There was a hot term in the firearms industry for a few years, “Modern Musket”. Hell we even made an apparel line out of it.
It has slunk into the background now for a variety of reasons. Trends fade, people wear out a term and it slowly loses its potency, people misconstrue or take it too seriously.
But what did this industry moniker actually mean?
- An evocative term used to equate modern civilian semi-automatic rifles with the civilian held muskets of the pioneer, frontier, and revolutionary time periods. The ability for a citizen to bring their personal force of arms was critical to survival.
- A semi-automatic magazine fed rifle, usually a variant of a select fire rifle, suitable for use in personal and community defense.
- A term illustrative of the fact that throughout all of our nation’s history individual arms for civilians and the armed forces have been of parallel power and design.
The “Modern Musket” title embodies the general purpose nature of this tool. It is our universal personal armament. Selected to cover as many requirements as it can in one rifle.
The M16A4 is my idyllic example of such a tool. FN’s true to form Military Collectors Series M16A4 is the perfect off the rack example.
Proven Track Record.
The Marines delayed swapping to the M4 in large part because the M16 had a better reliability rate every time they tested it against the smaller carbine. The M4 could never best its older brother’s stoppage rate (M16’s jam less) and the M27 wasn’t in circulation in large enough numbers the way it is today.
It was my service rifle for the majority of my enlistment and the several I carried never failed to do what I asked, hit the target and then do it again. The FN is every inch of that service rifle, except the safety and rear sight are improved.
“But Keith!”, you exclaim in dismay, “There are so many better platforms! Why do you cling like a salty barnacle to the old ‘obsolete’ war horse?”
20 Inches of Optimized Barrel
The 5.56x45mm rounds the military and commercial markets have are designed for the M16 and have been pigeonholed into serving in shorter and shorter platforms. I have two guns with under a 9″ barrel, both in 5.56, they’re exceptional firearms in their own right.
When I put whatever round I am shooting through the ACE or M6 into my M16 it will simply perform better. I will have a much greater window for effective terminal ballistics. The M16A4 doesn’t compromise on speed. Whether I’m fighting, hunting, or shooting for sport the rifle delivers me every advantage velocity can give me.
The trade off?
The M16 is 40 inches long (yes, the catalog says 39.5″, buzz off) and the length isn’t the easiest to use in small spaces. But it is usable. I learned room clearing on this gun with iron sights and an ACOG. Anyone who says you can’t CQB with this rig is full of it. Anyone who says it sucks is right… but newsflash, room clearing always sucks and is high risk, running a space age SBR won’t change that glaring facet.
Is it easier with a shorter gun? Sure. But if I’m keeping security from a rooftop…
…or lining up a shot on an animal to snag dinner the extra velocity is going to give me more dividends than the extra convenience moving through a limited space. Slicing the pie on a doorway is doable with both guns but only one is giving me the greater window with my terminal ballistics. When I’m trying to cover as many things and as much space with this rifle as possible, those ballistics matter.
The Accessory Game
To TL:DR this whole section. Everything is made for the M16A4. PMags, M16A4. EOTech, Aimpoint, ACOGs, M16A4. Grips, sights, lights, lasers, you guessed it, M16A4.
The last 15 years have been a tsunami of optional product improvements for this rifle.
It only needs the two basics out of the box though. Light and sight. If you can’t cash in for a sight yet get the light first. The 600m flip up rear sight that’s current production is very good at what it does so an optic can be forgone if need be.
The KAC M5 RAS is still a good system with plenty of space to place your gear to your liking. It even comes with a classic ‘broom handle’ vertical grip. Out of the box ready to rock after your light and sight of choice, everything else is optional.
“But it isn’t freefloat!?”
So? Chances are you aren’t accurate enough for that to matter.
“You asshole, how do you know!?”
Because I’m not accurate enough for it to matter and I routinely cleaned the 500 meter line with this rifle. Practically speaking the M16A4 is a superb platform and you get rapidly diminishing to no discernible returns swapping parts. Part swapping benefit there is largely aesthetic and personal comfort. Go for it! Just remember you’re fitting the rifle to you, not making it shoot “better”.
A blend of utilitarian practicality and a modern technical upgrade base.
You don’t have to do anything to this rifle except clean, load, and zero it and you’re already far ahead of the curve on having a ready “musket”. It could be above the mantel or doorway, frontier style, with a nylon bag of magazines and you’re sitting in pretty good shape to repel invaders, rioters, looters, or any form of lethal doer-of-ill-deeds.
That said, because of what it is, the options for getting this gun ready are as limitless and affordable as you could wish. Nearly every weapon mountable light or mount and light combination was designed with this rifle in mind first. Every tactical optic is in the same track, it is for the M16 first and was adapted to other platforms. This rifle is the focal point of the market. If you want to spend the money, customize and make it yours, you just don’t need to. (I did though, I Geissele everything I can in the end)
The M16A4 is a dog that hunts, still, to this day and for many to follow. You’re missing something without one.