by Terry Wieland
To read John Lachuk’s piece in the 1965 Gun Digest, you’d think the M14 was the worst rifle ever foisted on an unsuspecting infantryman by the money-grubbing villains of the military-industrial complex.
Lachuk called it a “monumental mechanical failure for U.S. Army Ordnance” and predicted it would have “the shortest life in history from production to obsolescence,” having been introduced only in 1957 to replace the M1 Garand.
Lachuk was a well respected writer in the 1960s, with some peripheral involvement in the development of the .44 Magnum cartridge, among other things. As well as Gun Digest, he was a regular contributor to Guns & Ammo. He was well placed not only to offer opinions on the M14, but also on its potential successors (including the Armalite AR-15) which he went on to test-fire for the article.
The M14 was intended to be an “assault rifle” on the order of the German G43 or Russian AK-47—a lighter, handier rifle, firing a smaller cartridge, with a high-capacity magazine capable of either semi- or full-auto fire.
It had a 20-round mag and fired the 7.62×51 NATO (.308 Winchester). An ex-army friend who trained with the M14 told me that firing it full-auto was the “shooting equivalent of bull riding.” In effect, it fulfilled none of its original purposes—or at least, not well.
Now cut to ten years later. In 1975, Jim Carmichel, newly appointed shooting editor of Outdoor Life and one of the most accomplished riflemen (and rifle writers) of the period, published The Modern Rifle. He was an unequivocal fan of the M14, at least in terms of accuracy; he fitted one with a 12X scope and bench-tested it with his standard National Match target load. “The smallest group measured an amazingly tight .600 inch…with the average an inch or slightly under.”
Carmichel noted that a new company had started up, originally in Texas but later moved to Illinois, to produce a commercial (non-full auto) version called the M14 (A1), and this was his test rifle. The company was called Springfield Armory and, today, almost 50 years later, it is still producing the M14 (A1), with the line now expanded to several models.
A short production life? Methinks not. Obviously, the much maligned M14 has established a solid fan base among civilian shooters.
I can remember reading Lachuk’s article as a teenager, having never at that time even heard of the M14. But it stuck with me and, for some reason, I always wanted to get my hands on one and see how it actually worked.