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Showcase cover image for Replica 1955 T44E4 (aka prototype M14)

General Information

This goal of this project was to build a reasonable replica of a T44E4 rifle as made in 1955 at Springfield Armory, and on occasion, use the rifle in CMP Modern Military matches or local/informal 'vintage service rifle' matches. In the future, I'll be adding a unique prototype hinged scope mount with M84 scope to this rifle, in an effort to replicate one of the T44E4 sniper rifles that were machined with the M14 scope mounting system and tested circa 1958. The hinged scope mount project is still pending work of a machinist, but the rifle itself is complete.

Brief history of T44E4: Springfield Armory made 510 of the T44E4 rifles circa 1955 for extensive testing by the US Army against the European-designed T48 rifle (later known as the FN FAL). The T44E4 was eventually selected in 1957 over the T48, and after several small engineering changes were incorporated in the late 1950s, went into series production as the M14 rifle in 1959. This replica tries to represent several of the nuanced differences between the prototype T44E4 rifles made in 1955 for field testing, versus the final configuration of the M14 rifle. With regard to early sniper rifles, as noted in R. Blake Stevens book, U.S. Rifle M14 (1991), nine T44E4 rifles were machined on the left side of the receiver to accommodate a hinged scope mount, and were tested at Ft. Benning in 1958. One of these prototype sniper rifles is at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

In early 2020 I began a journey to build a replica of an early prototype T44E4 (and prototype sniper rifle). The receiver that launched this project is an odd and rarely seen, 3-digit Armscor M1A receiver that is marked “SPRINGFIELD ARMORY, CAL 30M1 T44”. Apparently back in 2003 Armscor made a very small number of these ‘T44’ marked receivers for Dupage Trading, who had acquired some of the early M14 stocks with the M1 Garand buttplates, and sold a few of these receivers with those early stocks. Another forum member/collector had acquired this receiver years ago, and was gracious enough to let me purchase it in early 2020 for a retro project undertaking. Ted Brown then provided me with one of only five reproduction T44E4 barrels that he had custom ordered from Criterion in 2019, so I owe him a huge thanks as well. I would also like to thank Forceman who did some nice machining and refinish work on the receiver, as well as the barrel install/headspacing; bolt lapping, gas cylinder mounting, etc.

M1Army assisted by professionally refinishing two vintage stocks and handguards for this project. The original T44E4/E6 stock has a fairly loose lock-up and is quite rare (in fact I've never seen another one), so it is for "display only" purposes. For range work I found and purchased an early M14 stock with the M1 Garand buttplate to use as my "shooter stock." The shooter stock that has much better lock-up, while still preserving the early looks of the rifle. After I received from M1Army the refinished "shooter stock" in early 2021, I sighted in the rifle, and a few weeks later took this T44E4 replica to the CMP Eastern Games in April 2021. I managed to win a Bronze metal with it during a Modern Military match, so that was a nice surprise.

Project details and pictures:
Here's the parts collected as of early 2020, including a reproduction of the unique 1955 T44E4 barrel. The main physical difference (other than the part # and April 1955 date stamp) is the reproduction T44E4 barrel as seen here has the correct 'full dimension' shank, and didn't have the M14's lightening 'scallops' and related profile at the rear shank. (May 1955 dated sling was used for this project, as the original 510 T44E4 rifles were made in mid-1955)

Here's the unusual receiver with the "T44" marking that launched this project. I am grateful for HarryB for offering it to me, and I owe a big thank you to Forceman, and his neighbor, who machined the wide receiver rail much thinner, so it is now USGI width, and refinished it. This greatly improved the aesthetics and allowed the faux connector rod to be properly installed so it was flush with the side of the stock. Speaking of connector rods, Hawk was kind enough to machine an M14 part into a configuration similar to a T44E4 type rod - with exposed springs, as shown here. This vintage T44E4/E6 stock had some old glass-bedding under the heel as well.

M1Army did me a huge favor by re-finishing and selling me this original and well-traveled T44E4 stock. Based on the lightening cuts under the buttplate, and the unique stock liner that also has lightening cuts, it was determined that this E4 stock made circa 1955 had subsequently been used on one of the 57 rifles converted into the experimental T44E6 lightweight rifles circa 1958. It has lots of patina, including some small holes drilled on the pistol grip, presumably from the installation of the prototype T5 winter trigger. The walnut handguard is an early M14 part w/ serial number # 14488 written on the underside.

Ted Brown also hand-stamped a "T" for targeting and "P" for proofing on this barrel - a nice little detail(!)

Hard to see, but this is the early "no lip" gas cylinder, and flash hider is the very early "small shelf" style that has a sight base only as long as the front sight itself, so it lacks a "shelf" behind the sight. It is also non-reamed and was hard to find. One can also see the old arsenal wood splice at the front sling swivel that was damaged during field testing, and repaired by Springfield Armory. (Possibly circa 1958 as a T44E6 rifle).

Note the unique "beveled" profile of the clip guide, and the WWII era "double-rib" sight cover, which is seen on T44E4s in museums. I also used an M1 Garand pinion in yards, which is correct for a T44E4. (The drawing change for the sight pinion in meters occurred around 1957, prior to production). When possible, I tried to get these small details correct.

