The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, Caliber 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO ammunition. It was the standard issue US rifle until 1970. The M14 was used for US Army and Marine Corps basic and advanced individual training, and was the standard issue infantry rifle in CONUS, Europe, and South Korea, until replaced by the M16 rifle in 1970. It remains in limited front line service with the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, and remains in use as a ceremonial weapon. The M14 also provides the basis for the M21 and M25 sniper rifles.
The M14 rifle is unique among US military rifles in that it has never officially been made available to the public by either the US Government or a Government contractor. Originally, the balance of the components of the M14 rifle, save its heart, the receiver, have been available for purchase. In recent years this supply has been supplemented by commercial reproductions of many components. The receivers in particular have been made available from a variety of commercial sources, with varying degrees of dimensional accuracy and production quality.
The M14 was developed from a long line of experimental weapons based upon the M1 Garand. Although the Garand was among the most advanced infantry rifles of the 1940s, it was not a perfect weapon. Modifications were beginning to be made to the basic M1 rifle’s design since the twilight of the Second World War. Changes included adding fully automatic firing capability and replacing the 8-round “en bloc” clips with a detachable box magazine holding 20 rounds. Winchester, Remington, and Springfield Armory’s own John Garand offered different conversions. Garand’s design, the T20, was the most popular, and T20 prototypes served as the basis for a number of Springfield test rifles from 1945 through the early 1950s.
Earle Harvey of Springfield Armory designed a completely different rifle, the T25, for the new .30 Light Rifle cartridge. The latter was based upon .30-06 cartridge case cut down to the length of the .300 Savage case. The .30 Light Rifle eventually evolved into the 7.62x51mm NATO and the commercial .308 Winchester round. Although shorter than the .30-06, the 7.62x51mm NATO round retained the same power due to the use of modern propellants. In the background, Lloyd Corbett was tasked with developing .30 Light Rifle conversions for the M1 rifle and later the T20 prototypes.
The T44 competed successfully against the T47 (a modified T25) and the FN FAL (T48). This led to the T44’s adoption by the U.S. military as the M14 in 1957. Springfield Armory began tooling a new production line in 1958 and delivered the first service rifles to the U.S. Army in July 1959. However, long production delays resulted in the 101st Airborne Division being the only unit in the Army fully equipped with the M14 by
the end of 1961. The Fleet Marine Force finally completed the change from M1 Garand to M14 in late 1962. Springfield Armory records reflect that M14 manufacture ended as TRW, fulfilling its second contract, delivered its final production increment in Fiscal Year 1965 (1July ’64 – 30June ’65). The Springfield archive also indicates the 1.38 million rifles were acquired for just over $143 million, for a unit cost of about $104.