Blast From The Past: Guns & Ammo On The M14, 1963

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In 1963, on the eve of the M14’s cancellation, and the adoption of the AR-15 by the US Army as the M16 rifle, Guns & Ammo published a remarkably well-researched (if characteristically over-optimistic) article on the M14 rifle, its uncertain future, and potential new developments.

Despite the quaint artwork depicting the Soldiers of Tomorrow flying around with jetpacks and liquid-fueled rifles, the article covers – in brief – the situation facing US rifle development at the time. While not free of over-simplified or ambiguous wording, and a sensationalist tone, my initial expectations that the article would be totally out-of-line with my understanding of the events of the time proved totally false; the authors in fact had a shockingly good grasp of the situation facing the Army, and even predicted several important developments in the future.

The coverplate is reproduced below, along with the first pages. The whole article can be read on ar15.com here, though I have duplicated it on elsewhere in the event that the images – which are already a few years old – expire.

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Some of the writer’s predictions seem very prescient today:

  • The standardization of 5.56mm across NATO
  • The cancellation of the M14 “any day now” (it would be later that year)
  • Doubts about the effectiveness of 5.56mm
  • The use of silhouette pop-up targets for training, and the reduction of importance of traditional marksmanship
  • Automatic fire capability for every man in the rifle squad
  • Three-round burst
  • The incorporation of designated sharpshooters within the rifle squad

And some of them do not:

  • Issuing Gyrojet rounds for jungle warfare
  • Fielding SPIW later on in the decade (the author can’t really be faulted for this one, as it was the standard DoD line at the time)
  • Ray guns

The article isn’t free of inaccuracies, either, but in general I think it provides the reader with a reasonable understanding of the situation circa 1963, especially if supplemented with additional, more thorough material.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Adam Skrzypczak

    Good riddance, its an overcomplicated heavy piece of junk.

    • JSmath

      Whether that was sarcasm or seriousness, your message is unclear to me.

      • Adam Skrzypczak

        A little of both. I think the M14 was a huge mistake… shoulda bought the FAL instead… maybe we wouldn’t have needed to ditch the .308 so quickly then.

        Heck, the Aussies used the FAL in Vietnam and didn’t have problems…

        • John Yossarian

          The Americans didn’t have any problems with the M14 in Vietnam either, nor did the VC have any issues with their SKS or AK-47. The problem child there was the M16 – Even if it was due to the ammunition.

          • “Didn’t have any problems” is pushing it.

            The majority of issues with the M16 were due to rifles before 1967 having non-chromed chambers.

          • Lance

            No issues over 5.56mm killing power and issues with the pencil barreled affected the USMC and there marksmanship program till 1983 with the adoption of the M-16A2. Ive meet Marine and GIs who complied the 5.56mm blew around with the wind and in bad weather you couldn’t get any accuracy with the older M-16s.

            It wasn’t just none chromed barrels ammo using Winchester ball powder and poor maintenance and lack of cleaning kit also where affecting the M-16 and M-16A1 in Nam.

          • You know how thin the barrel on an M14 is, right?

            Hint: It’s thinner than an M16A1’s.

  • iksnilol

    THE WORLD WASN’T READY FOR THE GYROJET, GOSH DARNIT!

    JUST YOU WAIT, IN 50 YEARS THEY WILL BE TALKING ABOUT THE GYROJET AND HOW IT WAS THE FUTURE. JUST LIKE HOW PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT .280 BRITISH.

    • Kevin Harron

      I want my 40k style Bolter. 😀

      • iksnilol

        THAT TOO!

  • Don Ward

    There’s an Australian company that has made the news this past 24 hours, claiming to have perfected the jet pack.
    Martin Aircraft.

    So you laugh. The future is now!

  • Vitsause

    Gotta love Guns and Ammo. Pretty interesting, and a nice change from the recent “All your favorite non AR15 rifles were found to be giving soldiers AIDS, true story, here’s the DoD report on it.”

    • Don Ward

      Maybe if they’d have used the gun condom featured here in TFB earlier this month as modeled by Nicholas C…

  • Riot

    Weren’t gyrojets used in vietnam? (in some pistols)

    • the ammo addict

      They used a penflare launcher in Vietnam that was a Gyrojet, made by MBA Associates. The theory was that the little rocket flare could get through the tree canopy better than a regular pistol launched flare since the rocket provided a continual impulse and the body was made of metal (fairly sturdy for a flare).

