The steady supply into Canada of semi-automatic, civilian legal, M14-type rifles from the People’s Republic of China – rifles that are built on a forged (not cast) receiver and which retail for about Can$5-600 – has generated a very active ‘cottage industry‘ of individuals and companies whose specialty is some aspect of M14 customizing, repair, maintenance or accessory provision.
Like any peripheral industry, the one that has grown up to service the ever-growing number of M14 owners in Canada has been populated with a cast of characters ranging from those who seemingly bore the twin curses of being both impecunious and star-crossed and whose grandiose plans always seemed to fall short to, at the other end of the spectrum, the fully professional companies whose expertise is matched by the peerless quality of products they make and sell. I’m pleased to say that a company out of British Columbia – M14.ca – is one of the latter and it’s one of their products that I’m able to comment upon today.
My first experience of M14.ca took place a while back when I was tired of struggling to mount optics on a M14 using the traditional mounting solutions. At that time I purchased the M14/M1A CASM scope mount from M14.ca and was very impressed. Other than the M25 receiver offered by LRB of Long Island, I think the CASM mount is one of the best there is. I wrote a detailed review of this particular mount and a link to it can be found here:
This time I’ve had an opportunity to look at another M14.ca product – the M14/M1A Scout Hand Guard (SHG). Made out of 6061 Aluminum Alloy this is designed to replace the standard handguard found on all varieties of the M1A and M14-type rifles and offer a stable and low-profile place to mount your optics. It is hard coat anodized and has a mil-spec 1913 ‘Picatinny’ rail on the top for the attachment of either a scout scope or red-dot optical device. While best suited to the short barreled tanker or scout rifles, this SHG will also fit on a regular length M1A/M14.
As regular readers of my reviews will know, I am always looking to how a company packs up and ships its products to customers; I see it as an issue of corporate pride in how a business views the items it makes and sells and in this case ( as with the CASM ) I am happy to say that the product was carefully packaged, with lots of protective material, and it was shipped very fast with ‘signature required’.
I carefully examined the SHG and found the finish to be flawless. The anodizing was evenly applied and anyone handling this item will easily see it is a quality piece of gear – clearly no one involved in the production of this equipment is working out of their kitchen with a rasp and a hammer.
Being made out of a metal and possessing a rail running just over 12″ long, one would expect this SHG to be heavier than its 6 1/2 ounces (not including clamps and screws) which, apparently, is only twice the weight of the GI fibreglass one it is designed to replace.
The folks at M14.ca say that this SHG is designed to maintain a precise alignment with the bore so that when you have properly attached and zeroed your long eye relief scope or RDS you can remove the upper from the stock and replace it or, for that matter, put it into another stock without losing your zero. This is a bold claim but one that is safer to make when dealing with rifles that don’t have bench-rest levels of accuracy. In a rifle capable of (at best) 1 MOA and often more like 2 MOA a little wiggle-room in the zero would be hard to spot.
The SHG includes provision for the mounting of additional 4″ long rails at the 10 and 2 O’Clock positions but those rails are not included in the $219.95 price tag. They can be purchased separately and, incidentally, are included when one buys the Blackfeather RS stock.
As with other M14.ca products I’ve handled, the SHG comes with a Product Data Sheet and instructions for mounting the handguard to both of the Blackfeather RS stocks and traditional stocks. Whoever wrote these instructions did a really good job – they are clear and written in an easily understandable version of the English language.
The SHG is actually designed to be but one part of a modular system that M14.ca makes for the M14-type of rifle but, while specifically designed to work with the Blackfeather RS, it will work with the Boyds, USGI, SAI or Chinese stocks though there may be some fitting required.
According to the folks at M14.ca the real trick to a proper installation of the SHG onto a Boyds or USGI stock is to maintain a sufficient clearance between the handguard and forearm.
Certainly the SHG comes with all the materials necessary to attend to the installation job. All the screws and brackets were present as was a small vial of blue Locktite thread locker and a piece of .002″ alloy tape which can be used as a bracket shim if necessary. In total there are 14 fasteners and 3 steel barrel straps that are used to attach the SHG to the barrel of your M14.
While designed as a precision platform upon which to mount optics there may well be another positive side effect to the installation of a SHG onto your rifle: while M14.ca don’t make any claims about the SHG improving accuracy it is sometimes found that a barrel stiffener can make barrel vibrations act in a more consistent manner and therefore help shot-to-shot accuracy.
Normally I don’t do a product review of a rifle accessory without actually taking it to the field and doing some shooting but this will have to be one of the exceptions to that rule. When talking to M14.ca I didn’t know that the SHG is only designed to work with a standard USGI weight barrel and so I neglected to mention that my one remaining M14 is a LRB M25 Medium Match which is, of course, equipped with a medium weight barrel. An embarrassing oversight on my part for sure, but hopefully even though I couldn’t field test the product as I’d wished, readers will be able to get some idea of what the SHG from M14.ca is all about and see that it’s a well made product that certainly appears to fill a niche for those who wish to use a LER scope or one of the very popular Aimpoint or similar RDS out there.
I don’t know anyone at M14.ca because I’ve done all my transactions with them via email and telephone but I can say that whenever I have made a purchase from them the service has been absolutely first-class. Based upon the outstanding customer service I’ve received when buying only a few small and low-dollar value items like the CASM mount I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending anyone interested in buying one of the M14 improvement products they carry to give them a call or send them an email as you can be assured your inquiries will be answered promptly and knowledgeably by people who have real expertise with the M14 rifle platform.