Making M14s and ICBMs – VIDEO

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- The direct successor to the M1 Garand rifle was the M14. Major manufacturers included Springfield Armory, Winchester, and Harrington & Richardson; all three were, at that time, well-known and respected arms makers. However, production by Springfield Armory was slated to be phased out by September 1963, so a replacement third company was necessary.

Government arms contracts mean big money for companies that are fortunate enough to land them. As such, competition to fill the soon-to-be-vacant spot in the M14 arms industry was stiff. In fact, a total of 42 major firms competed for the one vacancy in 1961.

M14
M14 rifle

In the end, the company that won the contract was one that had absolutely zero previous riflemaking experience, and yet they managed to meet their required deliveries ahead of schedule.

The company was Thompson Ramo Wooldridge (TRW), made up of the financial backer – Thompson – and the engineers, Ramo and Wooldridge, and the contract was for 100,000 rifles and some new tooling; the price tag was $8,554,070. Adjusting for inflation, the contract would be worth a little more than $75 million today.

How was it, then, that a company with no arms experience beat out more than forty other firms? To hear it from Mr. Pace, one of their vice presidents, their experience making jet engines in the post-World War II years meant that they were actually a natural choice: “This has been very precise and high-quality work, and at the same time high-production work,” he said.

Almost a decade before TRW started making rifles, they had been tasked with leading the development of the country’s first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM. Around the same time, TRW also began work in the relatively new field of computers. By the time TRW began thinking about rifle manufacturing, they were involved in the automotive, electro-mechanical, electronics, and space technology industries.

Pace continued: “Production is placed on [a] competitive contract with the most capable producers, a type of contracting with which we were quite familiar. At first, we were quite reserved as to whether it [the M14] was suitable to us. As it turned out, it was an extremely good thing for our background.”

In short, Thompson Ramo Wooldridge was already involved with cutting edge, highly technical work for the government, and believed that expanding this skillset into the arms industry was a relatively easy thing to do. They were absolutely right.

In a facility in Cleveland, Ohio, TRW set to work making M14s in their newly-formed Ordnance Works, which fell under the jurisdiction of their Electro-Mechanical Group within – of all things – their Jet Division!

shooting range
TRW’s range (American Rifleman)

Components of the M14 were made utilizing some of the same machines that TRW had used for making jet engines. For example, a chain broaching machine was used to help form multiple aspects of the rifle’s receiver, such as cutting the magazine slot. Because they were able to retrofit some of their existing machinery, TRW was able to make the rifles faster and cheaper than if they had had to completely retool.

TRW’s first completed M14 rifle was tested in August 1962 and their first block delivery happened in October 1962. This was one month ahead of schedule and earned the company a monetary bonus.

They aimed to have production completely up to speed by summer 1963, with a goal of producing 24,000 rifles each month.

All told, TRW produced 319,691 M14 rifles. This comprised all 100,000 guns on their initial contract and an additional 219,691 rifles on another order in 1962 for $17,465,000. Today that would be $150.2 million.

When production finally ceased on the M14, a total of 1,380,933 rifles had been made by Springfield Armory, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson, and Thompson Ramo Wooldridge.

M14 made by TRW (Smithsonian)

The M14 holds the record for the shortest-lived, officially-adopted rifle in the US military. Death was already knocking at its door when American Rifleman magazine wrote a story about TRW in February 1963. A sidebar at the end of the article was titled “What’s Next, and When?” In it, they note that the “U.S. Air Force desires the AR-15 for its use as a replacement” and that “a number have been under test in Vietnam.”

It wouldn’t be long before the AR-15 was adopted as the M16 and the M14 would be phased out entirely.

In the end, TRW produced 23.1% of all M14s made for the US military. If you ask me, that’s pretty impressive for a company that knew nothing about rifle production when it bid on the contract.


About Logan Metesh

Logan Metesh is a historian with a focus on firearms history and development. He runs High Caliber History LLC and has more than a decade of experience working for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the NRA Museums. His ability to present history and research in an engaging manner has made him a sought after consultant, writer, and museum professional. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry.

Logan Metesh

Subscribe
Notify of
41 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago

LMAO!

