What contemporary soldier has not "met" the M16A1 or any one of its
variants, the A2, A3 or A4 service rifle - on this end or the business end of its 20-inch barrel?
The M16, Rifle, Caliber 5.56mm, can trace its lineage to designer Eugene
Stoner of the Armalite Company. After World War II, the U.S. realized its
need for an infantry rifle with enhanced firepower and greater likelihood of inflicting casualties on the enemy.
But greater firepower meant grunts (like us) had to haul all that heavy
brass, so a lighter service rifle - with a whole lot lighter ammunition - became
critical to the mission. And in 1954, Stoner came up with Armalite's design, the AR-10 in 7.62mm.
It was lighter than the competition and offered better accuracy and less recoil.
That's when R&D suggested an even lighter round - the .22 as the solution.
After Stoner's AR-10 was turned down, Armalite got renewed life with a new
rifle design based on the lighter, faster, hard-hitting .22 caliber, i.e., the AR-15 in .223.
Before long, the AR-15 got its start with the U.S. Air Force, followed by the
other branches. After trial and error the AR-15 became the M16 with that rifle's
array of models and uses that became the mainstay of our armed forces these many years later.
The M16 assault rifle is chambered in 5.56mm (.223). It is air-cooled and
gas-operated. The military and civilian versions, of which more than 8 million
copies have been made, are fed variously by 5-, 10-, 20-, 30-round (or greater) box magazines.
Empty, it weighs just 8 1/2-pounds, and it is compact and maneuverable at a
svelte 39 1/2 inches long. But here's where it gets to be fun - the M16 is capable
of a cyclic rate of fire approaching 900 rounds per at a bullet whizzing muzzle
velocity exceeding 3,000 feet per second. And it's accurate out to and beyond distances of more than 600 yards.
There are proponents of the enhanced penetrating power and battlefield durability
of the Russian AK-47. And without question, Comrade Kalashnikov designed one hell
of an assault rifle. But there's no disputing the fact that Armalite's design led
to one of the finest infantry rifles placed in the hands of today's battlefield combatants - the M16.
Test-drive the semi-auto civilian version, the AR-15, at a gun shop near you!