Springfield Armory M14 History

M14 Production at Springfield Armory

By Lee Emerson

The Springfield Armory was built during the American Revolutionary War. The plot of land it was situated on had been used since the 1600s to train colonial militia units. The site was established as an ammunition depot in 1777 by General George Washington. President George Washington selected Springfield Armory in 1789 to be the first government arsenal. Springfield Armory was officially established in 1794 by an Act of Congress. From 1794 to 1968 the Springfield Armory was the center of military small arms development and production in the United States. The armory tested and manufactured several muskets in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the U. S. Army. It also produced the Krag-Jorgenson, M1903 and M1 Garand rifles prior to the M14 project. The Department of the Army made plans to close Springfield Armory in 1964 and did so on April 30, 1968.

Springfield Technical Institute was established by the City of Springfield, Massachusetts in 1964. It operated under the jurisdiction of the City of Springfield, Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Springfield Technical Institute later moved into three buildings inside the Springfield Armory during the summer of 1967 and began operating under the authority of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Community Colleges beginning in September 1967. The fifty-five acre site formerly known as the Springfield Armory was renamed Springfield Technical Community College in August 1968. The college continues to serve the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the present day.

The Springfield Armory National Historic Site was created by an Act of Congress in 1974 and opened in 1978 under the administration of the U. S. Department of Interior National Park Service. Twenty of the fifty-five acres of land were set aside for the National Historic Site. The Springfield Armory National Historic Site has two buildings, the Main Arsenal which is now the Museum, and the Commanding Officer’s Quarters which are now National Park Service administrative offices. The Main Arsenal was built in 1850 and the Commanding Officer’s Quarters built from 1845 to 1846. The Springfield Armory National Historic Site houses the largest firearms collection in the United States and the second largest in the world. Springfield Armory was the first of four M14 rifle manufacturers for the U. S. Government.

It was tasked with setting up a pilot production line in April 1958. Start up of parts production began in December 1958. The first five parts made were the receiver, the bolt, the gas cylinder, the operating rod handle and the trigger housing. M14 production problems at the Armory included obtaining satisfactory precision castings for the flash suppressors, proper welding techniques for the operating rods, and achieving satisfactory heat treatment for the receivers. Except for TRW, USGI M14 operating rods were welded together near the rear end of the cylindrical portion as specified by the drawing.

Springfield Armory made the least number of USGI M14 rifles, 167,107. The first M14 rifles were delivered to the U. S. Army in August 1959 by Springfield Armory. The serial number of the first rifle ever stamped M14 was 2000. M14 production orders were given on March 26, 1958, October 07, 1959, September 1960 and August 1961. Springfield Armory had 400 of 3100 employees involved with development and production of the M14 rifle in August 1961. Springfield Armory also made M14 NM rifles. During Fiscal Year 1964, Springfield Armory developed a dry fire device for the M14 rifle. It appears few, if any, of the rubber hammer bumpers were ever made.

Springfield Armory manufactured two M14 rifles for President Eisenhower in November 1959. Two rifles were made in case one was flawed. Both rifles were given a blued finish. As it turned out, close examination revealed M14 serial number D.D.E. 1 to be flawed but D.D.E. 2 was flawless. M14 serial number D.D.E. 2, with the selector lock, was presented to President Eisenhower. M14 serial number D.D.E. 1 was tested as an endurance test rifle then transferred to the Springfield Armory Museum on October 18, 1960 where it remains on public display. Springfield Armory made a number of other presentation grade M14 rifles in 1959 and 1960. These M14 rifles have four digit serial numbers starting with the numeral 0.

Springfield Armory Machine Tools - In 1968, some M14 project equipment was auctioned off. The remainder was shipped to Rock Island Arsenal for storage. One complete set of fixtures and inspection gauges from Springfield Armory was sold to the Government of Taiwan for its T57 project. In 1994, Rock Island Arsenal auctioned off to the public a large quantity of M14 project equipment. The auction records were only kept for five years. This equipment had been used at Springfield Armory. The following describes some of the machine tools in use by Springfield Armory in August 1961:

1. The barrel installation machine screwed the barrel and receiver together with the exact prescribed torque in seconds.

2. Broaching machines were used for high speed removal of metal from the receiver forging.

3. A grinder was used to grind the rear faces of the M14 bolt lugs.

4. A special machine tool was made to make the receiver left bolt camming recess. This is the most difficult machining cut on the rifle.


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