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago

Gastion Glock has one up on everyone. In 1963, Gaston Glock founded a plastics company near Vienna, Austria. His moderately successful company primarily manufactured plastic curtain rod rings along with various other plastic products.

I mean plastic curtain rods vs rocket engines?? And talk about prolific! The Glock pistol is the most well known pistol in the world and they have manufactured over 11 million by some estimates.

DDS
DDS
1 month ago

On the subject of TRW and the M14, in 1974 Springfield Armory brought their semi-auto M14 clone into production as the M1A using new made receivers and mil-surp parts. As the supply of those parts became scarce, they were supplemented by new production. I haven’t looked at a recently made M1A in a while, but if you own or have access to an earlier made one, you will find quite a few parts with TRW markings. To be honest, I never really wanted to own an M1A until President Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton tried to make it difficult to own… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by DDS
swmft
swmft
1 month ago
Reply to  DDS

the m14 was not about weight the army somehow came to the conclusion that wounding a soldier tied up more resources than killing them does so even the armor-light ar10 was rejected the bar was kept as suppressive fire weapon the m2 was almost adopted in a select fire adaptive stock design but 30 carbine was determined to be unacceptable guess it killed more than wounded sad the m14 is a great gun not the 20 round mags though cant change them fast enough

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago

If the M14 were made of modern materials it would have stayed. It was not the weight of the ammo or you would not find so many AR15s made for .308. There is no reason for failing to have a precision guided .30-06 bullpup with a 30 round magazine other than the same reason a 1911 is still popular. Tradition and habit.

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago

But, then, I was just on topic about your history; not another useless diatribe of whining about our government by “patriots” who never put their money where their mouth is. I bought the Mini-14 both in wood and plastic; so my opinion is biased. AND, I prefer an 8 round revolver to an 8 round .45.

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago

Concealing an 8 round revolver is a bit of a challenge for most folks. I prefer a 12 round Glock 29 or an 11 round Glock 30.

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

I am up to the challenge. I am 6’4″ and about 185 pounds. That was my “fighting weight” at 16. I did not shrink back down to that until my diabetes and the plague happened. Most folks do not have my scars and injuries. I can pack two .357s in shoulder holsters and two in hip holsters concealed, if they are under a coat. I can only carry them in high riding holsters under a t-shirt. I prefer any of my .357s with speed loaders to my Gen 5 Glock 17 with 31 round magazines as back up. 9mm is… Read more »

DDS
DDS
1 month ago

Although the Ruger Mini-14 is roughly styled after the M14 and is a fine firearm all on its own, there is really little or no connection between the two.

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago
Reply to  DDS

That’s just your opinion. The Mini-14 and the M14 have a gas operated rotating bolt. They are both modeled after the M1 with a self-cleaning self-compensating gas system. The difference is the calibers, with the Mini-14 having far more options. The M14 is fully automatic, unlike the M16, which fires bursts. The Mini-14 is easily modified to become a 750 rpm Full-auto rate-of-fire for AC-556 which matches or exceeds the M14.

Don
Don
1 month ago

The M16, M16A1. M4A1 fire full auto. The M16A2 and M4 have 3 round burst fire.

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago
Reply to  Don

I think I made my point that the design was not the problem. The materials were. The M14/rotating bolt was better designed for to function in jungle warfare than the M16 originally. The M14 was just too heavy; like the M1.

Once the kinks were ironed out in the Mini-14, it was more accurate than the M16, but the M14 was always more accurate.

I knew the M16 was at least designed as 3 round burst fire in Vietnam. I was not certain about the full auto and I have heard disputes about that.

Beobear
Beobear
1 month ago

Wrong again, the M16A1 started out as full auto. During Vietnam the military said it was common for inexperienced soldiers to hold the trigger and “spray” the jungle during firefights. In 1982 the M16A2 was adopted with the new 3 round burst mode replacing the fully automatic mode. It’s impossible to dispute this. The M16A1 was relegated to training use until the early 2000’s when it removed from service. I know for fact that we were using full auto M16A1’s during basic training and AIT during the late 80’s. The M14, while a fine rifle in my opinion, was obsolete… Read more »

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago
Reply to  Beobear

Cite your source rather than just making claims. I have seen claims contradicting yours. The M16A3 replaced the infamous three-round burst mode with full auto mode, according to “M16 – A1 /A2 /A3 /A4 by Maxim Popenker on modernfirearms dot net It is a fine point you make. It does not make the M14 or rotary bolts obsolete. IN MY OPINION.

