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Why the M-14 program failed...

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Old March 20th, 2011, 12:43 PM   #1
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Why the M-14 program failed...

I have been a M-14 fan from the first time I ever touched one.. If I had to choose one rifle I'd take the M14.. that being said, why did the development and ultimate failure of the M-14 program..happen.. the basic platform was a operational evolution of the M1 Garand, shorter, select fire and lighter.. with a detachable magazine.. the M-14 was to replace the M1 Garand, M1 carbine, M3 greese gun, BAR,and tompson SMG..in service.. at the end of the day it suffered from too many problems in development and cost overruns to justify the small Advantages over the M-1 Garand. That is the official story.. so what are the real world advantages of the M-14 over the M1 rifle.. after all the M1 rifle was the best rifle hands down of any rifle ever developed to date..and the trial by fire during WW-II proved it would work in any conditions.. So why fix it if it ain't broke?? or was it broken.. M1's Op rod was prone to breakage and or damage.. The 8 round Clip is a real disadvantage, reloading a partially empty clip is not possible nor is loading fresh ammo when a round is chambered, but the BAR was already in service why not slim the bar down and product improve the bar?? Why redesign the whole receiver of the M-1 to save 1/2 pound? Why engineer the full automatic system, and not use it, why was heat treating M-14 bolts any different (more difficult) than heat treating M1 Garand bolt, was it all political..?? The Fal basically won the weapons testing trials, until the cold weather tests put it behind the M14 at the last min... 20 years 100 million for a rifle one pound lighter unloaded.. with a slightly better gas system and select fire controls..that were not used by policy.. sounds expensive.. to me.. one more question if the FN-FAl T48 had won and was adopted, would it have been replaced by the M-16 just as soon?? ?? thoughts.. B2B

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Old March 20th, 2011, 01:17 PM   #2
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Robert McNamara and his whiz kids wanted something new and modern, and decided the ol' Springfield Armory and anything produced by that grand ol' place had to go.

I think it was driven by politics, and the idea that something new just had to be better. McNamara had no military background and niether did his close circle of advisers.

I do not believe from everything I have read that there was anything to point to the M14 as not being up to snuff, quite the opposite in fact.

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Old March 20th, 2011, 01:29 PM   #3
 
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Originally Posted by 4570govt. View Post
Robert McNamara and his whiz kids wanted something new and modern, and decided the ol' Springfield Armory and anything produced by that grand ol' place had to go.

I think it was driven by politics, and the idea that something new just had to be better. McNamara had no military background and niether did his close circle of advisers.

I do not believe from everything I have read that there was anything to point to the M14 as not being up to snuff, quite the opposite in fact.

In a word: Amen!

But I would add that . . .

the M16 was easier for girly-men to qualify with and carry for days at a time. With the '16 the military no longer needed riflemen.


. . 'course, well, obviously this is just my own incredibly biased personal opinion.

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Old March 20th, 2011, 02:03 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by 4570govt. View Post
Robert McNamara and his whiz kids wanted something new and modern, and decided the ol' Springfield Armory and anything produced by that grand ol' place had to go.

I think it was driven by politics, and the idea that something new just had to be better. McNamara had no military background and niether did his close circle of advisers.

I do not believe from everything I have read that there was anything to point to the M14 as not being up to snuff, quite the opposite in fact.
The above by Statement is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, if YOU think that it is just an Opinion then read The Book named The Gun, it is on the Bestseller List, it is about the AK 47, but the latter parts of it go heavily in to the adoption of the M16 by the Military,it will Infuriate You, the Politics by McNamara and His High Tech Whiz Kids are unbelievable, they cost thousands of Lives and ruined a lot of Officers and NCOs Careers, especially in the Marine Corps!
This Book is not Fiction, it is backed by by Facts and Documentation of the sickening Politics by that Bunch, it made me sick and angry!

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Old March 20th, 2011, 02:18 PM   #5
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We could armchair general this thing for years, but I'll try to give an opinion:
The BAR was replaced by the M60, belt fed and more useful.

