M16a2 Rifle

Nearly five decades have passed since the M16 rifle went into service with the United States military. A modified version of this lightweight, assault weapon called the M16A2 rifle remains a standard issue of American soldiers heading off to Iraq and Afghanistan, just as it was for those in the Vietnam War era. The M16’s versatility and accuracy not only keeps it an important weapon for America, but for more than 80 other nations.

The design of the M16A2 rifle came as a request from the Marines after their experiences in Vietnam. The Marines wanted improvements to help facilitate their jobs. The front grip changed from triangular to round shape, helping fit all hand sizes. A notch for the middle finger helped with a better grip. Designers expanded the front barrel thickness, preventing bending during battles and to help cool the rifles between shots. The new model also let soldiers attach a grenade launcher.

These once fully-automatic rifles now perform with three-round bursts of firepower. Those without proper training would often hold down the trigger of a fully-automatic rifle and spray unnecessary amounts of bullets when in battle. The U.S. Army hoped that the three shot blasts would help save ammunition and give better accuracy.

How the M16 Evolved

The Army recruited civilians in 1948 to study more than three million battlefield reports from World War I and World War II. This group determined from the evidence that combat usually happened within a short distance.

Reports also determined that more casualties occurred because of the number of bullets fired, not the accuracy of the troops and their military guns. Those in power realized their soldiers needed shorter, more lightweight, fully-automatic rifles with many rounds of ammunition to carry into battle.

Armalite Inc. developed the first M16 in 1957 and called it AR-15. Colt bought the license and design in 1959. These rifles were first used by elite forces in South East Asia. The U.S. Army renamed it the M16 rifle and began using it in 1967 as a standard infantry weapon for all U.S. military. Different versions of the M16 and M16a were designed through the years. In 1983, the Army began issuing the M16A2.

The Benefits of the M16A2

This semi-automatic weapon provides a good balanced weapon with the lightweight power of a submachine gun along with the range and stopping power of a battle rifle. Designers gave the rifle a gas-operated rotating bolt. In battle, a soldier can shoot 90 rounds per minute.

The shoulder or hip-fired weapon only weighs about 8.5 pounds with a 30 round magazine. That makes it much easier to carry around in urban, jungle or desert conditions. The magazine-fed weapon can fire all NATO standard 5.56mm ammunition and 40mm grenades when an M203 grenade launcher is attached. The heavier barrel on the rifle also allows soldiers to use the NATO standard SS 109 type (M855) ammunition along with the older M193 ammunition.

Colt Manufacturing and Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing Inc. in Belgium produce the M16A2 rifles. To replace a rifle, the cost is about 600 dollars. The cost goes up when more attachments are added.

Users of the M16A2

These military guns are used in battles to hit moving targets accurately from a fox hole or through a window. Because of their quick-fire ability, instead of spraying a room with automatic fire, M16A2’s are also effective tools inside buildings.

The M16A2 is not used for long-range targets or against reinforced concrete. However, the continued and concentrated firing of 5.56 mm rounds can break some structures. The Army and Marines both have adopted the M16A2 as their standard weapon.

The power and ease of a M16 make it a popular gun to highlight in:

  • movies
  • television
  • video games.

A U.S. law in 1986 ended the manufacturing of fully-automatic M16 firearms for civilians. However, many still remain in circulation because they had been so readily available.