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Old April 11, 2008, 01:36 AM   #1
Timbow
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M16 improvements over the years

What improvements have been made to the M16/M4/AR-15 style rifles since the Vietnam war when they were reportedly worthless pieces of crap? You don't hear about those problems anymore unless I'm just not aware of them. What was it that made them so unreliable back then and why are they so much better now? I was just thinking the other day that something must have been done for those rifles to have stayed in combat as long as they have with the rough start they had and the many American lives they cost. What is different about today's models?
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Old April 11, 2008, 02:26 AM   #2
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The earliest versions didn't have a forward assist or shell deflector. They also had a 3 pronged flash suppressor.

Supposedly it was changed so it wouldn't snag in the brush. I met a Vietnam Vet that said that was BS. He said it worked great for opening the MREs too.

The biggest issue was they tried to tell our troops the M16s didn't need to be cleaned. They were wrong.

Somewhere in my travels I also read 20 round mags should only be loaded with 18 & 30 rounders are ok fully loaded. Not sure exactly why.
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Old April 11, 2008, 02:36 AM   #3
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Well, for starters, we are actually preaching cleaning them rather than telling people they are so advanced they don't need to be cleaned and are issuing out cleaning kits as well. Seriously, look at the pre-A1 stocks and there is no butt-trap for any cleaning gear.
Another thing that has appeared over the years is the M-4 feeding ramps in the upper receiver and barrel extenstion as well. It's a little larger and improves feeding. Think of it as a throat job for an M-16 and you'd be pretty much right on here.
Of course the heavier barrel, tighter twist, better sights, brass deflector, and interchangable handguards on the A2 are an improvement but one change that oes unnoticed by a lot of people is the reinforced lower receiver areas around the front pivot pin and extension tube areas also strengthen the rifle in these areas as well.
You still have the dirty direct gas impengement system that has to be cleaned but in the bolt area you are also looking at better ejector spring buffers (the current ones are black) whereas the early M-16s didn't have a buffer at all so this serves to strengthen the pressure the extractor puts on the spent casing to improve extraction. Also, original barrels and chambers weren't chromed lined and combined with the heat and humidity of south east asia as well as being told the rifle didn't need to be cleaned, today prevents a lot of the corrosion, rust and pitting that also plauged the early M-16's extraction of fired cases.
Really, the M-16 today isn't all that bad of a rifle. Yes, it's dirty with the gas being pumped back into the bolt carrier which means you do have to clean it more often (when I was in the Corps, I cleaned my rifle daily weather it needed it or not) but if you keep it cleaned and propperly lubed, it's not as unreliable as a lot of people make it out to be.
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Old April 11, 2008, 05:03 AM   #4
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Here is the list

1) Recommended frequent cleaning and issued troops cleaning kits.
2) Forward bolt assist, with tear drop button, on A2's became round button.
3) Different Flash suppressor (note: not a brake or combined unit), A2's bottom slot removed.
4) Chrome-lined the chamber and interior of barrels (makes chambering and extraction easier).
5) Reinforced lower receiver, different take-down pin setup.
6) Addition of 30 round magazines, different follower design, mag case which held (2) gernades & (3) mags.
7) Trap door in butt-stock to hold cleaning kit.
8) Different recoil buffer and different spring, changed cycle rate (slowed it down).
9) Added bolt carrier mass and forward assist notches in bolt carrier.
10) Chrome lined bolt carrier.
11) Extractor spring and buffer strengthened.
12) Stronger Hammer Spring

M16 -> M16 A1

Southeast Vet 70~72.
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Old April 11, 2008, 05:33 AM   #5
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They did not have MRE's in Vietnam. it was all C-rats and LRP rations
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Old April 11, 2008, 08:03 AM   #6
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M16, Introduced mid 1960s
M16A1, Late 1960
M16A2 1980s
M16A3, full Auto A2 not general issue.
M16A4 1990s. Same as A2 w/o carry handle.

Good websites that shows the differences between each model.
http://world.guns.ru/assault/as18-e.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M16_rifle
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Old April 11, 2008, 08:11 AM   #7
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Check out the last three months of Small Arms Review. In the last three issues there is an interview with John Sullivan who worked closely on that project. Admittedly, he discusses the shortcomings more than a serial history.
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Old April 11, 2008, 08:26 AM   #8
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The things can be improved upon still further - Hydraulic bolt buffers can slow the cyclic rate to "manageable," and help with the "boing-boing" head...
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Old April 11, 2008, 06:12 PM   #9
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Original M16 didn't have a chromed bore and chamber.

