If you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a strong distaste for internet and gun store lore. That’s especially true if that lore isn’t much good for anything other than burning a hole in your pocket.
Like cars, there’s a tendency for gun people to look fondly on old designs with appreciation and nostalgia. We look at something like the M14 and think, “now that’s a rifle.” We tell others how we feel about it, and they buy into it as well.
Like I said in my case against Glock hype, we end up in a situation where fanboys gush over their preferred brand and convince others to participate as well. As the group grows, so does the social pressure to stick to the party line.
The M14/M1A is a similar story.
My very first firearm purchase was a Springfield M1A Loaded Black Stainless. Shortly after, I picked up a Springfield Loaded Black Stainless 1911. At the time, I really liked the “theme” of black and stainless went together.
Form over function. Ugh.
Prior to picking up the M1A, I’d been on a six-month long quest to figure out what my first gun should be. An AR-15 was probably the most logical, but I bought into the hype surrounding 308 being so much more of a manly cartridge. Maybe it had to do with Jeff Cooper’s infamous “poodle shooter” remarks.
I poured over the various DPMS 308 rifles, which was all that was commonly available on the market at the time. At one point, I was very close to a Steyr Scout, which I “knew” from playing copious amounts of Counterstrike back in the day.
But eventually the internet lore won me over. The M14 was the classic American manly rifle. The combat rifle that should have been, right? So I grabbed it and as many battle packs of South African 7.62 as I could afford.
Off I went, blasting cheap ammo through a national match stainless barrel to my heart’s content. I can’t say how much money I turned into noise in those early days, but it was a lot.
The Quest for Accuracy
Eventually, inspired by the Mk 14 DMR rifles I saw on the internet, I wanted to turn my M1A into my own version of a DMR. I picked up a stock from the newly-formed J. Allen Enterprises, some Sadlak parts, and the quest began.
That’s when the trouble started.
It turns out that scope mounts don’t actually fit all that well on the M1A. The rail had a healthy leftward cant, making it difficult to zero. So I spent more money on a m14.ca mount that replaced the rear sight. Well, that one had a healthy amount of built in elevation. Too much for the scope I was using, which meant I needed a new scope.
Long story short, I had a 15 lb rifle that was difficult to make and keep as accurate as I wanted.
I pivoted to AR-15s shortly after.
The M14 Takedown
My story with the M14 is familiar to anyone who has spent time with it. It’s a maintenance-intensive weapon that’s difficult to make and keep very accurate. The M21 sniper rifles were notoriously difficult to maintain, and users weren’t even allowed to field strip them for fear of ruining the accuracy modifications.
In reality, the M14 is a product-improved M1 Garand, with all that it entails. Like the famed 1911, it’s clearly an older design that’s going to lose out to more modern materials and engineering.
Yet people hold onto its nostalgia.
Back in 2014, Shawn at Loose Rounds wrote a very thorough takedown on the M14. The late Hognose of Weapons Man followed suit shortly after. I don’t want to go point by point, so I suggest you go ahead and read those articles as well.
The key takeaway is that the famed M14 was plagued with production issues, cost overruns, and maintenance troubles. When you really dig into the military studies, it’s no wonder that the rifle was so short lived as a combat rifle.
Yet, people still have this sense of nostalgia over it. Maybe it’s because they carried one in basic training. Perhaps it’s because they perceived the M16 as a toy and wanted a “real rifle” made of wood and steel. I couldn’t tell you.
What I can tell you, and what the data shows, is that it just wasn’t that good of a rifle compared to modern offerings.
Should You Get an M1A?
You might read this as me trying to sway you away from the M1A, but I’m not.
I don’t think it’s a bad rifle.
What I’m saying is that for the amount of money I spent getting the M1A to where I wanted, I could have picked up an LMT 308 or SCAR 17.
I still enjoy my M1A and get it out to the range every once and awhile. But, like my 1911, I accept that it’s just an older design that includes a lot of limitations. It’s fun to shoot, no doubt, but so would be any other semi-auto 308.
So should you ever get your own copy of the M14? I simply say wait until you’ve got a solid foundation in other areas. Once you’ve got a couple reliable modern rifles to work and practice with, and you’ve gotten training on how to use them effectively, then consider picking something up for fun.