View Full Version : How Old is My M16?

June 12, 2002, 05:18 PM
I'm issued an M16A1 in the Army National Guard. It's been around the block many times, and many old parts have been replaced with, erm, not as old parts. THe buttstock has the trapdoor in it instead of the rubber buttpad some of them have. They've been upgraded to round handguards, though I liked the triangular ones better.

At any rate, on the side of the magazine well it has a Colt logo and says "Colt AR-15". Beneath that aways, amongst various serial numbers, it has something like "M16A1 Mod" stamped on it, leading me to believe that my rifle is modified from a semiauto AR-15, or something.

Others in our unit are made by GM Hydra-Matic Divsion.

Any guesses on the ages of either model?

June 12, 2002, 05:46 PM
Originally the AR15 was the model name for the rifle as made by Armalite, Colt purchased the trademark rights to the name as well as the patents to the design.

The very early guns produced by Colt still had the "Armalite AR15" name on the side for a short while then later Colt dropped "Armalite" from the rifles, both early rifles should be without a forward assist. Then next up was the M16A1 type after the government accepted the design and gave it a designation/variation class, M16A1 having the forward assist.

If it's got the "Armalite AR15" or "Colt AR15" on it yet has all the A1 features, it's likely an early manufacture AR15 for government use that was later converted to M16A1 specs and then restamped to note the changes that were made to it. If it's got the "Colt Armalite AR15" or "Colt AR15" marked on it, it's old enough to have seen use with the SOG groups/advisors and other units that saw the earliest deployment to South Vietnam before everything blew up over there.

I've heard of similar things being done to M16A1s where they were converted to A2 specifications with a new upper assembly and fire control parts while getting it's lower receiver restamped to update it's mode of fire and it's variant.

Somebody on the old AR15.com forums had an EXCELLENT set of pictures taken of a mint condition full auto "Colt, Armalite AR15" as originally issued and used by the government. It too was floating around in the backs of his reserve unit's armory. Unfortunately I think the link is now inactive after about a year of being on the net. I might have them still saved to my computer some place but I'd have to look around for them and then upload them, the rifle was a beauty and a real historic piece for sure.

A decent resource to track the way Colts have been configured and marked over the years can be found here

ballistic gelatin
June 12, 2002, 05:52 PM
Nightcrawler, what do you do in the Guard?

June 12, 2002, 06:01 PM
12B Combat Engineer

107th Engineers (http://www.107thengineers.org)

June 12, 2002, 09:45 PM
So, in essence, I'm expected to fight with a 30 year old weapon. Of course, our 60's and M2s are just as old.

Now, in an ideal world, the Army would sell small arms off to the civilian population after they've been in for, say, 20 years or so, and replace them with new ones.

Hardly idea.

June 12, 2002, 11:13 PM
Nightcrawler. Thank whatever diety you worship you have a Colt instead of those gawd awfull Hydra matics.

I am surprised they are still around. They were junk when I used them almost 30 years ago. Thought by now we would have given them all away to our "allies' in S America or somewhere.

You wanna talk old, you should have seen some of the 1911's we had to use back then.

June 12, 2002, 11:18 PM
Guard units stationed inside San Francisco Airport still carried M16s with triangular handguards.

June 12, 2002, 11:55 PM
From the way it sounds, about the only 30 year old original part is the lower receiver. I have a couple of rifles over 100 years old that still work perfectly. As long as it still works, don't worry about the age.:)

June 13, 2002, 12:06 AM
As long as it still works

That IS the question, isn't it? To be honest, I don't know. The only live rounds we fire are the blue tipped low velocity plastic stuff for our 25 meter qualification course. Other than that, it's blanks. Never fired a round of ball ammo through my Guard M16.

June 13, 2002, 07:40 AM
Get a copy of The Black Rifle. If you like M16s it's well worth the 60 bucks or so. Great resource. Pictures of all the old legendary stuff, like the Armalite marked Colt AR15 M16s.

Mine in basic was marked Colt AR15 and underneath it said M16A1, IIRC. GM Hydramatics were dreck.

Master Blaster
June 13, 2002, 08:09 AM
GM Hydramatic, that the name of the first automatic transmission made by GM for cars, or was that hydrostatic.

Years ago when I got my first drivers license Iwas riding with my grandmother in her car I noticed her odd driving style, she used to speed up to 25mph take her foot off the gas then speed up to 40 and take her foot off the gass again, then speed up to 60 and take her foot off the gas again. This made for a jerky ride to say the least. I asked her why she drove in this jerky manner.

Her answer: I have to take my foot off the gas to let the transmission shift??????!!!!!!!!