Last edited 1 month ago by JohnLloydScharf
Arny
Arny
1 month ago

M16A2 a variant of the previous M16A1, adapted for a new SS109 5.56×45 mm standard NATO round. This assault rifle has a heavier barrel and different rear sight. After the Vietnam War the US military examined use of their M16 assault rifles in combat. It was determined that firing on full-auto past 3 rounds largely resulted in a waste of ammunition. So a full-auto firing mode was replaced by a 3-round burst mode. Ejection port of the M16A2 has a spent case deflector. The M16A2 has been adopted by the US Army in 1982 and by the US Marine Corps… Read more »

DIYinSTL
DIYinSTL
1 month ago

John, can I call you John? Pick up a copy (purchase or (inter-)library loan) of “The Complete AR-15/M16 Sourcebook” by Duncan Long. Long is a bit of an AR fanboy and the book only covers up to 1992 but it is a fairly complete history of the AR, warts and all, and covers the disagreements here for which you want a source. It is also an easy and interesting read.

PMinFl
PMinFl
1 month ago

The M16 s that I used in 1968-9 were all full auto.

PMinFl
PMinFl
1 month ago
Reply to  Beobear

I’m no “expert” but I kinda liked the M 14 over the M 16, even if it was heavier. That gunnery seargent , at Pendleton, made me fire off a complete mag ,one handed,to “teach” me to keerp my elbow up when sighting, I thought my shoulder would fall off. Those Marines liked to get under the skin of us sailors.

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago

.308 AR’s aren’t AR 15’s LOL! They are AR 10’s.

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

AR10s are an AR15 configuration. The model number is a distinction without a difference. You understood my point.

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago

Except that the AR10 came before the AR15. The AR 15 was a scaled down AR 10. And the AR10 didn’t get accepted by the military. The Armalite AR-10 is the original lightweight 7.62mm combat rifle – a space-age amalgam of aluminum, steel, and advanced plastics capable of a rate of fire of 800 rounds per minute and weighing just a hair over 7 pounds, unloaded. Its younger, 5.56mm caliber brother, the AR-15, is today perhaps the dominant rifle design in the West, but the .30 caliberAR-10 is the one the started it all … So you see, AR15 are… Read more »

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

I stated, “I think I made my point that the design was not the problem. The materials were.” You still ignored it. They make better and lighter materials which a M1 Garand, M14, and even a Mini-14 can be made from. Even the M16 was made with lighter materials. The M14 could have been made with carbon fiber stocks after the Tet Offensive. The first pound of 99% pure scandium metal was produced in 1960. Production of aluminum alloys began in 1971, following a US patent. The .308 projectile could have been shortened with tungsten projectiles for more stability and… Read more »

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago

Reviewing the 1935 senate NFA debate. Interesting data they discuss, aside from them admitting to using tax As an end run around the 2nd… United States 1931 population was 124 million, and we had 11,160 murders and manslaughters. United States 2019 population was 328 million, and we had 13,927 homicides. So, comparing 1931 to 2019, almost 100 years, where we almost tripled population, and gained more than 250 million firearms, yet we had only 2,767 additional homicides. Where is this epidemic of gun violence? Or of violence at all? Per population growth, we should have around 28,000 murders. That means… Read more »

musicman44mag
musicman44mag
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

Very good point, well made. Data that should be published and shared on the news.

from portland the shit hole of OreGONE>

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

Thanks. Everyone should read the NFA debate. They admit the 2nd amendment end run using taxes, call it exorbitant, admit they don’t expect gangsters to pay it and that they will get guns regardless, etc. Admit they have zero authority to regulate and police firearms…

musicman44mag
musicman44mag
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

I could not find the debate but I did find this and now I know that I was wrong when I said that the NRA supported no gun control. According to what I read, NRA just softened the blow and got pistols to not be included but that is still a give away as far as I am concerned. The other thing I observed is all of this gun control was mostly because of gangs, the mob, and the mafia and what they enacted was supposed to stop the violence. We see now how that didn’t work just like having… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by musicman44mag
Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

