The M16 Assault Rifle: A Weapon Of Choice

The M16 is among the most widely used and most popular assault rifles across the globe.  It is highly likely that its popularity will continue for decades to come.

What Is It?

The M16 assault rifle is a light-weight, selective-fire, gas-operated weapon.  Armalite designed the rifle to meet the requirements of a new assault rifle for the United States Army.  In its unloaded state, the rifle weighs 7.18 pounds and when it is loaded, the weight goes up to 8.79 pounds.  The A1, A2, A3 and A4 are the four variants of the M16 rifle.

The weapon currently has a good service record and is widely viewed as an adequate military rifle.  It is highly reliable, particularly when well-maintained and it is quite accurate and comfortable to fire.  It has a few moving parts and an extremely simple operating system.  This means less is there to jam and cause problems.  In addition, the rifle can be easily broken down and cleaned.   In fact, the M16 assault rifle is a Modular Weapon System.  This means it can be easily assembled, modified and repaired with the use of a few hand tools.

Uses of the M16 Rifle

The M16 rifle is used by the United States and 14 other members of NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  In addition, the rifle is used in over 80 countries around the world.  This weapon is used by the police, military, revolutionaries, security forces, criminals, terrorists and law-abiding civilians.

The M16 is even used by hunters.  Its dependability and accuracy are craved by hunters in search of a gun.  Additionally, it is used by a number of long-range competitive shooters.


After the rifle was designed by Eugene Stoner, it was delegated as the AR-15.  Among the main benefits of the Stoner design, which is important to mention, is its extremely flexible construction.  In 1958, the first AR-15 rifles from Armalite were delivered for testing to the US Army.  Accuracy and reliability problems surfaced during the initial tests.  Colt bought all rights to the design of the rifle in 1959.  The original rifle designer later left Armalite to join Colt.  A consignment of 1000 of these assault rifles were sent to Vietnam by the Colt Company for field trials in 1962.

The US Army and the US Air Force officially adopted the weapon as the M16 in 1964.  Variants of this rifle are currently in service within the US Military and more than 80 global operators worldwide.  The rifle is still manufactured in China, Canada and the USA.


The initial models of the rifle had a range of just 450 meters.   Improvements were made to later models to enhance accuracy and range.  Additionally, the M16 rifle has a progressive design that places the barrel in the same axis as buttstock.  This characteristic increases accuracy and decreases muzzle climb.  This happens because, instead of upwards, the recoil force is directed towards the back.

The fire mode selector switch doubles as the safety switch and can be found above the pistol grip, on the left of the receiver.  “Full-auto,” “semi-auto” and “safe” are the three positions found on the mode selector switch.  At the back of the receiver is a cocking handle that will not reciprocate when the rifle is fired.  On the right of the weapon is the ejection port.

Manufacturing Philosophies

The M16 assault rifle is a 5.56×45mm, select-fire, direct impingement gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed weapon that has a straight-line recoil and rotating-bolt design.  Above all else, the weapon was designed to be lightweight to fire a high-velocity, lightweight, small-caliber cartridge to enable soldiers to carry more ammunition.  Its design paved the way for it to be manufactured via state-of-the-art CNC or Computer Numerical Control automated machinery, with the extensive use of synthetic materials and aluminum.


The well-designed safety lever of the M16 can be easily manipulated by the thumb of the user and is located on the left of the gun.  This makes it easy to maintain a firmer hold on the pistol grip.

With the proper mind-set, training and practice, soldiers armed with the M16 rifle can be deadly.  However, its direct-impingement gas-operation system, smaller caliber and straight-line recoil design makes it almost effortless to control in full auto and gives the rifle less recoil.

The Stoner system gives a symmetric design that enables straight-line movement of the operating parts.  That enables recoil forces to be driven straight to the back.  As opposed to connecting or the system being driven by other mechanical parts, the function is performed by high-pressure gas.  This reduces the weight of the weapon as a whole.  The point of aim is not considerably shifted by recoil and as such, user fatigue is lowered and quicker follow-up shots are achievable.

The M16 is a weapon of choice for many and its popularity is showing no sign of slowing down in the near future.