Nobody has hit the for the fences in the Retro AR market like Brownells. There are those out in the world *cough* Clint Smith *cough cough* who are firmly convinced that the AR-15 hit its stride in 1969 with the M16A1 era. Chrome bore, forward assist and dust cover, lightweight, accurate, and with a proper set of directions for maintenance. It would be nearly 15 years until any major changes were again made to the rifle, and in context they weren’t that drastic. They firmed up the barrels in the A2’s because they, falsely as it turned out, believed the A1’s were bending (just dirty gas ports) and the revamped the iron sights to more precise and adjustable ones at the behest of the Marine Corps who like to shoot further than the Army. Oh, and a longer stock because everyone is 5’11” and will only shoot the rifle prone (whoops)
Other than rifling it and sighting it for M855/M856 NATO the how the A2 performed and functioned compared to the A1 were minor, they took Full-Auto away and gave it a garbage trigger in comparison, but in the grand scheme the A2 occupied the same space as the A1 and wasn’t much in the way of forward advancing tech. Compare the 69′-83’/86′ spread to the 2001-2020 similar time lapse and the tech pace is in small arms is drastically different. But a great many of those improvements were ancillary, the core of the M16/AR is still very much itself from the A1 era.
Sure we’ve gotten better at materials and machining, but its still the little stainless gas tube from the gas block throwing a bolt back under light recoil to grab the next 5.56 round and getting ready it to send. And datgum if these retro guns are light. You forget how quickly the ~7lb M4 doesn’t weigh that anymore with all your value add “force multipliers.” There’s nothing in this world for free and 6x of observation, light for positive target ID, and passive/active night vision aiming systems come with weight (both physical and financial) in order to gain the abilities.
But any, hit play if you haven’t already and listen to Ian. Brownells tends to stock these fairly regularly so if you’re hunting a rifle you could do worse than hopping on these wait lists.