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

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]


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