M14 Rifle History and Development By Lee Emerson Preface

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Part 1 Notes

1. Culver Shooting Page Lane's Tips www.jouster.com/lanestips Gus Fisher's FAQ discussion of USGI M14 receivers and parts. Gus Fisher, a former, USMC shooting team armorer for two years, states he was told by a very trustworthy source that TRW receivers were good for 450,000 rounds whereas the other USGI receivers lasted about 400,000 rounds.

2. Stevens, R. Blake. p. 225.

3. Poyer, Joe. The M-14 Type Rifle A Sporter's and Collector's Guide. North Cape Publications: Tustin, CA, 1997. p. 10.

4. Duff, Scott A. and CWO John M. Miller. p. 12.

5. Harrison, E. H. “The M14 National Match Rifle.” American Rifleman May, 1966. p. 48.

6. Poyer, Joe. p. 10. and Stevens, R. Blake. p. 337.

7. Stevens, R. Blake. p. 337.

8. Poyer, Joe. p. 10.

Part 2
The Commercial M14

U. S. Commercial Production of the M14 Type Rifle

Commercial production of the M14 type rifle began in 1971 and continues to the present day. A batch of at least twenty-six investment cast AISI 8620 alloy steel 80 % semi-automatic receivers were made in 1982 but have not been finish machined as of November, 2004. These receivers are marked as follows on the receiver heel


The serial number is on the left side of the receiver at the rear. The M W G is stamped on the flat surface just behind the rear sight. The following list is not complete but based on observation of serial numbers U. S. commercial manufacturers have produced at least this many M14 type receivers:

A. R. Sales Co. (South El Monte, CA) Mark IV - 163

Armscorp USA (Silver Spring and Baltimore, MD) M14, M14 NM, M21 - 17,100

Entreprise Arms (Irwindale, CA) M14A2 - 1119 (serial numbers are preceded by E, EA or ABNI)

Federal Ordnance (El Monte, CA) - M14, M14A, M14SA, CM14SA - 60,000

Fulton Armory (Savage, MD) M14, M14 NM, M21, XM25 - 500 (serial numbers began at FA 00000) + 25 (WR serial numbers start at 000)

Hesse (CT) - 002

LRB Arms (Bellerose, NY) M14SA - 71 (serial numbers less than 01201) + 182 (serial numbers 01201 and greater)

H&R Gun Co. (Toledo, OH) Semi Auto - 1126

Maunz Mfg. and Maunz Match (Toledo, OH) U. S. RIFLE – 1011 (a few rifles have the additional heel stamping MODEL 77, serial numbers are usually four digits but a small number are preceded by EX-)

Sarco (Stirling, NJ) M21 - 002

Smith Enterprise (Mesa and Tempe, AZ) M-14, M-14 NM - more than 176 (select fire pre-'86 ban, FA series serial numbers) + 2,505 (pre-'94 ban) + more than 50 (post-'94 ban, 5000 series serial numbers)

Smith, Limited (OH) M-14 - 237

Springfield Armory, Inc. (San Antonio and Devine, Texas and Geneseo, Illinois) M1A, M-1A - 169,000 + 227 (IDF series serial numbers) + 191 (WF serial numbers) + 500 (VME serial numbers)

Characteristics of Commercial Receivers

Cast receivers - A. R. Sales, some Armscorp USA, Federal Ordnance, Hesse, H&R Guns Co., Maunz Mfg., some Smith Enterprise, Smith, Ltd. and Springfield Armory, Inc. receivers are made by the investment casting method. Investment casting has existed in China for centuries. However, it did not gain industrial significance until after World War II with the demand for aircraft and aerospace parts. Investment casting allows complex shapes and thin sections to be formed with very close dimensional tolerances.

Billet machined and forged receivers - Entreprise Arms and some Armscorp USA and Smith Enterprise receivers are machined from raw billet. Information on how Sarco M21 receivers were manufactured has not been available to date. Chinese and LRB Arms receivers are drop forged.

