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M14 Buyer’s Guide


Lee Emerson and members of www.ambackforum.com


Purpose and Disclaimer - This is a guide to help the first time buyer in the process of selecting a
M14 type rifle. It assumes the prospective buyer is eligible to legally purchase a firearm and the
purchase will be made in the United States of America. This guide cannot and does not
guarantee any results. The intent is to make the new M14 enthusiast aware of some items to look
for when shopping for an M14 type rifle. If the purchase is made from an online auction, insist on
an escrow account to hold the funds while you have the rifle checked out. The Commercial M14
and M14 Close Up photo galleries at www.imageseek.com/m1a may be of help in identifying M14
related items.

Know the federal, state and local laws regarding firearms and firearms parts and accessories
before you begin your search. The following sites are helpful guides regarding the law:
www.packing.org www.nra-ila.org www.titleii.com and the U. S. Department of Justice Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives web site. If you are unsure of the law as it applies to
you, do not proceed with the purchase and seek out legal advice from a knowledgeable attorney.

Suggested Tools – SAAMI NO GO headspace gauge, bore light, throat erosion gauge available
from www.brownells.com or www.midwayusa.com

General Appearance of the Rifle

Are the parts colored various shades of gray? If so, this is not necessarily bad. The current owner
or a previous owner may have replaced worn parts or upgraded to USGI parts.

Is the phosphate coating worn at all? a little? a lot? almost gone?

Is the action clean?

Are the barrel feed ramps dirty?

Is the action lubricated with grease?


In 2005, Armscorp USA, Entreprise Arms, Fulton Armory, LRB Arms and Springfield Armory, Inc.
are producing commercial M14 type rifles. These firms and Smith Enterprise, Inc. (not Smith,
Ltd.) are available for customer support. All other U. S. M14 type rifle manufacturers are no
longer in business. The Springfield Armory, Inc. (of Geneseo, IL) warranty is honored for the life
of the rifle.

If the rifle has a selector lug or a notch in the center of the operating rod rail or a groove in the
forward end of the operating rod rail the BATFE will consider it a machine gun. All NFA Rules

Do you intend to install a scope mount on this receiver? Some commercial manufacture receivers
have difficulty with fitting of some scope mounts. The prospective buyer should read the M14
Scope Mount FAQ before proceeding.
Is the flat rear end of the receiver, known as the heel, devoid of any lettering or numbers? If so,
there’s a 99.9 % chance it is of Chinese manufacture. Do you see the name “Norinco” or
“Polytech” anywhere on the rifle? If so, it is of Chinese manufacture. Obviously, these rifles
cannot be returned to the factory for service but there are American M14 gunsmiths that have
experience with Chinese M14 rifles.

Check the stamping of the receiver heel. Are the words spelled correctly? Are there any missing
letters in the wording?

Closely examine the shape of the receiver heel. It should be symmetrical.

Is there a ridge in the top right edge of the receiver between the stripper clip guide and the bolt
lug recess? It is supposed to be there to slow down the speed of the bolt.

Do you want a standard or a match rear sight? Ask the seller what it has if you can’t tell the
difference. A match rear sight has a smaller aperture than a standard rear sight. Chinese rear
sight assemblies are crudely fashioned so check the operation of the windage and elevation
knobs. The "WCE" marking on Chinese rear sight knobs does not mean they are USGI contract
parts but Chinese copies. Chinese rear sight parts use different thread sizes than USGI rear sight
parts so the individual parts are not interchangeable with the possible exception of the rear sight


What barrel length do you want? 16.1”, 18”, 18.5” or 22”? A shorter barrel is better for close
quarters and a longer barrel is better for precision shooting.

Is the barrel bore clean? Use a bore light to check. Look for worn rifling, pits or rust.

What is the Throat Erosion reading? Use a throat erosion gauge to find out. The higher the throat
erosion reading the more the barrel has been shot through. Match grade M14 type barrels are
usually replaced at a reading of “5” or more.

Chromium plated barrels last longer and are easier to clean but less accurate than non-plated
barrels and the chambers cannot be reamed. Do you want a chromium plated barrel? If so, look
for the marking 7790190 on the barrel under the hand guard.

