by Joe Gorman
Through 1,000 rounds never failed to feed, extract or fire a single round, even when covered in hay and dust on a recent South Dakota prairie dog hunt.
I make no apologies for my love of the M-14 (or Springfield Inc.'s version, the M-lA rifle). It is as near perfection in a military rifle as I've encountered. Once I got to play with an honest-to-goodness M-14. As it happened, one of my friends shot competitively for the Army and they gave him a NM M-14 to take home and practice with. Along with several thousand rounds of ammunition and the promise that there was always more where they came from.
That rifle was a thing of beauty, like nothing else I've ever played with. Unfortunately, us mild-mannered citizens are not allowed to own such rifles without an obnoxious amount of money and paperwork. Sigh. M-lAs or rifles built on Springfield receivers, are fine for me.
I've owned (or tested) some big-dollar military pattern rifles: FN F.A.L, HK91, Beretta AR-70, AR-15, Galil etc, and yet, if the Commies (Read: Clintonites) came over the hill tomorrow, an M-14 would be the rifle you'd see in my hands. I can shoot it the best of the above mentioned rifles, it will not malfunction and it is chambered in a hard-hitting caliber.
Using a Springfield Inc. receiver, Clint McKee of Fulton Armory (F.A.) built me up an M-14 with U.S.G.I. Springfield Armory and TRW parts, added a competition package and installed the awesome Brookfield Precision gas piston and recoil spring guide. Due to careful smithing, there simply is no play in the gas system of this rifle: not at the barrel band, not at the gas cylinder, not at the op rod guide, nowhere. The bolt comes home nearly as perfectly as in my DCM M1 Garand due to Clint McKee's hand-lap fitting of the bolt to the barrel.(To my knowledge F.A. is the only M-l4 builder that takes the time to do this) F.A. bedded the rifle to a new walnut stock, used National Match iron sights and stoned the trigger to break like the proverbial glass rod at 4.5 lbs.
F.A.-built a rifle, with a chrome lined G.I. barrel, that will shoot under 1.2 M.O.A. and through 1,000 rounds has not failed to feed, extract or fire a single round: even when covered in hay and dust on a recent South Dakota prairie dog hunt.
In F.A.-speak, my rifle is a rack grade with new, bedded, walnut stock and competition package. The only equipment I added was a heavy-duty Brownell's competition sling. A match barrel would squeeze more accuracy from my rifle but it would not be as durable or as authentic to the real M-14. Besides, any semi-automatic, military-pattern rifle than can shoot as well as most bolt guns is not something I care to tinker with.
As a testimonial to the potential of this rifle, on a recent trip to South Dakota, I had confirmed prairie dog hits out to and beyond 300 yards using the iron sights. Impossible you say? The sights would obscure a house-cat-sized prairie dog at that distance you say? I spotted them with a pair of Bushnell focus-free binoculars, oriented myself to their position and had a friend call the shots using the binoculars. True, I missed more dogs at 300 yards than I hit, but using this variation on the scout-sniper concept I made some spectacular hits.
By the end of the second day of shooting, any dog out of his hole at 200-yards or less, was a guaranteed goner. At less than 200 yards, under the bright, prairie sunshine, I could acquire the dog through the smallish-aperture NM sights.
When I first took the M-l4 out of the box, I fired 80 rounds informally to set the action in the bedding. (I used U.S.A. Magazine's M-14 20-round magazines for this and the subsequent bench-rest shooting.) Then I cleaned the bore and chamber carefully and stowed the rifle muzzle-down in the closet. The next day I went to the range. Over the next two months I had fired over 1,000 rounds at targets and rodents, bored my wife to tears with enthusiastic and unsolicited range reports and realized, even over her protests, that I needed to own this rifle. (I got it originally on a T&E basis)
Bench-rested on a Hoppe's adjustable rest and using .308 Winchester PMC, U.S.A. (Winchester) and American Eagle (Federal) ammunition, I fired ten, five-shot groups with each ammo type, at 100 yards. American Eagle turned in the best five-shot group and proved to be the most consistent of the mil-style ammo (from 21 feet, as measured with a Chrony F2, high velocity was 2885 f.p.s., low was 2812 f.p.s. after 50 rounds)
With American Eagle, the best five shot group went 1.7" center-to center. PMC turned in both the second best five-shot group and the worst. Five shot groups of PMC ammo went 1.9" center-to center all the way out to 3.5" c-t-c. The PMC functioned flawlessly however and turned in otherwise respectable shot groups. U.S.A. was just a hair off the PMC's mark, sending five shots into 1.97" c-t-c. It proved very consistent, never varying more than 85 f.p.s. from high to low.
At a mere 100-yards, match ammunition does not reveal its true potential. The extra care and time spent in assembly of match ammo is plainly visible when target shooters go out to the 600 yard mark. At 100-yards however, it makes a noticeable, but less significant difference.
I used Federal, Winchester and Remington match ammunition for my 100-yard tests. The most incredible group I turned in was with the WW 168 gr. BTHP match ammo. Three shots of said ammo went into .72" c-t-c at 100 yards. Holy Cow! Take your stock, .308, bolt gun to the range and try that. Maybe it can do it, maybe it can't but I did it with a M- l4!
Moving to the five-shot groupings, Federal again won the day. Its 168 gr. BTHP match ammo went 1.19" c-t-c. at 100 yards. Five rounds of WW 168 grain BTHP match went 1.5" c-t-c. And five rounds of Remington went 1.65" c-t-c.
If I had to define a typical grouping, using the appropriate match ammo, I'd say, this rifle can direct five rounds into less than l.7" c-t-c any day of the year, assuming the man behind the trigger does his part. This exceptional accuracy is due in no small part to the excellent Brookfield components in my rifle. You may or may not know Brookfield supplies M-14, sniper-variant rifles to several U.S. military organizations. They make the scope mounts (unavailable at press time due to incredible demand), recoil spring guides, gas pistons and Kevlar, steel-bedded stocks. Brookfield precision supplied the rifles that helped to protect President Bush off the coast of Maine.
Interesting to note, the owner of Brookfield was a tool and die maker at the original Springfield Armory, who worked on the M-14. He used this experience to craft the creme-de-la-creme of above-stated M-14 components and has made a good thing, the best in the world. I will report at 2,000 rounds and every 1,000 rounds thereafter to document the longevity of this rifle. At this point, I'd say Clint McKee built me a rifle just a micron away from a real M-14. I could not pay him a higher compliment.
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