Later that day I told my dad and he laughed and said that back in the early 1950s when my Grandmom learned to drive, they had bought their first car with a hydrostatic drive (first automatic transmission), you had to take your foot off the gas to let it shift at the top of each drive belt/ gear range;)

My grandfather never let my GM drive when he was in the car.

Later that day I called my grandmom and explained to her that it was no longer necessary to take your foot off so the car could shift.

When you shoot that hydromatic do you have to take your finger off the trigger to chamber another round???

June 13, 2002, 08:48 AM
Automatics actually go back quite a bit further than the 50s. The Model T was considered to be semi automatic, IIRC. By the 30s they had fluid drive which was a crude automatic.

The GM transmission you're prolly thinking of is the PowerGlide.

June 13, 2002, 02:08 PM
Master Blaster Not quite, when you shot a Hydramatic you had to slap the mag, pull the charging handle and whack the forward assist to get it to fire the second shot. :D

June 13, 2002, 02:42 PM
Let go of the trigger to fire the second shot? No, sometimes you have to pull the charging handle back. It sure was acting up last FTX we had. Wouldn't even eject (blanks). I had the blank adapter screwed in as tight as I could get it, too.

Of course, the weapon hadn't been lubed. They work much better when lubed, especially if it's dusty. Dust and dirt can jam them up pretty good.

June 13, 2002, 08:49 PM
When I wanted to know how old my Colt AR was I just called Colt, told them the serial number, and they told me the year of production. Simple enough.

Larry Wright
July 21, 2002, 11:04 AM
They've been upgraded to round handguards, though I liked the triangular ones better.

The triangular handguards sorta suck when you're all sweaty and absolutely no fun with bayonet drills IMHO. BTW, built any Bailey bridges lately?

July 21, 2002, 12:15 PM
They've been upgraded to round handguards, though I liked the triangular ones better.

Upgraded? The original ones probably broke after years of use and the Military no longer has the triangular ones.:D Otherwise I'd bet they would have stuck triangular ones back on.

But then thas something about the Military. They make you use stuff until it dies. When I was with the 24th ID in Ft Stewart we were all assured that in a wartime situation we would all be issued new howitzers from storage sites in Germany. No way would we take our crappy deadlined M109s. Guess what..I sat in the desert for seven months and went into battle in the sands if Iraq (well..strange to say it was muddy there when the rains came..almost as bad as Georgia clay) with the same crappy howitzer I played in the mud with at Ft. Stewart.

Lesson learned?..Take care of your equipment because you won't get new stuff when you go to fight.

Ohhh..and the funny part. Before we deployed we emptied out all the local Walmarts, Kmarts and sporting goods stores of all their cleaning supplies. All on Army money.:D

Good Shooting

July 21, 2002, 12:51 PM
Wouldn't even eject (blanks).

Choking on blanks is normal. Doesn't mean anything bad about the weapon. Blanks just don't work well.

I had the blank adapter screwed in as tight as I could get it, too.

Check the ledge where the muzzle opens up into the muzzle brake. There should be a right angle there. If it tapers or is rounded, you've got carbon built up there and the blank adaptor can't seat properly.

A dentist's probe works quite well there. It's all steel, so you can't hurt it. I don't recommend the probe inside the receiver, though. Soft aluminum and hardened stainless steel are NOT a good match! :eek:

July 21, 2002, 03:30 PM
Bayonet drills? Heh. I've never put a bayonet on a rifle. They ran out of them in basic training before they got to me, and we never issue them in the Guards.

Bailey Bridges? Built one in basic. Got put on panel crew. Uck. No more. 12-charlies build bridges. 12-bravos do mines and demolitions. Demo's fun stuff, but we only get to mess with it during annual training.

I'm a SAW gunner now, I'm told. Swell. Talk about overcomplicated...admittedly, the SAW doesn't have as many little itty bitty pieces as the M16, but they sure are a pain in the can to clean.

We've had two of them that, upon returning from being borrowed by the local University ROTC, have had the peep sight sheared right off. Quite an accomplishment, given the thick steel wings protecting it. :rolleyes:

July 21, 2002, 06:43 PM
An ROTC unit got to play with SAWs??

The only thing they let the Army ROTC unit at my university use are those rubber-ducky M16's.

Don't feel too bad though.. you're not the only military person using ancient equipment. (http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/bomber/b52_33.jpg)

July 21, 2002, 06:48 PM
Demolitions? Ooooh boy! Fun stuff. When I was in NCO academy we had to run two patrols with demo. TNT for one and a slab of C-4 the second time. They had no problem finding the demo man. Me! Me! I'll do it! :D

Funniest thing I saw in the Army was when we did the demo range in NCO academy. We all prepared our little TNT charge with 18 inches or so of fuse, and an M-60 igniter. We set our charges, pulled the ring, and several had to be restrained from immediately running away. No, you've got to check to see your fuse is burning first. It is? Okay, now you can walk back to the bunker.