That was one of the first, and most effective fixes.

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Old April 11, 2008, 06:37 PM   #10
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Alot of the problem I recall was the Use of Ball powder. I think it took a bit to find the right powder. Well that was according to the Fat guy with the pointy head. Dr something.. arms expert

Last edited by armedtotheteeth; April 11, 2008 at 09:59 PM.
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Old April 12, 2008, 12:08 AM   #11
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A lot of it was the ammo, but some was the Army

Most of the "unreliable" M16s in Vietnam were a result of a) not being cleaned properly, or enough, and/or b) the ammo.

Many units got M16s and were told the new hi-tech guns didn't need cleaning. Cleaning rods arrived in country about 6 months after the rifles did, and no matter how clever you are, you can't properly clean a .22 cal rifle with a .30 cal rod. The enclosed reciever and smaller parts found in the M16 required a bit more care and cleaning than previous rifles, also because of the direct impingment gas system. Once the Army came to both understand and accept this, things got better.

The other thing that caused the early M16s to fail was the ammo. The original ammo was fine, and the rifles worked well in testing. However, somewhere along the line the ammo specs on the powder got changed, and being a gas operated action, the M16 is dependant on ammo that is in-spec for the rifle. A wrong pressure curve and the gun malfunctions, possibly jamming badly with the extractor tearing through the case rim.

Some claim the change in the ammo spec was deliberate, an attempt to "sabotage" the rifle by hardcore conservative officers who felt that we should not adopt a .22 cal rifle over the battle proven .30 cal. This may be true, and if so, I deeply hope those responsible roast in hell for eternity, but it could just as likely be the result of regular bureaucratic incompetence.

Over the last 40 years, modifications to the design, and correction of the flaws in training and ammo have worked nearly all the bugs out.
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Old April 12, 2008, 03:03 PM   #12
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Quote:
but it could just as likely be the result of regular bureaucratic incompetence.
In fact, more likely. Incompetence is far more common than evil. If it's down to on or the other being the problem, it's usually idiocy.

The chrome to the chamber and bore was definitely the most important change. IMO, the early rifles without the chrome is where 98% of the reputation for jamming and unreliability come from. Well, that and the don't clean it thing.
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Old April 12, 2008, 09:02 PM   #13
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I was in Vietnam in 1967 with the 1st Bn. 9th Marines and I experienced the M16 failures first hand. Lots of Marines and soldiers died because of this rifle. The attached link will tell you the whole story. To this day, I will not own any AR15/M16 or whatever you want to call them.

http://www.jouster.com/articles30m1/
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Old April 12, 2008, 09:46 PM   #14
Timbow
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If there were so many problems right off the bat, why not switch to another weapon altogether that works rather than tinker with something that didn't?
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Old April 13, 2008, 12:08 AM   #15
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That's a very good question. The Stoner 63 modular rifle system was available at that time, but maybe it would have made to much sense to have a rifle that could fill every role from carbine to general purpose light machine gun.

Just like the XM8 would have.

All those decisions are way above my pay grade.

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Old April 13, 2008, 01:03 AM   #16
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"The Saga of the M16 in
Vietnam (part 1)

by Dick Culver

The following story is one that I tell with some trepidation, since my experience(s) with the "Matty Mattel Mouse Guns" were not pleasant ones. In this time and place far separated from the grim reality of kill or be killed, the bitter memories of the "little black rifle that wouldn’t shoot" have started blending into the mists of long forgotten firefights. Some of the bitterness of those days of long ago will no doubt color the story somewhat, but in order for the reader to understand the story from the perspective of those of us who experienced the frustration, this is probably unavoidable. There seemed to be a callous disregard for the lives and well being of those individuals who willingly fought and often died using a seriously flawed rifle. This is their story then, for those who went in harm's way with the XM16E1, and most of all, for those who didn’t come back. May their sacrifices never be forgotten.

Like most things, the reality of being armed with an ineffective weapon was of little import to those who were not risking their lives on a daily basis. By the time the problem was finally fixed, many friends and comrades had been awarded "the white cross", or in the verbiage of the time, had "bought the farm". Many lives could have been saved if a few individuals in decision making billets had possessed the intestinal fortitude to correct the problem. ..."




Go to the posted link and read the rest of the story.
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Old April 13, 2008, 08:49 PM   #17
navajo
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switch

They did not switch because RSM could not possibly be wrong about anything.

