Anyone familiar with the design process understands it is, at its core, a delicate balancing act, with myriad factors that must be weighted and evaluated in order to come up with a final product that achieves the best possible results with the fewest potential drawbacks. A perfect example of the types of challenges faced by weapons researchers and developers at the Ordnance Corps is the saga of the M14, the intended replacement for the M1 Garand rifle—a weapon dubbed the “finest battle implement ever devised” by the venerable George S. Patton.

In the spring of 1944, the Army and the Ordnance Corps (a Department at the time) made the development of a new-generation battle rifle a top priority. Part of the reason was battlefield reality: American soldiers seeking to make the trusty M1 more “combat effective” were modifying the firing mechanism to turn it into a fully automatic rather than a semi-automatic weapon, then using Browning Automatic Rifle magazines to up the ammo load from eight to 20 rounds to accommodate the higher rate of fire. Another incentive was the appearance of the German Sturmgewehr 44, one of the first true assault rifles ever manufactured; Its 30-round and full-automatic capability made it an ideal weapon where heavy fire is just as or perhaps even more important than long-range accuracy.

In May, 1944, the Army announced the development of a new rifle, the T20, and set a very high goal for the new weapon: to replace four very distinct weapons currently used by American soldiers with one that combined the very best features from all of them. The new weapon would use the gas-action of the Garand for cycling ammunition; its shorter design would make it as suitable for close quarters as the carbine version of the M1; its .30-caliber ammo would have the stopping power of the famed Browning Automatic rifle; and its short stature and full-auto capability would make the M5A1 “grease gun” obsolete.

But reports regarding in-the-field modifications of the M1, which had helped fuel the move for a new rifle in the first place, were apparently exaggerated. The receiver on the new rifle, based largely on the design of the M1, was too short to accept cartridges fed from the BAR’s magazine. And the heat generated in full-fire mode was so intense that it could “cook off” rounds just below the bolt (sub-machine guns fire from an open bolt to release heat and prevent cook off.). Perhaps most disturbing was the accuracy in full-auto mode: the large .30-caliber rounds caused muzzle climb, something not experienced with the BAR because of that weapon’s heavier weight.

As the Ordnance Department introduced modifications to rectify these and other issues, each prototype iteration was given a new designation: Remington produced the T22, 23, and T27, while Springfield created the T25, T28, T31, and T33. Following a 1953 test competition between the T44 and the FN FAL, an assault rifle produced in Belgium, the T44 fell short in every category except for use in Arctic conditions. Both weapons were re-tested again in three years later; this time, they were judged equally suitable for adoption—but the T44 was selected because it shared many of the components as the M1, which of course the Army would have in amazing surpluses once the switch to the new rifle was made.

The Army announced the new rifle, designated the M14, in May 1957—and then proceeded to delay production orders for nearly a year. When the end of Fiscal Year 1960, only 10,000 M14s had been delivered. Investigations revealed that numerous problems in the supply chain had slowed production to a crawl, and soon thereafter the Army ended orders of the M14.

The Ordnance Department and Army had made several missteps in the M14 development process, arguably the biggest being trying to completely replace four replacing four guns with one. Another was wavering between ammo types; the M14 fired the NATO 7.62 round, when new ballistics research indicated the small .223 was even more lethal and weighed far less.

Although the development of the M16 would also be plagued with some controversy, the Ordnance Corps had learned valuable lessons from the M14, particularly in supply-chain management and quality control. After a gunpowder issue that led to some gun jams was resolved, the M16 has become one of the most trusted battlefield rifles of all time.

Important : The Bullion shoulder straps are custom hand embroidered per order and would take about 10 business days to be ready. As such, past 24 hours of placing the order, the bullion shoulder straps are no longer cancelable.

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