Picture a big black guy, maybe 6'4", with an equally big instructor holding him back by the collar like a dog on a leash, while he leannnnnned into his shirt as he headed back to the bunker as fast as the sergeant would let him move. And he had the biggest eyes I have ever seen on any man! :D

July 21, 2002, 07:46 PM
Granted, the modern demolitions and initiators we use (MDI) is a lot less fussy than the old electircal stuff. Safer, too. To the point where riding in the back of a track, sitting on top of five 40-lb (TNT) cratering charges, with 12lbs of C4 strapped to my chest doesn't bother me. You just try not to think about it. The Army assures us it's perfectly safe, after all. :eek: :rolleyes:

Haste makes waste, though. We had one hard-charging, particularly anal sergeant rush a bunch of fresh-out-of-AIT privates through their demo setup at Grayling last year. It ended up not going off properly, and a couple guys had to run out there and plant charges next to a burned but not exploded shaped charge, risking their lives. All because one hard charger wanted to be hooah and high-speed. :rolleyes:

It'd be less worrysome if we messed with live demo more than once a year. Running around with plastic explosives and TNT is the kind of thing you don't want to get rusty at, you know?

Yeah, though, Michigan Tech ROTC gets to borrow our M16s and SAWs on occasion. Hell, JROTC used to get to play with 'em, before PC set in at my old high school. I learned how to field strip an M16 when I was 14. :)

July 22, 2002, 10:33 AM
At any rate, on the side of the magazine well it has a Colt logo and says "Colt AR-15". Beneath that aways, amongst various serial numbers, it has something like "M16A1 Mod" stamped on it, leading me to believe that my rifle is modified from a semiauto AR-15, or something

It is not a conversion. Colt really did make full-auto weapons that were stamped AR-15. Almost of of the ones that went to the civilian market prior to the ban in in May 1986 were stamped this way. Only the ones going to the DOD were stamped M16**.

If you want to check, just open it up and check for a DIAS. It will not be there.

July 22, 2002, 11:15 AM
The Colt M16s were all rollstamped "Colt AR15 Model M16, IIRC.

The civilian clone Colt was marked exactly the same except the model was SP1.

July 22, 2002, 11:50 AM
Since this thread is still alive and kicking, I took a look around my harddrive and finally found some pictures of a VERY old Colt/Armalite AR15 that was found in the back of some reserve unit's armoury.

These are the pictures of the gun I mentioned in my post on the top of this thread, just took me a long time to track them down on my harddrive.

Look at the charging handle, delta ring, slab sided lower, absence of a FA, and absence of any brass deflector. They don't get much older than this rifle, piece of history and amazing it's still in such condition.


So Nightcrawler, how closely does the gun you describe fit the rifle I pictured? I even have a picture of the above rifle's firing pin retaining pin from the bolt carrier, it's not the little split cotter pin but a machined piece of metal.

July 22, 2002, 12:06 PM
All of our M16s have the forward assist. They also have the cotter pin in the bolt carrier group.

I have Annual Training on August 3rd-17th. I'll try to get the beginning digits of some serial numbers of both the Colt and the Hydra-Matic M16s, to maybe get a better idea of their exact age.

Now if anybody really wants an arcaheology project, try and date our M113A2s. :o

July 22, 2002, 02:33 PM
Don't go knockin the M113. there was a time when it was the only reliable tracked vehicle the Army had.

You young punks are spoiled with all this great equipment the Army has now.

And you don't have to eat Ham n Lima beans :barf:


July 22, 2002, 02:41 PM
Wow. Those are old, but they look to be in great condition.

Jeff White
July 22, 2002, 03:04 PM

I would guess that most of the ones marked Colt AR15 have serial numbers in the 4 million range. The ones my Guard unit turned in last December did. We even had a couple of XM16E1s that had been upgraded to M16A1s. I would guess that your Colts were made in 1965 or 1966 and the Hydromatics were built a little later. I don't have my copy of The Black Rifle here at work so I can't check to be sure.

When the Army adopted the M16A2 as standard in 1985, they decided to stop buying parts that were common to both the M16A1 and M16A2. As soon as all the triangle handguards, A1 pistol grips and A1 stocks were used up, they started putting A2 furniture on them. It was not an attempt to upgrade, but just plain and simple economics.

