The U.S. M16 rifle platform in all its variations-from the first ArmaLite-marked AR-15s to the latest-issue M4A1-has served U.S. troops for more than a half-century. Two quotes sum up the M16’s reputation as America’s longest serving combat rifle:
“Believe it or not, you know what killed most of us. Our own rifle.
Before we left Okinawa we were all issued this new rifle, the M16. Practically every one of our dead was found with his rifle torn down next to him where he tried to fix it.” -U.S. Marine’s letter in Congressional testimony after the Hill Fights, May 1967
“We think that we have come as close to perfection as you can come.” -Commandant of the Marine Corps General Paul X. Kelly after the adoption of the M16A2, 1982.
So how did that happen? How did a rifle that got our soldiers and Marines killed on the battlefields of Vietnam go on to become the dominant combat rifle of the U.S. military for the last half century? And how has it served our troops as a combat rifle?
We answered those questions and more at an American Rifleman Special Presentation on “U.S. M16: A Half-Century of America’s Combat Rifle” at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis. If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry. Many of the images and the interviews from the presentation also appeared on “American Rifleman Television” in a two-part look at the U.S. M16. The first part deals with the adoption and early use of the M16, while the second concentrates on the M16A2 and the carbine versions of the design.