The US Army uses the M16A4

M16 (rifle)

The M16-Rifle, designation of the US Department of Defense (DOD) RIFLE 5.56-MM, M16, was introduced in 1967 as an orderly weapon of the US armed forces. In the meantime, it has largely been replaced by the Colt M4, a shorter, improved variant of the AR-15 system.

general information
Civil name: AR-15
Military designation: M16
(M16A1, M16A2, M16A3, M16A4)
Country of assignment: United States and more than 80 other countries, see use
Developer / Manufacturer: Eugene Stoner, James Sullivan, ArmaLite Inc.,
Colt Defense LLC /
Colt Defense LLC
Fabrique Nationale (FN)
Production time: since 1960
Model variants: please refer Model overview
Weapon Category: Assault rifle
Overall length: depending on the model
~ 980 mm
Weight: (uncharged)depending on the model
~ 3.8 kg
Barrel length: 508 mm
Technical specifications
Caliber: 5.56 × 45 mm NATO
Possible magazine fillings: 30 cartridges (standard),
optionally 2/5/10/20/30/40/90/100 cartridges
Ammunition supply: STANAG magazine
Cadence: depending on model
700-950 rounds / min
Fire types: please refer Model overview
Number of trains: 6
Twist: right
Visor: Rear sight
Closure: Rotary head lock
Charging principle: Gas pressure charger
Lists on the subject


Model overview

M4 (for comparison),
M16 (model A2)
compared to
Colt model Military designation in use at Years of production Barrel length Trigger system
601AR-15USAF1959–1963508 mmSafe-semi-auto
USAF1963–1964508 mmSafe-semi-auto
603XM16E1US Army, US Marines1964–1967508 mmSafe-semi-auto
603M16A1US Army, US Marines1967–1982508 mmSafe-semi-auto
604M16USAF1964–1965, 1970508 mmSafe-semi-auto
604 modifiedMk 4 Mod 0US Navy1970/71508 mmSafe-semi-auto
609XM177E1US Army1967–1968250 mmSafe-semi-auto
610XM177US Army1966508 mmSafe-semi-auto
610GAU-5 / PUSAF1966508 mmSafe-semi-auto
629XM177E2US Army1967–1970290 mmSafe-semi-auto
629GAU-5 / A / BUSAF1967–1970250 mmSafe-semi-auto
630GAU-5 / A / AUSAF?250 mmSafe-semi-auto
645M16A1E1 / PIP??508 mmSafe-Semi-Auto or
Safe semi-burst
645M16A2US Army, US Marines1984–1996508 mmSafe semi-burst
645EM16A2E1??508 mmSafe semi-burst
M16A2E2??508 mmSafe semi-burst
649GAU-5 / AUSAF?290 mmSafe-semi-auto
646M16A2E3 /
US Navy1996–1997508 mmSafe-semi-auto
655M16A1 special
??508 mmSafe-semi-auto
656M16A1 special
??508 mmSafe-semi-auto
945M16A2E4 /
US Army, US Marines1996 – today508 mmSafe semi-burst


Japanese soldiers with an M16A4
Colt M16 user states (former and current)
Taiwanese M16 offshoot T91

During the Vietnam War, Colt granted numerous licenses to other manufacturers because Colt could not handle this large production volume itself. These licenses were not renewed after the war.[10] The M16 became commercially successful due to the worldwide interest in cheap licensed constructions and further developments. The Belgian FN Herstal also built the M16 in a lighter, semi-automatic version for export. Since 1983, most of the patents for the M16 have expired and any manufacturer can make M16 rifles and their variants. In 1988, Columbia-based FN Manufacturing Inc., a subsidiary of FN Herstal, was awarded the contract for M16 production by the US Army.[10]NATO countries such as Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom introduced the assault rifle as a main or supplementary weapon in their armed forces. The weapon is particularly popular in Asia, especially South Korea, not least because of its relatively low weight. In the Middle East, Israel introduced the M16 and its versions as the successor to the Kalashnikov offshoot Galil.