Now fast forward to 2002. My son who just gradutated from Infantry OSUT on 14 June was issued an M16A4 that started life as a Colt AR15 back about the same time yours did. The Army recently let a contract for conversion kits to upgrade many of these older weapons to M16A2s and M16A4s. I guess they have decided that the reinforcements on the lower receiver that was part of the original A2 design aren't necessary. So when you finally trade your old A1s in, you might get some back, only upgraded to A2s or A4s.


July 22, 2002, 05:09 PM
Ham n Lima beans

You just had to do that, didn't you?!? :mad: We had a nice thread going here and you had to bring that stuff into it!!! I suppose next you'll be talking about spaghetti! :mad:



Anyway, Nightcrawler, the bottom line answer to your question is..

Older than YOU!


July 22, 2002, 07:05 PM
Problem with our 113s is this: Right up until 98 or so, my unit was wheeled. Then the Army switched us to Mech, and we ended up getting somebody's old M113A2s. There's boxes inside of them marked for 7.62mm ammunition, for crying out loud. (We mount fifty cals on them.) Some of them run okay. Some of them run...well, there's this one that on the best of days and after superhuman efforts of the mechanics can barely pull 25mph. We used to have a huge hard time getting parts for these things, but...well, I think in a lot of ways they're maybe worn out. They're a pain in the butt to PMCS, too.

Don't know ham and lima beans. Things have improved in that aspect. I still sleep in shelter halves, though. You know the canvas ones the US has been using since WWII? Yeah. I got 'em.

But the food...I know I'm not the only one here to experience the horror of the Vegetarian MRE, right? :barf:

July 22, 2002, 08:52 PM
Hey, I think some of the vegetarian MRE's are pretty decent. I like the minestrone 'soup' for instance.

The only one I truly despise are the franks and beans. Those hot dogs are nasty, salty things.

July 22, 2002, 10:00 PM
A.K.A. "Ham slice". In MRE's, all meat, whether they call it chicken, pork, or beef, tastes the same. The ham slice is a little compressed brick of meat with little fake grill lines on it. I'm always humored by the image of some worker in the MRE factory drawing the grill lines on with a magic marker...

The peanut butter plugs you up. For like, days.

July 22, 2002, 10:49 PM
Every time I've watched the movie American Pie and I hear the phrase "s*** brick" I think of what MREs will do to a person.

July 22, 2002, 10:59 PM
I haven't a clue how to date your rifle but I'll add a bit of my experiences to the thread.

The guy you described who was 6'4" with wide eyes? That MUST have been the same guy next to me in the gas chamber at Parris Island who bolted for the door when he took off his mask. He got his hand on the knob before 3 drill instructors wrestled him to the ground and made him go through the mask drill. All guys in military stories who get scared to death are 6'4", right? ;)

I've only had the experience of handling M16A2 rifles in the Marine Corps, I have no idea what's in the armory at the air base. I do remember that all the M16A2 serial numbers began with the number 6 that I saw, and I seem to remember an armorer saying it was a trait of a military rifle. Who knows? I was amazed the first time I'd seen an A1 up close, it was from a PA NG infantry company on an exercise in Estonia. I thought they sold/gave them all away and that every US troop had an A2. I guess in the Marine Reserves we had much better luck with equipment, although it did take several YEARS to get Barrett .50cal sniper rifles.

Those "beans & franks" were called baby d*cks by many in my Reserve unit. The omelete with ham was terrible when they still had it, but when they introduced the new meals I was surprised at how edible they are. Have you tried the arctic rations? Those are great, more stuff to eat in them than you know what to do with. Another Marine Reserve story related to the cold weather rats, supposedly during one of the exercises in Norway, a young Marine refused to go outside to make a sit-down head call since it was so cold in the field. He experienced a rupture in his intestines and was medevaced to Ramstein AB, where he later died. Sad.

July 23, 2002, 06:05 AM
The peanut butter plugs you up. For like, days.

Oh, man, the more things change the more they remain the same. :eek:

C-rat cheese would do the same. Uh, do you kids know what a C-rat is?


Al Thompson
July 23, 2002, 06:56 AM
Hey Cap,

Question is - do you have a P-38 on your dogtag chain? :D I still have the scar where IMT drills convincced me that that was a bad idea....

I ate so many C rats that I had the location of every meal memorized in the case. I could always snag the tuna

July 23, 2002, 02:39 PM
Yeah, I know what a C-Rat is. My dad had 'em in Vietnam, and he told me about them.

