Berlin Crisis, 1961: The Beginning of The End of The M14

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In 1957, the T44E4 rifle was formally adopted by the United States Armed Forces as the United States Rifle, 7.62mm, M14, but this only marked the beginning of the rifle’s troubles. After numerous delays and production crises – including the rejection in December of 1960 of 1,784 of H&R receivers (about ten percent of the receivers that had been made up to that time) that could not withstand the pressure of firing due to a steel mix-up – Robert McNamara made a famous speech on the rifle program in June of 1961, stating: “I think it is a disgrace the way the project was handled. I don’t mean particularly by the Army, but I mean by the nation. This is a relatively simple job, building a rifle, compared to building a satellite or a lunar lander or a missile system.” At that time, there existed a grand total of only 133,386 M14 rifles, despite the type having been adopted four years prior.

It was in this same month, in a climate of adversity towards the laborious US rifle program that the Berlin Crisis broke out. Occurring on the forefront of the fight against Communism, the crisis and eventual construction of the Berlin Wall put on public display a significant amount of military material and equipment. Among these, journalists would notice US soldiers carrying the old M1 Garand rifles, which further blackened the eye of the M14 as a weapon unsuitable for production, much less nuclear-era warfare:

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Original text: “US soldiers at the allied Checkpoint Charlie at Friedrichstrasse – August 1961.” Barely visible are the soldier’s M1 rifles. Image source: gettyimages.com

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Another image from the same roll as the one above. Soldiers milling about an M59 Armored Personnel Carrier. This vehicle was introduced to replaced the M75 APC, and would be replaced by the extremely long-lived M113, which is still in service today. Note the M1 Garand rifles. Image source: gettyimages.com

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Original text: “Berlin, Germany, August, 1961: West Berliners cheer as a 1,500-man U.S. Army convoy from the 1st Battle Group rolls past the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church. The troops were sent by President John F. Kennedy to join the 11,000-man garrison already in the beleaguered city in a show of solidarity; they were greeted near the newly-constructed Berlin Wall by Vice President Lyndon Johnson.” These reinforcements are explicitly mentioned in R. Blake Stevens’ book U.S. Rifle M14: from John Garand to the M21. They are all armed with WWII-era small arms, including the M1. Image source: stripes.com

American soldiers, Friedrichstrasse near Checkpoint Charlie, at the time of the contruction of the Berlin Wall, Germany, August 1961 © Don McCullin / Contact Press Images / LUZphoto

Original text: “American soldiers, Friedrichstrasse near Checkpoint Charlie, at the time of the contruction of the Berlin Wall, Germany, August 1961.” Soldiers and MPs in the background carry M1 Garand rifles. Image source: www.luzphoto.com

American soldiers, Friedrichstrasse near Checkpoint Charlie, at the time of the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berlin, Germany, August 1961

Original text: “American soldiers, Friedrichstrasse near Checkpoint Charlie, at the time of the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berlin, Germany, August 1961.” An M1 Garand rifle is slung over the soldier’s shoulder. Image source: cdn.c.photoshelter.com

American and East German soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie at the time of the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berlin, West Germany, August 1961

Original text: “American and East German soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie at the time of the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berlin, West Germany, August 1961.” Note the M1 Garand rifle and M2 Carbine. Image source: contact.photoshelter.com

Once these images, which many considered outright damning of the US rifle program, surfaced, the Army took immediate action to send newly-made M14 rifles to Germany, even publishing a photo in Stripes magazine documenting the “changing of the guard” from the old M1 to the new rifle:

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Original text: “Berlin, September, 1961: Sfc Walter Longanbach, right, supply sergeant of Company D, 6th Infantry, 2nd Battle Group, issues the new, fast-firing M14 rifles to three men of his company. The troops in three companies in West Berlin that received M14s were about to begin marksmanship lessons, followed by range firing; after that, they were to turn in their M1 Garand rifles, the standard infantryman’s weapon since 1941.” These M14s are very early models, and still retain the ventilated fiberglass upper handguard, later replaced by an unventilated model. Image source: stripes.com

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M14 rifles and an M20 anti-tank weapon being used by US soldiers in Berlin. Month unknown, but no earlier than September 1961. Image source: cvce.eu

This controversy was perhaps fomented by Allied troops being present with new 7.62mm NATO rifles:

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Original text: “Germany / GDR, West-Berlin, Tiergarten. British allied soldier in front of the soviet monument. September 1961 Germany / GDR, West-Berlin, Tiergarten. British allied soldier in front of the soviet monument. September 1961”. The soldier is using the new L1A1 rifle, first adopted by the British Army in 1954. Image source: gettyimages.com

E0W68G Aug. 08, 1961 - British troops stand on guard before Soviet war memorial in West Berlin.: The Soviet War Memorial in West Berlin

Original text: “Aug. 08, 1961 – British troops stand on guard before Soviet war memorial in West Berlin.” Note the L1A1 rifles. Image source: alamy.com

