The M-16 Is A Good Rifle

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 2 weeks ago

Matt Bracken writing at American Partisan citing a 1969 American Rifleman article.

I was told by the so-called experts that the M16 rifle is not accurate beyond 350 meters.  But with my rifle fitted with bipod mount and scope sight and firing tracer ammunition, I can reach out and drop a walking enemy soldier at better than 700 meters range …

Our 5.56mm bullet will severely batter a man wherever it hits him.  I would rather stop a half dozen bullets from an AK-47 than one from an M16.

It’s America’s rifle.  If it was a “good” rifle then, I’d say it’s variants are great rifles today.


  1. On July 8, 2021 at 7:33 am, X said:

    Meh. I call B.S. Sounds like a Pentagon deliberately placed anecdotal praise in American Rifleman as a psyop to mitigate the damage of the bad publicity the M-16 suffered when it was initially deployed in the field.

    It is true that the contemporary M-16/AR-15 can be a great rifle, but I have my doubts about the soldier’s supposed anecdote here. I seriously doubt that he got a confirmed kill at 700 meters with a 55-grain tracer unless it was pure luck. That’s Carlos Hathcock-level shooting — but Hathcock used a Model 70 .30-06.

    Run the numbers on a 55-grain bullet fired from a 20″ barrel at 700 meters through any ballistics calculator and you’ll find that the elevation hold-over, wind drift, and energy numbers are utterly abysmal. At that distance, IF he hit the target, which I doubt, the projectile probably would have less energy than a .38 special.

    Sorry, I’m not buying it.

  2. On July 8, 2021 at 10:19 am, Pat Hines said:

    The M16/M4/AR-15 is a far superior weapon When compared to the AK-series. More accurate, more RELIABLE, and far more modular.

    There is someone over at American Partisan that favors the AK because some ragheads shot at him with an AK. He assumes all who disagree with him as simply not knowledgeable. I decided not to argue with him because of his anger issues.

  3. On July 8, 2021 at 10:28 am, Rib said:

    I’m not buying it either. Fps at 700 meters is about 1,000, with a 220” hold, and 1/10 the 55 grain 25 meter energy. Bullet yaw/fragmentation is nonexistent at that range. That’s if you could get the cotton’ picking thing to fire in real world mud/rain conditions. I was issued the original M16 POS Mattel after having to turn in my M14 in the RVN. AK-47 ‘s were highly sought after for the rest of my tour.

  4. On July 8, 2021 at 10:36 am, Herschel Smith said:


    You’re amusing. As if the 7.62X39 is effective at that range. Oh, and you forgot to tell us all about the huge opening at the top of the M-14 and how that does with mud.

    If you want maximum effectiveness at that range, you don’t need an M-14. You need a DM shooting a bolt action. You’re just confusing MOSs.

  5. On July 8, 2021 at 12:37 pm, Rib said:

    Reliabilty and lethality at range are two separate issues. The AK has one of those, the M14 both. The original M16 had neither. The newer models may do better with design refinement, including more twist and heavier bullets. From personal experience, if you can chamber a round, a mudded m14 will still cycle and fire, the first m16’s, not so much. Just sayin’

  6. On July 8, 2021 at 1:20 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    Yes. I can count. Those are two issues. I brought them up again because you did.

    The AR platform has good lethality, good range, not great range. The AK has medium lethality, poor range, and poor accuracy.

    I know a Navy Corpsman shot in Fallujah (I discussed the incident with him first hand) who was shot with a 7.62X39 round in the thigh, it ricocheted off bone up his thigh and exited his ass. Close range. He still managed to handle wounds among the Marines around him before handling his own wounds, healed up for a week or so at the FOB, and then went on patrol again.

  7. On July 8, 2021 at 8:03 pm, PeanutButter said:

    And I just bought one tonight: the Springfield Armory Saint, 16-in barrel and the collapsible stock. I couldn’t pass up the deal at under $900. It just said, “Buy me, you fool with that handy new credit card.”

    I’m looking forward to shooting a shorty AR rifle variant. I have never shot one before, but like the size of others I have picked up at the Chantilly, VA gun show over the years. I have owned the “Kentucky long rifle” DPMS Classic version of it for almost 15 years to remind me of my even more longer-ago VA National Guard service in the 1980s and the M16A1 I carried on drill weekends.

  8. On July 9, 2021 at 12:21 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel Smith

    Re: ” Oh, and you forgot to tell us all about the huge opening at the top of the M-14 and how that does with mud.”

