Early Testing and Evaluation of the U.S. AR-15/M16 Rifle

By Frank Iannamico

Today, many associate the name AR-15 with a Colt-made semiautomatic rifle manufactured for the civilian market. However, prior to its adoption by the U.S. military and being named the M16, the select-fire rifle was designated as the AR-15.

Before the AR-15’s official adoption as the U.S. M16, the weapon underwent a long series of trials and evaluations, most of them directly comparing it to the Standard A infantry rifle at the time, the 7.62mm M14.

The M14 was officially adopted on May 1, 1957, to replace the M1 Garand rifle, but due to peace-time budgets, series production did not start until 1959. About the same time, Colt bought the rights to the AR-15 from Armalite and began trying to sell the weapon to the U.S. Army.

The conflict in Vietnam was beginning to escalate during the same period. By 1961, the steady progress of the insurgency was reaching crisis levels. The new Kennedy administration increased American support for the South Vietnamese government. By December of 1961, 3,200 U.S. military personnel were in Vietnam as advisors, which included Army Green Beret instructors and CIA personnel. The U.S. effort was supported by millions of dollars in military equipment and economic aid. Many surplus World War II weapons were provided to the South Vietnamese Army. The Vietnamese soldiers, generally being of small stature, had difficulty handling the M1 Garand rifle, and as a result, the handy lightweight M1 and M2 carbines became quite popular. However, as in World War II and Korea, the carbine proved to lack stopping power in many situations. As the war progressed, newer M14 rifles were issued to U.S. and Vietnamese troops. Like the M1 rifle, the M14 proved difficult to handle for the Vietnamese. Additionally, the M14 proved to be poorly suited to jungle warfare, due in part to its 44.3-inch length and powerful cartridge.

Although the M14 had a full-auto feature, most of the rifles issued had their selectors replaced with a “lock,” making the rifles capable of only semiautomatic operation. This was done to keep troops from wasting ammunition, and...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N2 (February 2018)
and was posted online on December 22, 2017


12-22-2017 7:10 AM

You found a copy of the Hitch Report!

The page shown in Image 2 is the infamous

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