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Original text: “A British soldier standing guard in West Berlin, as the East Germans added further restrictions on the crossing of the East-West border in 1961 in Berlin, Germany.” He carries an L1A1 rifle. Image source: thenational.ae

However, it wasn’t just US troops who stood off with World War II era weapons. Many of the East German border guards and troops carried antiquated WWII-era submachine guns and rifles, or early post-war carbines, as the menacing select-fire AK assault rifle had not yet shown up in quantity:

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German troops stand guard at the East-West Berlin border, 1961. They are armed mostly with PPSh-41 submachine guns, but at least two have the much newer AKS-47 assault rifles. The modernized AKM rifle was just seeing initial issue with Russian troops, and had not yet been procured by the Nationale Volksarmee. Image source: mholloway63.wordpress.com

Original text: “14 August 1961, Erection of the Berlin Wall. GDR borderguards and members of a Combat Group of the Working Class at the border of the Berlin sector.” The rifleman in the distinctive East German helmet is carrying an SKS carbine, while the two Combat Group members are carrying antiquated Kar.98k rifles. Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Conrad Schumann defects to West Berlin, 1961

The famous photo of Conrad Schumann defecting to the West. Caught in mid jump, he carries a cigarette in his left hand, and a nearly 20-year-old PPSh-41 in the other. Image source: rarehistoricalphotos.com

The Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the initial absence of the M14 rifle would herald the end of the M14 program. Two years later, Robert McNamara would enact the immediate cessation of M14 rifle production, the temporary procurement of the M16 rifle, and the SPIW program, which was to take three years. Despite McNamara’s opinion that the M16 was an off-the-shelf and temporary solution to the US rifle procurement problem, it proved to be neither. The troubles experienced by the M16 rifles and their users in Vietnam, which were caused by poor ammunition specifications, tainted powder, a lack of chrome-lining of the barrel to resist tropical conditions, and the lack of weapon-specific training and cleaning kits, have since come to overshadow those problems that dogged the M14 rifle program. Paradoxically, the M16 family of weapons proved to be far from a temporary fixture of US Army procurement, and new M4A1 Carbines – the M16’s short-barreled, modular descendant – continue to be procured for the US Armed Forces.



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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  • Maxpwr

    My dad was activated from the WI National Guard and sent to Ft. Lewis for active duty training during the Berlin Crisis. I asked him what he carried and they were still obviously issued M1 Garands at the time especially being a National Guard unit. The M14 was a great design, but the world and tactics changed too rapidly to make it a useful standard issue rifle in modern warfare. Like many Guard units, they went from M1s in the 1950s-60s, to M16s in the 70s. No M14s.

  • iksnilol

    Fun thing about the German PPSHs is that some were converted to 9x19mm.

    They did also use unconverted PPSHs but loaded with 7.63×25 Mauser ammo.

    Designations IIRC were MP41(r) and MP717(r).

    I really like the East-German stock on AKs, both for nostalgic reasons and for practicality.

    • Lance

      No the East German burp guns (PPSH) where still in Soviet caliber. The Russian made sure that all Warsw Pact nations stay in common caliber as Red Army.

      • iksnilol

        Enough were converted to earn them their own designation. That and they did also convert during WW2. I doubt they would convert them back.

  • As a serious history nerd I absolutely eat this stuff up. Well done Nathaniel.
    As an aside, my banker is a German expat who grew up in the American sector of West Berlin and his father was a police officer. He has some very interesting stories about what it was like to grow up in a city torn in two by ideological squabbles. The most shocking is also the one he glosses over without much thought: he believed as a boy that growing up around tanks, APCs, armed men everywhere, and lingering animosity for the bad guys a quarter mile over was simply the norm.

    • Thanks, Alex. I just about had an aneurysm when the server/my browser (not sure which) ate about two hours of work on this post. Fortunately, it was two hours of work that took twenty minutes to reclaim, but let it not be said I don’t sacrifice for this blog. 😉

    • KestrelBike

      One of the guys my dad plays Bridge with was just a kid during the fall of Berlin, like 10 or something. He and his brother (12) were mobilized into the Volkssturm and both were given a rifle and 100rds and told to hold the line against the Russians. Well, his older brother got either shot or took shrapnel to the stomach, and the younger brother (the future bridge player) tossed their guns, put his brother in a wheel barrow, and miraculously pushed his bro past Russian lines to one of the Russian field hospitals (where again by some miracle) the Russians treated him and they both survived…. to live in East Germany where for years, the boys would start the day armed with a bayonet to go scrounging for food. The bayonet was for both rats and to fend off other kids/people also trying to get to the same food (often, the rats).

    • John

      >he believed as a boy that growing up around tanks, APCs, armed men
      everywhere, and lingering animosity for the bad guys a quarter mile over
      was simply the norm

      Swap “military” with “police” and “tanks” with “hummers” and that IS the norm today.

      What’s astonishing and gratifying is that you remember a time when it wasn’t.

