Words and Pics: Cade Johnson

The 1990s were a weird time for high speed rifles. They fell in a period between SOF using shortened versions of their standard service rifle counterparts (CAR-15, XM177, 723, etc) and the advent of SOF specific weapon systems and upgrade kits such as the SOPMOD program and others.

Many operators were attaching various commercial accessories to their rifles on an individual basis, in the absence of an official modification program. This resulted in non-standard configurations that differ wildly between end users. The most famous “custom” carbines of the time were undoubtedly those used in the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993.

A lesser known set of photos is that of a SEAL team preparing for VBSS that features some other odd weapon modifications. The most common photo from the series is that of an M14 with a rather unorthodox grip attached to the stock.

This is a basic M14 with the standard USGI leather sling that has been modified by the operator to be more efficient for his close quarters mission set. 

The most obvious upgrade is the vertical grip attached to the stock of the weapon. It is crudely made, likely by the user himself.

The second photo featuring the M14 shows an alternate view of the grip, further illustrating its rudimentary construction. It also offers an excellent view of the Aimpoint 5000 atop the receiver. It is unclear if it is a weaver rail or a direct scope mount mounted to the receiver.

The other weapon featured is an M16A1. A Stainless Aimpoint 3000 adorns the carry handle rail. The Aimpoint 3000 can be discerned from its brethren by noting the battery compartment on the right side of the body, whereas, the 5000 has the battery located on the left; the 2000 has a lower angled battery compared on the right side.

This operator has affixed his sling to the front sight post and rear sling mount using 550 cord, a very common modification for the time. He has also looped the sling through his Yates rappelling harness to retain his weapon in a dynamic environment.

As always if anyone has any questions please reach out via RetroRifleBlog@Gmail.com, Facebook or Instagram.

Bio: Cade Johnson

Cade Johnson has several years of experience in the firearms industry and currently works in sales for a major manufacturer. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.


The original article on which this one is based, is featured on Cade’s own blog: Retro Rifle Blog.

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