 1⁄10 of a mil equals .9999 centimeter. Practically speaking, 1⁄10 of a mil equals 1 centimeter at 100 meters. Because mil, like MOA, is an angular measure, the length it represents increases with distance. For example, 1 mil at 100 yards equals 3.6 inches and 7.2 inches at 200 yards. To calculate how many inches are in a mil at any distance, multiply 3.6 times the distance in yards and divide by 100.

Their manual does an excellent job of summing up what the two are. Sometimes I have a hard time explaining this to new shooters.

Then question then arises, “Which is better?” Neither, they are two options with various pros and cons. If you shoot paper targets at known distances, MOA is usually preferred. You can measure or see how many inches of adjustment you need on paper, convert number of inches to minutes, then convert adjustment that to clicks. Mil adjustments are usually 1/10 mil per click, making the math similar to when you use SI units(metric system).

Both systems work well, the only main suggestion I have is don’t use a scope that mixes the two. It used to be common to have scopes with a Mildot reticle, and MOA turrets. This can make the math a pain.

For example:
If I am shooting at 565 yards, and I am using a MOA scope and I see I am impacting a foot low I know that.
1 foot = 12 inches.
1 MOA at 565 yards is about 5.6 inchs.
So 2 minutes of adjustment would be about 11.2 inchs, so I would want to come up about 2 and 1/4 MOA.

Or.
If I am using a Mildot reticle and a 1/10 mil turret, I can use my Mildot to measure the angular distance from my point of aim to my impact. So if I see its 1.2 mils low, I dial up 12 clicks.

But when I used a mixture of the two, I usually have to break out my calculator.
So once again I am shooting 565 yards, and I see I am impacting 1.5 mils low. I have to convert that mil measurement into MOA. So if I am in a hurry I would times 1.5 by 3.5(rounding) which is a little over 5 minutes. 5 and 1/4 MOA to be exact. Then I would dial that 5 1/4 MOA into the turrets of my scope. The math conversions can quickly get annoying. This is why I got rid of the Super Sniper 10x scope I had, and something I find irritating when I use my Leupold TS30-A2.

It doesn’t really matter if you use MOA or mils, but which ever you use, train to be competent and confident with them.

A few thoughts on the M16A4.

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The FN M16A4 I carried in Iraq.

When I enlisted in the USMC I was issued a M16A2. Other then when we occasionally added a PEQ-2 IR laser, a flashlight, or the issued M203 grenade launcher, we felt this gun did everything we needed it to do.

We didn’t know about things like quad rails and quick detach accessories. Those introduced a whole different mentality to how to use our weapons.

When the M16/M16A1 become the M16A2 it gained about a pound. From the M16A2 to the M16A4 it gained about another pound. Most of this comes from the Knights Armament Corp. (KAC) M5 RAS rail system. The KAC M5 RAS is a good rail system, but it has been surpassed by much lighter better free float rails.

That additional weight, combined with the weight of various lights, lasers, and optics along with the fixed stock not playing well with our body armor made using the M16A4 a great deal more awkward. There was a huge difference between just wearing ALICE gear and shooting a M16A2 verses wearing an Interceptor vest with plates and MOLLE II gear shooting a M16A4 with ACOG, PEQ-2, and a Surefire.

Colt AR15A4 ACOG RCO-A4
My Colt AR15A4 with Trijicon TA31RCO-A4

Since I got out of the military, I have owned several rifles similar to the M16A4. I had a Bushmaster, a BCM, Saber, and now a Colt AR15A4. Most of these guns I shot for a while then got rid of. The reason for that is that the M16A4 is not particularly special at anything.

I have often told people that the M4 is a jack of all trade, but master of none. Truthfully, the M4 really excels at many of the roles it is used in. The M16A4 type rifle falls into an odd place where it doesn’t particularly do any one thing significantly better than the M4, yet is inferior in handling and weight.

The M16A4 is not a precision rifle. While it is more than accurate enough for combat, it is not a sniper rifle. If your planning to shoot in Rifle Competition, you would be better off with a rifle with a fixed carry handle with match sights, and a free floating match barrel.

While the M16A4 isn’t overly large or heavy, it certainly is not as handy for shooting indoors or confined spaces. The M4 and smaller guns show distinct superiority in handling while in close quarters shooting conditions.

While I was in the Corps we were generally of the belief that the M16A2/A4 was a superior weapon system to the M4. Statements of increased accuracy, reliability, and lethality (due to increased muzzle velocity) were occasionally thrown around.