Receiver Barrel Ring - Chinese, LRB Arms, Fulton Armory and some Springfield Armory, Inc. receivers have a distinct machined flat surface with a longitudinal edge on the top of the barrel ring. After the first 4620 Springfield Armory, Inc. receivers, the presence of this flat surface on the top of the barrel ring is found sporadically until a serial number just above 030000. The flat surface on the barrel ring is present on serial numbers 0062XX, 00623X, 00724X and 01899X but is not on 015XXX, 020XXX, 0210XX and 0301XX.

Caliber Marking - Springfield Armory, Inc. used upper case letters MM as part of the 7.62-MM caliber receiver marking until at least serial number 000326. At some point between serial numbers 000326 and 000567, Springfield Armory, Inc. changed the abbreviation for millimeter to a lower case mm on its receivers. Springfield Armory, Inc. used to include the stamping 7.62-mm or 7.62mm as part of the receiver marking. The 7.62-mm marking is the more common of the two. Additionally, where the caliber is indicated as 7.62mm (no hyphen) the model number is stamped as M-1A (with hyphen) instead of the usual M1A model number. Receiver serial numbers are 616XX and 66857 are stamped with 7.62mm (no hyphen) and M-1A (with hyphen).

The caliber markings have been observed on M1A rifle serial numbers as low as 000049 and as high as serial number 062857. By serial number 063112 the caliber marking no longer appears on M1A receivers. The 7.62-mm and 7.62mm markings were dropped because Springfield Armory, Inc. began producing the M1A in different calibers, e.g., .243 Winchester (see Other Calibers).

Millimeter is stamped with an upper case MM on Armscorp USA, Entreprise Arms, Fulton Armory, LRB Arms, Smith, Ltd., Smith Enterprise, and some Century Arms International imported Polytech Industries receivers. On most Chinese M14 type rifles imported into the United States the caliber is typically denoted .308 but will be indicated on the barrel if not on the receiver.

Receiver Scope Mount Horizontal Groove - Some commercial receivers have horizontal grooves too shallow and narrow to accommodate military specification side three point scope mounts, e.g., Brookfield Precision Tool and Sadlak Industries. The USGI drawing specification for the horizontal groove is 0.149 " wide at the top of the groove with a sixty degree angle from the bottom of the groove. Commercial receiver horizontal grooves can measure as narrow as 0.120 " at the top of the groove.

Commercial M14 Type Receiver Geometry

The commercial semi-automatic M14 type receivers have no selector lug and no center notch in the operating rod rail, and no groove on the front underside of the operating rod rail. The dismount notch for the operating rod is located at the rear end of the operating rod rail on all U. S. and Chinese commercial receivers. Many of the U. S. commercial receivers (Springfield Armory, Inc., Armscorp USA, Fulton Armory, etc.) have operating rod rails wider than the USGI specification. The wider operating rod rail provides more bedding surface and complicates conversion to select fire. The select fire Springfield Armory, Inc. receiver operating rod rail is 1/8 " wide while its semi-automatic receivers are made with one 3/8 " or 13 / 64 " wide. Springfield Armory, Inc. and Smith Enterprise select fire receivers have both the rear and center operating rod dismount notches as well as the cut on the under side of the forward end of the operating rod rail. If a receiver is USGI manufacture, it will not have this rear dismount notch.

Semi-automatic M14 type receivers will not have the selector lug and operating rod rail machining cuts. Springfield Armory, Inc. M25 and some Norinco M305 receivers do not have the scope mount recoil lug on the left side. Armscorp USA, Smith Enterprise, Springfield Armory, Inc. and Entreprise Arms also make rear lugged and double lugged receivers for competition shooting. Fulton Armory offers rear lugged receivers. Springfield Armory, Inc. has offered a rear lugged receiver since 1989 and LRB Arms has done so since 2003. Smith Enterprise has added lugs to receivers upon customer request since at least 1991. In the 1980s, Armscorp USA was the first company to weld lugs to its M14 receivers.

