M14 7.62mm Rifle
Though only used for a short period as the standard infantry weapon of the US military, the M14 continued to be used in specialized roles and spawned a large number of variants and derivatives. These variants were designed not only for combat use, but also for marksmanship competitions and for use by military honor guards.
During the development of what became the M14, a companion weapon, designed as a replacement for the M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle specifically for the US Army infantry squad's automatic rifleman was also developed. In October 1954, a new heavy barrel rifle was designated as the T44E5. It was developed to eliminate the modified components used in the T44E1 model. Since this weapon had the identical operating mechanism as the T44E4, it was type classified standard, replacing the M1918A2 BAR, as the M15 7.62mm automatic rifle in June 1957. The M15 rifle was declared obsolete in December 1959, following successful firing tests of the M14 rifle with the M2 bipod and a slotted plastic upper hand guard.
Also developed in 1959 was the M14 National Match rifle, to be used in the semi-automatic mode only. The M14 National Match rifle had special sight parts and barrels selected especially for accuracy and was intended specifically for military competition shooting.
The M14s with the M2 bipod and selector fitted for automatic fire were referred to initially as M14 (Modified) or M14 (M). Issues with the weapon's handling while firing in the fully-automatic mode quickly became apparent. A further modified variant was developed by the US Army Infantry Board (USAIB) in 1962. This weapon became known as the M14 (USAIB) and was designed a product improvement of the M14 (Modified). The standard stock of the M14 (Modified) was replaced with a new design stock, whihc incorporates a hand grip at the fore end of the rifle stock, a pistol grip to the rear of the trigger group, a straight comb stock with a rubber recoil pad, and a compensator has been substituted for the flash suppressor. The purpose of the hand grip was to exert increased torque on the rifle and increase bipod footprint ground pressures. The combination of hand grip and pistol grip permitted the firer to achieve greater accuracy during automatic fire. Soldiers with the M14 (Modified) were also trained to hold onto the weapon's sling in a similar manner when firing from the prone position.
During this period, Springfield Armory also experimented with various side-folding stock designs. These were intended to reduce the M14s side for airborne operations and other scenarios requiring a shorter weapon. Experimental variants fitted with such stocks were designated M14E1s, but no stock design was selected and none were type classified standard. The M14 (USAIB), however, did provide the basis for the M14E2 rifle. This rifle incorporated the bulk of the features developed for the USAIB rifle. In 1965, the M14E2 was type classified standard as the M14A1 rifle. The US Marine Corps also adopted the M14A1 to fill the automatic rifle role in the rifle squad. With the adoption of the M16A1 throughout the US Army beginning in 1966, it replaced both the M14 and the M14A1 in the rifle squad. The USMC also followed suit when they adopted the M16A1.
In 1965, Springfield Armory also began tests of detachable grenade launchers for rifles. A launcher adaptor was fabricated and assembled to a single-shot 40mm grenade launcher. The 40mm X-1 grenade launcher was tested on the M14 rifle. The results of test firing indicated that unless changes to the M14 stock were permitted in order to bring the launcher closer to the magazine, this system would be awkward for handling and aiming. The trigger position would have to be redesigned to enable the shooter to grip the stock and trigger on the launcher at the same time.
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