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View Full Version : M4 vs M15 vs M16


Steven_Seagal
December 8, 2010, 01:49 PM
could someone please explain the difference between all these guns? Aren't they all just military designations for what civilians call the AR-15? if so, how do they differ from the AR15?

cashmore1985
December 8, 2010, 01:56 PM
An M-4 is the military designation for a carbine length version of the M-16. The military m-4 has a collapsible stock and a shorter barrel than an M-16 which has the full length stock and long barrel. There are other differences as well but those are the obvious exterior ones.

Skyyr
December 8, 2010, 01:59 PM
As far as the differences, read these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M4_carbine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M16_rifle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M15_rifle

In regards to what an AR-15 is, an AR-15 was originally an Armalite rifle (AR-15 means Armalite Rifle, model 15). The rights to it were purchased by Colt, who then used it to develop what we consider the modern AR-15. In turn, they used the AR-15 to develop the M16 and M4, then retroactively reapplied the name "AR-15" to denote their semi-auto civilian models.

Over time, the term AR-15 came to describe any M4/M16-patterned rifle that utilizes AR-15/M4/M16-type lower (and upper) receivers. The biggest difference between the AR-15 and the M4/M16 is that the AR-15 is semi-automatic, while the M4 and M16 can be 3-round-burst or full-auto (in addition to being semi-auto).

brian923
December 8, 2010, 02:02 PM
The M4 has a 14.5 inch barrel, if its a civilian modle m4, it will have a flash hider pinned or welded to the end of the barrle to make it a leagel 16 inches. M4 barrel profile has a cutout for a grenaid launcher attachment. Don't know about the M15, but maybe you ment the CAR 15. This model is a carbine version of the ar15. Usually the CAR 15 will have a 16" barrel, but it will be either a heavy barrel, or a lightweight conture barrle, with no M4 barrel conture cut outs. The M16 A1-A4 military rifle is pretty much the same as the AR15, it just has a fun switch ;). Hope this helps, brian.

azredhawk44
December 8, 2010, 02:24 PM
The biggest difference between the AR-15 and the M4/M16 is that the AR-15 is semi-automatic, while the M4 and M16 can be 3-round-burst or full-auto (in addition to being semi-auto).

This is not quite correct.

Prior to 1986, there were fully automatic AR-15's produced and sold to the public.

The "M" designation is applied by the military to weapons approved for their use.

The "M11" used by the military is just a Sig P228. Sig doesn't manufacture an "M11".

Beretta doesn't manufacture an "M9." They make the various models of the 92.

The caveat to this is that Colt truly did trademark the name "M4" for awhile and the rest of the AR industry (Bushmaster, Olympic, et cetera) were prohibited from marketing their rifles as "M4" rifles. So, they started getting called "M4geries" (pronounced M-forgeries). These makers sued Colt for trademarking a military equipment label and won the right to also call their rifles M4's if they so wished.

Long story short: The M-labels just means the military uses it. It doesn't mean it's "full auto" and only full auto stuff gets an M-label.

Skyyr
December 8, 2010, 03:03 PM
azredhawk44:

The TDP calls for the M16 and M4 to either be fully auto or 3-round burst, depending on which version of the TDP is used. The M4 and M16 have always been machine guns, and always will. If the military needs a non-auto weapon, it will have a new M designation. Pointing out that other "M"-designated rifles are not full-auto is meaningless. Each "M" designation is fit to a purpose and therefore, by definition, all M4 and M16 variants are machine guns.

The actual "AR-15" models were never fully-auto. Colt would sell full-autos to civilians as NFA items, but those were not AR-15s. I'm not sure where you heard that actual "AR-15s" were full-auto, but that is not the case. Colt reserved the term "AR-15" to denote a semi-auto designed for civilian use. Civilians could purchase a RDIAS or modify their lowers to be full-auto prior to 1986 using the NFA, but the AR-15s themselves were not and never have been full-auto.

In regards to the models of firearms, you're viewing it from a backwards POV. When most companies produce a firearm for the military, they usually have to modify the firearm to meet the military or government contract standards. When this happens, you have a new firearm. What the manufacturer calls it doesn't matter, it's still a different model. Most manufacturers call it what the military calls it, however most don't sell these to the general public. That said, Sig DOES make an M11, they just don't sell it to the general public. On the military order forms that get sent to Sig, it says "M11" and Sigs catalogs list the pistol as an "M11." Beretta DOES make an M9 and they DO sell it to the public as a... M9. See here (https://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/product_info.php/products_id/23504).

In regards to the Colt being sued, that's incorrect. Colt sued Bushmaster because Bushmaster created copies of the M4 and called it a "Bushmaster M4." Colt ultimately lost, as the judges ruled that the M4 term had become synonymous with modern military firearms and therefore was generalized to the point they could not claim copyright over the term "M4." This applied unilaterally to everyone producing "M4geries" and therefore anyone was free to use it.

Steven_Seagal
December 8, 2010, 03:37 PM
thanks for the insight, guys.

So the M15 is just a variant of the M16?

