I graduated from college in the summer of 1971 and missed carrying the M14 around in boot camp, and beyond. I received my training on the 5.56mm M16 rifle.

Double-timing to the range, we were persuaded by drill sergeants to carry our M16s fully extended over our helmeted heads. If you haven't done so, it's no easy chore.

The M16 is a full three pounds lighter than the M14. Still, I had a hankering to train with the long-distance M14 pedigree - the service rifle with the illustrious career.

The M14 U.S. Rifle Caliber 7.62mm is the selective-fire battle rifle chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO. It was adopted by the U.S. military in 1957, but due to production delays, realized only limited delivery in the years to come. Before it really had a chance to shine, the M14 was replaced with the lighter M16 midway through the '60s.

The M14 was the crowning glory of gun designer, John C. Garand.

In 1919, the U.S. Army was hot on the trail of its first semi-automatic service rifle. That year, Springfield Armory hired Garand as its chief civilian engineer. And some 14 years later, Springfield Armory unveiled the M1 Garand, later billed as one of the finest shooting military rifles ever made - up there with the FN-FAL and the AK-47.

But as years of combat trial and error proved, the Garand had its flaws.

So Garand set out to iron out some of his rifle's imperfections.

He added full auto capability and replaced the M1 Garand's eight-round, en-bloc clip with a 20-round detachable box magazine. Some years and modifications later, the M14 service rifle was born. The M14 began service in 1957, and it's still going strong.

The M14 had a short shelf life in Vietnam and was phased out by the M16.

Nearly 1.5 million M14s have been made.

This gas-operated, rotating bolt rifle is capable of laying down 750 rounds per minute. Its effective range is 500 yards with iron sights and appreciably more - out to 800 yards or more - with good optics.

It weighs 11 1/2 pounds and measures 46 1/2-inches long.

Military honor guards still parade with it for show, but the M14 has a dark, sinister side - as a Delta Force/Green Beret/SEALS long-range harbinger of death.

You see, the M14 is as deadly as it is pretty. Just ask the bad guys