Tim over at Military Arms Channel just dropped this excellent piece covering the basics of why the M16 has lasted as long as it has and why it keeps being picked, in 5.56 NATO circuits at least, as the platform of choice even in 2020.
The two most recent nations to adopt ARs were France and New Zealand and our most recent transition to the M4A1 and M27 for the Army and Marine Corps en mass respectively has yielded excellent results. The AR has had a long run that shows little sign of stopping. Even as the NGSW project completes the trials and if a winner emerges the M16 derivatives will be in service for decades yet. Look at how long the M16A2 took to phase out and it was phased in back in the 80’s.
We will likely see the AR as a prominent fixture in modern militaries and on modern battlefields well into 2050’s. The M16A4 is even under large contracts still for nations receiving military assistance aid. The A4’s and M4’s will be with non forward forces for decades to come, even if the combat arms and special forces transition to the 6.8/6.5 systems being evaluated.
I, for one, am fine with that finding. Without transitioning to a new rifle caliber the M16 and AR platform in general are in the pinnacle grade of what is achievable on 5.56x45mm platforms. Do I like rifles like the SCAR, X95, and MCX? Absolutely. I love my SCARs, they are my favorite rifles. But from a performance envelope standpoint my M16A5 can do everything any of those rifles can very well also. We live in a golden era for firearms technology. Even our ‘better’ solutions to the M16 are just old technology coupled with good machining and paired with the ergonomic items we like from the M16.
Even looking at the NGSW, the most ambitious service rifle selection we have had since adopting the M16, we see the rifle’s influence ingrained deeply in the most popular candidate, the MCX SPEAR. Even if we see SOCOM flex their input and we see a caliber shift to 6.5 instead of 6.8 the carbine is already slated to be a 6.5 also.
We can see the M16 in the MCX. The selector, the bolt catch, grip, charging handle, everything is designed to seamlessly take the reins from the M16. The rifle’s legacy will be a long and ultimately stellar one.