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Discussion Starter #21
Great research, great write-up. Thank you Lysander. I have thought about this question quite a lot. I will share my thoughts in the interest of discussion.

First, I think that the Cold War and the Vietnam War played large roles. There is a saying that militaries always prepare to fight the last war, and that is somewhat true in the case of the M14. The biggest threat facing us after WWII was unquestionably the Soviet Union. The worst case scenario is that we would be fighting again in Europe, and quite possibly in the Soviet Union itself. This had a major influence on the new rifle designs. The US insisted on a full power cartridge with this conflict in mind. The 600 meter range of such a cartridge could be used in much of Europe and the Soviet Union. (Whether you could train soldiers to utilize it is a different question, but the potential was there.) A war with the Soviets was also expected to be highly mechanized, and a full powered cartridge is effective against unarmored vehicles. You can see the influence in the M14 rifle too, with its 22 inch barrel to achieve peak velocity and retention of the M1's fine sights.

The war we got instead was Vietnam. There is no doubt that the M14 acquitted itself well there and won many devotees. However, that war was made for short rifles chambering intermediate cartridges. The terrain there usually forced engagements to be 300 meters or less. The Army's own 3 way trial between the AK-47, M16, and M14 showed that both of the others could put more fire on target than the M14 within that range.

Second was the long running program to try to increase hit rate and probability by increasing the number of projectiles a soldier could put in their air. Ultimately things coalesced around the Small Caliber High Velocity concept. Proponents hoped that by flattening the trajectory and minimizing the recoil, soldiers could use rapid or automatic fire to increase hit rate. All of this became embodied in the M16. The theory failed in the field, but we had to try it to find that out.

Third was Robert McNamara and his distaste for all things of government bureaucracy and inefficiency, as he defined them. The M16 was the poster child for his vision of government reform. It was a futuristic weapon at the time. It would be produced by private corporations and undercut bureaucracies he hated. The M14's production issues were an ideal "problem" for him to "solve" with his new vision of government.

I think these are the three main things that doomed the M14. They would likely have doomed any 7.62mm NATO rifle we adopted. As Lysander pointed out, there were problems with the technical data package for the FAL, and the AR-10 was not sufficiently developed, so both likely would have had their own particular teething problems. The push for a new weapon that would increase fire rate was strong, and we were looking to technology to solve the quagmire in Vietnam. So I think the adoption of the M16 was inevitable.

I do not think that replacing the M14 was necessary, and here is where I will anger the Cult Of Stoner. The M16 has served us very well and I would not dispute that. However, the 7.62mm NATO, the FAL, and the G3 / CETME went on to serve in Europe well into the 1980's and 90's, and even to this day in many nations. They have prevailed in conflicts around the world, including against forces armed with Kalashnikovs. I see no reason why the M14 could not have done the same. Europe's replacement of these systems was largely driven by a desire to get back to a common NATO standard cartridge with the US. Forces that continue to use the 7.62mm NATO weapons and cartridge do so because replacing them is not worth the cost, which means they are battlefield effective as far as those nations are concerned. When it comes to ammunition loadout, most of the weight is in the projectile. Therefore, there is not a large difference in weight between 7.62mm NATO and 7.62x39, especially when you factor in the heavy AK magazines (though M14 magazines aren't light).

It is also interesting to note that detractors of the M14 make much of its production problems, while glossing over the M16's problems when it first entered service. At the risk of oversimplifying, both had the same root cause: the inability to produce parts within required tolerances in sufficient quantities with sufficient speed. The problems were solved for the M16. They could have been solved for the M14. TRW got it right, and other manufacturers could have too.

All that said, the M14 has its flaws, and here is where I will anger the Cult Of M14. In my opinion, the biggest design flaw of the rifle as adopted is the traditional stock. I have shot mine extensively, both for fun and in competition, with both the original and the E2/A1 stock. The E2/A1 stock is superior for everything except bringing the rifle to shoulder from rest. The advantage of modern pistol grip stocks was demonstrated in WWII and well known when the Cold War battle rifles were developed. In my opinion, the E2/A1 stock should have been the standard (minus the extra hardware made for LMG use). The bolt roller is a subject much controversy. Eliminating it should have been seriously studied. The attachment of the op rod guide to the barrel should be more solid to eliminate play. Had the M14 remained in service, it would have gone through the same decades of iterative development that the M16 has enjoyed. There is no doubt that it would be a much different and much improved system today.