      • Yes, today in the USA and living in West Berlin at the height of the Cold War are the same.

        • That’s not strictly speaking fair – we have WAY more food than they did.

      • SP mclaughlin

        I’d take Hummers over T55’s any day.

      • nadnerbus

        I’m concerned about police militarization too, but I think you should stop and consider the comparison there…

        When the LAPD strings up a barbed wire wall around South Central and then fortifies it with a concrete wall, machine gun towers, and a shoot to kill order for people trying to get out, then you might have a point.

  • DetroitMan

    “This is a relatively simple job, building a rifle, compared to building a satellite or a lunar lander or a missile system.”

    I think this statement illustrates how little McNamara understood about what it takes to produce a viable service rifle. On the surface, he is correct: anything launched into space is extremely complex, with tight tolerances and almost zero margin for error. At the same time though, he is trivializing what it takes to produce a rifle that can withstand military service. His mad assumption that he could take an off-the-shelf rifle and issue it as a service rifle had disastrous consequences for the GI’s when the M16’s teething problems manifested themselves in Vietnam. McNamara had a certain genius, but at times he was an arrogant fool who meddled in things that he failed to understand.

    • You have to McNamara due credit. He was a brilliant businessperson and he applied that knowledge to the wastefulness of the government, namely the military industrial complex. He was arrogant to a point but would listen to his team. Little things like addressing “why the hell do all the branches of service wear different shoes for this same situation” helped save countless millions, but when he would pipe up with things like “why do all the branches of service use different aircraft” (reasons for which there is great justification) he would leave the issue alone.

      • DetroitMan

        I wouldn’t call the F111 “leaving the issue alone”. The Air Force eventually made lemonade from that lemon, but arguably a better aircraft could have been procured if they hadn’t started by trying to force the Air Force and the Navy to adopt a joint platform. We are making the same mistake with the F35 now, with predictable results.

        I did say that McNamara had a certain genius, and I meant it. I’m all for cutting government and military waste. However, there are certain times when the military needs a very specialized system and the government should heed the advice of the commanders. Trying to make a vehicle fulfill too many roles or trying to rush the development cycle on a piece of equipment is asking for trouble.

        • I always thought the F111 was a good aircraft? I thought McNamara suggested they use the same aircraft and the military industrial complex responded accordingly.
          That said I know very little about aircraft that carry ordnance.

          • Detroitman

            The Air Force and the Navy had developed similar requirements for a new aircraft. McNamara first directed a joint study, and then a joint development program, which became the F111. The Air Force and Navy were both against it because only their basic requirements for swing wing, two engines, and two seats were the same. The Air Force wanted a low altitude penetration and ground attack aircraft. The Navy wanted a high altitude interceptor to defend the carriers. Somehow McNamara thought these could be merged into a single design and pushed it through. When he laid out the design requirements, they were based mostly on the Air Force’s needs. Not surprisingly, the Navy version failed to meet its requirements and was stillborn. The Air Force got most of what it wanted, but it was left with compromises from making the air frame suitable for carrier landings. The Navy got what it wanted a decade later with the F14.

            The F111 turned out to be a pretty good aircraft, but it could have been a better aircraft if it had been designed exclusively for the Air Force’s needs. The Navy was forced to waste millions developing an aircraft that was never designed to meet its needs. They also lost years of development time for a better interceptor, when they already knew that the F4 had issues in that role. The F111 is arguably the best (or worst) example of McNamara acting like a Ford Motor Co. bean counter meddling in military programs that he didn’t understand.

          • Interesting stuff! But in this instance, “Ford Motor Co. bean counter” should not be used as an insult. He did the company VERY well and his “bean counting” helped him be successful there.
            Sorry, I digress. I know a lot more about cars than I do about firearms.

          • DetroitMan

            As someone who works inside the auto industry, I was using “bean counter” in the more modern and derogatory sense. In more recent times, the bean counters have been blamed (rightly or wrongly) for compromising products with common parts in order to save a few bucks. It’s the kind of thinking that leads to abject disasters like the Pontiac Aztek or questionable decisions like all Lincoln models being warmed over Ford products. This is exactly what McNamara was guilty of when he insisted that the Navy and Air Force could share a common air frame in order to save money. By insisting on commonality, he produced two compromised aircraft, one of which never passed its trials or entered service. It cost more in the long run, just like a failed product or business strategy in corporate world.

          • I am more than familiar with the term. I have worked in the auto industry my whole life. As such I can appreciate your analogies.
            However platform and component sharing in the automotive industry, as you well know was very beneficial. Hell, remember when Olds, Buick, and Pontiac all had a different 455? Different bores, strokes, parts, etc. all seem crazy today, but we have to remember that it wasn’t until men like McNamara stepped back and said “what the fresh hell is this nonesense?!” that branches of the same company stopped infighting (each branch also had a completely separate rental and fleet division!).
            McNamara’s policy was shaped by his experiences in the private sector, which worked very well there (profit is a good indicator of success) but depending on who you ask, he was either a prodigy or a slouch.

