M14 Marksmen

Army Magazine – New equipment

The M14 rifle isn’t something you’d really expect to see in a rundown of new military equipment. The M16 replaced the M14 in the 1960s as the Army’s standard rifle.

But this November 2003 article, which discusses the Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI), explains how something so old can be new again:

Another historically proven addition using the RFI for the Stryker brigade is the 7.62 mm M14 rifle. According to SFC Myhre, the M14s allow squad designated marksmen a larger caliber rifle that will cover more area and provide capability that was only available in very limited numbers within the individual sniper sections.

The M14s, which are equipped with Leopold Mk IV scopes, are fielded at a rate of one per squad, with additional weapons going to specific slice elements within the brigade.

A January NYT article about snipers in the Stryker Brigade included

The sergeant drew a bead on the shooter with his weapon of choice, an M-14 rifle equipped with a special optic sight that has crosshairs and a red aiming dot.

It struck me as a little weird that an Army sniper was using an M14 instead of the standard-issue M24, M40 (which I believe is used more by the Marines than the Army) or the .50 caliber M82. Darren Kaplan wondered, too. I guess this answers our question. It could very well be that the “snipers” the NYT article (which, BTW is now only available for $$$ so I grabbed the one at FR) were really “just” sharpshooters in the standard squads and not sniper team specialists.

This also seems to answer the “Is the 5.56 NATO round sufficient?” question. Apparently it is not. At least not for everyone in the squad. This demonstrates, to me at least, that the Army is very serious about getting its troops what they need to prevail. I also believe that it demonstrates that sometimes older is better.

The next paragraph reads

At the same time that some Army units are looking back to the venerable M14, small arms planners are also looking forward, hoping to accelerate the fielding of future weapon technologies to tomorrow’s warfighters. A clear example of this can be seen in the recently announced acquisition of 200 Heckler & Koch XM8 assault rifles for test and evaluation beginning late this year.

This indirectly describes what the 20″ barreled “sharpshooter variant” of the XM8 is designed to do. The longer barrel will allow longer ranged and more deadly fire by some members of the squad, while leaving the majority of the men armed with the shorter, lighter “baseline carbine” model for regular close-quarters firefights. The only question is “Is that 5.56 round good enough for the job?”


  1. I believe that the main function of arming your best marksmen with distinguishing arms, that are easily discernable at distances beyond the effective range of the ‘spray ‘n pray’ weapons carried by other members of the unit, would be to identify primary targets for the other side’s snipers. Before small unit leaders, before RTOs, before crew served weapons teams, snipers will shoot snipers. And, call them what you will, any individual, armed with a long-range rifle that is equipped with optics, will be perceived as a ‘sniper’ by the other side.

  2. Modern soldiers using old/new M14’s? Hey, if it works or if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If you find something what works better, keep both the old and new. I would say that the future addition of the XM8 would be a good new option to new Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, or Guardsmen (yes, I’m covering all the bases here). However, and I’m sure others would agree with me, getting rid of the M16/M4 systems would be a grave mistake in itself. But, it wouldn’t hurt if they made an XM8 in the 7.62 either, could work out perfectly for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Put some of those confiscated 7.62 rounds to good use, against the bad guys. >:)

  3. XM8 will have a hard road if the 5.56 stays. Better to use the 6.8 spc or adopt the .260 remington for everything. 1000 ftlbs at 900 yds, better than the 7.62 Nato. As for new developments with older designs: See the SOCOM Mk 14 Mod 0, and the sage international options now being used by SDM troops. The Enhanced battle rifle is taking the secure impact of the 7.62 x 51mm caliber and the old M14 design with new stock components for contemporary tactical add-ons. Just redesign the m14 base rifle a little and deploy more troops with it. You could even have shorter barrels like the Springfield socom 16. Make every rifle a semi and still have operators with SAW’s in 6.8 spc or the shorter lighter M60 variants. BTW: Last post says to use confiscated 7.62 rounds. Ahem! Those are 7.62 x 39mm lots not what US troops use, unless they are using the enemy’s AK’s, spec ops and others use those while deep in.