The Armed Forces in Vietnam used many kinds of weapons from awesome B-52 bombers to the
lowly bayonet. We had the ability to destroy enemy bases in a single attack, or mow
down a hundred men in one sweep. But the weapon most important to the man on the
ground was his M-16 rifle. It was the weapon of the infantryman - and you felt naked
without it. It was as natural to have it beside you as it was to eat three
meals a day.
The rifle was designed to
give the infantryman fire superiority over the enemy by providing rapid fire power.
Its maximum rate of fire was 650-700 rounds per minute. Of course, changing
magazines every nineteen rounds, we never reached that speed. But a single magazine
still emptied quickly on full automatic. To sustain fire superiority, the men in a
squad took turns firing and reloading. That way we kept a steady stream of lead
raining down on our opponents.
The rifle was easy to care for. Each man carried a rifle rod, a wad of bore
patches, and LSA silicone lubricant, to clean the rifle. The rifle split in two for
cleaning. You removed a pin and it opened like a shotgun. The entire bolt and
firing pin group came out for disassembly and cleaning.
Training they told us we should learn to field strip the rifle so well we could do it in
the dark. I didn't think they were serious - but I was wrong. I had the chance
to try it one pitch black night on ambush patrol. One of our nearby squads was under
attack and we were crouching low, jogging across rice paddies muddy from the afternoon
rain, to reinforce their position. In the dark I tripped on a low dike and
tumbled forward into the mud, my rifle going in muzzle first. Stumbling back to my
feet, I took off at a run again. I knew the barrel was clogged with mud - and that
if I pulled the trigger the barrel might explode in my face. The action was also
grimy and full of mud and dirt. If we came face to face with Charlie, I'd better
have my Buck knife handy, because my rifle was useless.
I decided to try cleaning the rifle on the run, even though I might trip
again while I was doing it and lose one of the small pins in the mud. I wiped my
hands free of mud and opened the rifle. Pulling the bolt assembly out of the frame,
I placed the open rifle under one arm and cradled the assembly in both hands. I
stripped away the mud and grit as best I could, then took the assembly apart, clenching
the tiny parts firmly in my fist. I squeezed half a bottle of LSA over the parts,
trying to wash away the dirt that was left, and then began the task of putting everything
Once more I stumbled,
but managed to stay on my feet, as we jogged on through the dark. Piece by piece, I
got the bolt reassembled. Holding it firmly in one hand, I set to work to clear the
barrel. I kept a cleaning rod on top of the rifle, bent through the carrying handle
and again through the hole under the front sight. Now I pulled it out, stuck a patch
on the end and rammed it down the barrel. The mud had really packed hard. It
didn't budge. I turned the rifle around and tried digging the dirt out of the
muzzle. Then, one more push with the rod and the clot gave way. The barrel was
clear! I slid the bolt assembly back into its mount and locked the rifle shut.
Quickly I pulled the loading handle back and let a new round snap into the breech. I
was ready for action once more. And my only "eyes" had been my fingers - I
was grateful they hadn't failed me.
Yes, my security blanket was my trusty M-16. I fixed a carrying strap to sling it
from my shoulder, the safety/single/auto switch just above my thumb. Some guys
carried the rifle over their shoulder like a shovel, but not me. I wanted it where I
could use it right now, if the need arose. I'll not forget my M-16, for it served me
well. It kept me alive. May it rust in peace.
Notes I wrote down during M-16 training class while in Advanced
Infantry Training at Fort Polk:
M-16 Rifle, 39 inches long, 6.5 lb empty, 7.6 lb loaded, uses ball and
tracer ammo only, a full magazine weighs 2/10 lb, magazine carries 20 rounds (but we
actually loaded 19), gas operated, air cooled, selector switch has 3 positions (safe,
semi-auto, automatic). Maximum range is 2,653 meters, maximum effective range is 460
meters. Rate of fire is 650-700 rounds per minute on full automatic, 150-200 rounds
per minute when reloading 20-round magazines.
The following information came from a pocket reference card we received
The M16 is the finest military rifle ever made. It's
lightweight, easy to handle, and will put out a lot of lead. If you know it, respect
it, and treat it right, it will be ready when you need it. The following tips are
from combat veterans who wanted to pass on to you their ideas on weapon care. Learn
'em, use 'em, and you'll not be caught short!
a. Keep your ammo and magazine as clean and dry as
possible. Lightly lube the magazine spring only. Oil it up, and you're headed
b. Inspect your ammo when you load the magazines. Don't load dented
or dirty ammo. Remember, load only 18 or 19 rounds.
c. Clean your rifle every chance you get. 3-5 times a day will not be
too often in some cases. Cleanliness is next to godliness, boy, and it may save your
d. Be sure to clean carbon and dirt from those barrel locking lugs.
Pipe cleaners help here and in the gas port.
e. Don't be bashful about asking for cleaning
materials when you need 'em. They're available; get 'em and use'em.
f. Check your extractor and spring often; if they are worn or burred,
get new ones ASAP.
g. Lube your rifle using only LSA. That's the best. A light
coat put on with a rag after cleaning is good. Functional parts need generous
applications often. Put a very light coat of LSA in the bore and chamber after