The term ‘battle rifle’ refers to any military-grade rifle that fires a full-power cartridge. They’re heavier than assault rifles, have stronger recoils and often default to semi-automatic, meaning that their usage has died down considerably and they callback to the WWII era of weaponry. That being said, they’re still found in all branches of the American military today, and with the M14 being one of the most famous battle rifles, its lengthy career has made it a standard sight in the arsenals of various first-person shooters.
Due to its roots as a battle rifle, it’s a popular choice for filling the “semi-auto combat rifle” category, bridging the gap between the sniper rifles and the assault rifles, and it’s almost always classified as one or the other. Many multiplayer military shooters use the M14 in this fashion, such as Call of Duty Black Ops and Rainbow Six. In Payday 2, the M308 (named for its .308 in cartridge) is the only select-fire rifle that fires in semi-auto by default, and while it enjoys the stopping power and high damage of the assault rifle category, it lacks the bullet penetration mechanic that defines the sniper rifle category. This nevertheless makes it one of the most customizable rifles in the game, excellent for almost any build or playstyle. In the prequel Payday the Heist, it retains its popularity due to being the most well-rounded weapon, with a generous firing speed and quick reload times.
It’s far more common for games to classify the M14 as a sniper rifle, especially due to it being a very popular modern hunting rifle. The Hunting Rifle in Left 4 Dead is the centerpiece of any designated marksman’s loadout, with the only aim-down-sight mechanic in the game. While it retains a rate of fire as rapid as the user can pull the trigger, it’s one of the worst weapons to be carrying against a horde. In Left 4 Dead 2, when it needs to compete directly with the new Sniper Rifle, it becomes the better sniper rifle for crescendos due to regaining accuracy faster than its counterpart and being more accurate at a dead sprint.
The M14 reminds me a lot of the SCAR rifle due to both bridging the gap between sniper rifles and assault rifles. But while the SCAR is closer to an assault rifle that retains some sniper-esque properties, the M14 sits closer on the sniper side of the spectrum. Sometimes, in games where the player isn’t supposed to be overly combat-capable, the devs use a battle rifle as the most powerful weapon available to the player. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare calls its M14 the ‘Carbine Rifle‘, in contrast to the opposing ‘Hunting Rifle.’ Once again, the Carbine Rifle is the best rifle for general combat (and my favorite weapon in the whole game), with respectable stats across the bar and middling damage, making it best for taking on clusters of smaller enemies. Killing Floor 2 also uses the M14 as the most versatile sniper rifle in the roster. Its laser sight makes it the best sniper rifle for hipfire accuracy, not to mention general combat due to Tier 3’s railgun coming with severe ammo and accuracy penalties. This helped it to regain a lot of the popularity that it lacked in the prequel, though the Crossbow no longer being god-tier definitely helped.
Notice a pattern? The M14 is a sniper rifle for people who aren’t afraid to find themselves in the thick of things. It has the firing speed to reward players who can maintain rapidfire accuracy, and every bullet packs enough of a punch to make those shots count. It’s no surprise that it shows up in games of any modern era, and I doubt it’s going away any time soon.