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Random Shots

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Random Shots: Episodes in the Life of a Weapons Developer
  • by Roy E. Rayle
    • Merriam Press Military Biography Series
      • Fourth Edition 2008
      • 282 6x9-inch pages
      • 17 photos
      • 5 figures
      • 7 tables
  • Roy Rayle passed away in 1997. The original edition of this book appeared shortly before his death.
Fascinating account of the author's varied career from prior to World War II, working at the Naval Gun Factory and Aberdeen Proving Ground, his wartime service with Aviation Ordnance in the AAF, and his postwar career with Army Ordnance.
This book deals primarily with his service at the Springfield Armory in the 1950s and 1960s where he participated in the development of such weapons as the M14 and M16 rifles, M60 machine gun, aircraft revolver and Gatling guns, 40-mm M79 grenade launcher, tank machine guns, HAW/BAT/TOW and spotting rifles, and the side-firing AC-130 "Spectre" gunship cannon.
Included is a chapter recounting several gun stories, mostly dealing with World War II experiences.
  • Foreword
  • Infantry Board Tests
  • Arctic Rifle Tests
  • An American FN Rifle
  • Industry Interest in Small Arms
  • Final Development of Two Rifles
  • Final Rifle Tests
  • M14 Rifle Production
  • Armalite/Colt Rifles
  • The M60 Light Machine Gun
  • Aircraft Revolver and Gatling Guns
  • The 40-mm M79 Grenade Launcher
  • Tank Machine Guns
  • HAW/BAT/TOW and Spotting Rifles
  • Side-Firing Gunship Cannon
  • Random Gun Stories Epilogue
    • Caliber .50 Only for the Army Air Corps
    • Dirty Ammunition in Benghazi
    • Bad Bombs in France
    • Automatic Carbines in Belgium
    • Chrome-Plated Barrel Bores
    • Small Arms Museums
    • An Army 9-mm Pistol
  • Appendices Bibliography
    • U.S. Rifle 7.62-mm M14
    • Rifle 7.62-mm T48 (FN)
    • U.S. Machine Gun 7.62-mm M60
    • Rifle 7.62-mm AR-10 (Armalite) (Early 1957 Version)
    • U.S. Rifle 5.56-mm M16A1
    • Gas Systems
    • Gun Barrel Design
    • Automatic Weapons Calculations
    • Primer Setback Analysis
    • Case/Chamber Relationships

If a person is really interested in the history of the M14, the book is interesting.
Bought the book after seeing a review of it on Forgotten Weapons dot com. The book goes over more than just the M14 development, but that is the meat of the book. I think it may clear up some of the history around the adoption of the M14. Several things stood out: the adoption of the FN-FAL was practically a done deal at one point, the very close relationship of Springfield Armory (design and development) to the firearms industry (produce in times of war), and some of the rationale behind going with the M14 over the FN-FAL and what the military officers thought were good and bad at the time regarding both designs.
     First, the book discounts the common assertion that the US was after a US designed rifle. Besides the US having a history of using foreign-designed riles (the Norwegian Krag, the Mauser patent infringing Springfield '03, the British designed 1917, and the Canadian designed M1), the FN-FAL was working its way to being adopted while Springfield was hardly funding any arms designs at more than a token amount. The issues that stopped the FN-FAL were two fold: for one thing the military insisted that the gun be converted to English measurements (which is harder than it sounds for parts that have to work together) and that delayed the process in which time the M14 prototype had more development, and secondly, the FN-FAL was more prone to jamming and that was brought out in the winter trials. Garand's design for the bolt / bolt lugs (borrowed from the M1) did make for an action that was resistant to jamming from dust, ice, etc. Only when the FN-FAL stumbled in the artic tests did Springfield really decide to make a push with the M14 prototype. Another surprise was that the military was impressed with the FN-FAL's ability to open up "like a (double barreled) shotgun" for cleaning (I suppose that would reduce muzzle damage), and the Marines liked the M14 because the straight stock would be better for bayonet fighting (bayonet fighting was still seen as a big deal in the 1950s?)
     The book does not go into it, but it is fascinating what would have happened if the US had gone with the FN-FAL, would the military have adopted a radical design like the M16, or would it have gone with a smaller caliber evolution of the FN-FAL (like the FNC)? Would the military have pulled moth balled FN-FALs out of storage to go into service again in the recent conflicts as they have done with the M14 (as a heavy-hitting designated marksman rifle)? One of military history's great what-ifs.
     The rest of the book includes some history from other projects. One gets the idea that the best shot of a rifle being adopted was to have one designer make it their sole purpose in life, to get through the red tape and vacillations of the military. It also recounted the problems that came about by constantly moving centers for ordnance design around the country, the military officers would go with it, but the civilian contractors would often stay put and look for new work, and that resulted in brain drain.
     Book gets 4 stars because it has original information not found elsewhere and it is a primary source, not just a re-hash of what "everyone knows". It does not get 5 because only those really interested in that history will find it to be of any interest at all.
—David C. Lewis

Worth the Read
I found this an interesting account of both the workings of the Springfield Armory in the '50s and '60s, and the development of the M14 (among other weapons). While I think the book is just a little disjointed, there are some great insights into both the military point of view at the time, as well as the workings of the Armory. A nice view of history for any one interested in either the Armory or the M14.
—C. B. Long

Quite good
Very interesting primary source for some history of the later years/end of Springfield armory. Not for everyone, but if you're interested in the background behind some of the U.S. small arms from the '50s and '60s, I cannot recommend this highly enough. A well-written insider's view.
—L.A. Biker

I enjoyed it
The first half is a bit in-depth for better or worse, depends how interested you are in the M14, Army Ordnance and how not to get things done quickly. The second half is comprised of shorter more interesting and entertaining stories of WWII adventures and other smaller Army Ordnance projects.
—Jordan K. Bowles


Against All Odds - The Man Behind the M14 Rifle: Lt. Col. Roy E. Rayle by George Kontis P.E.

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