The M16A4 Assault Rifle & New Commercial Variations
By Christopher R. Bartocci
The Global War on Terrorism has shown some very interesting trends in small arms for the United States. The full size M16-series rifle has for the most part taken a back seat to the lighter and more compact M4 carbine. There is no doubt that the shorter carbine is easier to maneuver in and out of vehicles and is better for close quarter battle. There is always an exception to the rule and that is the Marine Corps. They have chosen to keep the full size battle rifle and have limited use of the M4 carbine. By tradition the Corps has always been prideful of their marksmanship skills and the 20” barrel provides additional range where their skills can truly shine.
The M16A4 (NSN 1005-01-383-2872) was a direct descendent of the advancements of the M4 carbine. The Marines were the driving force for the M16A2. To go along with their tradition of marksmanship the complex rear sight, adjustable for windage and elevation, was developed. Oddly enough, this sight was quite expensive and the Marines were the only branch that ever trained on its use and shot far enough to make it beneficial. The Army shot basically to 400 yards and that was it while the Marines shoot out to 600 yards. The Marines were also responsible for the infamous 3-round burst mechanism which would haunt the American serviceman until the more recent M4 Product Improvement Program where the burst was finally removed and the automatic setting restored. The burst mechanism has truly been mind boggling. The M16 was developed during the war in Vietnam to significantly increase the firepower on the individual level and to match the firepower of the intermediate caliber AK47. It did just that. Then the M16A2 comes along and now the firepower on the individual level was reduced. The US government was the only customer Colt had ever order a rifle with a BURST setting. Export rifles were most always shipped with the automatic configuration.
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