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M1A (M-14)
Length Overall Barrel Length Weight Caliber Action Type Magazine Capacity
44.3" 22" 8.7 Pounds .308 (7.62x51) Gas Semi Auto 20
    This is a semi auto version of the M-14 rifle, which technically makes it an M1a. The M-14 is a select fire arm capable of fully auto fire, and thus not easily available for civilian ownership. The M1a is the same basic rifle with fully auto components removed, and certain modifications to prevent their easy re-installation. The easiest way to tell the difference is by looking for the selector switch, on the right hand side of the rifle, just under the rear sight. In the photo directly below, you may note a wood blank in this spot, filling the cutout where the selector switch would ordinarily be.

     The M-14 was the replacement for the M-1 Garand in 1957. It served in the Korean War, and to a lesser extent in Vietnam. The gun was essentially a shortened, lightened Garand with a box magazine, chambered for the new .308 cartridge. The M-14 was a transitional arm of sorts. In retrospect, it presaged the arrival of the new breed of assault rifles. In addition to the use of the intermediate size 308 cartridge and box magazine, the M-14 featured a fiberglass hand guard, weighed a pound less than its parent arm, was somewhat shorter, and was a select fire arm. Although replaced in Army service by the M-16, the gun is still employed as a sniper rifle (M-21), and has been issued by special request to Marine units as recently as the Gulf War. Today, this is considered to be a battle rifle.
     The 308 was an attempt to duplicate the ballistics of the respected 30-06 cartridge in a smaller case using some of the new higher powered propellants available. The 308 is officially designated the 7.62x51 round - its dimensions in millimeters. The old 30-06, is known as the 7.62x63. Just as a comparison, the far less powerful round fired by the AK-47 is the 7.63x39. A photo of the two rounds is to the right, with the classic 30-06 at the top of the photo, and its little brother, the 308, below. The shorter case meant a somewhat smaller action in the rifle, and also a lighter load for the increasingly overburdened infantryman.
     If the short comings of the Garand (heavy, bulky, 8-round clip, substantial size from a full powered cartridge) led to the M-14, then the short comings of the M-14 inspired the development of the AR-10, later to become the M-16. The worst fault of the M-14 was that it was an attempt to produce a fully automatic weapon of light weight which used a full powered cartridge and was shoulder fired. The weapon was unusable in fully auto mode, and most of the rifles issued had locks which prevented the user from engaging in fully auto fire. Though this is a box magazine fed rifle, it has a stripper clip guide at the top of the receiver (yet another legacy from its Garrand ancestry), and ammunition is supplied on stripper clips.
    As a semi auto the M-14, or as it is known, the M1-A is a superb piece. It has the Garand virtues of ruggedness, and reliability, while improving upon the weight and magazine capacity. The .308 cartridge does not have the potential of the 30-06, but in standard military loads, the .308 will do most jobs about as well. As a sniper round, this is considered to be an 800 yard cartridge, although hits out to 1000 yards are not considered to be extraordinary. Famed sniper Carlos Hathcock made 93 confirmed kills with this cartridge in Viet Nam, including regular shots at 1000-1200 yards, and one confirmed kill at 2500 yards - a mile and a half. This is outside of what is regularly considered the performance envelope of this rifle, but it does show what is possible in the hands of an experienced operator.
     My M1-A has a B-Square scope mount with a Bushnell 2-9x 40mm scope mounted. The scope mount allows the use of the standard peep sight for close in shooting. This is a specialty mount, as the open top ejection of the M-14 will not allow conventional mounting of a scope directly over the receiver of the rifle. This is a legacy of the M-14 development from the old Garrand. A special "side saddle" scope mount was used in the Garrand. For the M-14/M1a, the mount sits directly over the receiver, but sits high and is designed with a curved inside edge to deflect ejected cartridge cases outward.
     As a military derived arm, magazines, ammunition, slings, parts, and a plethora of accessories are readily available, at fairly good prices. There is also a huge knowledge base, and a number of derivative designs. According to record, 1,376,031 were produced, with about half that number destroyed on order of bill clinton, when they became surplus. About 25,000 remain in U.S. service, mostly for special forces, marines, and the Navy.
     This particular gun was made in China and shoots a little better than 2 inch groups at 100 yards. This is pretty much standard performance from the M-14/M1-A, and with very little tuning I plan to bring that group size down to about 1 inch. The match versions of the M1-A routinely shoot half inch groups. The fit and finish of the wood is fair, and that of the metal parts is good, though not spectacular. This appears to be a newly produced Chinese receiver fitted with American parts. There was a lot of this going on at one time, when America was disposing of huge stocks of surplus weapons which it did not wish to sell to civilians.  Generally the receivers were torched, and the parts sold off as surplus. So this gun was manufactured in a country that does not tolerate civilian gun ownership, from American parts that the government did not wish to sell to American civilians. This is a military grade rifle. The only thing stranger and more ironic than people are the weird governments we create and put up with.