The Saga of TRW M14NM S/N 1453711 (Part 3 of 3)
What’s so interesting about a specific M14 rifle that we are writing about it here? The simple answer is that this is the only true M14 rifle that can be transferred on Form 4473 as an ordinary semiautomatic rifle. But wait! Aren’t all true M14 rifles machine guns because of the lug on the receiver for the full auto parts and are therefore National Firearms Act (NFA) articles that require the full NFA transfer protocol of passport photo, fingerprint card, Form 6 completion, a $200 transfer stamp, and a wait of up to a year or more? Yes, they are…well, except this TRW. So, what makes this M14 so special?
Let’s back up to the beginning of the story. Circa ’73 or ’74 one Robert Sauerman, a Federally licensed firearm dealer in Ohio, acquired this M14NM and one other. His belief and contention were that these M14NM rifles were semiautomatic-only, thus not subject to the National Firearms Act. With that belief, he sold one M14NM, S/N 1479698 to R.J. Perry in Illinois. Mr. Perry questioned whether this M14NM was indeed exempt from the NFA. Sauerman assured Mr. Perry that it was exempt, based on a letter that Sauerman had received from R.J. Manion, a TRW executive. In this letter M. Manion stated,
“The subject M14 National Match Rifles, as were all M14 National Match Rifles that were manufactured by us, were designed by the U.S. Government and were manufactured and intended for use in a semiautomatic mode only.”
Further, because this rifle had been a gift by TRW to a “friend of TRW,” it had never been U.S. Government property. Thus, the Government never had an ownership interest in this privately produced rifle.
To further reassure himself and Mr. Perry, in1977 Sauerman then requested written confirmation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that these M14NM rifles were semiautomatic only and that they did not fall under the NFA. It should not be surprising that the BATF thereupon demanded forfeiture. Sauerman complied; he then went through the proper procedure to claim his rifle from the confiscation. The BATF then filed a court case for forfeiture of the defendant, TRW M14NM S/N 1453711.
The trial transcript is fascinating reading in that the judge saw through the BATF’s perfunctory demonstration of the restoration of an M14 that had been modified for match rifle use to full automatic function. The rather dry court summary fairly drips with disdain for the BATF’s efforts in this regard. The judge acknowledged that after hearing evidence that TRW manufactured the M14NMs as purely semiautomatic rifles that had never been machine guns, held for the defendant, M14NM #1453711. After all, you cannot “restore” something to a state it had never been. The judge ordered the rifle to be returned to Mr. Sauerman.
By Walt Kuleck
The TRW now resides in a private collection. The video above was the subject of an NRA TV “Gun Gurus” segment viewable on YouTube.
If you would like to learn more about the M14 rifle, check out our books “The NEW M14 Complete Owner’s Guide” and “The M14 Complete Assembly Guide” available on our website – OR GET BOTH in the M14 Bundle at a reduced price for the pair.