The M16 is the most iconic “Old War Horse” of the modern militaries. Entering service in 1964. The M16A1 rolled out in ’69. The M16A2 in ’83 and finally the M16A4 started entering the field in 1998.
In 2007 you could still find a mix of A2’s and A4’s in the Marine Corps fleet armories, I trained on the A2 while the series behind me received A4’s. Here at the end of 2018 I bid farewell to the A2 from National Guard armories in Michigan, replaced by the M4A1.
The M16 is 20 years from it’s latest revision and technology, especially ancillary tech, has never been at a faster pace for development.
Slings, optics, triggers, and fire control were all still in a mid development latency when the A4 rolled out, then everything got a kickstart from GWOT. The thought of keeping things as close to ‘legacy’ as possible to avoid confusion was as prevalent as it was misguided in larger military circles also.
The A4 is due for a revision for continued greatness and modernity…
A5 Concept: Product Improvement Program
A few critical updates in various schools of thought have rolled into the tactical rifle sphere since the A4. The rifle in 1998 was essentially an A2 hoping to catch as many upgrades as feasible, but not knowing necessarily what those would be.
Here are the four foci.
- Optics are standard
- Lights are important
- Ambidexterity has its place
- Nice triggers make a difference
When I joined the Marines and hit my company as a rifleman, optics were still not standard fleetwide (but we were getting there, we had TA31’s on within a year). The RCO was chosen on ’04 but still being fielded along with the rest of the cool toys like PEQ15/16s.
The TA31 RCO’s and then later the TA11 SDO (Squad Day Optic) made a world of difference for Marines. But improvements have been made as knowledge has been gained and a new RCO model has been rolled out to take advantage of better reticle design.
The TA11H-G with the highly user friendly horseshoe reticle is one of two valid the optical choices (SDO). Range, durability, and minimally manipulative use are the hallmarks of the ACOG, shortening the optical learning curve and training time. The current TA31 RCO equally suits this rifle. A TA31 ACSS would work well too but isn’t an NSN’d item.
The ACOG remains the standard, with LPVO’s being an up and coming option requiring a steeper learning curve in exchange for greater utility. A flip up rear sight and fixed post front still have merit too with irons being a final emergency option, optics are reaching durability levels where this concern is lessening.
You need lumens.
If the rifle is meant for fighting, and fighting rifles mandate positive target identification, you need a light. I have a Streamlight Rail Mount HL-X on the rifle currently but a Surefire Scout or any suitably durable light with 500+ lumens and a good throw pattern can fill this role.
Positively identifying a target is crucial. You need a light.
The M16, in 1964, was designed as a right handed rifle and to be fired prone.
The M16A4, in 1998, was designed as a right handed rifle and to be fired prone.
The M16A5 concept is designed to be fired from either shoulder and operated with near equal utility from either shoulder while standing, kneeling, or prone. Additionally it can be swapped from left to right or vice versa to take a shot from the ‘off shoulder’ in a way never possible with the A4 or M4.
This is accomplished with several overall minor part changes.
- Ambidextrous Safety Selector
- FN Provides a 90 degree throw one already on current A4 commercial models
- Upgraded to a short throw Magpul/Noveske STS
- Ambidextrous Charging Handle
- Bravo Company
- Charging handle can be used left or right handed with one hand, leaving the “t-rex claw” method in the past where it belongs
- QD Sling Swivels
- The M16 never possessed a good option for mounting a sling.
- A rail mounted QD sling swivel that can be moved forward and backward on either the left or right side of the quad rail, alleviating the forward sling mount problem
- Magpul MOE Rifle Stock
- The A2 stock was designed for a 5’11” individual.
- The reduced length of pull, better cheek weld surface, and up to 4 additional QD sling mount points makes the MOE a superior choice for more users
- Where the front QD starts fixing the sling concern this stock finishes it
- BCM MOD3 Pistol Grip
- The A2 grip was always suboptimal for anything other than prone shooting angles
- The MOD3 more vertical angle, removal of the middle finger shelf, and round profile fits more hands while aiding the shooter in far more shooting positions and angles.
This true ambidexterity ergonomic shift of the A5 concept is the heart of this product improvement program. Before the in vogue tactical optic or the choice of light these positively influence the base rifle’s viability.
Why not an M-LOK handguard? Or at least freefloat?
Ultimately, unnecessary for the application at this juncture. Picatinny is still a worldwide standard that ancillary equipment is made to and will be for a long time. Free floating the barrel does not increase the overall practical accuracy of the platform by a great enough degree to make it an update necessity for a non precision fighting rifle.
The 6-9lb single stage trigger of the Mil-Spec AR’s is actually a quality offering. It does what it needs to do and the rifle functions.
Geissele’s Single Stage Precision M4 Trigger cuts the effective average break weight for the M16’s trigger in half. The result is a trigger that responds tactilely like the mil-spec but with a break weight much less prone to causing sympathetic movement and be a detriment to accuracy.
The M16A4 bare weighs 8.2 lbs. That means the shooter is exerting enough pressure on the trigger to move the whole firearm just to fire it. By safely dropping it to the listed 3.5lb pull of the SSP the shooter no longer has to make an exertion that could move the rifle in order to fire the rifle. This makes isolation of shooter sympathetic movement significantly easier.
It will contribute to actual accuracy to a much greater degree than free-floating the barrel will.
Why The A5?
A love the M16A4. Part of that is nostalgically based, yes. It is, however, still an entirely effective platform for someone looking for an out of the box solution to a practical service/fighting rifle of exceptional reliability.
The A5 PIP parts listed here can be used to bring a current A4 or someone building a 20″ M16 ‘clone’ back into modern practices, efficiencies, and enhanced capabilities.
I still just want my M16!