Polytech M14 Review
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Both Poly Technologies and the infamous Norinco of China had offered reverse engineered M14 type rifles on the US commercial market in the 1980s, and some Chinese M14 type rifles are still offered on the Canadian market through importers, most notably Marstar international. There were a number of US import M14s from China in varying levels of fit and quality, ranging from pretty decent to downright miserable. None were known to deliver match grade accuracy, but the chrome lined bores, cheap spare magazines and ready availability of spare parts had made them attractive to a lot of survivalists. Not to mention the generally conventional appearance of the M14 rifle has been found to be less alarming to those who are hostile to civilian ownership of assault rifles. The lack of a full auto selector on civilian legal M14s has been considered hardly a handicap since the guns were less than controllable on full automatic anyway.
M14 rifles are now made by a number of boutique and custom manufacturers, many of which are one and two man operations. The Chinese M14 was the last of the under $500 M14 rifles ever to be sold in the US as most M14 type rifles reached well over the $1000 mark by the year 2000. That has put upward pressure on the value of the import M14 type rifles floating around on the used gun market, but they still only rarely break over $1000 and usually will trade hands among shooters in the $600 to $800 range with no particular value to collectors. That makes the Polytech a prize sought after by survivalists who still want to have a usable M14 without totally flattening the wallet.
The guns can still be found in varying grades of condition floating around a number of US gun shows, shops and even flea markets and classified ads. We also see a small number trickle down from Canada, usually done on the sly when enterprising border traders in Canada want to barter their way into some unregistered handguns with their neighbors to the south. With Canadian prices hovering in the $500 range, and the rifles typically trading for around $800 in the US, the math is not too hard to figure out.
Performance on the rifles varies widely, with the Polytech rifles usually performing better than the Norinco samples. The Polytech rifles usually have chrome lined barrels, a feature absent from most M14 and M1A rifles produced in the US for the US market. While many “sniper” purists disdain chrome lining as a possible threat to precision accuracy, it greatly increases the longevity of the barrels and makes the guns more tolerant of lower quality ammunition commonly found on the surplus market and sold in bulk by the Chinese. Other parts have been a mixmatch of quality, usually with a gray parkerized finish. Most of the parts for the guns are rough machined castings, but the Polytech rifles tend to feature heat treatment and metal quality that rivals the current production US guns which make extensive use of castings in parts that had traditionally been machined out of bar stock. This is why some of the better known custom M14 gunsmiths have been using Chinese M14 type rifles as the basis for custom builds. Stocks on the Chinese rifles usually feature good metal work, but the wood is badly inletted for the actions, often poorly matching the contours of the original USGI specifications. Thankfully, surplus GI fiberglass and custom wood stocks are readily available on the open market. The stock in my sample Chinese M14 had dried out badly due to being stored in a very dry environment for several years and had cracked. The replacement was a fiberglass stock picked up on Ebay for $50 and glass bedded to match the action. This was a great improvement over the factory stock, but on testing, it also showed how this configuration is poorly adapted for use with a scope. Next on the shopping list is a raised cheek pad made by Eagle Industries and purchased through lightfighter.com, but that situation led to a long backorder situation.
Firing the rifle with the half case of Indian made 7.62 NATO ammo that came with it has produced laughably dismal accuracy. Although part of this problem may be attributable to the scope blowing out some part and giving a “wandering zero”, even performance with iron sights is worse than even the most crude AKs, a problem accentuated by a slightly crooked front sight. The only (small) saving grace with this rifle has been its reliability with the Chinese magazines which came at a fairly moderate cost of only $20 each. Not quite in the league of the AK when it comes to reliability, the Polytech M14 is still pretty decent. At this point, the package proves the old adage that there is no free lunch, or even a good cheap one when it comes to putting together a reliable and accurate semi-auto rifle in a larger caliber with sufficient firepower to serve as a midrange support weapon. So far, the Chicom M14 has proven not to be it.
|Cost – On the low end of M14 rifles, but not the bottom of the barrel. They are now carrying a premium over what they went for when new (around $400) but actual prices of existing guns is going to depend on custom parts, custom gunsmithing work and included accessories. Not many of these rifles have remained bone stock over the years, but have been upgraded.||Accessories – There used to be a respectable number of parts and accessories available for the M14, but that is now mainly limited to specialty suppliers geared up for a niche market. A casual but persistent search will reveal a decent selection of options for the rifle.|
|Mags – Recently a weak point in the whole system because of high cost and relative lack of remaining surplus because the original M14 rifles did not remain in military service for very long in any great numbers. Availability of Chinese mags of decent quality is improving, but could prove spotty. Get the while you can.||Longevity and durability – Rumors of less than perfect heat treatment on the Polytech M14s puts them in a category below several US makes, but these rifles are still capable of having a service life over 20,000 rounds with indefinite parts replacement stretching even beyond that.|
|Ammunition – Easily obtained almost anywhere due to widespread military and civilian use of the cartridge throughout the world. Mountains of inexpensive surplus ammunition make this gun very economical to shoot.||Power – There is no dispute that the .308/7.62 NATO cartridge has plenty of power, even at long range. You really cannot ask for more in a semi-auto rifle and still retain practical controllability.|
|Parts – Most of the gun can take standard USGI specification M14 parts except for the auto selector lever. Oddly, it came with a very off spec stock but that was easily replaced with a repainted USGI fiberglass stock. Watch out for some parts needing extra attention to fitting though, as the Chinese reverse engineered the gun to some slightly different tolerances on some parts.||Ergonomics and handling – Classic to the Garand rifle parentage, the M14 handles like a conventional rifle. Balance is centered and the gun handles reasonably well out in the woods. For close quarters, forget it. The stock is engineered for use with the iron sights and a raised cheek rest is highly recommended if you are going to use a scope on this rifle.|
|Reliability – My test specimen has fed with 100% reliability which is very rare for rifles of this type. Any problems these tend to have is fixable by a competant rifle mechanic.||Maintenance and repair – Following the same basic design as the US M14 rifle, it is not at all hard to find gun smiths with the ability to work on these rifles. The Chrome lined bore is a welcome departure from US specification and makes the rifle more utilitarian for the survivor.|
|Accuracy – As good as anyone should expect in an off the shelf quality large caliber Import of reasonable cost. The barrels are not match grade by any means, but are reasonably well made and the gun can be tuned to enhance accuracy. Expect normal M14 type accuracy from these rifles. Custom work and upgrades can make this rifle give comparable performance to the SVD but not purpose built bolt action sniper rifles or even the late model premium semi autos like the AR10..||Popularity – The M14 was very popular with US and Canadian shooters who wanted battle rifle capability without the assault rifle look during the 1970s, 80s and early 1990s. By the late 1990s, popularity dropped like a rock due to the lack of readily available magazines at reasonable prices. The new availability of reasonably priced M14 magazines is likely to produce a resurgence of popularity for this rifle.|