Tuesday, August 1, 2023

M16 Rifle: 4 Crucial Details That Might Surprise You

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sgt. Leron Richards)

Interesting Insights About the M16 – On April 19, 2022, Sig Sauer received a 10-year fixed production contract from the United States Army to manufacture variations of the Next Generation Squad Weapon. Among these, the XM5 rifle is set to replace the M4/M4A1 carbine.

This denotes the official termination of the M16 series, since the M4 was essentially a compact, updated version of the military assault rifle that was first introduced in service in 1964.

This series of military rifles, adapted from the ArmaLite AR-15, was initially employed for jungle warfare during the Vietnam War. By 1969, the enhanced M16A1 replaced the M14 as the standard service rifle for the U.S. military.

It subsequently became the longest-serving rifle in the history of the U.S. military.

M16: A Brief Overview

Numerous versions of the M16 have been produced and it has been adopted extensively by military and paramilitary forces globally. With around eight million units manufactured, it is the most produced weapon of the 5.56x45mm type in service today. The latest iteration, the M16A4, was adopted in 1997. This model features a removable carry handle and a Picatinny rail for mounting optics and other auxiliary devices.

It's worth noting that the M16A4 lacks a "full-auto mode". After the Vietnam War, an evaluation of M16 assault rifle usage revealed that firing on full-auto beyond three rounds typically resulted in unnecessary ammunition wastage. Therefore, the full-auto mode was substituted with a three-round burst mode.

M16: The Inventor's Journey

Besides firearm enthusiasts and historians, few people know the name of the AR-15/M16's inventor, Eugene Stoner (November 22, 1922 – April 24, 1997). As a United States Marine Corps veteran and engineer at ArmaLite, a division of Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corporation, he designed several prototype small arms, including the AR-3, AR-9, AR-11, and AR-12. However, these models never saw significant production.

Stoner's first successful design was the AR-5 survival rifle, a bolt action takedown rifle chambered for the .22 Hornet cartridge. Following this success, he worked on the innovative ArmaLite AR-10, a select-fire infantry rifle chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. Though it showed promise, it failed to gain sufficient interest from the military. Stoner refined it, resulting in the AR-15 – a firearm that went on to define his career.

Training Troops with a Comic Book

In Vietnam, the M-16 experienced a rocky start, with frequent jamming issues exacerbated by incorrect claims that the firearm was "self-cleaning". As such, it earned the nickname "Jamming Jenny".

To promote proper maintenance of the M-16, the U.S. military distributed a comic book explaining the cleaning tools and the significance of regular upkeep in a departure from previous manuals.

This 32-page booklet, The M-16A1 Rifle: Operation and Preventative Maintenance, written by renowned cartoonist William Erwin Eisner, featured colorful illustrations and sexual innuendos. It even included a voluptuous blonde providing instructions. Reprints of the manual are now available on Amazon.com.

Featured in Time Magazine

The development of the AK-47 by the Soviets was kept under wraps post-World War II. Unlike the AK-47, the AR-15 had a very American unveiling.

In 1963, Arthur Rickerby of Colt introduced the AR-15 to Time and LIFE magazines. The weapon was held by Maria Fletcher, the 1962 Miss America pageant winner.

The publication of the article and photos coincidentally occurred on the same day as President John F. Kennedy's assassination - November 22, 1963 - which resulted in the AR-15's introduction being largely forgotten. Interestingly, it was in Dallas, the site of Kennedy's assassination, where the Secret Service had been issued the AR-15 for the first time. This coincidence led to conspiracy theories about Secret Service agent George Hickey potentially being the "second shooter".

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