I really really hate the M-16 and the M4.
These guns have no place in a battlefield. They are fine for police, they are fine for a normal civilian shooter, but for a soldier who takes their gun into every possible condition and requires this gun to do its job every time, the M16 can't even come close. It is a piss poor design, not only for reliability, but in so many other ways. Here are some things I've found that really suck about it:
Gas system - Obviously the number one thing wrong with the rifle. It doesn't use a piston like every other rifle in the world (and even the Desert Eagle!), but instead directly shoots hot hot gas straight into the action where it loads the bullets. The gas then condenses right there and not only does this make a mess right on some important components to the feeding process, but it also cooks off any lubrication that was present.
Bolt - The bolt has eight lugs instead of the one or two that a normal rifle has. Seven of them are in a complex star shape that are hard to clean . The recess in the reciever they fit into is even harder to clean. Tolerances in the gun keep a dirty bolt from closing, and for some reason, the designers didn't make the charging handle physically attach to the bolt. Instead they made it a flimsy rod that can't push the bolt closed. So, they had to design a button who's sole purpose is to close the bolt when the gun is dirty. Now I don't know everything about design, but I know that when features are added on in the case that something doesn't work right, there is some very poor engineering going on. Why can't they design it so it works right all the time, instead of putting a band-aid on it?
Magazine design - I was going to put it on the list of good things about this gun. But I forgot it doesn't always latch easily into the weapon and that this is a major cause of malfunctions. Besides this I actually like the design of the magazine system.
Stupid handle - nobody carries a rifle with a carry handle. Its a waste of time, except being a platform for the rear sight. I guess the intention is to lower the barrel to make the gun more controllable, but it induces alot of parallax that can cause problems short range. It also lowers the stock and ruins the traditional cheek weld. If you try to put optics on it, they are going to be WAY too high and they will suck because there isnt a good mounting point. (Yes I know nowadays some dont have the handle. Thats a good thing.)
Forarm - big and uncomfortable to hold. Also nowadays they put rails all around it so the comfort is even worse and so they put covers on the rails that make the forarm even fatter.
Takedown system - A good battle rifle should be easy and quick to strip in the field, easy to clean, and should have no small parts to lose or complicated parts to connect. The M-16 is none of these things. Also, on one of the times I've shot one, it jammed and locked up so bad we couldn't take it apart at all.
Tolerances - The gun is claimed to be one of the most accurate assault rifles out there. This is partly due to the stricter tolerances the keep it from operating if there is any kind of dirt or sand anywhere near the gun. The whole point the assault rifle concept came into service, and thus the M-16, our answer to it, was made the standard issue rifle, was that most combat was short range, fast, and low accuracy. All that was needed was a gun that was light, fast, and carried alot of ammo that was easy to put out. Obviously in this case accuracy is not important. You would think reliability would be more important. Nope.
Cartrige - The 5.56mm round that the M-16 shoots is probably one of the worst choices they could have made. Yes, it is small and light, alot can be carried, and it's pretty fast, but sheesh, its a .22 caliber bullet! The original bullet they used, the M193 sort of made up for the fact by having a fragmenting effect when it hit a body at high veliocity. This could blow big holes in someone if everything was just right. But then, NATO, who was forced by the US to adopt the 5.56 round, decided to use the SS109, a heavier bullet with "armor piercing" abilities. It has more penetration, but it doesn't fragment as well, so it mostly ends up punching .22 caliber holes in people rather than blowing out their insides. This is especially relevant when using a shorter barrel like an M-4. The velocity never reaches the levels it needs to fragment at any decent ranges.
Accessories - Additional junk to weigh down the rifle, catch on stuff, and fail. Nothing beats a barebones rifle with open sights for ease of use and reliablitity. In alot of cases this stuff is useful, but most the time, I don't think it is. Apparently the USMC disagrees with me though, with all of their rifles being equipped with optics now, so what do I know?
To keep this fair and balanced, here's a list of stuff I like about the M-16 family of guns:
The bolt locks back when the magazine is empty - I feel bad giving this as a compliment because all guns should do this. But AKs don't do it, Galils don't do it. I don't know what else, but if you don't have the feature, you know what an amazing help it is to have it.
The magazine system - If it worked right, it would be the best of any gun. Only one simple movement required, pushing straight up loads the gun. No complicated latches to hook onto, no pins to line up, no smooth swinging motions required to seat the mag properly. AK and Garand style guns have nothing on this design. Just shove it straight in. Ejecting magazines is just as easy.
Sights - The open sights on the M-16 are really heavy duty and precise. Not any nicer than most US military rifle sights, from the 1903 to the M-14, but definately better than HK, FAL, and especially the AK.
Adjustable stock - As ugly as it is, having an adjustable length of pull on the M-4 is a really good idea, especially on a military rifle that has to fit millions of different people, as well as collapse down in CQB situations. I could see the adjustment system get jammed up with alot of sand, but as we all know, soldiers never have dirty guns....
Ergonomics - the rifle is pretty easy to operate and lines up and is more comfortable than an AK or HK. I don't know how sold I am on a pistol grip, so that part is kind of a wash.
So there are some good things about this rifle and thats why it is a decent rifle for many applications. But in the end none of it matters because for soldiers in battle, it just isn't reliable. The rifle has gone through a multitude of harsh condition tests by militaries and police forces around the world, and it routinely falls short. Everyone who praises the gun says it's reliability is great . . . as long as its kept clean and lubricated. Apparently they didn't notice we are fighting two wars IN HARSH DESERTS. Wars don't give time to clean weapons, or even to clear jams. Battle rifles need to work every time no matter what, not have a discalimer.
Don't get me wrong, no gun is without it's shortcomings. But to seriously be stuck with an inferior weapon for almost fifty years now is ridiculous. It should never have even been adopted in the first place. It happened to come along at the right place and the right time with no competition, impressed the right people, and all of the sudden, it was rushed into Vietnam. A war is probably the best place to test a rifle, and with as many problems as it had, we should have scrapped the entire design by the end of it. Somehow, I guess, we were in it too deep and it was too inexpensive to let go of during the cold war. The cold war's been over for almost twenty years and we've been in two more wars for eight and we STILL have it. Why the H do they keep scrapping their programs for newer better rifles?
Probably the worst part is people go on, living their lives thinking this is a good gun because it looks so BA and it's what all the soldiers use. Military programs on TV all say how great it is... Arrrgh the ignorance and stupidity of it just kills me!
Once again, the moral of the story: Get educated and help make some positive changes.
Last note: In a Red Dawn, Zombie, Hurrican Katrina, Mexican Takeover, American Revolution, Cold Dead Fingers, or any other Crap Hits The Fan scenario, and we need to run for the hills and use guns for ourselves, the M-16/AR-15 gun may or may not be a good idea. I would say no, due to lack of cleaning supplies, range, and stopping power. You could argue though that the ammo is light and if our enemy is the US governement, access to ammo might be plentiful. In that case, use a SIG, HK, Galil, SCAR, or this:
NRA Mini-14. Straight from the factory it's simple, has good sights, is decently accurate, a VERY reliable action, has a twenty round magazine, and shoots a 5.56mm round.
I want one so bad.