The one thing that has never been attempted to be fixed is the caliber.
No matter what its called, its still a .22 center fire which was designed for hunting small varmits with four legs.
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Old April 14, 2008, 03:51 AM   #18
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Thank you clem, good link, good history.
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Old April 14, 2008, 07:23 AM   #19
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Alot of the problem I recall was the Use of Ball powder. I think it took a bit to find the right powder. Well that was according to the Fat guy with the pointy head. Dr something.. arms expert
The original powder specified for the 55gr ball rounds functioned perfectly in the AR-15/M16. As a way to save money, the bean counters switched to a powder buffered with a calcium compound - when firing, each shot was like blowing chalk dust into the receiver and barrel. It had essentially the same effect on the rifle that the fine sand in Iraq is having on our rifles now.

Quote:
You still have the dirty direct gas impengement system that has to be cleaned
When a modern M16/M4 malfunctions due to fouling, it's because of dirt and sand clogging the weapon, not carbon (which mostly gets blown out and replaced by a fresh layer with each shot, otherwise the gas tube and carrier key would rapidly be plugged). That is why the rifle mist be cleaned so often, especially in dusty/sandy environments. Tight clearances between moving parts are the issue, not the direct gas system. The direct gas system is actually responsible for the rifle's accuracy, and a dirty rifle that hits the enemy is better than a clean-running piston design that doesn't, which is why the AK isn't really working all that well for the muzzies.

Quote:
Just like the XM8 would have.
Ah, the wondrous XM8, the piece of **** that melted during full auto trials and had even more reliability issues than the first issued M16s. Another ****ty HK product that the HK marketing team would have you believe was designed by the gods specifically to outperform the M16/M4; but it never does in a meaningful way. Much like the dust test performed some time ago, that supposedly showed that piston designs are better than the M4 because they have less stoppages after tens of thousands of rounds fired. What the "replace the M16 NOW!" guys don't tell you in their reports is that stoppages don't happen like clockwork, they start piling up near the end of the test because of significant wear and tear on the rifles. It doesn't matter that the M4 had five times more failures than the HK416 if it was happening after the ten thousand round mark, because no solider is going to fire five thousand rounds without an opportunity to clean the rifle, let alone ten or twenty thousand. And inside what was effectively a sandblasting cabinet, as well. The XM8 trials are just like the dust test; while skewed to make the M4 look bad, if one looks at the facts they plainly show that there is no replacement for the M16 that makes enough of a difference in performance to matter at the time. The problems we're facing in the middle east are a problem of tactics, not a problem with the issued rifles/carbines. You want to replace something, replace the SAW, which really is the jam-o-matic in sandy conditions that the M16 is made out to be.

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The one thing that has never been attempted to be fixed is the caliber.
No matter what its called, its still a .22 center fire which was designed for hunting small varmits with four legs.
The most common commercial .223 ammunition is loaded with lightweight, rapidly expanding bullets designed for killing small animals. FMJ and heavy OTM projectiles used in the military loadings, fired into vital organs, kills a man every bit as effectively as any other piece of metal impacting the body at three thousand feet per second, penetrating deep into the body cavity, turning sideways and fragmenting, ripping apart whatever organs it passes through. Bullet design > caliber. The difference between .223 and .308 is a few hundredths of an inch; when a projectile penetrates your vitals and fragments, shredding tissue and stopping your internal organs from functioning, you tend to be just as dead regardless of the diameter of the projectile. There are plenty of dead commies and muslims that will attest to that fact - and the Afgans referred to the reds' centerfire .22, 5.45x39mm, as "the poison bullet" for a reason. The rifle has been fixed and the caliber doesn't need fixing; most of the people who say it does are people who have much more experience shooting varmints with .223 than human beings (As much as I hate to use that term to describe commies and jihadis...).
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Old April 14, 2008, 08:12 AM   #20
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Some claim the change in the ammo spec was deliberate, an attempt to "sabotage" the rifle by hardcore conservative officers who felt that we should not adopt a .22 cal rifle over the battle proven .30 cal. This may be true, and if so, I deeply hope those responsible roast in hell for eternity,
+1 on roast in hell for eternity. I don't really care whether it was gross incompetence or evil intention. Roast in hell for eternity.

Quote:
and the Afgans referred to the reds' centerfire .22, 5.45x39mm, as "the poison bullet" for a reason.
Many people seem to forget (or don't know) that Russian troops begged for .22 centerfires with red dot scopes. Ak47 has been obsolete in Mother Russia for a few years now.
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