NATO standards

STANAG-compliant magazines: 20-round magazine from Colt and 30-round magazine from Heckler & Koch
.222 Remington,
.223 Remington and
5.56 × 45 mm NATO
  • The .223 Remington cartridge was developed for the M16 in 1957. A modified version of the .223 Remington, the 5.56 × 45 mm SS109 cartridge, was declared a NATO standard caliber in 1980 (STANAG 4172).
  • So that assault rifle magazines from NATO partners for cartridges of caliber 5.56 × 45 mm are interchangeable, some properties of the M16 magazine (e.g. certain dimensions or recess for the magazine holder) for the standardization of magazines (STANAG 4179).[11] Although this convention has never been ratified (Draft STANAG),[12] many (but not all) NATO countries have developed or procured assault rifles that can use these standardized magazines. Some weapons, such as B. the G36 or Galil, these magazines can be used by means of an adapter or by exchanging the magazine slot.
Instructions for the operation and maintenance of the weapon issued to GIs during the Vietnam War


  • When the M16 replaced the M14 in the Vietnam War, it was nicknamed Mattel by the US soldiers because of its plastic shaft, after the toy manufacturer of the same name, so it was called: "Do it well, with your Mattel".
  • Another nickname for the M16 is "Sweet Sixteen"; this also appears in the PS magazines on, a comic book-style booklet on gun maintenance issued in Vietnam.
  • The M16 was also called "The Black Rifle" in the earlier years of the Vietnam War.

Controversy (USA)

After the rampages and assassinations in Aurora, Newtown and San Bernardino, which were carried out with AR-15-style self-loading weapons, these and weapons from other manufacturers with similar characteristics moved into public interest. Calls for stricter regulation of the private purchase of weapons, often incorrectly referred to as “machine guns” in the media, grew louder.[13] In particular after the attack in Orlando on June 12, 2016, President Barack Obama and other politicians of the Democratic Party demanded a new edition of the nationwide ban on "particularly dangerous" semi-automatic long guns, i. H. Self-loading rifles, based on features such as pistol grips, muzzle suppressors, ventilation slots on the fore-end, slide-in or folding stocks or interchangeable magazines. Such a ban (Federal Assault Weapons Ban) existed until 2004.[14] Opponents of restrictive gun laws question the effectiveness of such a ban. A 2014 study on this topic found no positive effect of gun bans on the number of illegal killings with firearms in the respective states.[15] However, a 2017 study by the same author came to the conclusion that a ban on offensive weapons can reduce the number of deaths from school shootings.[16]


The rifles of the M16 model series are equipped with different flash suppressors, cleaning sets, the usual rifle sling and the necessary magazines. There are also a number of optical aiming aids that can be mounted on the handle. Other optical aiming aids can be mounted in place of the carrying handle on certain models (Sniper Model M16A1 Special (655) and the M16A3 / M16A4). As an accessory to the civilian semi-automatic AR-15, a so-called "slide fire stock" (bump stock) was available in the United States, which represented a legal way of increasing the rate of fire of the weapon. This enables rates of fire that approach those of a fully automatic weapon.[17] However, as of 2018, possession of such devices has been banned.

The corresponding bayonets also belong to the rifles of the M16 series.

  • M-7 for the models M16 and M16A1
  • M-9 for the models from the M16A2

The rifle grenade device (40 mm grenade launcher) M203 is often used with the weapons of the M16 series. Due to the separate firing device, the rifle barrel is subject to less wear than when firing rifle grenades.[1]

The M16 can be equipped with a case catcher to prevent irritation of neighboring shooters in the shooting line, during combat operations and during target practice on the shooting range by ejecting cartridge cases. Fired hot pods could cause burns to the neck, neck and bare arms. Since a brass catcher can also jam the load, it is mostly only used on shooting ranges.


