The M16 is a gas operated, selective
fire weapon, chambered for the 5.56 x 45 mm (.223 Remington) round. At the time of it’s introduction the M16 had many flaws, however many of them were fixed and this weapon is considered as one of the best assault rifles in the world. It is a reliable, accurate and comfortable to fire weapon, however it can not match reliability of the famous AK-47 or AK-74.
The M16 entered United States Army service as the M16A1 and was deployed for jungle warfare in South Vietnam in 1963, becoming the standard U.S. rifle of the Vietnam War by 1969; replacing the M14 rifle in that role. The U.S. Army retained the M14 in CONUS, Europe, and South Korea until 1970. Since the Vietnam War, the M16 rifle family has been the primary infantry rifle of the U.S. military. With its variants, it has been in use by 15 NATO countries, and is the most produced firearm in its caliber.
The M16 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed assault rifle, with a rotating bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation. The rifle is made of steel, aluminum, composite plastics and polymer materials.
The U.S. Air Force’s rifle, the M16, and the United States Marine Corps and Army rifle, the XM16E1, were the first versions of the M16 rifle fielded. Soon, the Army standardized the XM16E1 as the M16A1 rifle, an M16 with a forward assist feature requested by the Army. All of the early versions were chambered to fire the M193/M196 cartridge in the semi-automatic and the automatic firing modes. This occurred in the early 1960s, with the Army issuing it in late 1964. Commercial AR-15s were first issued to Special Forces troops in spring of 1964.
The M16A2 rifle entered service in the 1980s, chambered to fire the standard NATO cartridge, the Belgian-designed M855/M856 cartridge. The M16A2 is a select-fire rifle (semi-automatic fire, three-round-burst fire) incorporating design elements requested by the Marine Corps: an adjustable, windage rear-sight; a stock 5/8-inch longer; heavier barrel; case deflector for left-hand shooters; and cylindrical hand guards. The fire mode selector is on the receiver’s left side. The M16A2 is still the primary rifle in the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and still is in heavy use in the Army and Marine Corps.
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The M16A3 rifle is an M16A2 rifle with an M16A1’s fire-mode control (semi-automatic fire, automatic fire) used only by the U.S. Navy.
The M16 and it’s variants are compatible with the M203 40-mm underbarrel grenade launcher popular among many troops offering additional firepower to fire teams. Some variants of the M16 can be used with flash hiders by placing the flash hider over the wire and firing
The M16A4 rifle was standard issue for the United States Marine Corps in Operation Iraqi Freedom; it replaced the M16A2 in front line units. In the U.S. Army the M16A2 rifle is being supplemented with two rifle models, the M16A4 and the M4 carbine as the standard issue assault rifle. The M16A4 has a flat-top receiver developed for the M4 carbine, a handguard with four Picatinny rails for mounting a sight, laser, night vision device, forward handgrip, removable handle, or a flashlight.
The M16 rifle is principally manufactured by Colt and Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (under a U.S. military contract since 1988 by FNH-USA; currently in production since 1991, primarily M16A2, A3, and A4), with variants made elsewhere in the world. Versions for the U.S. military have also been made by H & R Firearms General Motors Hydramatic Division and most recently by Sabre Defence. Semi-automatic versions of the AR-15 are popular recreational shooting rifles, with versions manufactured by other small and large manufacturers in the U.S.