Skip to comments.How Reliable Is the M-16 Rifle? Part I
Posted on 11/03/2009 4:58:22 AM PST by Saije
Few issues are more personal to soldiers than the question of whether they can trust their rifles. And few rifles in history have generated more controversy over their reliability than the American M-16 assault rifle and its carbine version, the M-4.
In recent weeks, a fresh round of complaints about weapon malfunctions in Afghanistan, mentioned in an Army historians report that documented small-arms jamming during the fierce battle in Wanat last year, has rekindled the discussion. Are the M-16 and M-4 the best rifles available for American troops? Or are they fussy and punchless and less than ideal for war?
Dont expect a clear answer any time soon. Expect several clear answers at once many of them contradictory. This is because when talk turns to the M-16 and the M-4, it enters emotionally charged territory. The conversation is burdened by history, cluttered with conflicting anecdotes, and argued over by passionate camps.
This much is indisputable: Since the mid-1960s, when at Gen. William C. Westmorelands request an earlier version of the M-16 became the primary American rifle in Vietnam, the reputation of the M-16 family has been checkered.
This is in part because the rifle had a painfully flawed roll-out. Beginning intensely in 1966, soldiers and Marines complained of the weapons terrifying tendency to jam mid-fight. Whats more, the jamming was often one of the worst sorts: a phenomenon known as failure to extract, which meant that a spent cartridge case remained lodged in the chamber after a bullet flew out the muzzle.
(Excerpt) Read more at atwar.blogs.nytimes.com ...
Been through this one about a “hunderd” times, but personally I like them and their variations. Been running them for over 30 years.
I’m not blaming you, but this same topic has been written ad nauseum this year by numerous authors and numerous titles. What is behind all this knocking of the M16?
“I don’t know but someone who would told me a long time ago that the M16 jammed a lot. And that the M-14 was better.”
The original M16 did. The M14 fails too (extractors popping out, for instance). All machines fail. Even the vaunted AK.
The M-14 was better for the 1960s/post Nuclear battlefield. The 7.62mm ( is too powerfull for CQB.
This is more blame Bush and trying to excuse 0bama for a lack of policy in Afghanistan.
There is nothing wrong with the M-16. What is the main battle weapon of the israeli Army? Nuff said.
“Im not blaming you, but this same topic has been written ad nauseum this year by numerous authors and numerous titles. What is behind all this knocking of the M16?”
The article caught my eye for that very reason, that it seems like the debate never ends. And as someone who’s never fired any kind of weapon I find it interesting that there is this controversy (and I’m probably in the minority on that!), mostly because the person who first told me about it was a Marine who was in Vietnam in 1966-67 when they were switched from the M-14 to the M-16. And didn’t like it.
A while back, I had the Springfield Armory M-1A, which is the civilian version of the M-14. It’s a great gun and I’ll probably buy another with a match barrel and composite stock someday. My military friends all liked it but it’s not light and the ammo can get pretty heavy, too.
My young Marine friends haven’t had problems with jamming but they keep their firearms (they also have AR sporter rifles) pristine. However, the M-16/AR-15 platform is getting long in the tooth. Barrett and Heckler & Koch have some new alternatives, similar to the existing platform, the US military is testing. I think both are chambered in 6.8MM (something in between the current 5.56MM and the M-14’s 7.62MM).
M-16 = rounds have less punch, but one can carry more ammo.
M-14 = more powerfull rounds, but can't carry as many.
The personal weapon of most IDF soldiers is the M16, particularly, the M16A2, shortened CAR-15, M4, and M4A1 assault rifles. The majority of regular-service Infantry Corps soldiers are equipped with the shortened M16, but the longer model is still in use among recruits and reserve forces. In 2005, the IMI Tavor assault rifle was brought to operational use, and is intended to become the corps’ principal assault rifle in the future.
about the Tavor : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMI_Tavor_TAR-21
The M-16 is a fine piece of machinery, as such it needs care to keep it going. The Garrand was also a fine piece, if it could have lost some weight through modification (new alloys, fiber stock)it would still be a fine piece. All weapons have initial flaws that have to be worked out after fielding. The M-16 is probably as reliable as the most reliable weapon out there. It also has better accuracy than most.
Heckler & Koch?
Do we have to always go overseas to purchase weapons for the military?
“My M-4gery (Rock River AR-14) is great but it did jam once due to me not cleaning it. The tolerances are tight as they should be and any carbon buildup in the chamber could cause a jam. Overall I love the AR-15.
I’ve got the National Match A2 from Rock River. Never a jam. Unfortunately, my M14 can’t say the same. Not really the design’s fault, though.
ALWAYS clean the chamber of any self-loading rifle at least every few hundred rounds. Especially something with a slightly tighter chamber than an M16. (RRA uses Bill Wylde’s chamber specs).
Even the earliest M16 worked better than our politicians.
“I think both are chambered in 6.8MM (something in between the current 5.56MM and the M-14s 7.62MM).”
It’s very unlikely they’ll add an additional caliber to the supply chain.
Anything mechanical is prone to failure at some given point.
I have had the opportunity of firing most of the older and newer versions of the M16/M4 family, as well as some of the newer technologies available. There are some good ones out there, SCAR, SiG, even the new Ruger. But none of these are battlefield tested. Piston systems, similar to the AK also have problems aside from the 'cleaner' advantage.
The main issue with any of these is caliber.
The 5.56x45 is an excellent round but lacks a lot downrange. The 6.8 SPC is exceptional for longer range accuracy and energy, as is being needed in Afghanistan, where the heavier M14 in 7.62x51 is making another comeback as a battlefield weapon.
But what it all really comes down to, in it's simplest form, is the M4 is light, handy, maneuverable, accurate within it's limits. And when you are carrying around, body armor, pack(40 lbs), ammo, scope, radio, etc, it makes a difference.
I agree. I was in Vietnam in 1967-68 and know that it had to be clean. The powder they used back then was very dirty. I think that caused a lot of the problems.
We had problems with fte any time the weapon got hot and had a lot of problems during Desert Shield when we first arrived in the middle east. The weapons had been stored with a light coating of oil and the fine sand combined with the oil and made the rifle a single shot. Guys who weren't on the front lines didn't find out that their rifle was a paperweight until they got into a firefight.
The 5.56 uses a slow rate of rifling to keep the bullet barely stable during flight. The slow rotation allows the bullet to tumble when it strikes soft tissue and cause more damage. The slow rotation and ultra velocity combine to cause the bullets to fragment or tumble if they hit anything during travel.
The light bullet doesn't always do the job, especially at long ranges. The only real firefight that I was in during Desert Storm took place at around a quarter of a mile. We found blood after the battle indicating that we had scored hits, but all of the bad guys were able to continue fighting and leave under their own power. I think that a larger projectile would have improved our odds. During that battle, two of the seven weapons jammed and one couldn't be cleared until after the fighting was over. You really don't want to resort to a 9mm pistol when the enemy is a quarter mile away.
I had one AR-15 that jammed sometimes, and broke TWICE. And two AK-47’s that never broke OR jammed!