Preview – Springfield Armory M1A – Old-School DMR
Photography by Henry Z. De Kuyper
The Mk14 Mod 0 Is a Rare Beast, So We See if We Can Build One Ourselves
Faced with the wide-open spaces of Afghanistan and enemies who, in the words of one British officer, “ignore 5.56mm, respect 7.62mm, and fear .50 BMG,” U.S. forces put out many calls for a widely available designated marksman rifle (DMR) to be rushed into service. Since falling out of favor just six years after its introduction, the M14 had been languishing in cosmoline-soaked limbo for many decades and so was pressed into action.
Developed from the M1 Garand of WWII fame, the old girl was starting to show her age. Compared to modern .30-caliber rifles, the M14 was an ergonomic train wreck, with limited options for mounting day optics and zero compatibility with clip-on night optical devices. As a short-term solution then, the M14 would do in a pinch, but at least some of these problems had to be addressed if it were to pull its not inconsiderable weight. In order to correct this state of affairs, the Mk14 project was initiated and, as part of it, Sage International developed its EBR chassis system. We were intrigued by this stop-gap solution to the very real requirement for a capable, intermediate-range semi-auto rifle, so set about collecting the necessary parts and pieces to build one.
Since real M14s are not readily available on the civilian market, we looked to Springfield Armory for the next best thing. Its Scout Squad is an 18-inch-barrel variant of the M1A, which apart from the lack of full-auto capability, fit the specs for the Mk14 Mod 0 to a tee. In order to build a match-grade M14, a typical rifle will spend many hours in the hands of a skilled gunsmith, who will work over the trigger, glass bed the action, and unitize the gas system. Because of a shrinking knowledge base among the M14-building fraternity due to old-school guys retiring, one of the principles behind the Mk14 program was that rack-grade rifles would be used as a starting point, thus cutting down on the number of man hours it took to build a useable DMR. The Scout Squad would be an excellent facsimile as it is bog standard — no National Match components anywhere.
Hammering Out an Mk14
So we had a rifle, and we had a chassis. Screw them together and you have a Mk14, right? Not so fast, young fella. It’s a little more involved than that. First off, the M1A must be completely stripped down to a bare action, so if you’re not comfortable swinging a BFH at a brand-new rifle, you may want to enlist the help of a gunsmith. After removing all the steel bits from the plastic stock, the fun begins. Starting at the business end, the flash hider and front sight need to come off before removing the gas system. Then drift off the op rod guide block and replace it with a Sage unit — only then can you think about marrying the rifle to the chassis. The guide block is critical to both accuracy and reliability, so it’s important that you install it correctly. Hence the hammer.
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