Would our troops have been better off if we had kept the M14? I don't know. While I don't think that replacing the M14 was a military necessity, the M16 did take a few steps forward in technology. There are too many variables in this question for me to go into in this already long post. In spite of detractors' opinions, I don't think the US military would have been diminished if we had kept the M14.
The 600 yard range was not the driving requirement. It was the ability to perforate armored personnel carriers. The .30-06 M2 AP could just barely perforate the armor of a BTR-40 and tear up the tires. And that was what we were expecting to come rolling across the German country-side. The British 7mm was incapable of doing that.

By the time the M14 was fielded the Soviets had upgraded to the BTR-60, which made the AP question moot, as those were proof against anything smaller than a Caliber .50 AP.

Another thing many people try to do is draw comparisons between the AK-47 and the M14/M16. And that is a mistake unless you start to delve into doctrine. The Soviets (now Russians) never tried to a one-cartridge-fits-all approach. Their doctrine divides the battlefield into two zones, the company zone and the battalion and higher zone. The company level weapons are for the assault and close-in defense, the battalion zone includes the approach and suppression weapons. Because of that neat division, the smaller 7.62mm X 39 and 5.45 cartridges are for company weapons and the 7.62mm X 54R weapons are in the battalion inventory.

And one last thing about the "faults" of the M14:
1) The stock. One of the most common types of shooting in combat is the the unaimed "snap-shot", where a target unexpectedly presents itself and you bring the rifle to your shoulder and shoot without taking deliberate aim. Exactly like trap or skeet shooting. For this type shooting the traditional shock is superior to the pistol grip. In the case in deliberate aiming, such as target shooting, test show it is a draw. People have preferences and tend to do better when using their preferred style stock, but if teaching someone from scratch the average scores are the same. The only real advantage the pistol grip style stock has an advantage is controlling fire in full automatic.
2) The bolt roller. The M1 did not have a bolt roller. The first T20s did not have a bolt roller. they added it because it reduced the stresses in the operating rod during full automatic fire.
3) The end result of the T44E4 shows the fact that it never was intended to be, but rather cobbled together as required. Other examples: the front sight and bayonet lug are mounted on the flash hider , which is held on the barrel by a nut inside a broached hole. That makes the L1A1 with a spacer look positively brilliant. The gas piston requires a flat on the tail so it does rotate, so they have to broach a "D" shaped hole in the gas cylinder, and keep it concentric to very tight tolerance. The 90% of the full automatic trip mechanism is on the outside. Splines, we love them so much we made two parts have them. It was actually rather late in development that they stopped bolting the pivot point of the bolt stop to the receiver.
 

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Discussion Starter #22
From the magazine Vietnam; M14 U.S. Marine Battle Rifle
The M14 was discountinued due to, the Hitchman report, dated 1952, stating based on a study of the requirements for infantry rifles at the time, questioned the concept of the M14, designed for firing distances of 500 yards. The report pointed out that the most effective range for modern rifles was 300 yards and most kills were at 100 yards or less.

The article goes on to talk about the M 14 weight vs the M16, and the goverment wanting a smaller caliber so more ammo could be carried by each soldier.

To me, they were trying to get ride of it years before it was built or studied in depth.
Funny that is still be used by our military in certain areas.
Not quite, see above about the reason for the Army's requirement for .30 caliber. There is a lot more in warfare than putting holes in people.

That said, the Ordnance Department was not universally opposed to the idea of a small caliber infantry weapon. In fact that report was the genesis of the Small Caliber High Velocity Cartridge (SCHV Cartridge) Program, which was completely unrelated to any aspect of the M16, other than some of the data gather was used to justify the M16.
 

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Gentlemen, Keep in mind that when you read a report, it is most often the promotion of a specific concept by an individual or group. Seldom is a report an unbiased reporting of applicable facts. There is a reason why many technical journals require a peer review of articles - they want to critically examine what has been written to eliminate both bias and technical errors. Most government reports have no such vetting process. They are often highly biased. I try to look at all such reports very critically.

Secondly, when someone attempts to predict how something as complicated as an armed conflict will transpire in the future, they are engaging in unadultrated guess work. They may try to make their guesses appear to be based on facts but they are still guesses. Fact from the past are not always indicative of facts in the future.