          • JeepsGunsTanks

            Back in
            the good old days, when a sub brand was powered by its own brand of motor! GM
            and its sub brands got a lot less interesting when they settled on using Chevy
            motors. Pontiac motors ruled!!

            Also, it took an Admiral going before congress and throwing away
            his career to kill the F-111B. It didn’t just fail its trials.

          • nova3930

            The later iterations were quite good strike aircraft. As a multi-role navalized fighter bomber which McNamara dictated it should be, it was a dog. The Naval version never even got off the ground due to being overweight and underpowered….

          • Martin M

            What made the F111 so good was it’s radar and avionics. It could fly lower and faster than any other aircraft, even at night and in bad weather. I’ve heard stories.

          • F-111 was a good bird, but it was F-111B that was the potato. Basically, they were trying to cram a light supersonic bomber onto an aircraft carrier and torture it until it could do fleet air defense. Not a great idea.

            The F-14, which eventually filled the role of the F-111B variant, managed to be much smaller and lighter. If you’ve ever seen an F-14 in person – they’re not small – that gives you some idea of just how much of a monster the F-111B would have been.

          • DetroitMan

            I have no argument that platform and part sharing is beneficial in the auto industry. It has worked many times, though it has failed at other times. What McNamara failed to understand is that weapons development and procurement is a much different ballgame than the auto industry. He applied his principles rigidly, and it led to turkeys like the F111B and the premature fielding of the M16. The size of the F111 alone should have told him it wasn’t cut out for carrier deployment. Smaller aircraft always fare better on carriers, for many reasons. The F111 is about 20 feet longer than the F14, which is a big aircraft, as you pointed out. Compared to the carrier aircraft of the 1960’s, the F111 was an absolute monster. Even though it eventually succeeded in take off and landing on carriers, the F111B would have devoured the limited space in the carrier hangars if it had been deployed. Smaller air groups = less effective carriers. It makes you wonder if McNamara thought of the Navy at all, or if he just wanted to slash budgets. I don’t deny that McNamara had many successes at Ford, but that doesn’t excuse his failures at the defense department. I won’t give him quarter on this.

          • I think McNamara’s heart was in the right place, and I think that especially in the Army’s case a lot of the organization really did need to be shaken up the way McNamara did it, but McNamara’s treatment was indelicate and seemingly unconcerned with details – perhaps because he came to associate “details” with “excuses”? That wouldn’t surprise me, but I really don’t know. I just know about how he handled the Army small arms programs, which was to say he did things that needed to be done, but he mishandled it.

          • DetroitMan

            I also think his heart was in the right place, and I give him credit for that. His lack of concern for the details at times was alarming though. I have heard that he often dismissed the objections of military commanders as excuses. He would have done better if he had taken the time to understand some of the programs he meddled in. He was a brilliant guy and brought a lot to the table when he understood the issue. Unfortunately he had a tendency at times to oversimplify a problem in his own mind and harden his opinion based on his own, faulty assumptions. That may be why some called him a slacker, since he didn’t do his homework at those times. When he acted like that, he did a lot of damage.

          • darthcoder

            I was recently at the Udvar-Hazy museum and there’s an F35 right next to an F14. It’s a shame. The F35 doesn’t belong in the same building as the F14.

          • Sulaco

            It was F-111’s that flew from the US or Britian all the way to bomb Gadafie and back because the Arab states and France (go figure) would not give permission to land and re-fuel or fly over…

      • nova3930

        McNamara did more damage to the US defense aerospace industry than any other single person. The number of programs he ordered cancelled is beyond belief, some of which could still be potentially viable today in terms of capability. When you read about the SR-71 retirement being based on “operating costs” know the reason for that is due to McNamara ordering the tooling destroyed when he shut the program down so the AF had to resort to cannibalizing aircraft to keep a portion flying.

        • John

          Look. The SR-71 is cool and can fly anywhere to drop a bomb anywhere on the planet. Great.

          Now when it’s done with its payload, where does it land? What does it get reloaded with? How much fuel does it need? Apparently every Blackbird pilot says it required deep focus and months of specialized training to learn how to fly safely, so what you end up with is a very specialized aircraft designed to dominate a very specialized set of circumstances for a very specific situation: nuclear war.

          It doesn’t even come with a gun or missiles.

          Compare that with a B-52 or a C-130 or a helicopter. No contest.

          I’m sure the Air Force has at least a dozen somewhere in case, just not on standby.

          • nova3930

            WTF are you talking about? The SR-71 and it’s CIA predecessor the A-12 were reconnaissance platforms. They were never designed nor intended to drop bombs and only a few YF-12s were built with the capability of air to air combat. Of the three YF-12s produced, two were destroyed in accidents and one is at the AF Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in non-flyable condition. Of the A-12s and SR-71s produced, all the survivors are non-flyable museum pieces.

