Which weapons system is better? The M4 or the M16? Well, I think that this question is very difficult to answer with a black and white response. Here’s why…it depends on the mission! However, I will openly admit that I believe the M16 is obsolete in the current operating environment. Now, that doesn’t mean that the M16 is obsolete all together, it just is now based on our current operating environment and the current missions we face. Let’s examine some facts about each weapon system and see what we think…
The M16 Rifle is a lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed rifle designed for either automatic or semi-automatic fire through use of a selector lever. Accuracy is enhanced by incorporating an improved muzzle compensator, three-round burst control, and a heavier barrel; and by using the heavier NATO-standard ammunition, which is also fired by the squad automatic weapon. The M-16A3 is identical to the M-16A2 but has a removable carrying handle that is mounted on a Picatinny Rail (for better mounting of optics) and is without burst control.
The M-16A4 is identical to the M-16A2 except for the removable carrying handle and Picatinny Rail. The M16 rifle is argued to be more accurate than the M4 Rifle over longer distances, however the difference between the effective ranges of the M16 and the M4 are very minimal. (i.e. M16= 800 meters for an area target / 550 meters for a point target vs. the M4= 600 m (area target) 500 m (point target)). Since 1964 the M16 has been proudly used by Soldiers to deter and, if necessary, repel adversaries by enabling the Soldier and small units to engage targets with accurate, lethal, direct fire.
On the other side of the coin, the M4 Rifle is a compact version of the M16A2 rifle, with a collapsible stock, a flat-top upper receiver accessory rail and a detachable handle/rear aperture site assembly. The M4 enables a Soldier operating in close quarters to engage targets at extended range with accurate, lethal fire. It achieves more than 85 percent commonality with the M16A2 rifle and will replace all .45 caliber M3 submachine guns, selected M9 pistols, and M16 series rifles.
Now that we have that established, and without getting into painfully detailed specifications, you can see that the M4 Rifle is better suited for the missions our warfighters face in today’s Army. Most enemy targets are at shorter ranges, in tight urban environments and are “hunted” at night. The M4 Rifle is shorter, more compact, allows for adding additional sights and IR lasers and is still as lethal as the M16 Rifle. The primary difference that I see is that distance that you can reach out and touch somebody. The M16 Rifle has a slight advantage in that area. However, with most targets being closer in today’s fight, I would have to say the M4 Rifle takes the cake in this debate.
What are your thoughts? Which rifle do you think is better and why? Let us know!