Personally, I like to hedge my bets but assuming that worst case scenarios might just happen. For instance, don't assume that all infantry engagements will be at 300 m or less. The worst case scenario is that at least some engagements will be out to half a kilometer.

Just sayin'.
 

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Personally, I don’t think comparing the M14 to an AR15 is comparing apples to apples. M14 vs a 308AR is a better comparison because they are intended to have similar range and power. I wish they would have built a smaller lighter M14 in 5.56 NATO so we could get a real comparison.
 

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I agree that comparing a .308 (7.62mm) AR against the M14 would be interesting... and it was.

The Army Marksmanship Training Unit changed from their M14NM to an AR-10 for the long range matches at Camp Perry. They absolutely dominated. The issue is that the AR is actually quite inherently accurate. Very little needed to be done to tune it up... mostly involving the barrel dimensions and match trigger and sights.

On top of that, the AR has proven to need much less maintenance than the 14. In earlier years the gunsmiths had their hands full keeping the M1s and later M14 functioning. I recall at the first All-Army matches using the M16 the armorers were virtually unoccupied. Their biggest repair needed on the brand new M16A2s was tightening a couple of barrel nuts. Evidently some fouling or erroneously light barrel torque resulted in a bit of lateral movement of the front sight.

The AR-10 is inherently more accurate than an M14. I think I noted before that nobody seriously hoping to win at Perry uses an M1 or 14 unless rules require them.

Yes, the highly customized M14s taken into the sandbox have done amazingly well. (built at nearby Rock Island Arsenal by acquaintances) but it took much added weight to gain the benefits.

But I still love the wood, steel, and history of the M1/M14.

Regards
 

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Seems to me there is a proper tool for every job. The AR covers 90% of those jobs, and the 14 maybe that 10% gap where longer distances are required in open distance topology.
With the benefit of hindsight now that we have woman in the ranks carrying rifles the AR makes even more sense.

I suppose had we gone into Afghan in the early 60’s for some geo reason the history of the 14 would be different.
All things change.

Cool thread.
 

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Great write up & thanx. Anecdotally, I took basic at Ft Dix NJ in 1960. During that training (With M1 Garands) we were introduced to the new M60 and an "AR/15" that was to be coming into distribution. This was in 1960 we never saw an M14 but heard, and saw an example, of an AR/15 ultimately become the M16. So I infer from this that as early as Spring 1960 the bell had already peeled for the M14. FWIW
 

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Another thing many people try to do is draw comparisons between the AK-47 and the M14/M16. And that is a mistake unless you start to delve into doctrine. The Soviets (now Russians) never tried to a one-cartridge-fits-all approach. Their doctrine divides the battlefield into two zones, the company zone and the battalion and higher zone. The company level weapons are for the assault and close-in defense, the battalion zone includes the approach and suppression weapons. Because of that neat division, the smaller 7.62mm X 39 and 5.45 cartridges are for company weapons and the 7.62mm X 54R weapons are in the battalion inventory.
I agree, but I think the Army was making that comparison in the 1960's in light of our experience in Vietnam. They did an extensive battery of tests comparing the three in the hands of average US soldiers. The M16 came first and the M14 came last. Of course this was on a training range, and the tests were based on US doctrine. The results weren't surprising, since the M16 had been designed to fulfill the new doctrine the Army had developed around an intermediate cartridge service rifle, so confirmation bias was in play. I think they did make a mistake in not looking at what happens between 300 and 600 meters. (The Soviet doctrine had that covered.) In short, I think Vietnam overly influenced the development of our doctrine, and we had to revise later when we found ourselves on more open battlefields. Of course this is why the M14 kept coming back, and why we began developing heavier projectiles for the 5.56mm.
 

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The M-14 underwent development as late as 1966. It was in 1967 that M-14 development was cancelled. If the M-14A2 had been reduced in size and made in 5.56mm, might it have replaced the M-16A1?
 

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The part that McNamara played was probably, IMHO, one of the greatest factors in the obsoleting of the M14.

McNamara had been an Army Air Forces officer in WWII, who was a "systems" type officer who studied and reported on bombing efficiencies, especially in the Pacific Theater. Later on, after the war, he was part of a group of officers hired by Henry Ford II when he took over Ford Motor Company in the late 1940's. Robert McNamara was part of the "Whiz Kids", who were statistical process experts, bringing in modern systemic methods to a company which was nearly bankrupted by his grandfather Henry Ford I. In the group were "Tex" Thornton, Arjay Miller, J. Edward Lundy, and Ben Mills, among others.