          • Uh… John, the Blackbird is a strategic reconnaissance plane.

          • Kivaari

            It was replaced by better satellites.

          • Clearly the satellites have gotten better, but I dunno that they alone can do what an SR-71 could do. They kept flying the SR-71 for a long time as a result, but I do wonder if the sheer number of surveillance satellites in orbit helped soften the blow of the plane’s retirement.

            Clearly, there is still a need for that kind of capability, it’s just provided by drones like the RQ-170.

          • Kivaari

            I suspect the military has an alternative aircraft or device that picks up the data. Maybe that low-earth-orbit “secret space plane” that stays up for over a year is doing some work. They just launched a new one a week ago.

          • X-37B? That one is clearly doing some sneaky snake stuff, but it’s fundamentally a satellite when on orbit.

          • nova3930

            Physics is physics. Within certain limits you can change the altitude and thus the velocity which a satellite is transiting around the planet fairly easily. Changing the orbital inclination is another matter entirely. As a practical matter, the orbital inclination, and thus the ground track, that you launch into is the one you’re stuck in. In my orbital mechanics class, we calculated the total inclination change of the space shuttle if you burned 100% of the onboard fuel and the result was around 1 degree….

          • Yeah, inclination changes are expensive. I don’t know that the X-37B is any better equipped (i.e., has more internal fuel) to handle those sorts of inclination changes than a satellite with an orbital thrust package, but I bet it offers good cross-range capability, as that’s something the Air Force has wanted for a long time.

          • nova3930

            I’d bet they bought a lot with some advanced manufacturing techniques dropping vehicle structural mass. Increasing the fuel mass fraction of the orbital vehicle buys you quite a bit along with dropping the mean motion parameter in the delta-V equation. I’ve heard speculation that the X-37B might also be testing some more advanced forms of propulsion…

          • nova3930

            In actuality low observable UAS like the RQ-170 provide a better surveillance platform than the SR-71. The primary advantage being you can look around without your enemy knowing you’re looking around. Rapid surveillance is good but persistent, real time surveillance is better….

          • nova3930

            The problem with satellites is one of physics, ie once found their orbit is entirely predictable allowing for relatively easy spoofing and avoidance. Aircraft based surveillance provides a surveillance asset you can’t predict in the same manner.

          • Kivaari

            Quite a few can now change orbit. The 90 minute cycle is the same time but the path can be quite different. It is really cool stuff.

          • nova3930

            Uh no, trust me, I spent a few years getting an aerospace engineering degree which included a few semesters of orbital mechanics. The physics is pretty ironclad in the respect that only certain elements of the orbit can be changed with available propellant on hand.
            The main orbital parameter that can be changed is the orbital altitude via changing tangential velocity. Accelerate or decelerate and the altitude of orbit can be increased or decreased. That’s the basis of how you do interplanetary transfers as well. The physics dictates that the angular velocity of the orbit doesn’t change with altitude however, so the end result is relatively slight changes in the precession of the orbital ground track. This change is the most efficient in terms of delta-V required and even then, there’s a limit to how much change you can get. You’re simply not going to take a geostationary satellite down to low earth orbit with any reasonable amount of fuel.
            Our enemies basically know how big our satellites are, how much fuel they could potentially contain, and thus what the potential ground track and orbital windows are based on where they’re originally observed.
            The more major orbital parameter that will wildly change a ground track is orbital inclination. Changing orbital inclination requires a massive amount of delta-V to accomplish. As a class exercise in orbital mechanics we calculated the maximum inclination change of the space shuttle if they expended 100% of the fuel on board and came up with a value of less than 1 degree.
            Bate and Mueller have a good text named “Fundamentals of Astrodynamics” that provides good overview of orbital mechanics and the physics limitations that govern it without requiring a seriously in depth math background….

          • The SR71 was not a bomber of any kind.

          • Don Ward

            Not a bomber of any kind, you say?

          • That is clearly a MiG-31 Firefox.

          • Lol!

          • The SR-71 was strictly recon it had no weapons of any kind.

        • Hmmm, I can’t speak much for aerospace, besides what I know about the F-111B (which could have been, to put it delicately, disastrous for US Navy mission readiness levels), but I can think of a couple good things McNamara did. He cancelled M14 production – despite the romance that gun has for some people, this was in my opinion a good thing, as the rifle was not sufficiently superior to the M1 Garand to warrant continued production. He got the Air Force to adopt the F-4 and A-7, which to me seem like clearly good moves, especially given the war going on at the time. I like that he began to move away from an “all or nothing” strategy to oppose Communism, though the details of whether his flexible strategy was well-constructed or not are beyond me.

          On the face of it, McNamara’s career sounds pretty much like you’d expect it to, knowing his background with Ford. He made sweeping changes that in many cases were sound and needed, but had a habit of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

          • nova3930

            I won’t argue the F-4 or A-7 although I think that’s as much chance with overall good platforms as anything. Fact is I’m of the opinion the A-7 was retired a bit too soon. A rugged, cheap to operate, relatively slow carrier based CAS platform would have been a great military asset in the middle east.

