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M16 Rifle

Developed by Colt, the gas operated 5.56mm M16 rifle was based on ArmaLite’s AR-15 and became the U.S. Army’s standard infantry weapon of the Vietnam War. After successful initial field testing in 1962, two models were created: the standard M16 that was adopted by the Air Force and the XM16E1 that featured a forward assist assembly.

Shipments of the XM16E1 reached Army units in Vietnam in 1966, but the rifle was plagued by jamming problems caused by a failure to keep it sufficiently clean. As a result Colt lined the bore and chamber with chrome, which had been proven to resist corrosion in the M14. The redesigned rifle was named as the M16A1 and was shipped to Vietnam during 1967. Early models featured a 3-prong flash suppressor, but its tendency to catch on the jungle undergrowth lead to the development of a new closed-type "birdcage" suppressor.

Shorter than the M14 and equipped with a fiberglass rather than a wooden stock, the M16 weighed 7.4lbs, 2.5lbs less than its predecessor.1 The rifle's 5.56mm ammunition was also lighter than the M14s 7.62mm cartridge, which made carrying large quantities of ammunition easier. Throughout most of the war the M16 magazine had a capacity of 20-rounds, however a 30-round magazine became available towards the end of America’s involvement in Vietnam.

Both the M16 and M16A1 were designed to accommodate the M7 Bayonet and were issued with the lightweight M3 bipod.

General Data
  • M16 / M16A1
  • M14
  • Weight (with sling and loaded 20rd magazine)
  • 7.4 lb
  • 10.1 lb
  • Length (including flash suppressor)
  • 39 in
  • 44.3 in
  • Barrel
  • 20 in
  • 22 in
  • Rifling
  • 1 turn in 12 inches
  • 1 turn in 12 inches
  • Ammunition Caliber
  • 5.56mm
  • 7.62mm
  • Muzzle velocity
  • 3,260 fps
  • 2,800 fps
  • Cyclic rate of fire
  • 700 / 800 rounds per minute
  • 700 / 750 rpm
  • Maximum Effective Range
  • 460 meters
  • 460 meters

1. Weight of the M16 rifle with sling and loaded 20-round magazine. The M16A1 weighed 2lbs more. (TM 9-1005-249-12, Department of the Army, 2 August 1968)

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