Letter Re: Soft Nose Loads for Battle Rifles

Dear James:
Having recently acquired two M14 pattern rifles and some reloading equipment, I was interested to read yesterday’s article on using soft point ammunition in battle rifles. As a Canadian citizen, my main battle rifle options were quite limited. Firstly, our misguided “gun control” legislation prohibits civilian ownership of most main battle rifles; FALs, CETMEs, G3s and the like are all “prohibited firearms”. However, semi-automatic M14 variants, such as the M1A and Norinco/Polytech M14 clones, are “non-restricted firearms” and can be bought with ease, used for hunting purposes, etc. (traditional wood stocked appearances apparently can deceive gun control bureaucrats). Secondly, the fact that in Canada the Norinco M-14S/M-305 semi-auto M14 clones sell for $400-500 as opposed to $1,800-2,000 for [Springfield Armory] M1As is quite compelling; one can buy two Norinco M14S’s, plus reloading gear, plus a few hundred rounds of ammunition for the cost of a single M1A. [JWR Adds: Be advised that a good portion of the Chinese M14S production has suffered from insufficiently heat-treated (“soft”) bolts and some very bad bolt geometry. Clint McKee at Fulton Armory recommends replacing both their bolts and barrels. The result will be a reliable rifle.]

Reloading for Norinco M14S’s is quite popular north of the border. I’d recommend this site as a guide for those interested in reloading for the M14.

Two rules that I now follow when reloading for my Norinco M14S’s is to always use CCI primers; they are harder than the competition’s primers and indent less upon chambering. Given the M14 pattern rifle’s robust design, they do not require soft-primered cartridges to function. The difference in indentation on chambering between CCI primers and Winchester primers is visible to the naked eye. I never had a slam-fire with the 300 rounds I loaded using Winchester primers, but having seen the difference with the CCI primers, I now use CCI exclusively. Secondly, when reloading .308 brass for my M-14S’s, I load conservatively, replicating the M80 [standard ball] 7.62 load (although I eventually plan to experiment with replicating M118 and M852), which is below maximums for .308 Winchester, and carefully inspect each case before reloading it. It goes without saying that handloading is an activity that demands extreme care and meticulousness.

[JWR Adds: Keep in mind when working up “GI Ball” 150 grain soft nose equivalents (or “GI Match” 168 grain soft nose equivalents) that because of the thicker brass used with military 7.62 mm NATO cases, the case volumes differ considerably from civilian .308 Winchester brass.]

Lastly, I’d like to say thank you for all the energy and devotion that you’ve put into running SurvivalBlog. It’s been a daily read for me since I discovered it a few years ago, and I routinely recommend it to friends. It’s provided invaluable guidance to me in my preparations. Best Regards, – A Somewhat Prepared Canadian.