      • n0truscotsman

        It wouldn’t hurt for a current or future secdef to pull a McNamara on the uniform debacle again.

    • I’ve said before that McNamara had a knack for getting to the heart of the matter without really understanding it. This means he’s right – sixteen years of effort and the new rifles (which, keep in mind, are basically product-improved Garands) still weren’t in the hands of GIs? That is a disgrace.

      The flip side of that is that he then shoved the AR-15 down the military’s throat before anyone had bothered to do things like, I dunno, make enough cleaning kits or create an actual ammunition specification.

    • Rock or Something

      I will add that rockets alone has to contend with the harshness of space, while military rifles have to survive the destructive capabilities of countless bored G.I.s.

  • Vitsaus

    Fantastic images in this article, most of them I’ve never seen before. Great job.

  • Zebra Dun

    The M-14 was the best rifle to fight World War two/Korean war over again with.
    For men who served in World War two and Korea what they wanted was an M-1 Garand that held more than eight rounds and was magazine fed.
    They were simply inexpensively attempting to train, make and issue weapons for the last war.
    Units of the Spanish American war went into combat with post civil war era Springfield’s, nothing really changes.
    I loved My M-14 rifle.

    • I rather think that had the AR-15 been available in WWII or Korea, it would have made quite the impression. 😉

      • Zebra Dun

        I’m thinking it would have been Chesty’s favorite rifle!

  • nova3930

    Great article. I had no idea the Garand was still being issued to front line units that late in the game.

    • The nominal date of introduction fooled me originally into thinking the M14 was a “Fifties gun”. Nope!

  • Lance

    Your drum beat is old Nathaniel, we adopted the M-14 not your FAL get over it! As for the Berlin wall my father was there when the wall went up and yes troops in West Berlin had older rifles the fact was US presence in West berlin was for show only NATO had only 3-4 tank platoons in berlin Soviet and East German had 5 divisions surrounding Berlin. No point in throwing newest technology just for show. Overall the Russian still had SKSs and PPSH SMG in use and the VOPOs (German Police) had mostly PPSH and exWW2 Mausers K-98s in use. AK-47 where not seen in the Berlin area till after the Berlin wall was finished. US troops in West Germany however did have M-14s by that time.

    Strange the M-14 still in use today and your FAL is largely gone replaced by the AR-10 in British use period.

    • UnrepentantLib

      True, but are we using M14’s in the sniper/DMR role because they’re the best or because we had them on hand when the need was recognized? I don’t believe the DoD is buying new ones. I expect that as the current stock becomes worn out the M14 (which I have a strong nostalgic attachment to) will fade away, to be replaced with something like the AR-10. In reality, the M-14 and FAL are pretty comparable. And the FAL does still soldier on in places like Libya, where they show up frequently in photographs.

      • Talking to M14 gunsmiths makes it clear the platform is far from ideal for anything close to precision work.

        • Lance

          Strange then in camp Perry they win alot of championships over the AR-15.

          • Yeah, and ask the winners how many rifles they have in rotation.

          • Lance

            Strange they won with them they beat ARs. so some how some do work.

          • Who, specifically?

          • Lance

            Try Ryan Castanguay, Dennis DeMille, USMC marksmaship team

          • Here’s DeMille shooting an AR-15:

          • Lance

            He also won top M-14 contest as well.

          • Ignoring the incoherence of that, I wonder what Dennis would say to you about keeping the M1A in tune.

          • The only thing “strange” here is you, mate.

        • Lance

          Strange EBR gets high marks you seem to have never went to war with one but have your mind made up w/o ever working with one.

          • CommonSense23

            I went to war with one, they suck.

      • Joshua

        The M14 was pulled out when a DMR was needed, and when money and production allowed they were replaced with AR-10s.

        If they could have just issued M110’s across the board from the get go the M14 would have continued to sit in storage.

        • Lance

          No Army still has EBR in use. USMC M-39 in limited use, yes replacement in most units by the M-110, which also has alot of reliability problems the M-14 didn’t have. Not just USMC and Army navy still has alot of M-14s in use as a ship security rifle and tow line thrower. USCG has them as a DMR and doesn’t want ro replace them with a weaker framed M-110. USAF has them still for a Anti-IED weapon. I do not see M-14 all going away soon. Even if the AR-10 replaces them in the Marines and Army the off jobs it does in the Navy and CG will make them solder on for a few more decades.

          • Joshua

            They only soldier on because they are free and on hand.

            It’s that simple. It’s a poor weapon for modern wars in every aspect, but free and on hand means it will be used.

          • Lance

            I agree on alot of stuff with you but since many troops gave it high marks I don’t think your right on that its a piece of junk either.

      • Lance

        Yes in some third world nations like Libya, Jamaica, and Somalia FALs have been seen but FALs in Europe and other modern nations ditched all there FALs in the 1980s. FAL a good rifle but didn’t live as long as the M-14 did in modern military use. Though some still in British SAS armories.