When using Iron sights, the longer sight radius of the M16 is clearly apparent over the carbine. However most of us no longer use iron sights as our primary way to aim, so this is a moot point. As for mechanical accuracy, the M4 doesn’t give anything up to the M16.

Around 2005-2008 or so I often recall reading on the major gun forums that the AR15 rifle is so very much more reliable than the Carbine. We do know that the rifle has lower gas port pressure and should be easier on components than the carbine. Still for most users they will not see a reliability benefit from the rifle. Not to mention the carbine is clearly reliable enough for groups like the SEALs, U.S. Army, and various foreign special forces groups. So back in 2006, the M4 was good enough for the US SEALs, but not a good enough weapon for the USMC infantry.

While I was in there was a push to give the Marine Infantry M4 carbines. This was considered foolish. Later after I was out there was a push to make a “Product Improved” M16A4 with features like a free floating rail, and a compressible stock. I have heard that from several sources that the USMC decided instead to just give infantry Marines M4 carbines. In 2007, shortly before I got out, one of the other unit got brand new M4 carbines. When I inquired why, I was told that one of John McCain’s son was in that unit. I don’t know if that is true, but it sure seems like the type of reason one unit would get superior equipment. Clearly the M4 is good enough for the USMC now.

I like the M16A4 configuration, but I own one more for plinking and nostalgia. I firmly believe that the majority of AR15 user would be better off with a good carbine than the M16A4 configuration.

COLT 901 M.A.R.C. Accuracy Test & Review PART 1

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Review of the new  modular rail

As readers know, Colt Defense sent me the new 901 variant a few weeks ago called the  Colt 901M.A.R.C.. The new gun is different than the first version in that it has a modular rail.  The forearm is monolithic and free floating just like the LE901. but now gives you the ability to bolt sections of picatinny rail, where ever you like and its lighter.

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The new fire arm is  very nice and slim.  I like the quad rail and have no problem with full railed guns at all. I like having it all on already.  But, this does make for a handier sleeker rifle than the original model.  The top is a solid rail for mounting optics or other sighting devices,as it should be in my opinion, not modular.  The sides and bottom is where you get your ability to mix and match.

The fore arm is machines in a way that it matches into the bottom side of the rail sections, and the holes have the helicoil. The coils take any damage or cross threading instead of the aluminum fore arm and are easier to fix in case of an oopsie.

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The gun has the same QD sling points in the same places the LE901 had. Of course you can also attach a rail section and add a sling point to the rail anywhere that may suit you.  Also you can note the difference in the cooling slot on the rail.

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Another difference form the LE901 is the way the bottom of the rail comes off. The older model came off just like the 6940  but also needing you to remove to screws on each side of the front of the rail.  Another large screw has replaced the detent the older model and the 6940 used.  While obviously this is not as fast, It locks up even more solid than the other system which was already super solid. You could trust this to hold a zero if you needed it to after you got it in place and screwed down. Obviously if you take it off, the zero will likely change, but that the way it is for anything if you take it apart after zeroing something on it.

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Above is the front right side screw for the removal of the bottom of the monolith rail and the now familiar and excellent in my opinion, Colt folding and locking, front sight. Like the older 901, the front sight locks up unlike the older 6940s.  You can also see a closer view of the large allen head bolts used to secure the rail sections in place. The test rifle came with four rails of three different lengths. I do not know at this time if this will be factory standard or the gun will come with or less when it hits the stores. The rail sections are made to the same quality and specs of  the rest of the gun with the same milspec finish.

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The lower is no different than the LE901. It has ambi controls and of course uses the conversion block that lets you use any upper or any caliber that will work on a lower meant for 5.56, or 6.8 etc.  and use any magazine that will fit and work inside the mag well the 5.56 guns use. Now with the the modular rail and modular mag well/caliber conversion,, the 901 lends itself to even more user configuration.

ACCURACY TESTING

For the accuracy testing of this new 901, I did things a little different this time around. Instead of using the stock trigger, I replaced it with the Geissele  S3G trigger. I didn’t do this because the factory trigger was so bad, or I think it has to have some match trigger, but it was a 2 birds with 1 stone kind of thing. I will have more testing on the trigger as time goes by.  I wanted to see how it worked out in a 762 gun and to make the long range shooting a little easier on myself since I had less time to shoot due to the weather.

As I am wont to do, I started out shooting the gun at 100 yards for groups in 5 shot strings, I used Federal match ammo in 175 and 168 grain bullets, The Federal 165 grain TSX solid copper hollow point made by Barnes for hunting ( I used this load to kill the deer), Black Hills 175 grain match and my own handloads.

