View Full Version : AR-15 Carbine Nomenclature
October 18, 2012, 10:16 AM
Okay, I posted this in general discussion bcause I flt it was more pedantic than any technical discussion of smi-automatic rifles.
First, I carried an M-4A1 with an underslung M-203 when I was in the Guard. I called it either "my m four" or alternately, "my rifle", and always inwardly remonstrated myself because it was a carbine.
Which brin up my next point, in the civilian world, I refer to all the military styled modern black rifles as AR-15s, still with me?
And my Dad, who carried an XM-117, or what the Air Force calls the GAU-5/A and what he called a CAR-15.
So, my multi-faceted question is this, What difference if any, is there between an XM-117, CAR-15, or GAU-5/A?
Is CAR- an abbreviation for Colt Automatic Rifle or Carbine Armalite Rifle?
And lastly, or modern black sporting rifles correctly referred to as AR-15s?
October 18, 2012, 12:53 PM
Not former military but here's my take.
AR-15 VERY generic term for modular rifles built AS battle rifles for 5.56 NATO and similar cartridges AND/OR sporting rifles builds from the same or similar components with at least a tip of the hat to Eugene Stoner.
(AR-10 is the generic term for rifles built to a very similar concept but made to accommodate the larger 7.62 NATO etc.)
OK so far?
CAR- originally was a Colt effort to re-associate the AR-15 with the Colt brand. Early CAR-15's were civilian/law enforcement models and M-16's were military models. At first it had nothing to do with barrel length or type of stock or fore end.
Today a CAR-15 is a generic term for a AR-15 carbine. So I guess Colt lost the fight to retain trademark to the name "CAR-15".
The XM-177 (not -117) was an X-perimental short M-16 which came into service as the GAU-5/A Submachine Gun (GAU = Gun, Aircraft, Unit.) for the Air Force. The Army carbines, with slight differences in furniture and barrel length were called CAR-15 Commando's. It was featured in the TV series Tour of Duty, Terrence Knox, the salty, older career NCO used one. Great opening sequence with him rocking out with with Commando to a Rolling Stones tune. ("Paint it Black".) BTW the soundtrack on the DVD's do not use the Stone's music so don't call me out on it.:rolleyes:
Current M4's have 14.5 inch barrels and M-4 Commando's have 11.5 inch barrels.
October 18, 2012, 01:40 PM
The XM-177 (not -117) was an X-perimental short M-16 which came into service as the GAU-5/A Submachine Gun (GAU = Gun, Aircraft, Unit.) for the Air Force. The Army carbines, with slight differences in furniture and barrel length were called CAR-15 Commando's.
I'm an aviation buff with an interest in the Vietnam War, and FWIW the Army helicopter aircrew who used this gun seem to have more or less universally referred to it as the CAR-15 rather than the XM-177. This caused me some confusion when I attempted to research it, because modern reference sources almost always call it the XM-177 and deemphasize the term CAR-15- perhaps because CAR-15 has become a somewhat generic description for short-barrel AR-15/M-16 variants in general.
October 18, 2012, 02:37 PM
An interesting question that I’ll let others more expert than I am answer.
But in your case since you served (and with a grenade launcher no less) I’d say you can call ‘em anything you want and if someone gives you any lip just fix ‘em with a steely eyed, thousand yard glare and say:
“Well when you’re actually using ‘em you’re not all that PARTICULAR about the NOMENCLATURE.”
And heap as much scorn as you can on the words "particular" and “nomenclature.”
October 18, 2012, 02:46 PM
I'd tell you how to actually say par-------ticular and nomen-------------clature,but I never wore the roundhat, and I don't particularly care to be booted off the blog for my training nomenclature. Thank you.
October 18, 2012, 03:26 PM
I think "CAR" covers just about any short-barreled AR-15 derivative that pre-dates the M4. There were a number of different XM-177 variants, with different barrel lengths, with and without suppressors, etc., and I think you can pretty-much lump them all together as CARs, or "shorties", for general discussion.
Armalite was long out of the picture when the the carbine versions of the M16 were introduced.
"AR" is sort of like "1911", in that it has no specific meaning, and is open to interpretation. Really, it's only specific enough to differentiate from "AK"! You have ARs that are not chambered in 5.56, do not utilize direct gas impingement, do not have buffers or buffer tubes in the stock, etc., so like "1911", it's more about the general appearance than any specific detail of chambering, mode of operation, etc.
October 18, 2012, 09:19 PM
Okay, sorta makes sense now.
I remember watching "Tour of Duty", loving the show, and the Sergeant, who also occassionaly carried an Ithaca '37.
In regards to the CAR-15, I think Pops carried a legit CAR-15 in lieu of an XM-177, based on pictures he has and what pics of I've seen of the XM-177 online.
Carguychris, you'll appreciate that Pops was a crew chief on Air Force HH-53s Super Jolly Green Giants and carried a variety of weapons, including his carbine, and Ithaca '37, a Combat Masterpiece in a shoulder holster and a Government Model slung low to serve as an ad hoc personal protector.:D
October 19, 2012, 12:35 AM
I think "CAR" covers just about any short-barreled AR-15 derivative that pre-dates the M4.
And still covers pretty much any short-barrel AR-15 pattern carbine available to civilians. The M4 is a military issue weapon with a 14-1/2" barrel and select fire that isn't legal for civilians to own. It also has a barrel with a small-diameter section for mounting accessories. M4 clones sold to the rest of us are generally (in my experience) referred to even by their owners as "M-forgeries." The manufacturers seem to have catchy names for them, but generally the manufacturers don't call them either M4 or CAR-15.
To me, a CAR-15 is a 16" AR-15 with a collapsible buttstock. My AR carbine has a fixed, A2-style buttstock, so I just call it an AR carbine.
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