HorseSoldier
December 8, 2010, 03:45 PM
The TDP calls for the M16 and M4 to either be fully auto or 3-round burst, depending on which version of the TDP is used. The M4 and M16 have always been machine guns, and always will. If the military needs a non-auto weapon, it will have a new M designation. Pointing out that other "M"-designated rifles are not full-auto is meaningless. Each "M" designation is fit to a purpose and therefore, by definition, all M4 and M16 variants are machine guns.

Correct on always being a machinegun, but not necessarily on the new "M" number if the military wanted a semi-only M4/M16. Most M14s that were actually issued to troops had their automatic capability disabled and were still M14s (of course they retained the ability to be converted back to full auto capable).

So the M15 is just a variant of the M16?

There was never a military member of the M16 family with the "M15" designation, though those units that used the pre-M4 carbine versions often called them CAR-15s (Colt Automatic Rifle). The modern day incarnation of Armalite markets M15 rifles, if I recall correctly, which is just their designation for their version of the AR-15.

cashmore1985
December 8, 2010, 04:42 PM
the military m-15 was a variant of the m-15, see wiki article above. It fired the 7.62x51mm NATO round.

gunmoney
December 8, 2010, 05:00 PM
The actual "AR-15" models were never fully-auto. Colt would sell full-autos to civilians as NFA items, but those were not AR-15s. I'm not sure where you heard that actual "AR-15s" were full-auto, but that is not the case. Colt reserved the term "AR-15" to denote a semi-auto designed for civilian use. Civilians could purchase a RDIAS or modify their lowers to be full-auto prior to 1986 using the NFA, but the AR-15s themselves were not and never have been full-auto.

If I recall correctly, this is incorrect as well. The AR-15 was adopted as a select fire weapon and was shortly after designated the m-16 and adopted by the Army and then Marines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M16_rifle
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/m16-history.htm
http://world.guns.ru/assault/usa/m16-m16a1-m16a2-m16a3-e.html
http://world.guns.ru/userfiles/images/1289112531.jpg

Skyyr
December 8, 2010, 05:48 PM
The full-auto AR-15's were not "AR-15s." They were Colt models 601 and 602, respectively, based on the original AR-15. In fact, that's specifically why Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15, to develop the Colt Model 601, then 602, then eventually the 604 (at which time it became the M16).

The Wikipedia article states that pretty clearly.

Quentin2
December 8, 2010, 07:07 PM
Some of the first M16s Colt produced for the military in the early '60s were stamped AR-15 and they certainly were full auto. Don't know how long that lasted but they do exist.

10mmAuto
December 9, 2010, 04:10 AM
The M16A1 was also stamped AR-15. I know because the M16A1 rubber ducks still kicking around many training units have AR-15 stamped on the lower receiver.

RT
December 9, 2010, 05:35 AM
http://i339.photobucket.com/albums/n443/thorm001/Funny%20pics/Diff1.jpg
http://i339.photobucket.com/albums/n443/thorm001/Funny%20pics/Diff2.jpg
http://i339.photobucket.com/albums/n443/thorm001/Funny%20pics/Diff3.jpg

hagar
December 9, 2010, 09:00 AM
M15 was an accurized M14 with a heavy barrel and a bipod.

pythagorean
December 9, 2010, 09:15 AM
When the M-4 was being introduced I had a chance to hold one on a field exercise in Yakima, WA (Ft. Lewis--I was in a tank battalion). I was impressed with the easy of carry and use. I really questioned the velocity drop in the shorter barrel. However, as it turns out the military really came a long way with the new barrel (1/7" twist) and also ammunition to use in it to come up with a winner in my opinion. I am an AR-15 nut and find the M4 platform to be the "Barbie Doll" of rifles!

Pics:

http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr145/whitehouse_2008/Centerfire%20Rifle/Assualt%20Rilfes/127.jpg

http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr145/whitehouse_2008/Centerfire%20Rifle/Assualt%20Rilfes/006-2.jpg

http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr145/whitehouse_2008/Centerfire%20Rifle/Assualt%20Rilfes/008-1.jpg

http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr145/whitehouse_2008/Centerfire%20Rifle/Assualt%20Rilfes/310.jpg

http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr145/whitehouse_2008/Centerfire%20Rifle/Assualt%20Rilfes/312.jpg

gew98
December 9, 2010, 05:19 PM
Pythagorean ; I have to disagree with you on some points. I got my first AR 15 almost a year before I went in the green machine . When I joined up the rifle I was given was exactly like my rifle at home excepting it fired full auto...an M16A1 in 1985. A few years down the road they took away my beloved A1 and gave me the product dunbed down A2. The heavier slower bullet with less lethality did not make much sense to me...still does not. Then the powers that be went to the 'M4' which further loss of velocity to the .223 bullet made it less effective yet. For closeup MOUT operations I could see the M4... but for infantry use... not me if I can help it. It's proven less than adequate in asscrackistan as engagement distances make the M4 with M855 ball less than ideal for killing and only a marginal incapacitor. Give me the 20" barrel and lighter higher velocity 5,56 bullet anyday !.

pythagorean
December 10, 2010, 06:34 AM
Well, I can't argue with another soldier! Especially since I'm a Chaplain!