    Frankly, I’ve never understood that criticism of the M-14. The Garand suffered from the same problem, if it was indeed a problem, and it did not prevent the M-1 from being the war-winning weapon that it was, what General George S. Patton called the “greatest fighting implement ever devised.”

    AR15 devotees like to point out how well-sealed the receiver and bolt-BCG are from outside dirt and debris, and they’re right: Stoner’s design does very well in this respect. The flip-side of that coin, however, is that ingress of outside dirt and debris has never been the problem with the M-16/M-4 family of weapons. The problem is that the (modified) direct-gas impingement system has hot gases, debris and fouling piped directly into its bolt-BCG with each shot, which is then trapped and accumulates to the detriment of the function of the weapon.

    If it is possible for a weapon to be too-well-sealed from the outside environment, the AR15 design may just be an example of that. I’ll leave that question for others better-qualified than I to make that determination.

    Modern engineers and technicians have solved these problems to a great degree today, but it has taken them the better part of the last fifty years to do it – including significant advances in ammunition design, metal coatings, materials science, and lubrication chemistry – as well as a number of changes in the design of the rifle itself.

    The M-14 catches a lot off flak for having an exposed portion of the action near the right rear top of the receiver, near the rear sight. This is true-enough but misses the larger point: No soldier or Marine worth his stripes is going to allow debris, mud or dirt to get into his weapon without immediately cleaning it out. And no decent platoon sergeant or other NCO is going to let his men get away with it if they are slack. You clean and service your weapon, and then maybe you can find a place to sleep out of the rain and get some chow, but not before.

    As it happens, I have known a number of Vietnam combat veterans – Army and Marine infantry, plus one FMF Navy Corpsman – over the years, and on various social occasions -BBQs, parties, etc. – have asked them their views of their issued service weapons used while in-country. To a man, they all spoke highly of the M-14 and also cursed (as only old infantrymen can!) the “black rifle” up-one-side and down-the-other as a “worthless POS” and some other things that don’t belong on a blog kids may read. They spoke of how reliable the M-14 was, how hard-hitting, accurate and how it “put ’em down for good.” Granted a small sample size, of 6-7 men, but not one of them mentioned the supposed vulnerability of the M-14 to getting dirt/debris into its action. They did speak of knowing men whose M-16s had malfunctioned in combat, though, and how they’d have preferred to have been armed with older weapons known to be reliable.

    Oh, and speaking of things being in your rifle that shouldn’t be there, former MACVSOG member and U.S. Army Special Forces officer John Plaster recounted how his team learned that the .224-caliber M-16 rifles and also shorter-barreled variants such as the XM177 SBR/carbine, tended to accumulate water in their barrels following a rain storm, and that because of the narrow diameter of the barrels, surface-tension often held the water there.

    The members of this unit, which Plaster said had an excellent experience with their M-16/M-4 based weapons, learned to quietly break the water seal each morning, as part of their routine for preparing the weapon for use each day. This involved drawing back the bolt slightly on a chambered cartridge, to make sure it wasn’t sticking due to water, and also draining/removing any water left in the barrel.

    Many line Army and Marine troops did not have positive experiences with the M-16, experiencing the now-famous teething troubles of the design, but some units did well with them, including the Navy SEALS, Special Forces, and MACVSOG – which suggests that training in the proper care of the weapon was vital, as well as the diligence to give such maintenance the priority it deserved.

  9. On July 9, 2021 at 12:38 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel

    Re: “I know a Navy Corpsman shot in Fallujah (I discussed the incident with him first hand) who was shot with a 7.62X39 round in the thigh, it ricocheted off bone up his thigh and exited his ass. Close range. He still managed to handle wounds among the Marines around him before handling his own wounds, healed up for a week or so at the FOB, and then went on patrol again.”

    Hmm, interesting. I am a trained medic myself; though I am no longer active I have treated trauma cases before, including GSWs and wounds caused by edged weapons. Maybe your nurse-practitioner daughter can verify this for you, since I am no longer in the game, but I recall hearing someplace once that vascular surgeons “hate” doing surgery on people who’s misfortune is to be caught one or more bullets fired from an AR15.

    Why? Because if the .224-caliber projectile (bullet) yaws properly and fragments upon encountering soft tissue, as it is designed to do, the fragments each make their own separate wound channel which must be explored, debrided and repaired, and the often-small fragments recovered. Just finding them is a pain in the you-know-what.

    The account of the corpsman above suggests that the slug remained intact and ricocheted around a bit before exiting, as you relate. My brother, a physician with a ton of trauma care experience, told me years ago to my then-great surprise the extent to which bullets can ricochet around or be redirected during their travel into/through the tissues of the body.

