What I like about the M14/M1A:
There are some people who will ALWAYS choose a Harley over a Honda or a BMW, not because of performace, but because of aesthetics and tradition. It’s American, goddammit, and it looks badass. These people will likely choose an M1A over either a foreign rifle or an AR, and more power to 'em. Lucky for them, the M1A is a good rifle in addition to being American.
Well, technically it’s Canadian, but we won’t split hairs. It was selected to replace the M1 Garand as the main battle rifle of the US forces, but also was expected to replace the Thompson submachine gun, the Browning Automatic Rifle and the M1 Carbine. The epitome of the do-it-all weapon.
Problem was, it couldn’t do it all. Too long and heavy to do a carbine’s job, too big and powerful to do a submachine gun’s job, and too uncontrollable in automatic fire to do a squad automatic rifle’s job.
It was actually beaten by the FAL in the NATO trials, but the US government fudged the tests so that the M14 was adopted instead of the FAL in the US. Then it was itself replaced by the cursed poodle-shooter, the M16. The M14 has the shortest official military history of any major weapons system of the 20th century.
And yet… it is a great rifle. Everything that is a demerit about the H&K 91 (sights, trigger and bolt hold-open) are positives on the M1A. Excellent trigger that can be tweaked into a thing of breathtaking crispness and precision; the best iron sight system to be found anywhere on a military rifle; and a bolt that stays open after the last round.
Recoil is not bad with ball ammunition, though it can be hard on the cheek to fire a few magazines of 168gr match ammo. Not that you would want to do that. A lot of people love the look of the wood stock, and it must be said that it’s good urban camouflage. Since “everybody knows” that an evil assault weapon has a black plastic folding stock and a pistol grip, the warm, friendly walnut or birch stock makes the rifle look a lot more politically correct.
Put in a 5-round magazine and replace the flash suppressor with a muzzle brake, and not only will the rifle be legal in every state, it will also frequently be mistaken for a Garand, which “everybody knows” is the rifle of the Good Guys, the Greatest Generation, who singlehandedly beat the Japs, the Krauts and the North Korean Commies. It’s bullshit, of course, but if you can use bullshit to your advantage, why the fuck wouldn’t you?
Parts are readily available, and great gunsmiths abound, especially now that the M14 has been rediscovered by the people in the military who actually shoot people, instead of just at them.
What sucks about it:
It is easier to spend a lot of money on this rifle than it is for the other three platforms. A bare-bones M1A will run about 1500 dollars, about the same as the other rifles. If you want the short-barreled Scout or SOCOM 16 model, a bit more. If you want to get a custom trigger job, chrome-lined barrel, National Match sights and has system, bedding-free pistol grip stock… well, that’ll all cost you. The good news is that these modifications will actually improve your shooting, rather than just add weight and “tacti-kewl-ness”.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of this rifle, but I will acknowledge its faults. It is not as easy to completely disassemble as the other platforms. Even removing the operating rod can be a pain in the ass the first couple of times. The operating rod handle is on the right, so to work the action you either have to use your right hand or reach around with the left. The other platforms don’t have this issue.
The bolt is always exposed, and there are some pretty big gaps between the stock and the action where mud and gunk can get in. The M14 is not as demanding of cleanliness as its little brother the M16, but it is nowhere near as impervious to grime and muck and powder fouling as its Belgian, German and Russian cousins.
It’s a bit of a pain in the ass to install optics. A number of mounts are available, some better than others. The forward-mounted “scout scope” is one possible solution, though it does take some getting used to.
Finally, all of the controls (bolt catch release, magazine release, op rod handle, and safety), all have sharp edges which can be a little uncomfortable to operate with bare hands. This seems like a pussy complaint, until you realize that your hands are bleeding from working the controls so many times in dry fire practice. Knives should have sharp edges. Firearms should not.