The US Rifle Caliber 7.62 M14 was developed at Springfield Armory, in Springfield, Massachusetts, a US government facility, beginning late during World War II. It began as program to develop the M1 Garand rifle of 1930s vintage into a more modern configuration. The program was delayed numerous times over the years as the political winds within the Army Ordnance community blew this way and that, assigned a very low priority and miniscule budget. Finally, with the top-priority T25 experimental rifle program proving to be an utter disaster in the mid-'50s and lacking the political will to adopt the Belgian FN-FAL, the decision was made to mass produce the conservative M14 for general issue in 1957. The rifle was made for US issue by a total of four manufacturers: Springfield Armory, Harrington and Richardson, Winchester and TRW. The production program was plagued by a variety of delays and technical snafus and deliveries to the troops were slow. Finally, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara ordered production halted in 1964. Just over 1,000,000 rifles were produced, a fraction of the number required to reequip the troops who were still mostly armed with the M1 Garand. This deficiency lead to the chaotic and near-disastrous adoption of the M16 Rifle a few years later as the Vietnam War cranked up in earnest. The M14 was used successfully for the first several years of US involvement in Vietnam and was a popular rifle with the solders and Marines that were issued it. However, its bulk and excessively powerful cartridge for jungle warfare favored the lighter, easier to control M16, which started to replace the M14 in 1965.
The M14 rifle is similar in a number of respects to its predecessor, the M1 Garand rifle. In fact a fair percentage of the parts interchange with the M1, including most of the trigger housing assembly, sighting system, extractor and extractor spring. The most radically different parts of the rifle are the feed system, the gas system and the addition of the capability to fire the rifle on full automatic. Instead of the Garand's irksome 8-round en-bloc clip arrangement, the M14 is fed by a 20-round detachable box magazine (John Garand's last major contribution to the program]. Instead of a primitive, unregulated gas system and long, spindly operating rod as on the Garand, the M14 has a shorter, stiffer and much more robust operating rod and a sophisticated self-regulating gas piston, for smoother operation. The addition of full auto fire proved to be largely useless, as the excessive recoil of the 7.62 NATO ammunition made the rifle uncontrollable on full auto without a great deal of training. Most M14s in the field were issued with the selector switch locked in the semi-auto position. The rifle also benefits from the addition of a flash supressor, chrome lined bore and elimination of the accuracy-robbing front handguard of the M1.
Several variants of the M14 were developed, including the M15 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M14A1 Squad Automatic Weapon and the M21 Sniper Rifle. The M14 remains in limited service with the US Navy for shipboard use, the US Joint Special Operations Command for missions requiring greater range and power than the M16 can deliver, and with the US Marine Corps in the form of the Designated Marksman's Rifle, which is essentially a greatly modernized M21 Sniper Rifle. Other forces that use the M14 include the Jordanian Desert Patrol. The Israeli Defense Forces use a homegrown version of the M21. Over 90,000 M14s from US government stockpiles were delivered to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as military assistance in the mid-1990's. The M14 was manufactured in Taiwan for a time in the 1960s using tooling surplused from Harrington and Richardson when production was halted there. An unauthorized copy was made in the People's Republic of China as well, supposedly for distribution to communist insurgents in the Philippines.
High-quality semi-auto only copies of the M14 are made today by Springfield Armory Incorporated, Smith Enterprises and Fulton Armory. They are very popular for target rifle shooting.