M-16 Rifle


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.

M-16 RifleThe 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.

New M-16 MagazineIn Basic 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 back together.

M-16 AmmoOnce 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 in Vietnam:

m16tip1.gif (5173 bytes) 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!

m16tip2.gif (7025 bytes)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 for trouble.


m16tip3.gif (4503 bytes)b.  Inspect your ammo when you load the magazines.  Don't load dented or dirty ammo.  Remember, load only 18 or 19 rounds.


m16tip4.gif (6709 bytes)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 life.


m16tip5.gif (4125 bytes)d.  Be sure to clean carbon and dirt from those barrel locking lugs.   Pipe cleaners help here and in the gas port.


m16tip6.gif (5446 bytes)e.  Don't be bashful about asking for cleaning materials when you need 'em.   They're available;  get 'em and use'em.


m16tip7.gif (3365 bytes)f.  Check your extractor and spring often;  if they are worn or burred, get new ones ASAP.


m16tip8.gif (6444 bytes)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 cleaning.



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M-16 Rifle:  Tales Of A War Far Away
Copyright 1995 Kirk S. Ramsey
M-16 Magazine and Ammo Pictures Copyright 1995 Bob Lindgren
Last modified: March 02, 1995