(As an aside here, Ford Motor Company was in poor shape, even when building trucks and B-24 bombers. The company suffered huge production problems at Willow Run, and FDR seriously considered allowing Kaiser Industries to take over the company. However, Henry Ford II, who was a Navy officer, was discharged, and allowed to take over the ailing company, forcing his grandfather to cede control to him. Henry Ford I's wife, Clara, owned a number private shares of the company, and she threatened to sell them if Henry I didn't step aside.)

McNamara left Ford right after being named CEO, responding to JFK's request that he serve as Secretary of Defense. McNamara not only hated the inbreeding at all levels of DoD procurement, but he also detested the "not invented here mindset that infected the organization. However, McNamara is also known for major screw-ups, insisting that the Air Force and Navy adopt the F-111(TFX). He obviously never understood the need for the Navy, which needed carrier dedicated aircraft.

McNamara is mentioned prominently in John Hornfischer's "The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945". While coldly calculating, one of his concerns was the number of Army Air Forces casualties relative to bombing results. He was a close adviser to General Curtis LeMay. This is likely where DoD Secretary McNamara may have been influenced. LeMay bought the AR-15 from Armalite after seeing it demonstrated, and decided it would be a great weapon for the U.S. Air Force security forces. It's not a stretch to believe that LeMay held some sway in adoption of the AR-15 DoD-wide.
 

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+1 McNamara, power hungry beaurocrat tyrant who wanted control of evertthing IMHO.
 

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"Henry Ford I's wife, Clara, owned a number private shares of the company, and she threatened to sell them if Henry I didn't step aside.) "

Well actually it was Eleanor Ford who was Edsel For's widow and Henry Ford II's mother.
 

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Discussion Starter #36
. . . but he also detested the "not invented here mindset that infected the organization. . .
What "not invented here attitude"?

I have posted a list of all the stuff that wasn't "invented here," and it's a long list. But for brevity, from 1944 to 1960, the following were developed outside the arsenal system:

  • T24, an MG-42 developed as a LMG, didn't work and the Army adopted the back-up design, the M1919A6, as a stop-gap until a replacement could be developed.
  • T54/T161/M60 - An FG-42 with belt feed. And the actual development was done by Bridge Tool and Die for the T54, and Inland for the T161, under contract.
  • T48 FAL, while ultimately not selected, it was so far ahead in 1953, as described above, they started production planning for the FAL in the US.
  • M39, a copy of the German Mauser revolver cannon, and developed by Ford
  • M85, developed by Union Shoe and AAI
  • M61, Developed by GE
However, McNamara is also known for major screw-ups, insisting that the Air Force and Navy adopt the F-111(TFX). He obviously never understood the need for the Navy, which needed carrier dedicated aircraft.
His major complaint was that the Navy's 20mm aircraft cannon ammunition was not compatible with the USAF's 20mm cannon ammunition. Made all the more problematic in that the two were electrically primed and had similar performance. And, the Navy and Air Force had several types of links for these, which were also incompatible.

The years of two cabinet level departments, one for the Army and one for the Navy, had wrecked havoc on ideas of joint development.
 

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You ought to get some kind of award for a fine summary. Great job! Thanks.

I think the answer goes to mission. Rightly or wrongly I believe increased firepower at shorter range considerations trumped the concept of aimed fire -- every soldier his own sniper. Why shoot if you're not aiming at somebody/something?

To me the M-14 is the very apotheosis of the combat rifle but my attitudes were formed long ago in a different world.

Thanks again for a truly great post.
 

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The part that McNamara played was probably, IMHO, one of the greatest factors in the obsoleting of the M14.

McNamara had been an Army Air Forces officer in WWII, who was a "systems" type officer who studied and reported on bombing efficiencies, especially in the Pacific Theater. Later on, after the war, he was part of a group of officers hired by Henry Ford II when he took over Ford Motor Company in the late 1940's. Robert McNamara was part of the "Whiz Kids", who were statistical process experts, bringing in modern systemic methods to a company which was nearly bankrupted by his grandfather Henry Ford I. In the group were "Tex" Thornton, Arjay Miller, J. Edward Lundy, and Ben Mills, among others.

