When thinking about what a “modern” military rifle looks like, many Americans are likely to picture the M-16. But here’s the thing: the M-16 is hardly “modern” at all. The weapon has been in service with the U.S. Armed Forces since 1964.
So, did innovation in standard military rifles just suddenly stop? Not even close. Since the Vietnam War, the AR-15-derived rifle has been through many makeovers. It just so happens that that initial innovation was so revolutionary, that changes have been minimal compared to what came before.
This has led to many firearm enthusiasts to dub the M-16 the single best military rifle in history. And while there’s certainly a debate to be had — along with comparisons to the Soviet Union’s infamous AK-47 — it’s easy to see how one could come to this conclusion.
It’s not an accident that the M-16 has been adopted — and continues to be adopted — by industrialized armed forces around the world. While it’s true that many forces opt for the AK, M-16 variants are still preferred by most of the world’s most formidable military forces.
So, what makes the M-16 so darn special? How much more room is there for change?
Here’s the Military Arms Channel with the full breakdown.