And yes, Chaplains can be gun nuts very easily.....

HorseSoldier
December 11, 2010, 01:00 PM
M4 lethality problems --> Accuracy problems.

People that hit what they shoot at don't have anywhere near the complaints of those who miss. Green tip kills people just fine if end users have proper training. The bigger problem is that Big Army still hasn't committed the resources to making good combat shooters, even if things have improved since 9/11.

Dilbert
December 11, 2010, 03:31 PM
Skyyr, the M-16 I was issued in Afghanistan was stamped AR-15. It was select fire, originally it was auto but was converted to burst.

HorseSoldier
December 11, 2010, 06:38 PM
I'm guessing from your location that you're USAF.

Air Force issued M16s et al are their own magical mystery tour. The last USAF unit I worked with had some M4-looking carbines that were literally mixmaster weapons, with some components that must have been around since the SE Asia days. One I examined up close had an M4 barrel, lower marked XM16E1 and overstamped with GAU-5, and an upper still equipped with an M16A1 style forward assist button. I think their other carbines were similarly assortments of multigenerational parts. Guys said they ran fine whenever they got to go to the range, but they were quite odd if you looked at details.

T. O'Heir
December 12, 2010, 01:45 AM
"..."M" designation is applied by the military to..." Everything. That's why you can have an M1 Rifle, M1 Carbine, M1 helmet, M1 tank, M1 cartridge, etc, etc. Means 'Model' or 'standard'. Has nothing whatever to do with firearms specifically.

raimius
December 12, 2010, 04:20 AM
The USAF rifles are a beast all their own...

I had a friend track one serial number down. It was a '65 manufacture!

AFshooter
December 13, 2010, 01:15 PM
Air Force issued M16s et al are their own magical mystery tour. The last USAF unit I worked with had some M4-looking carbines that were literally mixmaster weapons, with some components that must have been around since the SE Asia days. One I examined up close had an M4 barrel, lower marked XM16E1 and overstamped with GAU-5, and an upper still equipped with an M16A1 style forward assist button. I think their other carbines were similarly assortments of multigenerational parts. Guys said they ran fine whenever they got to go to the range, but they were quite odd if you looked at details.

The one I've got in my lap right now is stamped GUU-5/P over what was obviously a milled off marking. It is marked SAFE-SEMI-AUTO and functions accordingly. It's a Colt, and has the standard AR-15 marking on the left side of the mag well. Here's an example of what it looks like.
http://www.hunt101.com/data/500/medium/GUU-5.JPG

roklok
December 13, 2010, 01:58 PM
I was issued a Colt M16 that was also factory marked AR-15. The early M-16s were AR-15s, so the assertion that AR-15s are semi auto only is incorrect.

Dilbert
December 13, 2010, 02:50 PM
Yep, Air Force. Pretty sure my rifle was older than the airplanes I work on.

cashmore1985
December 13, 2010, 05:02 PM
just to finally put a nail in the coffin of the "no AR-15's are full auto" thing I took a picture of our M4's at work. I'm in the navy. Here is a pic of one of our M4's that clearly says AR-15, M-16 and Safe, Semi, Auto

http://img254.imageshack.us/img254/5678/img20101213111447.th.jpg (http://img254.imageshack.us/i/img20101213111447.jpg/)

jborushko
December 13, 2010, 05:40 PM
Yep, Air Force. Pretty sure my rifle was older than the airplanes I work on.

true statement sir!

i know the rifles on my base are older than BOTH my aircraft myself!

not to mention the state of utter disrepair of the m14s that the honor guard used - that is until a friend of mine told me about it, then i was obligated to repair them ;)

roklok
December 13, 2010, 08:44 PM
Thanks Cashmore for posting that picture. If I still had my issued AR-15 M16 I would have posted a picture. Makes me really wish I would have photographed the receiver while I had it, as often as this subject comes up.


Quote: "The actual "AR-15" models were never fully-auto. Colt would sell full-autos to civilians as NFA items, but those were not AR-15s. I'm not sure where you heard that actual "AR-15s" were full-auto, but that is not the case. Colt reserved the term "AR-15" to denote a semi-auto designed for civilian use. Civilians could purchase a RDIAS or modify their lowers to be full-auto prior to 1986 using the NFA, but the AR-15s themselves were not and never have been full-auto."

A great illustration that Wikipedia (if that is where the poster got his info) is not the infallible source that some believe it to be.

Quentin2
December 14, 2010, 01:22 AM
I knew my M16 in 1968 was stamped AR-15. But no pictures of it so thanks for the more recent reports of this and your picture, cashmore1985.

cashmore1985
December 14, 2010, 09:13 AM
I'm not sure how old that receiver is but it is stamped m16a1 on it.

AFshooter
December 16, 2010, 05:29 PM
Finally snapped a pic of mine:
http://www.hunt101.com/data/500/medium/photo88.jpg