(As an aside here, Ford Motor Company was in poor shape, even when building trucks and B-24 bombers. The company suffered huge production problems at Willow Run, and FDR seriously considered allowing Kaiser Industries to take over the company. However, Henry Ford II, who was a Navy officer, was discharged, and allowed to take over the ailing company, forcing his grandfather to cede control to him. Henry Ford I's wife, Clara, owned a number private shares of the company, and she threatened to sell them if Henry I didn't step aside.)

McNamara left Ford right after being named CEO, responding to JFK's request that he serve as Secretary of Defense. McNamara not only hated the inbreeding at all levels of DoD procurement, but he also detested the "not invented here mindset that infected the organization. However, McNamara is also known for major screw-ups, insisting that the Air Force and Navy adopt the F-111(TFX). He obviously never understood the need for the Navy, which needed carrier dedicated aircraft.

McNamara is mentioned prominently in John Hornfischer's "The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945". While coldly calculating, one of his concerns was the number of Army Air Forces casualties relative to bombing results. He was a close adviser to General Curtis LeMay. This is likely where DoD Secretary McNamara may have been influenced. LeMay bought the AR-15 from Armalite after seeing it demonstrated, and decided it would be a great weapon for the U.S. Air Force security forces. It's not a stretch to believe that LeMay held some sway in adoption of the AR-15 DoD-wide.

This was my understanding as well. Lemay wanted the AR to replace the M1 Carbine. To bad it exploded beyond that point.
 

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Art, you are correct. The AR15 was a great replacement for the AF's M1 carbines. This brings us to the misguided concept that the M14 could replace the M1 rifle, the BAR, the M1/M2 carbines and the M3 SMG. It was a great replacement for the M1 rifle but a poor replacement for the rest. The M1 carbine existed for a reason. Unfortunately, the logisitics and training "experts" always want a one fits all approach to everything - even it if really doesn't make good sense.

I contend that the M14 "failed" for more than one reason. Lysander skillfully explained the main reason but another significant reason was that if failed at being a replacement for 4 small arms. This was one of the major goals of the program. That became very clear in VN. It was a horrible squad automatic weapon. As a result, the M60 GP machine guns were more heavily used in order to compensate for the fact that effectively there was no longer a squad automatic weapon. It wasn't a suitable replacement for the carbine and the SMG either. The M16 was a suitable replacement for the carbine and the SMG and those weapons did have their place in the inventory for good reasons.
 

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What "not invented here attitude"?...
That the armory system had a "not invented here" reputation, whether completely deserved or not, was the perception, and perception is reality. And it was driven by the DoD/War Department, not the reverse. The War Department had a history, like all "war departments" of fighting the next war based on the last. That strategy drove weapons development.
  • After the 1861-1865 war, the War Department spent hundreds of thousands of dollars converting existing percussion rifles to a jerry-rigged cartridge conversion.
  • The 1872 Springfield .45-70 was well-known for cartridge extraction failures, jamming the rifle. The superior Remington rolling block was never accepted.
  • The Krag Jorgensen was adopted outside the armory system, and was an abysmal failure.
  • As early as 1923, it was thought to bring out a new infantry rifle and convert machine guns to the .276 Pedersesn. However, MacArthur prevailed as Chief of Staff, and insisted on the .30-06. This cost the M-1 two rounds per loading, a 20% loss of clip capacity.
  • And the T48 FAL failed the cold weather tests miserably. That's not an endorsement when it was believed that a European war with the USSR would be conducted in just those conditions.
And while the weapons systems you mentioned were outside developments, they each came with their own failures and problems. One of the most noted is the 5.56 Mini-gun; it was terribly unreliable and it was developed by GE.

The armory system is just the face of the procurement problems the DoD faces. The armory system didn't exactly sit on its hands when it came to research and development. They honestly researched hundreds of ideas, and either proved or disproved their merit. Unfortunately, outside development usually "zone focuses" on one solution, whereas the armory system has to be mindful of a myriad of ideas and solutions. Stoner's AR solution was in part, driven by the profit motivation of Armalite/Fairchild. Does anyone believe otherwise?

Was McNamara correct? In most respects, yes. However, he too, was too enamored with the numbers and disregarded the "soft data" that has to enter any equation.
 
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