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History of the M16

M16 5.56mm Rifle


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M16 5.56mm Rifle


The M14 was the Army's original choice to replace World War II-era M1 rifle, as well as the Browning Automatic Rifle. The M14 was an unhappy compromise weapon, that satisfied virtually no one, least of all the men for whom it was intended. General dissatisfaction with the M14 and numerous studies led the Army to the development of a light weight weapon capable of firing a burst of small caliber bullets with a controlled dispersion pattern. Unfortunately, the M14's follow-on initially fared little better.

The replacement for the M14 was originally designed by Eugene Stoner, of the ArmaLite Company, a division of the Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Corporation, as the AR-15 around 1956. The AR-10 was conceived by Eugene Stoner as a 7.62mm Basic infantry rifle in 1955. At that time the Army was considering replacements for the M1 Garand. The AR-10 was stunningly different than any previous design. It was produced with aircraft grade aluminum receivers, and therefore weighed less than 7 pounds. The stock and other furniture were plastic, while the T44 developed by the US Army and the T48 (the designation applied to the FN FAL rifle) were of wood. The configuration of the rifle itself, with its integral carrying handle and charging handle distinctively mounted within it, sparked intense curiosity. In the end, the AR-10 was not able to catch up, and eventually lost out to the T44 rifle, which was type designated as the M14 in 1959.

Based on the AR-10, Army officials asked Armalite to develop a smaller version of the AR-10 in 1956 as part of evaluations of what were then referred to as Small Caliber High Velocity (SCHV) rifles. The ensuing rifle was called the AR-15. Army analysis of battlefield statistics from World War I, World War II and Korea had shown that most kills from small arms occured at ranges of less than 300 yards. This suggested that the military should seriously consider lighter weight, higher capacity weapons. Seeking a novel cartridge suitable for a smaller caliber assault rifle, Eugene Stoner approached Winchester Corporation. The result was a small but powerful .224 cartrdige, which featured high-velocity, light weight, low recoil, and capable of penetrating a helmet per US Army specifications. Another round, developed by Remington Arms, the .222 Special was also utilized during the development of the AR-15.

In February 1958, the US Army Infantry Board at Fort Benning Georgia directed an evaluation of the Armalite AR-15 against the M14. The AR-15s used in the tests were described as...

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