    • Bob

      what is a gyrojet

  • Will

    I liked my M14. Kept it when everyone else was getting M16s but it was simply a matter of personal choice.
    Sure it was heavier and I carried less ammo than others but I was VERY happy with the 7.62 round.
    Had I REALLY been given a choice I’d have asked for an AK.

    • Out of curiosity, where and when did you serve?

      • Will

        Germany 1964-67.

  • Lance

    I know you just hate the M-14 with every molecule of your body, But its getting old. M-14 won FAL lost get over it!. M-14 still serves today as DMR, Navy security and tow line rifle, and Drill rifle. Still in use in 23 foreign nations. from Columbia, Philippines, South Korea, and Lithuania. The Brits ditched the FAL and as most European nations did. Now most are using AR-10/HK 417 rifles instead. As for FAL or L1A1s in Vietnam the Aussies too complained of no auto fire and heavy recoil they withdrew FALs and used borrowed M-16s for over half there time in Vietnam. The Aussies used the M-16A1 from the late 60s till the late 80s when replaced by the F88 AUG. Oh Aussie snipers used M-21s in Vietnam also, seen EBRs in there use in Afghanistan recently.

    So you may hate the M-14 but its still in use and many solder sailors and Marines love them, you don’t so what. Still posting hate pieces on one rifle you dislike. Well I think you wouldn’t like a Marine Vietnam vets gathering, they disagree with your M-14 hate. Go hate a Euro rifle then id take you more seriously.

    • Alternate theory: I am doing research for an upcoming article about 7.62mm automatic infantry rifles, and as I come across material I find might interest my readers, I write posts about it.

      And let’s just say I have insider info that my theory is right. 😉

      • Lance

        You may believe that. But overall the US military disagrees with you as well. Overall this is a dead issue 7.62mm rifles are not standard issue to every rifleman any more. 5.56mm or 5.45mm dominate the battlefield now. Any new caliber will be either 6.5mm or 6.8mm. While necessary for GPMG and sniper rifles 7.62X51mm is out of the picture.

        Say what you want its a free country but like I tell the SCAR lovers who told me over and over from 08-13, that the M-4 is toast and the FN is the future, the Army agreed with my prospective not theirs.

        • Did you intend to say that the US military disagrees that I am doing research? Because that is what you said.

          I have significant reservations about the possibility any near-future US adoption of a larger caliber than 5.56mm for rifles.

    • Agitator

      “M-14 still serves today as DMR”

      Because Big Army is too cheap to buy us new rifles/DMRs.

      “Navy security and tow line rifle”

      AFAIK arming Navy shipboard security gets an even lower priority than equipping rear-echeclon Army and Marine reservists, so the M-14’s presence here is more evidence of its obsolescence than its usefulness.

      “23 foreign nations. from Columbia, Philippines, South Korea, and Lithuania”

      Such military powerhouses, all. And anyway, I sincerely doubt any of these countries use the M-14 for any sort of frontline duty, with the possible exception of Lithuania.

      “Blah blah blah bunch of references to FAL”

      I wasn’t aware we were talking about the FAL. But as long as you’re pointing out all of the minor 3rd world countries that may have a few M-14s rattling around in their arsenals, I should note there are likely around 100(!) different countries that have used/are using the FAL.

      “many solder sailors and Marines love them”

      I think I met one guy in my battalion who liked his EBR. Or, you know, he did, until we did dismounted patrols.

      “Well I think you wouldn’t like a Marine Vietnam vets gathering, they disagree with your M-14 hate”

      Oh, I didn’t realize you spoke for every Marine Vietnam veteran (most of whom probably never touched an M-14 in-country).

      But by all means, continue to share your insights with us. Semper Stupid.

  • KestrelBike

    I LOVE my M1A. I love my ARs, too, but that satisfying lover’s-massage recoil I get shooting my M1A leaves the squirrel-kick AR in the dust. It’s just a wonderfully crisp action.

  • idahoguy101

    The M14 versus FAL versus M16 story is getting tiresome. 1957-64 is long over.

  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    When the US ARMY finally done with horseplay and finally develop the HOVERBOARD, I’m not interested..

  • One I just got for review

    • Verner

      That’s one sweet looking rifle. I’ll buy one like it when I move to the US… In a few decades…

  • And my M1A SOCOM 16 Yes I like them!

    • Verner

      Gorgeous rifle!

  • Zebra Dun

    The coming lack of 5.56 x 45 mm/.223 may just help the M-14 find another niche.