        • Wow, that is a depth of M14 faboyery that I have not before seen anyone stoop to.

          • Lance

            No just fighting the fact yu try to have people think it was junk im saying no it wasnt junk its was short to the M-16 but it want junk. You seem to always bash the rifle.

          • Cite where I said it was junk.

    • That’s all in your head, Lance.

      • Lance

        Admit your hate the M-14 and continue to write hit pices on it I do have pics and friends and family who where there. I agreed with you that West Berlin troops didn’t have them. Most where issued in West Germany (NOT Berlin) first.

        Just get over it we adopted the M-14 and its still in use. You just have tantrums over it and still write hate pieces on the rifle. Get over it and write about other guns there much more out there then the FAL vs M-14 debate.

        • I’ve never hit a Pisces in my life.

          • Lance

            Sorry, admit it youo hate the rifle. you have a opinion. But solder and shooter may have different ones.

          • How do you reconcile the fact that I’ve written a lot about the M14 with your belief that I hate it?

            Heck, my great big research project largely concerns the rifle and how it came to be!

      • nadnerbus

        You are way too nice. I would just be deleting his comments by now. Guy is incapable of incorporating new information into his opinions. Everything he says has been rebutted before, and yet he keeps coming back with the same comments.

        • Lance

          Strange they threatened to take you off as well. Since you keep arguing with any one who is not tacti cool like you.

          • nadnerbus

            lol wut?

          • Yeah, I have no idea, man.

          • Lance

            Just saying Naderbus gets rebuked and threaten here too.

          • When?

          • nadnerbus

            You should write up an article for next April Fools Day about how great the M14 is as a rifle, done in the typo ridden, punctuation-less style we’ve grown to love.

          • Aw, naw, that would be cruel.

          • What a minute I’ve never threatened him or said I would remove him. I’m usually the one to drop the hammer so please don’t attribute things to me I never said.

    • n0truscotsman
      • Lance

        Your a homophobe and gross online. be careful on who will read this comment.

        • Dracon1201

          Jesus. I have never heard a weaker case in my life for the M14.

        • Kevin Harron

          Naw, he just has you pegged pretty well.

        • Agitator

          You a big gay rights activist, Lance?

    • Kevin Harron

      M14 is awful for a select fire weapon. FAL is marginally better, G3 is marginally better than the FAL. None are ideal because full auto 7.62×51 in a individual weapon at a moderate weight is a no go. Get off the cross, you are just boring.

  • KestrelBike

    Holy hell, forget berets, bring back those awesome Kepis!!

  • I didn’t mention it in the article, but if one takes a close look at the dates, it’s very clear that the M14 was the shortest-lived standard US infantry arm in history. I think the Krag beats it by about a year in time produced and standard issue service life.

    The M14 stayed in warehouses a lot longer though, and to its credit it has taken a long time for it to outlive its usefulness entirely.

    • Ed

      No Krag was issued from 1898-1903 fie years M-14 was from 1957-1967 (Troops in Europe where issued them till 1970) as a standard issue rifle.

      • Krag issuance began in 1892.

        • Lance

          Some but many units in the Spanish American war still had 45-70 trapdoors. M-14 was in use since 1957 replaced officially in 1967 10 years and was standard issue till in CONUS and Europe till the early seventies so it was the average GI rifle except in NAM for 13 years that’s over the short lived decade old Krag.

          Fact two its still in use and so been in service for over 60 years now love it or hate it they seen ALOT of service.

          • Don Ward

            The majority of the troops had Krags.

          • Time to dazzle you with facts, (again):

            1957 is the rifle’s adoption date, not its date of first service. The first fifty “production” M14s were made at Springfield Armory in July of 1959. The number of M14s/T44E4s produced prior to that could fit easily into a sedan’s trunk. Spring of 1960 is when Congress got serious about M14 production, at this point Winchester and H&R had their first contracts, but neither had made a single rifle. Despite this, Congress gave them each their second contract. By April of 1960, less than 5,000 M14s had been made by Springfield or anyone else. So, rightly, you cannot start counting the M14’s service until July of 1959. The M16 is declared the standard issue rifle of all US forces in March of 1970, which means the M14 was in use for 10 and 3/4 years as an infantry rifle with the US Armed Forces, and it was produced only for a short five years, from the first fifty actual M14s in mid-1959 to June 1964 and production was terminated.

            Now, the Krag Jorgensen was adopted in 1892, but controversy from competitors caused the delay of production until 1894. It was produced from that year until 1904, but M1903 production began briskly and 80,000 M1903 rifles were in existence by January of 1905. At this point, however, the Krag was absolutely still the predominant rifle.

            As you can see, the timelines of the two guns are – naturally – not directly comparable, but the Krag Jorgensen was in production twice as long as the M14, and it was clearly in common use much longer, as well, since ten years after its adoption, the ratio of rifles in service was still over 6-to-1 in favor of the Krag.

