The M16 series has a very rich history. Starting with Eugene Stoner as production leader of the Armalite firearm series back in 1954. Eugene Stoner’s company, “Fairchild Engine and Airplane” produced several prototypes for military use before they were asked to design a lighter and smaller caliber firing rifle. This lead to the development of the first Armalite-15 (AR-15).
In 1959, the Armalite production rights were sold to Colt. Their first official model came out when it was adopted by the US Airforce the following year. In total, 1000 Armalites were tested in the Vietnam war. In 1967, the rifle changed name to M16. The weapon’s weight made it a handy rifle in Vietnam. The soldiers, issued with the M16, did not receive proper training, cleaning kits or supplies. This, combined with the Asian jungle, caused major problems, and the rifle gained a very bad reputation. The M16 mechanism required that the rifle stayed extremely clean to prevent problems like jams. Jamming M16s were shown on the evening news. Reports about the new US army’s rifle that got American soldiers killed came out and several investigations were set up which turned up two related problems. The cleaning issue, and the use of ball propellants instead of IMR propellants.
Training was provided and cleaning supplies were also set up. The 5.56 round was developed using one type of powder, but was changed to allow an alternate. This powder caused more fouling and increased the rate of fire.
A new buffer to decrease rate of fire combined with a chrome plated chamber and barrel to improve rust resistance, a closed prong flash-hider, forward bolt assist, new buttstock with storage for cleaning kit, and introduction of a 30-shot magazine were adopted as the M16A1 (Advance 1).
Due to worn out rifles, the army re-examined its rifle situation in the late 70’s. The project came up with these rifle issues that they improved into a new model, called M16A2:
- heavier, stiffer barrel than the barrel of the M16A1
- redesigned handguard, using two identical halves, with a round contour which is sturdier and provides a better grip when holding the rifle
- new buttstock and pistol grip made of a tougher injection moldable plastic that provides much greater resistance to breakage
- improved rear sight which can be easily adjusted for windage and range
- modified upper receiver design to deflect ejected cartridges, and preclude the possibility of the ejected cartridges hitting the face of a left-handed firer
- burst control device, that limits the number of rounds fired in the automatic mode to three per trigger pull, which increases accuracy while reducing ammunition expenditure
- muzzle compensator, designed to reduce position disclosure and improve controllability and accuracy in both burst and rapid semi-automatic fire
- heavier barrel with a 1 in 7 twist to fire NATO standard SS 109 type (M855) ammunition which is also fired from the M249 series. This further increases the effective range and penetration of the rifle cartridge. The M16A2 will also shoot the older M193 ammunition designed for a 1 in 12 twist.
The M16A2 is a popular rifle with a very long barrel (510mm). This makes the rifle a very accurate woodland rifle. The rifle uses the EG1000 motor and version 2 gearbox, giving it a high rate of fire. The rifle has some similarities to the M4A1, that the M16A1 and M16VN doesn’t have, i.e. being able to brake down very fast and fieldstrip very fast. As with all of the M16 series, it allows for use of 190 and 300 round highcap magazines. The stock can house a large battery, the rear sight is fully adjustable and the rifle has a high metal content.
One of the downsides of the M16 series is that the barrel tend to feel slightly lose. This can be fixed by buying a barrel strengthener, or by regular maintenance.