I set the gun up with my trusty test mule Leupold 18X target scope and used a front rest and bags. I used a bench and the caldwell BR type front rest.

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Going the extra effort this time, really allowed for better groups. The front rest and bags with the match trigger tightened things up a bit from the results from the first LE901 test gun.

I shot 5 rounds of each at 100 yards, then I fired a 20 round group at 200 yards with the Black Hills match with 175 grain bullet.

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No surprises here I think., As usual the Black Hills 175 is the winner of the factory match ammo I used. My hand loads being tailored to the gun do maybe a tiny bit better, but that is normal. No factory load will ever be able to do better than a hand load you tailor to the gun. I fired just enough hand load to test the rifle since I get nervous with using hand loads in a writers demo. If something were to happen, I would not want to get the blame even if it was not my ammo that did it.  had it been a gun I paid for. I would have given you more data from hand loads, I may still email Colt about using hand loads to make sure its not something they would rather I not do. So I may offer up a large variety of bullet performance at a later date.

The dots are all 1 inch dots for the 100 yard shooting, and the 200 yard dot is a little large than 2 inches. The 200 yard group  was something I am pretty proud of. A milspec non-match barrel shooting a 20 round string and keeping that tight is pretty impressive. It did take me a little over 30 minutes to shoot that string, but shooting small groups is hard work, and its even harder  when the string is long and things heat up and eye strain sets in.  I do not think i could have done much better than this though without some major changes to the bench rest set up and ammo.

Last but not least for this part of the review is the 1,000 yard accuracy testing.  I had a tough time with it this time around with the wind being strong at a certain point in the day, then dying off. I also had to fight sun then cloud cover, sun, then cloud cover. Sunlight and the lack of on a target is a huge hurtle to long range shooting few people talk about. But believe me, it makes a big difference when it is shifting.

I did have the help of my trusty steel gong to get me zeroed before I started my “record group” again this time.

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Being able to shoot and get on the steel with instant feedback, is a giant help for trying to shoot a gun at 1,000 yard for accuracy in tests like this for me. It saves ammo, you get immediate feedback and you get to dope the wind before you start slinging expensive match ammo down range just to find out later you did not hit anything.

On a whim, I placed a NRA 50 yard bulls-eye target behind my  normal “bad guy” target to see what the “score” might look like. I thought this my offer a different perspective than the normal  bad guy photo. I then tacked those two against a card board Q target. I then placed a blob of bright orange dots on the chest of the bad guy to make it a little easier to see this time. The sun and clouds made it hard to see a dark target so I cheated a little and made it easier on myself.

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As you can see from our notes, I fired 30 rounds,  I got 16 hits on the paper itself, and then I had 10-11 hits on the body.  I saw 10 to 11 because one hit the earlobe/cheek.  I will leave it to you to decided to give me credit for that hit or not. Once again, the center hit is pure chance, or luck if you prefer, I did not call it as a center hit and I certainly did not aim for it and expect it, But sometimes, often actually, when you shoot a fairly long string at something this size, I find you will luck one in to look like a great hit,

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Above in the NRA 50 yard pistol slow fire target tacked behind the bad guy target just for the fun of seeing how It would “score.”  It may look good, but with 16 hits out of 30 rounds, maybe the score is not all that great,  the wind was very strong the day the 1,000 yard test was conducted. Also keep in mind, it is a 16 inch Milspec barrel on a battle carbine, Not a sniper rifle and not a precision rifle. nor meant to be.

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Finally the Q target the paper targets had been tacked to.

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Testing for the 1,000 yards was also done with my 18X Leupold test scope and the S3G trigger was installed.  I did not use the front rest shown.  Because of the weather and wind conditions, I did not try shooting the new gun to 1,200 yards like I did the original LE901. I do intend to test this one to 1,200 as soon as I can see a day  that the weather will allow it.  This is not a sniper rifle as I said, so the 1,200 yards shooting needs as close to perfect weather as I can get. Otherwise it would just be a waste of time and ammo. I will update this post as soon as I do get the 1,200 yard test done as well as make a dedicated post as well as try to soot it even further.

My helpers for the day of long range testing remarked how they noticed the difference in how the gun handled and felt form the LE901 and its weight. It may not seem like a lot, but you do feel it.  With the sleeker fore arm and lighter weight, you can handle this gun like a M4 with a heavy SOCOM barrel on it.  It certainly was easy to hike up the mountains all day and then was lively in the hands when I settled in to make my 247 yard shot on the 8 point buck.  It handles like the battle carbine it is but does not shy away from being used as a DMR if needed.