There was still no Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). So the requirement was to produce a weapon that could do all the missions, and that wasn't realistic. The 7.62 was forced to be the round of choice by NATO, negating a more effective .280 or .250 round the Army wanted. Had sombody pushed back at that point the development of a different round and weapons might have solved the issue and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

The development went through with the full auto requirements despite it's effectiveness because it was a requirement. Even though not accurate, it was determined that in many fights gaining volume of fire over the enemy was key to success. The M14 could be built with the same machinery that build M1's. In all it was an effective volume of fire sniper weapon compared to the M1. All the changes were required to get the weight down and make it durable under full auto fire, something the M1 wasn't subject too. Thus the changes in bolt and other hardness etc.

The FN FAL proved to be a super effective weapon throught the world, and would have been relatively easy to produce compared, reducing the cost. The voume of fire issue would have still been an issue though with the 7.62 round. Had it been selected however I believe it would have been difficult for the idiot whiz kids to kill it.

The progression to the M16 however probably wouldn't have been stopped. The USAF wanted it, and the Special Forces units operating in South East Asia as early as 1962 were singing it's praises. 7th Cav took order of it because they wanted a high volume of fire weapon with lots of ammo that was light. Since they were the first real air cavalry to be deployed it was a chance to test it, as it was the first real force on force battle with a large organized Communist Vietnam Army. When General Moore returned, he said that the M16 was one of the top 5 things that kept a Batallion sized force from being destroyed by a Regiment sized enemy. The die was cast in my opinion at that point.

I believe that the M14 should have been kept at the platoon level for long range shooting. If the FAL was the weapon then the situation might have been different. It was durable under extreme conditions and accurate enough. The cost would have been less presumably so it would have been difficult to get around that. But the trade off was for volume of fire under small unit attacks that we wanted to achieve. The M60 couldn't fill the SAW void. So the average rifleman was expected to do it with his M16, and in that regard it was a toss up as to what you wanted; more volume of fire, or more fire power(This is detailed by several Army studies done in the post Vietnam era).

Today we still make the trade off for volume of fire over firepower in the 5.56 round. the 62gr bullet has helped things, and the SAW has been an effective weapon (I have been in combat and seen the SAW in action so this is my opinion). So there are times that we would like to have more firepower for sure, given that the 5.56 does have it's failings at ranges outside 200m. That is the reason that the M14 has been re-introduced to the infantry in the GWOT. I don't think that it would have been the best rifle for all rifleman, as most would rather have an M4 durning urban combat and given that we are in vehicles so much, and large weapons are difficult to manipulate. But the M16A4 is a good compromise, and the ACOG has made it much more effective (personal combat observations and opinion of me).

I could ramble on but I would like to see what you all have to say.

Cheers,
Francis


Last edited by Francis; March 20th, 2011 at 03:04 PM. Reason: spelling and grammer
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Old March 20th, 2011, 02:31 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Trung Si View Post
The above by Statement is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, if YOU think that it is just an Opinion then read The Book named The Gun, it is on the Bestseller List, it is about the AK 47, but the latter parts of it go heavily in to the adoption of the M16 by the Military,it will Infuriate You, the Politics by McNamara and His High Tech Whiz Kids are unbelievable, they cost thousands of Lives and ruined a lot of Officers and NCOs Careers, especially in the Marine Corps!
This Book is not Fiction, it is backed by by Facts and Documentation of the sickening Politics by that Bunch, it made me sick and angry!
McNamara most notably cuased the development of one of the worst fighters ever devised by the USAF the F-111. Luckily the Navy and Marine Corps got out of that thing, because it was a POS. Politicians and statisticians sure can't design a fighter.

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Old March 20th, 2011, 03:47 PM   #7
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So far...I don't think anybody's 'wrong' on this...



I entered the Army in 1966...
Trained on the M14 in Basic Training at Fort Bliss in late '66...
Then on to Fort Polk where the 'conversion' to M16 was in full swing...

My personal perspective...The Whole Army Was EXPERIMENTAL at that time!

Col. Moore and the 7th Cav(whole First Cavalry Division!) was "Experimental'!

In Basic we had 'Cardboard' Sleeping Bags...I Kid You Not!!!

In Vietnam...A whole bunch of gear we were issued was...yep, Experimental!

I was given a 'Squad Radio' which had a Receiver(shaped like a Human Ear! Wait A Minute! How DUMB Did They Think We Were !? )and A Transmitter Pinned to your fatigue shirt collar...
Wow! I wonder why none of those made it to "Surplus"?

My Point.......It Was The '60's! Everything Was Experimental! INCLUDING the U.S. Military!



