Black Hawk Down Guns: The Shughart M14

As a person with many interests those being things like guns, movies, a fascination with the militaries of the world and history, it’s fun to take on projects where all those lineup. As a result, I’ve found myself increasingly interested in cloning weapons of famous guns used around the world. I’m drawn to all the obvious ones that most people with the same interests are. Guns like the M16A1, a Rhodesian “Baby Poop Camo” painted FAL, the FNC, M1 Garand, etc. are all guns I hope to add to my gun safe one day. One gun on the list that I have been fortunate to add is the M14. More accurately the civilian version, the M1A. I purchased an M1A with the sole purpose of creating a clone look-a-like rifle that matched the M14 from the movie Black Hawk Down that was carried by the actor Johnny Strong as he played the role of Randy Shughart on screen.

I’m not naive enough to think I’m the first person who has ever been intrigued enough by this rifle to attempt to build one like it. But in this article, I will show you how to create an aesthetic clone of Shughart's M14 from the movie for as little money as possible.

Man Looking down at the Black Hawk Down M14


First, if by chance you’ve never heard of this rifle or you don’t understand the fascination with it. Let me say that it’s not just the rifle it’s the story behind it. Stories are a great motivator for us, we remember them, they drive us, inspire us, and we retell them for generations. The story of both Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon during Operation Gothic Serpent is one of bravery, sacrifice, and compassion.

Randall David Shughart (August 13, 1958 – October 3, 1993)

Randall (Randy) David Shughart held the rank of Seargent First Class in the United States Army and served in the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment- Delta. Randy and the Delta Force Team were assisting Army Rangers on Operation Gothic Serpent in October 1993 in Mogadishu Somalia. The mission was an assault mission to apprehend advisors to Mohamed Farrah Aidid and it was to be a short operation. A Black Hawk helicopter with the call sign Super Six-One was shot down. Later that day the Black Hawk helicopter Super Six-Four was shot down. With all of the ground forces still trying to help Super Six-One, there was no one left to help at the crash site of Super Six-Four. Gordon and Shughart were a sniper team providing sniper cover from the air in helicopter Super Six-Two. The men wanted to get on the ground, check for survivors and defend the crash of Six-Four. Their request was denied by command twice but the men persisted. As the city swarmed closer to the crash site, finally they were allowed to get on the ground. Shughart and Gordon are dropped 100 meters from the sight and the two men hold off a horde of Somali attackers and ultimately save the life of the lone survivor of the crash, Cheif Warrant Officer Mike Durant. By most accounts Gordon was killed first, Shughart returned to an injured Mike Durant giving him Gordon’s carbine to fight with. Shughart returned to the battle alone and was killed shortly after. Both Gordon and Shughart laid down their lives to save their brothers in arms. Shughart and Gordon were both awarded purple hearts and medals of honor for their bravery and sacrifice. When the smoke had cleared it is said that there were 25 dead Somali attackers scattered around the site. Mike Durant survived and is alive today. The story and the iconic look of Shughart’s M14 make it one of the most famous military firearms in cinematic history as well as military history. I have the utmost respect for the two men and as a gun enthusiast and creator, I wanted to do a project that could hopefully honor their memory.

GunSpot Black Hawk Down M14 Build


So now let’s talk about the build. Let me say when it came to my build I made it match the M14 seen in the movie the best I could, not what Shughart’s rifle would have actually been like. His rifle was never recovered so we don’t know exactly what it was like, although there are people who have done a lot of digging to give us a pretty good idea. Just know that my build is like the movie version and only in aesthetic only. I also only used widely available commercial parts nothing particular found by scouring the internet.

Painting M14

The first thing you need is an M1A, of course. I chose to get the FDE stock Standard Issue M1A from Springfield Armory. This rifle gets us about 70% of the way to looking like Shughart's rifle. No doubt about it the rifle in the movie is a full-length M14 just like the Standard Issue M1A. The next thing you need to pull off the look is of course a 20 round magazine.

Installing ARMS 18

The next biggest part of the build, which is also the hardest part of the build, is to get a red dot on the rifle like Shughart's. Now, the optic rail used in the movie is super low, like really, really low. The optic is sitting right on top of the action. It’s not high like normal optic mounts for the M14 platform. It’s also not forward of the action like scout optics. The lowest optic mount I can find to give us that look is the ARMS #18 mount. In the movie which was released in 2001, it looks as if the rifle has a split rail mount. Meaning the part over the action is open but there are some Picatinny slots at the rear and front of the receiver. In the movie, there is a single scope ring at the front of the receiver holding an Aimpoint CompM. Today the CompM is not easily attainable, and I couldn’t find a split mount like that either. It also should be noted that Shughart would have had an older Aimpoint, probably the Aimpoint 2000 according to my findings.

Anyways, for my build, I used the ARMS #18 mount because it had the appropriate height. I used an Aimpoint PRO for the optic and I kept the original mount on the Aimpoint PRO I just removed the spacer to make it sit lower. The Aimpoint PRO has a nearly identical aesthetic to the CompM and can still be put in a singular scope ring should you desire that. But as you will see this setup is very close to the movie.

M14 ARMS 18 mount on an M1A Standard

With the ARMS #18, mount, and the Aimpoint PRO installed we are now about 90% of the way to the finished product. Next, I picked up some Krylon Black Camo spray paint from the store and painted some stripes on it to have a camo that matched the movie. I pulled up a picture on google of where the stripes were and I attempted to match it. To me it looks like he had thinner stripes on the gun than I usually paint so I held the can closer to get the paint strip narrower. Before painting, I took the gun out of the stock and the handguard off as well as the rubber but pad.

After putting the gun back together I ended up putting on a national match leather sling to get the same look from the film. For the sling, I actually got an older used sling so that it had that worn aesthetic to make the rifle look like it’s seen some hard use.

M14 Black Hawk Down inspired custom Springfield Armory m1a

After all, that is said and done the build is complete. Like I said earlier, I didn’t do anything that wasn’t aesthetic. I didn’t dive deep into what trigger Shughart would have had, or glass bedding of the action, etc. I only tried to match it in appearance and not performance. I have seen some people online claiming that he would have had a magnified optic like a scope since he was a sniper. I don't doubt that he had a setup like that for certain missions but for providing sniper cover from a helo it’s most likely that he did use a red dot sight.

If you feel like I left out Gary Gordon fret not, I made a video about cloning the Gordon Carbine too. It’s on my YouTube Channel GunSpot right now. So feel free to check it out. As for the Shughart M14, it’s one of the most iconic weapons and I’m proud to have one that resembles the legendary rifle.

Gear Used:




Dylan C. @ GunSpot
Dylan C. @ GunSpot

I'm the Creative Director at GunSpot. My main job is to create content that you can read or watch on The GunSpot Academy. I'm a video guy first and foremost but now, as you can see, I guess I'm an author too. Only out of necessity though!