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For those who see the carbine as only for fighting use, I did test some military ball ammo with the gun. The use of the gun as a fighting tool will be covered in the next post along with some Gopro footage of the gun being fired to show how little recoil it has and its ease of control. As a teaser and a fast little bit of info, I shot the 901 MARC with Lake City Ball at 450 yards at a Q target for a quick idea of how it might do, I aimed at a clear spot on the target and fired off a fast group from prone using bipods. Even with ball., the gun did very well at the middish range. I will be testing it to 500 to 800 with ball on the targets using a red dot and precision optics to work out how it will do on the longer shots in a combat role.   The 450 yard group below.

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To end this part of the review I would like to post a picture of the first T&E LE901 from early 2012 along with the 901MARC as a comparison to how it has evolved and changed for those new to the 901 model.

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LE901 above.  901MARC below

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Crusader Weaponry Broadsword .308 Rifle

Several months ago I had the opportunity to meet Joe Chetwood, owner of Crusader Weaponry (crusaderweaponry.com). He had moved into my neighborhood and as we both have a passion for firearms, we naturally ended up meeting each other. I met with Joe at his home on several occasions to talk about the Broadsword and Crusader Weaponry products. One thing led to another and I was soon in possession of the Crusader Weaponry Broadsword .308/7.62 Carbine.  From the second you hear Crusader Weaponry’s name, see the Crusader Shield marking etched on the side of the Broadsword, you feel like the paladin of old. The Broadsword channels an era when knights wielded the broadsword, to strike powerful blows to the enemies of righteousness and honor. As I spent time with the Broadsword, I found it to be the modern day, hard hitting, dispenser of .308 justice it was built to be.

Crusader Weaponry Broadsword
Crusader Weaponry Broadsword
Sighting In the Broadsword
Sighting In the Broadsword

Specs / Accessories:

The Broadsword is an AR10 type direct impingent carbine chambered in .308/7.62mm. The Broadsword I was given came equipped with:

  • Apex free-float rail system
  • Diamondhead Back-UP iron sights (front & Rear)
  • BattleComp compensator
  • Battle Arms Development ambidextrous safety selector
  • Bravo Company 7.62 Gunfighter Charging Handle
  • Magpul MAID grip
  • Magpul Utility Battle Rifle (UBR) stock
  • Two Magpul PMAG 20 round 7.62/308 magazines
  • Hard Rifle Case

The upper and lower receivers are a 7075-T6 billet aluminum match set from SI Defense. The upper picatinny rail has engraved “T” mark numbers. I found there was absolutely no play between the upper and lower. The barrel is an 18 inch, 416R match grade stainless steel barrel, with 1/11 twist polygonal rifling.

Apex free-float rail system
Apex free-float rail system
BattleComp Compensator
BattleComp Compensator
Battle Arms Development ambi safety selector
Battle Arms Development ambi safety selector
BCG / Gas Key Staking
BCG / Gas Key Staking
Diamondhead Iron Sights
Diamondhead Iron Sights

The upper & lower receivers of the Broadsword are finished in Cerakote Sniper Gray, as well as the barrel. The bolt carrier group and the inside of the upper receiver are treated with Crusader Weaponry’s proprietary Slipstream dry film weapons lube. The dry film lubricant is applied at 150-200 psi, permanently imbedding the dry lubricate to those surfaces it is applied to. The trigger group, charging handle, buffer, and buffer spring can also be treated with Slipstream by choosing different packages offered by Crusader Weaponry.

7075-T6 Billet Match Set Receivers
7075-T6 Billet Match Set Receivers
7075-T6 Billet Match Set Receivers
7075-T6 Billet Match Set Receivers

After spending time with the Broadsword I would change out a few features, like the stock, grip and the rail system, but those are just because of my personal preference. Since Crusader Weaponry is building these custom rifles per individual order, you can get whatever grip, stock or accessories you would prefer. While visiting Crusader Weaponry’s shop, I noticed several Broadsword builds in progress and these rifles had individual requests for different accessories on each rifle.

Field Striping:

The Broadsword brakes down just like an AR-15. If you are running a 5.56mm AR-15, the Broadsword will be very familiar. It just has bigger internal parts. Cleaning and maintenance of the bolt carrier group, charging handle, upper receiver, chamber and barrel are extremely familiar, if not identical to your 5.56mm AR15.  The only thing you will need to add to your cleaning kit is a 308 chamber brush and bore brush. Once field stripped and cleaned, I applied some of Crusader Weaponry’s proprietary Slipstream STYX lubricant to the Broadswords.