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Old March 20th, 2011, 04:09 PM   #8
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Heck, even McNamara's graduated response was experimental. And we know how effective that was!

Great perspective CAVman. Lots of experimental stuff is still floating around these days as well. But it sounds like most of these are more effective.

Cardboard sleeping bag? I'll take my gor-tex bivvy cover thanks.

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Old March 20th, 2011, 04:28 PM   #9
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Even though not accurate, it was determined that in many fights gaining volume of fire over the enemy was key to success.
This is absolutely not correct. They determined the exact opposite, which is why later generations of guns were limited to 3 round bursts. Guys panicking and holding the triggers dropped their efficiency to quickly approaching zero as they tried to shoot holes in the clouds.

I have an original 1965 Army handbook on the M14 and it states repeatedly. Repeatedly. Repeatedly that automatic fire should not be used except with a bi-pod and prone or otherwise rested. I think the number of soldiers who adhered to that was scant to say the least. And of course you can understand why.

But a 7.62 on full auto, just carrying it around, is not effective. So when they crunched numbers of how many rounds were thrown out there and how well they did, from a purely statistical standpoint, it was probably pretty lousy. If even the 5.56 was forced into burst mode to increase accuracy, the 7.62 would have benefited that much more.

Other than that, the weapon is fairly heavy, forged, expensive (compared to stamped metal), with heavy ammo, and a wood pieces that can suffer from extreme changes in environment. But my personal opinion was selective fire. If it had been a purely semi-auto weapon, I think it would have appeared to those looking at data at whatever lofty, air-conditioned HQ, as a much more cost effective piece of hardware.

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Old March 20th, 2011, 04:31 PM   #10
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I think it failed largely because of the conflict it was first deployed in (vietnam) with its close engagements and guerilla type fighting. a heavy, large rifle with heavy ammo that was effective well past the distance that engagements were occuring at wasnt the most practical for the "average" soldier. I do think if it were developed later on during the most recent conflicts with much greater engagement distances than vietnam top brass would have seen the value of the rifle and would have kept the tooling and developement around for much longer.


Last edited by boomer1983; March 20th, 2011 at 04:42 PM.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 05:13 PM   #11
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This is absolutely not correct. They determined the exact opposite, which is why later generations of guns were limited to 3 round bursts. Guys panicking and holding the triggers dropped their efficiency to quickly approaching zero as they tried to shoot holes in the clouds.

I have an original 1965 Army handbook on the M14 and it states repeatedly. Repeatedly. Repeatedly that automatic fire should not be used except with a bi-pod and prone or otherwise rested. I think the number of soldiers who adhered to that was scant to say the least. And of course you can understand why.

But a 7.62 on full auto, just carrying it around, is not effective. So when they crunched numbers of how many rounds were thrown out there and how well they did, from a purely statistical standpoint, it was probably pretty lousy. If even the 5.56 was forced into burst mode to increase accuracy, the 7.62 would have benefited that much more.

Other than that, the weapon is fairly heavy, forged, expensive (compared to stamped metal), with heavy ammo, and a wood pieces that can suffer from extreme changes in environment. But my personal opinion was selective fire. If it had been a purely semi-auto weapon, I think it would have appeared to those looking at data at whatever lofty, air-conditioned HQ, as a much more cost effective piece of hardware.
My reference for that quote was from S.L.A Marshall's book "Men Against Fire".

Like it or not that was the attitude General Marshall had in his analysis of the WWII and Korean war engagements. It was the beginning of loss of fire superiority in Korea that he was concerned with. It is what spurred the small calibur investigation.

The full auto requirement was to provide a SAW weapon with similar parts. The M14 was never successful at this, especially with a fixed barrel.

Remember, the full auto was not the only piece of the equation. For the weight of 100rds of 7.62 you could carry 250rds of 5.56. Thus the superiority, you can take more ammo to the fight for the weight. That is indisputible.

Cheers

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Old March 20th, 2011, 05:16 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by boomer1983 View Post
I think it failed largely because of the conflict it was first deployed in (vietnam) with its close engagements and guerilla type fighting. a heavy, large rifle with heavy ammo that was effective well past the distance that engagements were occuring at wasnt the most practical for the "average" soldier. I do think if it were developed later on during the most recent conflicts with much greater engagement distances than vietnam top brass would have seen the value of the rifle and would have kept the tooling and developement around for much longer.
If they had used the 280 british, we wouldn't even be having this discussion I don't think.

