Looserounds posted a very interesting article that serves as a kind of “takedown” on the internet hype surrounding the M14. Weapons Man did a follow up, which also made for a good read. Both articles are quite good, and reflect my experience.
My first firearm purchase was a Springfield M1A Loaded Stainless. I bought it because a friend of mine bought an M1A, and I really liked the big semi auto 308. I didn’t know a whole lot about shooting, or firearms, at the time. Looking back, it was little more than a fun range toy to go blasting with, and I certainly did not baby the stainless national match barrel that it came with. Doing ten round mag dumps of South African surplus was always a grin inducing moment, but hardly contributory to good marksmanship.
Later, being inspired by the all the tacticool the internet could muster, I got in line for a first generation JAE-100, and installed a Sadlak mount (later replaced by a M14.ca mount).
But the thing is, as fun as this gun is to shoot- I just don’t feel as confident in its abilities as I do a quality AR or a bolt gun. The gun is more maintenance intensive. Mounting scopes is an exercise in frustration with trying to get everything aligned right. When it comes down to it, the gun represents an update to a nearly 100 year old concept. It makes for a great show piece, though.
I think the relative success of the M1A/M14 in the civilian market is heavily based on internet fanboys and gun shop reverence. Stories still circle of Jeff Cooper’s distaste for the AR-15 platform and its “poodle shooter” .223 round, and the M1A has simply been more available (and more affordable) than other semi auto 308 rifles. But, that said, I think the 308 AR market is about to explode. Just like I mentioned for the AK platform (which is considerably cheaper), people have already bought however many AR-15s they want- and they’re looking for the “next thing.” I see a lot of internet postings in the message boards asking about how to build a 308 AR. As soon as all the various manufacturers can agree to a spec to build to with relatively good compatibility, then I think the market will grow.
In the mean time, my M1A will continue to sit in the safe for most of its life. I don’t think I’ve shot it in nearly two years. But, since it was my first gun, I’m not willing to part with it either. Besides….it just looks bad ass and can go on being a “photo piece” to tantalize the internet people.