  • Visor Special No. 37, M 16 & AR-15: the success story of a self-loader - from military rifle to sport rifle. Vogt-Schild Germany, ISBN 3-9809243-5-1.
  • Günter Wollert, Reiner Lidschun, Wilfried Copenhagen: Rifles (1945–1985). In: Illustrated encyclopedia of rifles around the world. 3. Edition. Volume2. Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-89488-059-7, p.464ff.
  • R. Blake Stevens, Edward C. Ezell: The Black Rifle: M16 Retrospective. Collector Grade Publications, Cobourg / Ontario, Canada, 1987, ISBN 0-88935-115-5.
  • Armin Seremek: Two-pronged - experimental weapon based on the AR-15 system. In: Deutsches Waffen-Journal 10/2011, pp. 96–99.
  • Headquarters, Department of the Army, TM 9-1005-249-10, Operators Manual for RIFLE, 5.56-MM, M16
  • Headquarters, Department of the Army, TM 9-1005-249-24 & P, Technical Manual, RIFLE 5.56-MM, M16 / M16A1.
  • Department of the Army and Air Force, ARMY ™ 9-1005-319-23 & P / AIR FORCE TO 11W3-5-5-42, Technical Manual, RIFLE. 5.56MM, M16A2 W / E.
  • Gordon L. Rottmann: The M 16. Osprey Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84908-690-5.
  • Patrick Sweeney: The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15. Gun Digest Books, ISBN 978-0-87349-947-7

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. abGünter Wollert, Reiner Lidschun, Wilfried Copenhagen: Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rifles from Around the World: Rifles Today (1945-1985). 3. Edition. Volume2. Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-89488-059-7, p.468f.
  2. ↑ https: // //,9171,843858,00.html
  3. ↑ Wolfgang Pietzner: Weapon theory, Federal University for Public Administration, 1998, ISBN 3-930732-32-7 p. 73 (PDF)
  4. The difference between Gas Piston and Direct Impingement technology for an AR-15. In: Archived from the original; accessed on October 24, 2020 (English).
  5. ↑ Peter G. Kokalis: Retro AR-15. (PDF). In: 2, accessed on May 23, 2020 (English).
  6. Operator's Manual for Rifle, 5-56-mm, M16 (1005-00-856-6885), Rifle, 5.56-mm, M16A1 (1005-00-073-9421)
  7. ↑ Robert Beckhusenere: America’s Afghan War Proved That’s Time to Replace the M4 Rifle. In: November 5, 2020, archived from the original; accessed on November 27, 2020 (English).
  8. ↑ Ken Elmore: 5.56mm Suppressed Weapons. In: 2003, accessed June 25, 2020.
  9. ^ Editors of Guns & Ammo, Eric R. Poole: Guns & Ammo Guide to AR-15s: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Guns. Skyhorse, January 16, 2018.
  10. abArmy Drops Colt as M16 Rifle Maker. In: New York Times. October 3, 1988, accessed October 7, 2015.
  11. A 5.56 X 45mm "Timeline" 1980-1985. March 16, 2015, accessed September 17, 2019.
  12. Wayback Machine. December 1, 2012, accessed September 17, 2019.
  13. The history of the AR-15, the weapon that had a hand in the United States ’worst mass shooting. In: Post, June 13, 2016, accessed June 13, 2016.
  14. Assault rifle used in Florida shooting drives US gun control debate. In: The Telegraph., June 13, 2016, accessed June 13, 2016.
  15. ↑ Mark Gius: An examination of the effects of concealed weapons laws and assault weapons bans on state-level murder rates. In: Applied Economics Letters. 21, No. 4, 2014, pp. 265-267. doi: 10.1080 / 13504851.2013.854294.
  16. Mark Gius: The effects of state and Federal gun control laws on school shootings. April 19, 2017, accessed April 4, 2021.
  17. ↑ Joseph von Benedict: Shoot your AR-15 faster than ever with a Slide Fire Stock. In: Shooting Times. July 22, 2011, accessed October 7, 2015.