It could also be disputed that had we adopted the .276 Pederson and the box magazine in either the M1 or the Pederson we could be still using the same rifle today.


Last edited by Francis; March 20th, 2011 at 05:46 PM.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 05:48 PM   #13
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Some good points so far, as reasons other than the political reasons, I know the firepower issue is a valid point during jungle warfare.. but firepower can also result in waste as far as killing the enemy.. "average expenditure of 1.34 rounds per kill by 9th division snipers using the M21 as compared to an average expenditure of over 31,900 POUNDS of ammunition per enemy casualty in Vietnam. I believe full auto is very much over rated in war, semi auto fire is much more effective.. for the trained soldier.. my original question was also, why was the manufacturing process such a Cluster Bus after the smooth production of the M1 rifle.. when the guns are basically the same.. B2B

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Old March 20th, 2011, 05:54 PM   #14
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I don't know that the M-14 program failed, because it was an outstanding weapons system designed to replace the aging Garand, era of weapons, which it did admirably.

It was more a victim of the changing times of the 1960s. There was a new breed in power in DC and they meant to do things the modern way, using modern materials and manufacturing processes.

That's where Eugene Stoner's ill conceived baby came onto the scene and a group of political appointees in high places, forced the M16 on the US military, mainly due to the US Air Force and General Curtis Lemay, who wanted to use them for the AF's base defence forces. Because after all, everybody knows that the Air Force is not actually a military organisation and did not really need real rifles in the first place and the plastic and alloy wonder weapon would do just fine. If only the AF had been the only one to adopt the things, all would've been ok, because the rest of the military could've kept their M-14's

My first tour of duty to the Western Pacific and the Gulf of Tonkin started in October 1962 on board an ancient WW2 ammo ship where I served as an Radioman Petty Officer, and that first tour really didn't amount to much.

However in August 1964 we were anchored way out in Subic Bay PI. This was because they wouldn't let us tie up to the piers, because if our ammo ship blew up, it would be an instant replay of the Port Chicago explosion during WW2 when two ammo ships exploded killing hundreds of mainly black naval stevedores, which resulted in the great Port Chicago Mutiny, and the surviving blacks were court martialed for failing to follow order to to go back to loading ammo for the war then raging in the Pacific.

http://www.usmm.org/portchicago.html

The ship sent the Shore Patrol around to the bars to round up the liberty sections of our ship because, we'd just received an emergency sortie message to get under way immediately for the Tonkin Gulf. Because the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy had just been attacked by North Vietnamese PT boats.

That's what actually started the Vietnam War because up until that time the USA had only a few Special Forces advisors in country. POTUS Johnson went to Congress, who passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution which set the world on fire, until we with drew with our tails between our legs, when we fled Saigon from the roof of the American Embassy, ending our involvement in SE Asia.




Well any way, after 1964 I started noticing more and more Secret Noforn dissemination messages (Secret No Foreign Dissemination) and that meant not even to our allies, messages, coming across our Teletype machines from the brass hats at MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) to the brass hats in the Pentagon. These secret messages described the severe problems with the then still new M-16 rifles, being tried out in combat for the first time. Our troop were being killed when their M-16's jammed beyond being cleared on the battle field. Some guys were even found dead with jammed M-16s in their hands.

My early exposure back then to the M16 and it's horrible early history, adversely colored my perceptions about the M-16 and for years afterward I hated the things. I'm still not too fond of them to this day. Even though I own six variants of the beasts, I still don't trust the things and I guess this is where my love for the M-14 comes from. Back during my time over there my ship still had M-1 Garands, BAR's, Thompsons and such in our ships armoury. The only M-14's I saw were in the hands of Marines standing pier watch at the Naval ammo depots back here in the states or in the hands of Marines that rode with us out to the Gulf of Tonkin.

7th

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Old March 20th, 2011, 05:57 PM   #15
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From what I've read over the years the full auto was a huge problem. To get it to be reliable and durable the gas system and parts had to have much different specifications to meet the requirement.

I agree for the average rifleman it's a waste and I can't tell you a single guy I know that ever fired his M4 or M16A4 in burst or Auto. But the M249 SAW was always there when we needed it as was the M209 grenade launcher. Both effective fire superiority weapons that would have been useful in any conflict.

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