Comparison of USGI and Springfield Armory, Inc. Select Fire Receivers - There are six minor differences between the commercial Springfield Armory, Inc. select fire receiver and a USGI receiver: 1) the commercial receiver has a rear dismount notch 2) receiver heel stampings reflect either USGI contractor or the commercial Springfield Armory, Inc. manufacture 3) the USGI receiver has a drawing number, 7790189, stamped underneath the operating rod rail forward of the center dismount notch 4) the USGI receiver has a machining fixture alignment hole in the right receiver leg 5) the commercial receiver selector lug is neatly welded on and 6) some, if not all, factory Springfield Armory, Inc. receivers have a small hemisphere machined on the outboard side of the receiver rear sight pocket right ear. Otherwise, they look the same. An examination of both select fire receivers under the heel, rear sight base and stripper guide show almost identical underside machining cuts.

Current Commercial Receiver Manufacturing

Presently, only Armscorp USA, Entreprise Arms, LRB of Long Island, Inc. and Springfield Armory, Inc. are producing M14 type receivers in the United States. Smith Enterprise, Inc. has definite plans to manufacture M14 type receivers in the future.

U. S. Commercial Manufacture Select Fire M14 Type Rifles

Civilians may own select fire M14 type rifles in the United States of America as long as federal, state and local laws are complied with. However, the May 19, 1986 McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owners Protection Act ceased new production of select fire M14 type rifles allowed for civilian possession under the registration provisions of the 1934 National Firearms Act. Since 1971, U. S. commercial manufacturers have produced more than 254,000 M14 type rifles but less than one percent of them are select fire capable. An estimated 1000 to 2000 factory made Springfield Armory, Inc. (Geneseo, IL) and a few more than 176 Smith Enterprise select fire rifles were produced prior to May 19, 1986. At least three Springfield Armory, Inc. M1A rifles made by the Texas company have been identified as NFA registered select fire conversion models. One of them is serial number 000908 and another is 001691. The third Texas M1A was converted by Federal Firearms Licensee Stan Andrewski. A few Illinois M1A rifles were converted to select fire after they left the factory and registered under the National Firearms Act. Rock Island Armory (Geneseo, IL) and Federal Firearms Licensee Neal Smith were businesses who legally performed such work. The highest serial number Springfield Armory, Inc. National Firearms Act registered select fire M1A observed is 038770. It is a 1986 factory built select fire model.

Camp Perry Military Reservation

Camp Perry Military Reservation is a 640 acre Ohio National Guard marksmanship training center. It is the largest small arms firing range in the world. Camp Perry is located on the shore of Lake Erie about eighty miles west of Cleveland, OH. Since 1907, military and civilian shooters have participated in the National Rifle Association and National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice / Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) national matches conducted each summer. Collectively, these are known as the “National Matches.” The M14 M and M14 NM were first used at Camp Perry at the 1963 National Rifle Matches.

John C. Garand retired in April, 1953 from Springfield Armory. He did some consulting work for Mathewson Tool Company (New Haven, CT) in 1954 on the T44E4 rifle, predecessor to the M14. He visited the National Matches at Camp Perry every summer until about 1961. In the summer of 1961, Mr. Garand visited the TRW test facility at the near by Erie Ordnance Depot while developmental work was being done on the M14 NM. From 1960 until at least 1968, men such as Elmer Ballance, Karl Maunz, Melvin Smith, and Richard Smith participated in the shooting competition at Camp Perry. From the early 1960s until 1974, civilian competitors used the M1 Garand rifle and military shooters were equipped with the M14 rifle.

Springfield Armory, Inc.

Springfield Armory, Inc. is the oldest and largest commercial manufacturer of M14 type rifles. In 1994, it was renamed Springfield, Inc. for a time. Springfield Armory, Inc. has been located in Geneseo, Illinois since 1974.

Texas Production

The Springfield Armory, Inc. story begins with U. S. Air Force veteran Mr. Elmer Ballance of Devine, Texas. His last name is correctly spelled with two lower case letters “L.” He started his business, L. H. Gun Co., in 1960 while stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The base had a housing subdivision named Lackland Heights. To save time writing, he named his company, L. H. Gun Co. “L. H.” is an abbreviation for Lackland Heights. While serving in the Air Force, Mr. Ballance shot the M14 rifle in competition on the All Air Force High Power Team. He completed his military service in 1964. After that, he built match grade M1 Garand rifles for competition shooters.