In this pic one can see the T44E4 style "curved' safety, and the bolt release with a smaller thumb "shelf," both of these parts were modified by Ted Brown. The DAS cartouche was placed lower on the T44E4 stocks that what is typically seen on production M14 stocks, where they are typically placed over the trigger area. (Unlike the original T44E4s that we’re 'slab-sided' and lacked a scope mount system, my project receiver has the M14 scope mount system).

Here's the same rifle but with my early M14 "shooting stock" that has a much tighter lock-up than my original T44E4 "display only" stock. (M1Army also professionally refinished this early M14 stock and wood handguard). Also shown is a Bronze medal that I won in Modern Military Match w/ this rifle at the 2021 CMP Eastern Games. I had just broken in the barrel before the match, so I was happy about winning a medal the 2nd time I used this rifle. Aside from a trigger job, it's in "as-issued" configuration with no match modifications. I'll also use it in local ‘vintage service rifle’ matches.
(Note: Rifle weight w/ sling but no mag is 8 lbs 13ozs; and w/ sling & an empty mag its 9 lbs 6 ozs).

Here's some misc. 'period correct' items I collected for display, including a copy of the 1955 report on the T44E4 rifle.
The early 7.62 NATO ammo seen here is dated from 1954-1958 (except the M82 blanks, which are dated 1962).
In the center are two very early cleaning pieces: chamber brush w/ white housing, and the little gas cylinder wrench with the T44E4 part number on it: '7267693'. The old M84 scope will be used with the pending hinged scope mount.
(I owe a thank you to Garden Valley for the vintage ammo, and Hytekredneck for the early chamber brush).

Future addition is a hinged scope mount w/ M84 scope: Thanks to several high-quality pictures of an original 1958 era prototype hinged mount provided by Different, and the technical skills of Lysander who reverse engineered the mounting bracket and provided very nice engineering drawings, at some point I will have one of the unique hinged scope mounts for this rifle to make a replica of the 'original' M14 sniper rifle. Here's the archive picture showing the hinged mount on a T44E4 along with various brackets for commercial scopes that were tested. (The 2.2x M84 was the 'control' scope for these trials, and I purchased on eBay the top half of an original hinged mount w/ rings that is stamped "M84", but unfortunately it lacked the mounting bracket).

As noted below in the parts list, several forum members assisted with this project along the way, and have my sincere thanks: including Crazynoto, HarryB, Ted Brown, M1Army, Lysander, Forceman, Jeremy69, Old Sarge, Garden Valley, Hawk, and Different. Since not everyone may know the nuanced differences b/t a T44E4 or very early M14 production (circa 1959/60) - versus later M14 production, I have bolded the unique parts used for this project:

USGI flash hider (early style w/ short or ’square sight base’, non-reamed) – Forceman
• USGI front sight (pending a 'slotted' screw as used on the 1955 T44E4 prototypes)
USGI gas cylinder (early ‘no lip’ version) – Ted Brown
Barrel – Criterion reproductionT44E4 profile barrel stamped “SA F7267002 4 55 CBI 5S” – Ted Brown
• USGI gas piston
• USGI gas lock cylinder lock
USGI spring guide – early milled solid part without stamped cut-outs – Ted Brown
• Recoil spring – New silicon spring from Treeline Associates
• USGI bolt w/ USGI internals – SA bolt with USGI internals as spare parts – Old Sarge
• USGI M14 firing pin – parkerized version (correct for this era)
Bolt stop – USGI part modified to have the profile of the T44E4 part – Ted Brown
USGI clip guide – modified to have profile of T44E4 part – Ted Brown
• USGI op-rod – SA part – from my late friend/gunsmith Bob Patt
• USGI trigger group – SA part – it has as a nice trigger job with a 4.5 lb pull
o SA trigger guard with early brazed pin – Ted Brown
o Safety – commercial part modified to have the ‘curved’ profile of the T44E4 – Ted Brown
o Hammer is late M1 and M14 production (‘SA 5546008')
• Armscorp-made ‘Springfield Armory’ marked receiver with custom ‘T44’ stamp, s/n #995 – HarryB
• Rear sight – USGI base and windage knob w/ M1 pinion (yards) & standard rear aperture
Vintage USGI Springfield Armory early T44E4/E6 stock w/ original hybrid M1 buttplate (steel buttplate with with an aluminum trap door with the M14 locking mechanism) – M1Army
(Note: For range work, I use an early M14 stock w/ M1 buttplate and a commercial handguard)
Handguard – early M14 wood handguard w/ 1959 serial # 14488 – Jeremy69
USGI connector rod modified into a T44E4 configuration w/ related faux parts – Hawk
• Sling – vintage web sling (MRT date of 5-55).
• USGI M1/M14 cleaning kit for buttstock (w/ very white early chamber brush from Hytekedneck and one of the original T44E4 gas cylinder wrenches) - see last picture.
PENDING: Vintage USGI hinged scope mount marked ‘M84’ marked scope bracket (7/8” diameter)
o Bottom of scope mounting bracket to be custom fabricated by Crazynoto
• M84 (2.2x) USGI scope – (reticle replaced and unit refurbished by Iron Sights Inc. during 2020)
• Vintage M59 ammo and other early 7.62 NATO ammo – provided by Garden Valley

This unique project was clearly a collective effort, and I’m glad this replica was able to come together during 2020-21. All that is needed now is for a talented machinist to fabricate the bottom half of the scope mount using Lysander's drawings. I hope this might occur during 2022. Historically this replica represents the original, or ‘Alpha’ M14 type rifle.
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