I have a P-38 on my keychain; bought it when I was like 8, because my dad had one on HIS keychain. It comes in handy once in awhile for things (though I've never opened a can with it). More often than not I stab myself in the finger when I'm digging for my keys. :o

I LIKE the MRE Cheese. It's good with the crackers, and not as, well, frightening as the peanut butter. EVERYBODY loves the cheese. So natrually only one in five MREs has it, right? Yeah. LOL

July 23, 2002, 05:52 PM
Question is - do you have a P-38 on your dogtag chain?

NO way! You can get hurt that way!

It's on my key ring, where every sensible man carries it. :D

My dad had 'em in Vietnam, and he told me about them.

:p Smart alek kid!


Hey, when you can open a coke can with one, then you're good. ANYbody can open a C-rat can.

But you younger men have missed out on some fun, not having C-rats. The cheese makes a nice explosion when you toss it in the fire. Unopened. :D

Applesauce makes a muffled WHUMP kind of sound, and sprays hot applesauce for about 5 feet. Peanut butter is almost as explosive as cheese, though. It's the small size of the can, I think.

The pound cake is worthless for entertainment, though. Or eating! :barf:

July 23, 2002, 06:42 PM
Oh Cmon Capt Hoek. The C rat cheese made a great heater for the Ham N Limas ( Ham and Mother------s to grunts) when mixed with GI bug repellent. (the kind that came in the squeeze bottle)

Only REMFS wore P38's on their dog tag chain. Grunts took regular can openers with them. The kind you squeeze together and turn the knob. Also had a beer bottle cap opener which came in handy.

Key ring, of course you use a grenade ring right? Lost mine a long time ago, wish I could find another.

I still have a B1 unit "Beef with spiced sauce" intact and in the box. Found it in an old duffel bag.

That is the one that would shoot 3 feet if you heated the can before opening, believe it was the replacement for H N L.

Think I should donate it to a museum:D

Jeff White
July 23, 2002, 06:47 PM
You can mark a PZ with the C-ration peanut butter. Just lay the cans out in the inverted "Y", cut the cans open, light them. They will burn nicely.

You could trade the 20 year old cigarettes to a smoker for their peaches.


July 23, 2002, 07:15 PM

Hmmm. Wish I'd thought of it. It would have gone well with my rechargeable electric razor. Had a Remington that was good for about 2 weeks in the bush. :D

I DID have a nice big 4 inch thick peice of foam rubber for a bed, once I moved over to the TOWs. Ahhhh, only 4 men in a track built for 11! Room to stretch out! Pack it in, grunts! :D

I never tried burning cheese. I was afraid of toxic fumes!

Hey, watch out for that B1 unit. Old as it is, I suspect you should call the bomb squad to take care of it!

When I was a young PFC we got a batch of Cs that were dated the year I was born! They seeeeeemed okay, so Sergeant NeverWasTooBright told us to eat them. Being stupid and hungry we did. Ohhhh, did we :barf: !!!! But later that day. Odd thing was it took several days to hit some of us. I got it the evening I was to go home on my first leave.

Yeah, I got 'rich' trading cigarettes. But they phased them out while I was in. Mid '70s.

Hey, did we get seriously off track here or what? It's YOUR fault, Nightcrawler! You started all this talk about "OLD"!


Art Eatman
July 23, 2002, 10:52 PM
Ah, you young guys with your modern, up-to-date C-rats and MREs! You ain't lived 'til you tried WW II K-rats.

Even as an I-can-eat-anything-and-live kid of ten years, I got about 1/4 of the way into one of those ^%$%#!!! :barf: is complimentary!!!

:D, Art

July 24, 2002, 12:52 AM
I've heard of these...these "Kay-Rashons" of which you speak. Ancient tomes tell us that since time immemorial, Knights of the Old Republic were forced to go into battle with nothing for sustinance but inadequate, foul foods that were barely edible and left the warriors with pains in their guts and doubt in their hearts....

(My dad enlisted in the USAF in the late 50's. I think he had a few K-Rations in his life.) :D

July 24, 2002, 06:11 AM
Yer a mean one, Mr. Nightcrawler.

"Ancient tomes, indeed! :mad:


Art Eatman
July 24, 2002, 07:15 AM
Late '50s, Nightcrawler? Musta been leftovers from Normandy or Guadalcanal...At least the one I tried was "fresh". :D Any resemblance to, ah, "food" was accidental and unintended.


July 24, 2002, 08:42 AM
What?? I'm half kidding! :p LOL

(Don't worry, I'm sure when I'm old I'll have some young punk harrassing me, too. ;) )

July 24, 2002, 05:47 PM
"Half joking" he says. Hmph. That's enough of this nonsense. Art, spank 'im!