Man, everything is cyclical. There was a time, over a decade ago when I was issued an M16A4 and all I wanted was an M4. M4s were the cool guy rifle, it was also shorter and lighter than the M16A4, a gun we lovingly refer to as the musket. Recently I found myself desiring a return to an M16 sized rifle after SHOT Show. I went to a range day hosted by GAT and got my hands on the M16A4 clone from Aero Precision. This model was full auto, but it still reminded me of just how lovely a full-length rifle is to shoot. I knew I had to have one, and here is mine.
I was hit with a massive wave of nostalgia as I picked up this American classic. It brought me back to the School of Infantry and beyond. The days of being a young Marine came flying back at me. The M16A4 isn’t a heavy rifle, but you’ll often hear that complaint. It’s not unwieldy, and while the M4 is easier in and out of vehicles and buildings it’s not difficult with the M16A4.
Fallujah was taken by Marines with M16s so I don’t buy the idea that this gun is way too big for that role. It’s well balanced, and rock solid all the way around. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s my 6 foot 5 inch frame, but I think the Corps was right in keeping the A4 is service for so long.
Inside the M16A4 Clone
The M16A4 clone from Aero Precision does the best it can to mimic the actual military rifle. It features a flat top upper and plastic handguards. The flattop is covered with a set of A4 iron sights which are versatile and dynamic. These sights make it easy to be precise and accurate with the rifle at varying distances and when facing different windages. A true clone has a quad rail, but the polymer handguards are much lighter. The markings indicate a nonfunctional burst third position and M16A4 markings. They don’t directly mimic the FN contract rifles but are close enough.
Of course, the barrel is 20 inches long, the stock is fixed and it sports the A-frame front sight base. There is a bayonet lug for those close encounters and the stock can even stash a small cleaning kit, or Skittles, whatever you want in there. That full stock is quite lovely for cheek weld.
Shooting the M16A4
Speaking of cheek weld lets talk about shooting this bad boy. I wonder how many people in the firearms community has ever fired a full rifle length AR? They may not know exactly what they are missing. Shooting a rifle length AR 15 is just so comfortable. Everything about it is pleasant and smooth.
I own plenty of ARs in carbine and pistol variants and you forget how smooth a rifle is compared to these guns. The recoil is incredibly soft, due to the rifle length gas tube and longer buffer spring. The weapon hardly moves when fired. Muzzle rise is also reduced with a 20-inch barrel. As is muzzle flash and concussion. It’s so much nicer to shoot and much easier to shoot accurately and rapidly.
The ballistic advantages are interesting too. The 20-inch barrel adds about a 100 feet per second of velocity per shot. The 20-inch barrel makes full use of the pressure from the gas that propels the bullet. In a 16 inch barrel, the gas is still building pressure when it reaches the end of the barrel. A 20-inch barrel takes advantage of that still expanding gas and this gives the M16A4 clone a little more oomph.
The Aero Precision M16A4 Performance
Focusing on just the Aero Precision model shows us just how excellent this rifle is. The gun is incredibly soft shooting and very precise. I used a standard 25-meter zeroing target from HD Targets and zeroed for 300 yards using the iron sight manual of arms.
The prone was my position of choice. I just held the M16A4, focused on the front sight and pulled the trigger slowly and carefully. My first group of three shots hit low, but the grow was insanely small. Every round touching and nearly overlapping. I made adjustments and fired three more shots.
The first shot was off, and that was my fault. I knew it as soon as I pulled the trigger. I threw it wide and to the right. My next two shots were slower, more meticulous, and I placed them on top of each other. Once the gun was zeroed it was time to load up and shoot like a Marine.
I dumped the rest of my ‘zeroing mag’ in an aimed rapid fire manner. Taking just enough time to reacquire my sight picture and let off another round.
Then I tried a five shot group from the standing. Again at 25 yards with a new target.
I ran through some of the basic drills, including the Failure to stop and box drill, reload drills, and snap drills. I did snap drills on a free RE Tactical headshot target at 25 yards. The rifle and I scored all six headshots on target and each was under 1 second from the low ready.
Every shot was enjoyable. I typically like shooting, and feel I’m pretty blessed to be where I am in this industry. However, the M16A4 was a dream to shoot. It made me smile and enjoy the experience for what it was.
Getting Down with the Pew Pew
The trigger is mil-spec and perfectly suited for accurate shooting. I had no major complaints. It’s no Geiselle, but better than my issued M16A4 by far. The trigger is a refined Mil-spec if you will. It’s more consistent, and predictable.
The full stock is perfect for my frame and gives me an amazing cheek weld. It is superbly comfortable and very stable. The stock allows for quick snaps as well. It doesn’t budge or wiggle at all.
The plastic handguards work well and allow me to stretch out my arms and get a good grip on the gun. The gun is put together with clear attention to detail. Nothing wiggles or moves and the gun controls work as intended. Down to the nub A2 grip, it’s all M16A4.
After 300 hundred rounds over two days I have zero malfunctions, or complaints.
The clone market is growing for US Service rifles and the amazing quality and excellent price of the Aero Precision M16A4 make it an appealing place to begin. The markings alone make this a natural choice. Many cloners have to use blank 80% lowers and pay custom engravers for these markings.
Aero Precision has made an outstanding rifle. Regardless of the reason you choose this rifle, rest assured you are getting an amazing product. If you’ve never tried a rifle length AR I’d encourage you to give it a spin. Drop the newest Mk18 build and give the M16A4 a try.