Whatever comes next, I hope its birthing is a bit easier than the M 16’s...
Yes, you’re right.
That said, you must admit that at the time and years later most people had no clue of how novel a design the M16 was. Cast aluminum (Very light and corrosion resistant - but very expensive to manufacture also a first); high velocity and unstable round (Small and light ammo that does a lot of damage on a human); a lay out that allows nearly complete operation with a single hand (Selector, magazine release etc); and highly modular in design (Changing the stock, upper or lower receiver, barrel is easy), made this small little weapon a trend setter others would emulate, since today S. Korea, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Australia...... all use 223. I think its overlooked that this weapon was actually quite revolutionary in concept going against the stream and to a smaller cartridge that was very fast and a slug that was inherently unstable after impact. Later the smaller high velocity concept was cloned by nearly everyone, even the Russians with their 5.45. The basic bolt design of the M16 can be found on other weapons today. The German G36 is essentially a direct clone of the M18, which was ArmaLites follow on design to the M16 and shares some design features as well. The M16 was adopted fully or in part by the armed forces of 71 different nations; and remember, the M16 is a very expensive weapon in comparison because its a cast aluminum weapon with chromed star-chamber and barrel. No way can this weapon compete in price with a stamped sheet metal gun like an AK. When the M16 came out in 1964, there were NO weapons that were this light, small, accurate, with that much firepower, and so easy to use.
For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_&_Koch_G3
The German G3 was a good weapon. It was in service all the way into this millennium with the German armed forces. The M16 has a point target range of 550 meters, the G3 400. The G3 weighs more (1.7 pounds) and is bulkier. The little 223 cartridge against a human will actually (on average) do more damage than the larger 308 because of the higher velocity and specifically instability of the slug. For the same weight and volume, an infantryman can carry about 210 rounds 223, or 120 rounds 308. The M16 upper and lower receiver is less susceptible to corrosion and the stock is synthetic vs. wood (which in the mid 60s was still the norm for a stock) See a difference?
The M16 had birthing issues. Had it not been for an extreme climate (hot and wet) combined with less that perfect ammunition, this issue would have been benign and probably not come to the forefront as it did. Nonetheless, a design with a weakness was put under the least ideal of conditions and there were many failures. This was identified and corrected quickly with the A1, but the legend of the unreliable M16 lives on.
An M16A1, and the following designs are no more or less susceptible to failure than most other assault weapons. Ive seen AKs fail, just like Ive seen Glocks, my Sig 226 and many other weapons fail. Given the right conditions you can set-up any weapon to fail or look impervious to malfunction. In reality the M16s major draw back is in design because it blows carbon down into the bolt, but this issue is minor since malfunction from this would require serious neglect, bordering on stupid. I used an M4 under arctic conditions (-68F) while in 1-17 Infantry and in Iraq at 122F (1AD). Never did this weapon fail me, but I did see an AK fail for an Iraqi guard. Misuse and or neglect can cause malfunctions on all weapons, and the M16 is generally no more susceptible than others. I too hope that the follow on weapon to the M16 has no birthing pains. I also hope we get a weapon that gives our troops a performance edge as the M16 did; that we procure a weapon that is a leap in technology and is so adaptive and universally designed, with future threat developments in mind, that like the M16 the design can viably survive 43 years and still be among the best fielded standard issue rifles in any army.