The M14. Unsung. Much Loved.

Springfield Armory’s M14 (A1). To Wieland’s eye, it is better looking than either its predecessor M1 Garand or its successor, the M16 (AR-15).

One of the rifles Lachuk tested as possible successors was the FN-FAL (light automatic rifle) which several NATO countries, including Canada, had adopted after the U.S. bludgeoned them into accepting the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge as standard NATO issue.  There were several reasons for doing so instead of adopting the M14, none of which we need go into, but Lachuk wanted to see how the FAL compared.

So did I, since as an infantryman in the Canadian Army I was trained on the FN C1, as the FAL was designated.  I learned to love the FAL (still do) and won a battalion shooting championship or two with it.  Like the M14, it was later replaced by the Armalite AR-15 (M16, in U.S. terminology), but that was long after I departed.

Still, the hankering for an M14 engendered by John Lachuk stuck with me, and I finally got around to asking Springfield Armory for one to play with.  They sent two—a standard model and the so-called “Tanker” with a short barrel.

The “Tanker” myth is interesting in itself.  Back in the 1960s, a company ran full-page ads in the outdoor magazines advertising military surplus rifles for sale, from just about every country involved in the second war, and a few that weren’t.  They had M1 Garands, selling for 50 bucks or so if I remember correctly, and also “tanker” models with a short barrel for a few dollars more.

The thing is, there never was a tanker model in army service.  It was an idea dreamed up by the company in question, and the rifles themselves were reworked M1s.

I remember those, too, and also thinking how sexy the short, handy tanker looked.  And a semiauto!  Enough to set a teenager’s gun-loving heart to racing.

Obviously, I wasn’t alone.  Genuine or not, the tanker won fans and today, if one of those ersatz creations comes up for auction, they bring pretty big money.  Everyone now knows they were taken in but, hell, it’s just too good an idea to fail.

Incidentally, John Lachuk concluded that the AR-15 would be chosen by the military and become a great success.  He wasn’t wrong.

Gray’s shooting editor fell in love early with the (genuine) British Lee-Enfield No. 5, Mk. I “Jungle Carbine,” unquestionably the sexiest looking rifle to come out of the war, so that may account for his attraction to the M14, both standard and “tanker.”  And unlike many teenage loves, the Jungle Carbine’s as alluring now as it was then.