Field Stripped
Field Stripped
Bolt Carrier Group / Charging Handle
Bolt Carrier Group / Charging Handle

Performance/Reliability:

I used a couple of Aimpoint Micro’s and an Aimpoint PRO on the Broadsword. The Broadsword is a lot more accurate than I am and I have seen it fired for accuracy with a magnified optic. A few weeks ago I was able to fire another Broadsword with a 1X4 adjustable scope and found this to be a nice combination.  I am not going into formal, measured, MOA accuracy on the Broadsword. I ran the Broadsword like a battle rifle from CQB out to 100 yards. I ran it like a beefed up patrol rifle and as I said before, the Broadsword is a lot more accurate than I am capable of making it. While sighting in the Broadsword, on different optics, I was fully satisfied with 100 yard groups. With some of the OTM match ammo I was right on top of the previous rounds I fired. Once I got it sighted in, I was off to the races running the Broadsword hard.

The trigger felt very close to a standard mil-spec trigger. It had a slightly crisper break than a mil-spec trigger, but there was nothing special about it. It did not affect long range shots but felt very familiar  when running it like a patrol rifle. Once again, the trigger group is an area that can easily be upgraded if you want.

The Broadsword is an absolute blast to shoot. For a larger heavier carbine in 308, it has rather natural pointability, very similar to a 5.56mm AR15. I have spent over three months with the Broadsword firing various brands and loads of ammunition through it. I fire close to 1000 rounds of 308 through the Broadsword. I know this particular rifle has been reviewed by several notable industry members and recently was in Special Weapons for Military & Law Enforcement Magazine. This particular Broadsword was very dirty and well used when I got it. The Broadsword never failed during my time with it. It literally chewed its way through everything I put into it. With every thump of 308 fired and with every magazine exchange, the Broadsword just kept going. I even switched back and forth from cheap steel case Monarch to Federal Premium without a stoppage. I found the Broadsword really liked Federal Sierra Match King in 168 grn and 175 grn. I got the best results accuracy wise with this ammo. I found the action to be very smooth. The bolt carrier slid back and forth smoothly even when gritty, dry and hot from prolonged use. After the Slipstream STYX had started to burn off, the Broadsword still ran very smoothly.

Target Results
Target Results

Now, the Broadsword is a beast, although it looks slick and sexy it has some weight to it. Nothing a few pushups and exercising won’t fix. It’s nothing you can’t handle but after spending a full day with it, you will know that you have been carrying it around. Although it has weight to it, it is balanced very well. I was able to rack the Gunfighter charging handle with my support hand and change magazines with ease, while holding the Broadsword up with my fire control hand.  The weight does dampen down the recoil making the Broadsword smooth and very enjoyable to shoot. Some weight could be shaved off by changing out some of the features on the Broadsword but you will be sacrificing the weight for more recoil.

Broadsword w/ Aimpoint PRO
Broadsword w/ Aimpoint PRO

I found the Broadsword’s recoil was straight back into the pocket of my shoulder. The BattleComp compensator did a nice job of taming the muzzle blast and rise. Now, if you are in a spotter role next to the Broadsword, the BattleComp does nothing for you and you will get your bell rung. After long days of shooting, I found my shoulder was not beat up or feeling the repercussions of all the 308 sent down range. While dumping follow up shoots into my targets, the reacquisition of the sights and Red Dot optics was, smooth and easy to track. With the Broadsword’s features and you doing your part, hard hitting rapid follow up shots, are very easy to keep on target.

Broadsword w/ Aimpoint T1
Broadsword w/ Aimpoint T1
Crusader Weaponry Longbow
Crusader Weaponry Longbow

Conclusion:

The Broadsword does feel like the modern equivalent of the medieval knights broadsword, right down to its cold grey steel look. Finding a 308 battle rifle that runs reliably can be a challenge. Crusader Weaponry is up to this challenge and the Broadsword runs flawlessly. The Broadsword can fill several roles from a heavy patrol rifle, a designated marksman rifle, a hog hunter or anything else you can think to use it for. Crusader Weaponry has several different AR15 and AR10 rifle models available. I had a chance to test fire a Crusader Longbow precision 308, with a very nice Leupold scope mounted on it. Although I only fired a couple of rounds out of the Longbow it looks very promising. I know of only a handful of AR10 type rifles that run reliably. I would put the Crusader Weaponry Broadsword on that list.

Duncan