The U. S. Army Springfield Armory had closed down in April, 1968. During the NRA National Matches at Camp Perry in the summer of 1968, the closure of Springfield Armory was a topic of discussion among the competitors including Elmer Ballance, Karl Maunz and Melvin Smith. Subsequent to this, Mr. Ballance began the process to acquire the name “Springfield Armory” for production of his commercial version of the M14 rifle. In late 1969, Mr. Ballance commenced work on making the dream of civilian M14 type rifles become reality. Though banks refused to fund his dream, this did not deter him. Mr. Ballance raised the funds himself. He and Melvin Smith of Valley Ordnance Co. worked together to get the equipment set up for production of the civilian receiver and complete rifles at their respective facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania. Some of the machinery and parts which Mr. Ballance purchased for the project came from the Harrington & Richardson M14 production facility.

During this time, Mr. Ballance also modified less than fifty Springfield Armory and Winchester M1 Garand receivers to accept the M14 barrel and gas system, to function with M14 magazines, and to fit in M14 stocks. This was completed prior to September, 1971. These are the first commercial production M14 type rifles ever made. One of these modified M1 Garand receiver semi-automatic M14 rifles was sold by Collector Firearms in Houston, Texas in 2004 for $2500.00. The workmanship on these modified M1 Garand receivers is excellent.

L. H. Gun Co. became Springfield Armory, Inc. The change was a successful marketing strategy. The name, Springfield Armory, was well known by the public and especially by competition shooters. Mr. Ballance began selling the M1A rifle in September, 1971. These M1A rifles were assembled from USGI and National Match M14 parts except for the receiver and select fire parts. The Texas business warrantied M1A rifles for one year.

In January, 1973 Valley Ordnance Co. (Wilkes-Barre, PA) was prepared to manufacture all major M1A components. Melvin Smith and Elmer Ballance agreed that Valley Ordnance would be responsible for the manufacture of the components parts and for maintaining an adequate supply of spare parts. Valley Ordnance would handle all quality control on receivers and any barrels that it might make. L. H. Gun Company would supervise all quality control during assembly and final testing and would have the sole right to sell M1A rifles. A large stack of customer orders had been building up. The San Antonio plant was not able to meet the demand. So, the L. H. Gun Company was forced to move to a new facility in Devine, TX.

Guns Illustrated conducted a test of a bedded but rack grade M1A with a Winchester chromium plated M14 barrel in January, 1973. The rifle consistently shot 1.5 to 2 MOA out to 500 yards using 1968 Lake City 173 grain Match and Sierra 168 grain Match hand load ammunition. The M1A became eligible for use in NRA High Power shooting matches on January 01, 1974. The NRA had modified Rule 3.1.1 in the High Power Rifle Rule Book to allow commercial made M14 type rifles to be used in competition shooting matches. At about the same time, the American Rifleman magazine tested and reviewed M1A serial number 001562 in the March, 1974 issue.

During the spring of 1974, M1A production was in progress both at the Route 1 Devine location and at 12106 Radium Drive in San Antonio. Thus, both barrel markings were used simultaneously. In June, 1974 Springfield Armory, Inc. consolidated operations at 12016 Radium in San Antonio to cut costs. Production ceased temporarily while equipment and inventory was moved from the Devine facility to the San Antonio facility and set up.

Mr. Ballance never made or converted any M1A or M14 type rifles to select fire. All of the Texas M1A receiver serial numbers start with a zero. It is not possible to determine the original model of a Texas M1A by serial number. The serial numbers were logged in as "manufactured complete" regardless of model type, standard, National Match or E2. The serial number was logged a receiver if shipped unassembled. Some of the Texas M1A receivers were assembled into complete rifles by armorers at Fort Benning, GA. 150 of the M1A rifles assembled in Texas were fitted with T44E4 wood stocks with the selector cutout filled in.

