Green Jungle, Black Rifle; The M16 in Vietnam

11 thoughts on “Green Jungle, Black Rifle; The M16 in Vietnam”

  1. Maybe worst combat rifle ever to be mass produced. With its defects and flaws in its design. And with all internal parts designed to tight, the nightmare began at once. Hypersensitive to weather, shock and in sporadic incidents of sea water exposures [Marines] the weapon has been reported to explode.


    1. Buddy Burke, while your criticisms are certainly valid for the earliest models of the AR-15, which were honestly prototypes, the rifle as is fielded functions from the sands of Iraq to the cold of Alaska, so the phrase “hypersensitive to weather” strikes me as odd. I’d be curious to see a citation for M16s exploding when exposed to sea water.


  2. Factual errors abound. Writer needed to avail himself of the extensive report written by Col, Harrison and published in two parts in the American Rifleman before putting pen to paper.


    1. Old Persimmon, would you mind sharing specific factual errors? Unfortunately I’ve not read anything published in the American Rifleman written by the good Colonel, as my NRA membership is rather recent. If you’ve a link to a copy I’d love to read it.


  3. There was one amusing incident where Winchester cut the wash time after the acid bath but maintained the shelf life by adding more calcium carbonate (powdered limestone). It was a little dirtier but worked in the 7.62 and .50 caliber rounds. In the 5.56, it would form lumps of partially burned powder, limestone and jacket material. You could remove it from the bore with J-B Bore Cleaner but it played hob with the AR gas system. The ammunition was recalled and the bad powder sold off as H380. It did the same in bolt action rifles as well. Had an awful time cleaning it out of my .222 Magnum.


  4. A user on another site, FreeRepublic, going by the name “schurmann” posted an interesting comment which I’d like to briefly address, since I can’t comment directly on their forum.

    “Missing from the AAR article is any mention of the dessicant-residue issue. This was covered extensively in American Rifleman Magazine, in the late 1980s if memory serves. At one point calcium carbonate was used by Olin in the manufacture of WC846, to neutralize acid solvents and hasten product drying. No problems had arisen with calcium carbonate in propellants for other rounds, but it proved to increase clogging of the M16’s gas tube.” 4/22/2017, 11:00:39 PM

    To be entirely honest, I must’ve skipped over the calcium carbonate section of the book I was going over, I do apologize for the omission, and appreciate the correction. As related to an earlier user, the late 80s was before my time, so if you’ve a link to the American Rifleman article I’d much appreciate it. “The Black Rifle” by Stevens seems to imply that the CaCO3 issue was limited to a specific lot of WC846, and testing from 67-69 at Frankford showed production lots rarely approaching the max 1.0% CaCO3 content. The allowable calcium carbonate content was reduced to .25% in Sept 69, so any presence of calcium carbonate isn’t necessarily an awful thing, and its my understanding that no definite link between the rifle’s failures and CaCO3 was proven.


    1. Hi Millett,

      There’s a lot more to the CaCO3 issue than the Army and Winchester will ever admit. Much of what I know comes from personal experience and a casual friendship with one of Winchester’s ballistic engineers, Herman Bockstrup. There were s9me articles in the 1970s about the issue.

      Actually, Winchester has a lot of skeletons in their closet. Did you know they were selling 8mm Mauser ammo to Nazi Germany until the day Germany invaded Poland? I kept a single cartridge as a souvenir.



      1. If you would be so kind as to talk with Mr. Bockstrup with regards to the CaCO3 issue and publish that somewhere on the internet, I would be extremely grateful, as I’m sure would posterity. Especially since the 70s was long before many of our times, and finding articles from that period can be quite difficult.


  5. Great read. I was issued the M16A1 and A2 during my time in service. The only time I had issues was during training using blanks, man was that stuff filthy. I kept my weapons clean and never had one FTF or FTE while using live ammo. IMO despite it’s early teething issues (brought on by government and military tampering) the M16 is the finest infantry rifle ever fielded. It’s still serving today 59 years latter, that speaks for itself.


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