    That corpsman was lucky in the sense that the bullet didn’t shatter the bone instead of bouncing off of it. Many, perhaps even most, GSWs involved some degree of damage to bones. I took a workshop years ago taught by an old FMF Corpsman from Vietnam who gave this rant for a few minutes during his presentation about how war movies never show the real damage done by GSWs, vis-a-vis fractures, compound fractures, splintering of bone, and so on. In his experience, if you were shot, especially by a high-power center-fire rifle, there was going to be bone involvement (if you survived being hit in the first place), and that even SMG/pistol ammo did plenty of damage, too. All of which make treatment, surgery and subsequent recovery more-difficult and complex.

  10. On July 9, 2021 at 8:55 am, Dan in Ohio said:

    Interesting article.

    The M16/M4 family is our nations longest serving Service Rifle.

    We’re all familiar with the initial problem: non-chrome lined chamber, a company intentionally using the wrong powder for ammo, etc.

    The M14 is our nations SHORTEST serving Service Rifle.

    For you guys who wonder why, read:

    M14 fanboys squeeled with delight when some of these stalled dogs were used in Iraq/Afganistan. It was only used because the Army couldn’t get the Knights Armament M110 SASS Rifle fast enough. HEY!- the M110 is a M16 ( or original AR-10) variant! When the supply chain was full,the M-14 where turned back in.

    I’m a fan of the M16 design, because it fulfills the Assault Rifle Concept.

    Enjoy the link. :)

  11. On July 9, 2021 at 9:01 am, Herschel Smith said:


    His last name was Prince. He showed me the entry wound on his thigh. To prove that he was being honest, he offered to drop his drawers and show me the exit wound. I declined.

    But he wanted to prove his point. The worst part, he told me, was the bleeding seepage didn’t stop for several weeks and he had to get those stupid one piece suits the Marines were wearing in Fallujah at the time again and again from logistics.

    They were wearing those things because they were designed fire proof, and throwing fire bombs at the Marines was commonplace there at the time.

    Other Marines in my son’s company confirmed this report to me about Prince.

    My respect for Navy Corpsmen skyrocketed even higher than it was prior to hearing this story.

  12. On July 9, 2021 at 1:28 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel

    Re: “My respect for Navy Corpsmen skyrocketed even higher than it was prior to hearing this story.”

    Their motto is – “Through the gates of hell for a wounded Marine” … and they more than live up to it.

    I’ve worked with a few former HMs over the years an acute-care clinical setting, and they have been outstanding in every respect. Very well-trained and squared-away individuals. The Navy knows what they’re doing when it comes to training them in combat/field medicine, and the Marines teach the “green side” corpsmen how to be Devil Dogs.

  13. On July 10, 2021 at 12:41 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Dan in Ohio

    Re:”The M14 is our nations SHORTEST serving Service Rifle.”

    Or longest-serving, it all depends on how you parse the data. True, the M-14 was only in service as the standard service rifle from 1957 until it was replaced by the M-16, but it has remained in continuous service in specialist roles since then. Including as a precision weapon employed by squad designated marksmen and snipers.

    The U.S. Army, in fact, used accurized M-14s – which they designated as the M21 – as their primary sniper rifle during the Vietnam conflict. Staff Sergeant Adelbert “Bert” Waldron (1933-1995), of the 9th Infantry Division, racked up 109 confirmed enemy kills, the most of any U.S. sniper in that conflict, and the record for a U.S. sniper until 2011. Including many kills made with a starlight scope at night, and one V.C. taken out at 900 yards away from a moving riverine patrol craft. Clearly, not a man to be reckoned with – and his weapon did everything asked of it…. something that AR15/M-16 apologists always seem to leave out when they recount the proud history of the M-14.

    AR10-based platforms may be superseding the M-14 during the 21st century, but this is only natural as time and events move on, and newer, better technology is developed. Even so, the SEALs, Army Special Forces, and other elite units continue to use the M-14 rifle. They get a substantial amount of latitude in choosing their own weapons on the basis of what is needed for that particular mission, so the fact that they continue to rely upon it speaks well for the basic design.

    And advanced chassis systems for the weapon are available, such as the Sage EBR and Canadian Black Feather system, both of which do wonders to update the platform and bring it into the present era, allowing the use of accessories such as laser target designators, IR lasers, and NVGs, to name a few. All the toys any modern ninja could want.

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This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s and was published July 7th, 2021 by Herschel Smith.

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