Texas M1A Models

From a L. H. Gun Co. brochure mailed on January 06, 1973 from Devine, Texas, M1A models and prices were as follows:

Standard model with fiberglass stock $200.00

Standard model with new walnut stock $225.00 or used walnut stock $215.00

Standard model with new beech stock $215.00 or used beech stock $200.00

M1AE2 with birch stock $250.00

M1AE2 with bipod $275.00

Match grade model with walnut stock $250.00

New issue bayonet $5.00

Texas Barrel Markings

All M1A complete rifles assembled in Texas had either hand stamped or pantograph engraved barrels with the complete address where it was assembled. There were three barrel markings for the Texas company. The marking L H GUN CO S A TEX 78226 was found on the first 100 rifles assembled by Mr. Ballance. Additionally, a few of these hand stamped barrels were shipped to Fort Benning, GA. This stamping was done by hand in two lines using serif font characters. L H GUN CO is on the first line and S A TEX 78226 is on the second line.

After the hand stamping, Mr. Ballance used a pantograph to engrave the barrels because it was faster and nicer type. The barrel marking then changed to RT I BOX 2I0 DEVINE TEX. Initially, the RT I BOX 2I0 DEVINE TEX marking was in two lines with RT I BOX 2I0 on the first line then DEVINE TEX on the second line. Later, this marking was changed to one line (RT I BOX 2I0 DEVINE TEX) to avoid indexing the barrel. The third Texas barrel marking is 12106 RADIUM SA TEX 78216. This third barrel marking appeared on the barrels some time between June and October, 1974. This address is a one line marking.

Springfield Armory, Inc. in Texas marked the barrels (hand stamped or pantograph engraved) at the time of rifle assembly. Barrels with the simple address of DEVINE TEX or DEVINE TX are not barrels marked by Springfield Armory, Inc. when it was located in Texas. Mr. Ballance never used Canadian Arsenals barrels in the assembly of M1A rifles because he did not have any from that maker in his parts inventory. Mr. Ballance gave some stripped M1A receivers to armorers at Fort Benning as payment for assembly of other M1A receivers into complete rifles.

A very few Texas marked barrels were sent to Geneseo, Illinois. The barrels on the first M1A rifles leaving the Illinois factory were electro penciled Geneseo Ill. However, M1A rifles in 1975 were sold with a coupon to be used towards the purchase of a spare barrel. Thus, a very few of the spare barrels sold by the Illinois company had Texas markings. It is likely that a very small number of individuals eventually had these Texas marked spare barrels installed on M1A rifles sold by Springfield Armory, Inc. in Illinois.

Transition from Texas to Illinois

Due to financial difficulties, Mr. Ballance sold his business to the Reese family in Illinois. However, he retained the right to use the product name, M1A, in Texas. The sale occurred in the fall of 1974. 1 Mr. Balance sold all of the unused receivers and barrels and many of the parts were sold to Bob Reese of Geneseo, Illinois. Production problems troubled the Reese family for some time. These problems were sorted out over a few months and M1A production resumed by the spring of 1975.

Mr. Ballance states that a total of 4620 receivers were manufactured before he sold the company to Mr. Bob Reese. When the Texas company receivers had been used up, Valley Ordnance continued to supply finished M1A receivers for the Illinois company. It did so until 1996 when Melvin Smith passed away. The bare receivers, barrels and other parts left over from the Texas firm were used to help start production of the M1A in Illinois.

The serial number transition from Texas to Illinois occurs somewhere between 002700 and 003200. There is no dispute regarding serial numbers under 002700. The rifles and receivers below serial number 002700 were sold by Mr. Ballance. M1A serial number 002734 was shipped from Geneseo, Illinois on April 28, 1975. Geneseo Ill is electro penciled on the barrel of M1A serial number 002734. An M1A with serial number 0028XX has been identified with the 12106 RADIUM SA TEX 78216 marking on the barrel. Several hundred M1A rifles were assembled at the 12106 Radium San Antonio address. A very credible report involves M1A serial numbers 002867 and 002874. Both rifles have barrels with a one line RT I BOX 210 DEVINE TEX pantograph engraving. According to the original owner of both rifles, they were shipped from Devine, TX in May, 1974 to his local FFL. Records at Springfield Armory, Inc. for receiver serial numbers under 003200 are sparse as apparently this was the end of the transition period for assembled rifles.

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