          • Don Ward

            In fact, the units that had the Springfields were mainly volunteer units that were hastily cobbled together from different states, the majority of which never left the United States. The Regular Army regiments were equipped with Krags as was the celebrated Rough Riders who were also a volunteer unit but had celebrity status and were backed by the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Also, while the Spanish troops had Mausers, they were also making do with Remington Rolling Blocks which were a direct competitor to the Springfield in the 1870s.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    McNamara is the most overrated “genius” in the history of American politics.
    He got way too much credit for out thinking the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis when all they did was trade some missiles in Turkey. And the North Vietnamese didn’t exactly respond as he anticipated to game theory as practiced by the RAND Corporation.

  • Ghost

    After basic with the M1, I carried the M14 for the better part of two years, it was almost as big as I was. Can’t say I “loved” it, but I liked it as a rifle even though my marksmanship was not great with it. All the M14s we had were semi only. I hated the M16 we were issued just before going to Vietnam, but my marksmanship improved drastically. I figured that was a good trade off. (Only time I fired the M16 on full auto was in the orientation, never left semi auto after that. darn thing ran thru a magazine too fast.) In the military you gotta dance with what you got.

  • Kivaari

    McNamara

    • And then there’s the Hitch report:

      “Although analyzed less thoroughly, the M14 also appears some what inferior to the M1 rifle of WW2 and decidedly inferior to the Soviet combat rifle. the AK47.”

      • I’d love to track down an actual copy of the Hitch Report to see the data behind its authors’ conclusions.

      • Kivaari

        M14s can certainly be made to shoot, but they can’t compete well against the AKM in dense jungle and confined spaces. Look to the Soviets, the primary complaint against the M91/30, was it’s a poor choice for use in confined spaces and trenches. Hench the M44 variant.
        Certainly an M4A1 is not a powerhouse at long range (beyond 300m) but most contact takes place up close. Israelis for the most part are using a carbine variant of the M16A1 where even in the desert showed most contact was under 50m. In urban fighting the full-sized M16A1/2 is better than an M1 or M14.
        Considering the ongoing studies by the Army, the M4A1, seems to be doing the job.
        I wish I could remember the soldiers name, but I do remember how he used an M4 to kill over 50 Taliban, mostly one-shot kills. The following year he was killed in Iraq.

        • You can make them shoot, but it’s a pain in the butt.

      • Kivaari

        In close combat in and around confined spaces or rugged ground I think the handier sized AKM (zeroed) is more suitable carbine. In open ground, and dismounted from your transport the “tuned” M14 would be better.
        I’d feel well armed with an M4A1, M4, Mk12 or Mk18 with a good optic on top. Each platoon needs a mix. Two GPMG, two Mk12 and the balance with M4A1 — needing aid, mortar and aircraft.
        v

  • Oldtrader3

    I was a guard at Check Point Charlie, stationed at Andrews barracks from April 1962 through September 1962 as part of the 1st and 4th Infantry Division Brigade exchanges to back up the 3rd Division troops stationed in Berlin. We slept with a loaded M-14 in our bunks during all alerts at that time. I got very familiar with my M-14 rifle during the tour of duty.

    • Fascinating. Thank you for commenting, Oldtrader!

  • Queennet

    Ok OK I’m getting tired and tired of these comment section WARS going on. I come here for news on whats new and whats hot. Im tired of seeing both fight break out over what rifle is best. Look any rifle has its critics and lovers. If you see comment you don’t like ignore it. I do not see any one changing there views on a comment one blogger or a commenter said. I’m a woman and new to guns. I have a neighbor who was in the Army in 1969. He shot both and is a fan of both rifles. Face it as well I doubt the Berlin Wall was the end of one weapon but more of the Vietnam war and the jungle fighting that changed infantry warfare at the time.

    Overall we as gun owners need to show each other with respect. In fighting like on this blog only give gun banners fuel to there lies that gun owners are vile and mean.

    • I like playing Factball with Lance, though.

      • Agitator

        Factball? You might be the only one playing that, because Lance clearly doesn’t understand the rules.

    • I agree with you 100%

  • Jeffrey Burkett

    Ahh Berlin. A great city. My oldest was born in the Army Hospital. If you like History Alex look up a book called Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era [Steven Emerson] There is a LOT of interesting stuff about the US Mission relating to the Tripartite Pack and the US activities out of Postdam. It can be hard to find but will worth it.

  • Lance… Be honest. Did you actually read the article you just cited?

  • The first production M14 were not delivered to the Army until September 1959. The 101st Airborne didn’t receive their first M14 until January 1960.

  • ghost

    We were issued M-14s when we got to Okinawa in the 60s. We constantly complained to the Sgt. about the weight, the ungainliness, how heavy the ammo was, the stock was forever warping in the humidity, having to clean the darn thing, jumping with it was so uncomfortable, it was not suited for jungle warfare etc. Yeah, right.