Match barrels will give match grade accuracy for 5000 to 9000 rounds. Do you want a match
barrel in light, medium or heavy weight contour?

If you have a chance to remove the stock, attempt to gently wiggle the operating rod guide from
side to side. It should not move. When you cycled the action before engaging the safety, did the
operating rod move smoothly? It should.

While you have the stock removed, look at the operating rod spring guide. Does it look fat or
skinny inside the operating rod spring? If it fills the spring, it is a match grade part. If it is skinny,
the spring guide is a rack grade part. Which type do you prefer?


Are there any numbers or letters on the top of the bolt? If there are no markings on the top of the
bolt, it is a Chinese bolt. A Chinese bolt imported into the United States may need replacement
now or in the future. Consult an experienced M14 gunsmith regarding conversion to a USGI bolt.
Some Chinese bolts imported into the United States have been tested and found to be too soft.

Is the face of the bolt pitted or is the firing pin hole enlarged? If so, you should consult with a M14
gunsmith if you purchase the rifle. The rifle may require replacement of parts.

If the rifle is New-In-Box is there a factory headspace tag? If not, you or the seller should check
that the bolt will not close on a SAAMI specification NO GO gauge. Chinese rifles tend to have
headspace longer than SAAMI specification but less than NATO specification. If headspace
exceeds SAAMI specification it should be checked using NATO dimension headspace gauges for
safety reasons.

Gas System

Are the edges of the gas cylinder plug hex end rounded or sharp? They should not be rounded.

Ask the seller if you can lock the bolt back. If the bolt will not lock open it needs repair. If the bolt
locks open, tilt the muzzle up and down in a safe manner. Do you hear the gas piston sliding back
and forth? If not, the gas system is dirty.

Check the gas cylinder lock for any visible cracks. There should be no cracks.

Muzzle Attachments

Is the muzzle attachment on the rifle permitted by law at the point of sale?

Is the muzzle attachment on the rifle permitted by law at your residential address?

Muzzle brakes are louder than flash suppressors. The benefits of a muzzle brake are reduced
recoil and faster follow up. If you have the legal option, do you want a muzzle brake?


FYI: The black crinkle texturing on Springfield Armory, Inc. M1A stocks tend to chip over time.
Accept it or replace the stock.

FYI: Wood stocks will need periodic preservation to keep from drying out or swelling. Also, the
trigger guard should not be clamped into the stock if the rifle is stored for the long term. If this is
not acceptable, install a synthetic material stock.

FYI: If there is a large opening in the stock just below the right rear end of the receiver then there
is a 99.9 % chance it is a USGI stock. This opening was made for the select fire components on
USGI M14 rifles. This opening can be filled in but it does not have to be.

Check the stock for cracks and dings. Wood stocks can be refinished into stunning works of art.
Birch and walnut are the two most common types of wood for M14 stocks but there are other
kinds out there.

Ask the seller if you can remove the stock. As you pull the trigger group out, is it easy or hard to

A match conditioned M14 type rifle with a wood stock will be bedded. Ask the seller if you can
remove the stock for inspection. What is the condition of the bedding?

For non-bedded stocks, the receiver heel should sit on the stock. It is normal for a gap to exist
between a non-bedded stock and the receiver from a point about 1” from the rear end to the bolt

Did you check the butt stock compartment? There may be a USGI cleaning kit on the inside.
Do you like the hinged butt plate? If not, a rubber butt pad can be obtained as an aftermarket part
and installed.

Icing on the Cake

Is there a scope mount installed? If so, is the stripper clip guide included with the rifle in case you
wish to remove the scope mount? Steel scope mounts are heavier than aluminum mounts but
much less prone to moving around. A mount that contacts the receiver on the top front, top rear,
and at the side is best. See the online M14 Scope Mount FAQ for further information.

Is the factory shipping box included? If so, do the factory box and receiver serial numbers match?
If so, is the factory literature inside the box?

How many and what size magazines are included with the rifle?

Who made the magazines? USGI contractor, Chinese, Taiwanese or are they aftermarket
brand(s)? If you cannot identify them ask the seller.

Are any accessories (cleaning kit, bipod, sling, sight protectors, bandoleer kit, bayonet, Army
manual) included?