I will post a link to the debate in a minute. Yes, NRA supported the unconstitutional tax and registration of machine guns, short barreled rifles and shotguns, but just asked handguns to be excluded. They supported a number of other gun control bills as well- have a list here somewhere. They pretty much negotiated oir right away bit by bit. The gov doesn’t want crime controlled, they want the guns. They want registration of all guns and to stop their manufacturing, and they have since they first admitted it in the committee discussing the NFA in 1934! Even in 1934,… Read more »

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago
Reply to  musicman44mag
musicman44mag
musicman44mag
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

Thank you. it’s a long read so I copied the link and will read on it more later tonight when I have time and i have my morning honey do’s done. Thank you so much. I know I am going to learn something on this one.

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

My pleasure. I wish every American read it, and watched the debacle of the hughes amendment getting “approved” by a voice vote. What a crock!

There is another good read, a congressional committee report titled “the right to bear arms” where they (biden on it) admit the 2nd is a personal right, and Almist admit the gov has no authority or business regulating.

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

Reading some of the ways those weasels skirted the 2nd amendment back then is really infuriating. And to think that today the “supreme” Court (of basically brain dead idiots) can’t see through that shit and overturn the NFA? Seriously? Talk about a violation of oaths of office. Just goes to show you…PSYCHOPATHIC CONTROL FREAKS will be PSYCHOPATHIC CONTROL FREAKS. The date or time in history is of no effect on their activities. We need a period of history where NORMAL people run the show. The problem is that NORMAL people don’t want a job of “making laws” or telling other… Read more »

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

They are beholden to our adversaries. Plain and simple.

Bill
Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

I believe the whole aim of the “Defund the Police” movement is to do away with local police. Once that is done and anarchy reigns supreme, then a call will go out to stop the violence! The solution will be a “National Police Force” which is not beholden to the locals but to Washington D.C.! Obama bought billions of rounds and probably millions of firearms for just such force. Maybe their uniforms can have black trousers and brown shirts?

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill

and helmets. Yes, they WILL need helmets. The UN goon squads have those BRIGHT blue buckets. Maybe hot pink, or chartreuse would be real cute. Unisex/asexual, too. That way no one will worry about being confused.

Make them nice and bright.

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill

Federalizing local police is a long sought after goal of the Left. It is why they sue and settle and have those consent decree settlement agreements. Forcing Washington control over more and more territory.

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

learn about the SUllivan Laws in NYC back about nineteenten or so. Enacted to play favourites amongst criminal gangs, to “curb the violence”, but in reality to keep guns in the hand s of Sully’s goons and take them out of all the non-Sully operatives. NOthing has changed since. Tht one worked well, so it has become the model.

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

the tax imposed through NFA is not the issue. If all it tok was to plop another two pictures of Ben on the counter when I picked up my full auto M 14, I’d do it in a midget minute.

BUT.. they have to make it a long and painful process, inspectioins, waiting, waiting, more waiting, then put all my persona info into a searchable database so they know who has every one of them and where it is stored. THATis the intrusion that is unacceptible. Government intrusion is the most commmon result of any taxation imposed.

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago
Reply to  Tionico

And one is told they need permission to cross state lines with an nfa item… prior to the trip. Beg the king’s consent to visit another state…

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

There is only one reason they want an AWB…because without them they could really trample the shit out of our rights. As it is, they know that some lines can’t be crossed and they want to be able to cross them without getting their red coat enforcers shot in the face. As it stands we are already way out gunned. What do you think they come at us with right now? The very same machine guns that they won’t let us buy because they realize that we would be evenly matched except for the F15’s and nuclear weapons. And of… Read more »

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

in the scuffle betwixt te Patriots and Redcoats back a while, don’t forget that the Redcoats had more and better long guns, all identical and using the same calibre ball, unlimited financial backing, logistics considered the best on the planet….. yet OUR boys, bearing a very mixed bag of whatever they had at home when they jined up, often six different calibers in use in the same unit, Our militia were well trained to know what to do and do it. Redcoats needed an officer to tel them what to do. Whcihis why our guys adopted the “cut off the… Read more »

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago
Reply to  Tionico

^^^^

thumbs-upx21.png