Of boom sticks and banjos

Posted By on November 19, 2008 at 1:31 pm

I’ve owned and/or fired one version or another of every rifle that has been standard issue for the US Army since the 1870s. Of all this wide variety of rifles, without a doubt my favorite has been the M1A, the civilian version of the Army’s venerable M14 which, as you may already know, was replaced in service by the M16.
In nearly every measure of performance, the M14 was the superior weapon; for accuracy and terminal ballistics, the raisons d’être of a combat rifle, the M14 far outstripped the M16. The only disadvantages commonly cited were that it was heavier and required a heavier ammunition load, chambered as it was in NATO-standard 7.62mm.
The M16, on the other hand, was lighter and allowed the soldier to carry more ammunition — a cynic might say that the higher number of rounds almost made up for their lack of effectiveness — and was favored by the “top-down” weapon procurement policies of the 1960s Department of Defense under McNamera.

“The M16 is to a rifle as the banjo is to a guitar” – Jeff Cooper

The M16 was adopted over the objections of US servicemen and our allies alike; when the Pentagon told our NATO allies that our forces would standardize on the M16’s 5.56mm round rather than the 7.62mm, they were decidedly unhappy, having already invested a tidy sum in standardization.
The M16 with its 5.56mm round was sadly lacking in performance (earning it nicknames like “Mattel rifle” and “poodle shooter”) and though it had sent a variety of our enemies to Hell over the years, it wasn’t really until the introduction of the M16A2 (and a more powerful round, the M855) in the 1980s that the M16 became a reliably effective weapon under most circumstances.
The grand old M14, though, lives on. Though it’s not new news, I’m nonetheless pleased to see this article (which prompted me to write today) at Military.com, New Lease on Life for the Beloved M-14.
There’s a time and place to say “out with the old and in with the new,” but I’m glad to see that our newest generation of warriors has a fondness for the classics.

It’s Ammo Day today, by the way.


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