The British Military Open Encyclopedia - ARRSE-Pedia. Back to British Army Rumour Service Home

M16 Rifle Series

From ARRSEpedia
Revision as of 19:09, 21 March 2011 by Biggus Dickus (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search


The Colt M16 was developed from the AR15 Rifle designed in the late 1950s. It is fundamentally a scaled-down AR-10. The ArmaLite division of Fairchild Aircraft Industries, employed Eugene Stoner to design a new assault rifle for the US forces. The AR-10 was the result, but Stoner sought a design which would lighten the infantryman's burden.

Seeking greater hitting power, he redesigned a civilian (.222" Remington) hunting round. Giving it a longer case (and therefore a heavier charge) he renamed it the .223" Remington. It delivered its 55-grain projectile at a muzzle velocity of around 3250 feet per second. The rifling imparted just enough spin to stabilise the bullet in flight. On contact with a solid object, however, the bullet would topple, delivering maximum energy to the target. The design team of Robert Fremont and L. James Sullivan then set to work to make the weapon itself - the AR15.

When the USAF employed South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) troops as Airfield Defence Guards in Vietnam in 1963, they equipped them with their new lightweight assault rifle, by then known as the M16. The weapon proved very popular with the ARVN, whose light-framed soldiers found the then standard 7.62mm NATO M14 heavy and cumbersome. After trials and evaluation by the US Special Forces in South-East Asia, the weapon was adopted by the US Army, and has continued in service ever since.

The whole concept, with extensive use of aircraft-grade aluminium alloy and plastics in its construction, was designed to save weight. Even the beefed-up .223" (5.56mm) round was considerably lighter than the 7.62mm round. There was no gas-piston: gas was tapped into an above-barrel gas tube, entered a doughnut shaped chamber formed between the bolt and the bolt carrier, the expanding gas driving the bolt carrier backwards in order to achieve extraction and reload. The non-reciprocating cocking system meant that a "forward assist" plunger was required in case the bolt failed to seat after cocking.

Extensive sales to South American and South East Asian armies, plus contracts with the US armed forces, kept the production lines open through the 1970s into the 1990s. It outsold the European 7.62mm rifles in these markets, despite its relatively short service life compared to the more robust FN FAL. The Israeli Army adopted a carbine version for its Special Forces, and the CAR15 weapons system in service today, is much prized for its versatility.

The current version on issue to the US Army is the M16A2 - basically a slightly-lengthened and strengthened version of the original. The Fijian Army recently replaced their long-serving 7.62mm L1A1s with M16A2s.