Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 Rifle

Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 Rifle and variants.


When joined the Army and was issued my first M-16, I thought it was the deadliest rifle ever invented. It was the blackest, most evil looking thing ever. It was pure badass. I was in love… sure, I had jams here and there but that was due to the dirty blank ammunition, right? I cleaned my rifle to the point of “surgical instrument clean” and lubed it exactingly according to the gospel of my Drill Sergeants. When I went to fire it with live rounds and found that I would get an occasional jam. Well, this is because it was an old rifle used by hundreds of raw ignorant recruits like myself. Right?

After training I went to a unit that had an Armourer that believed any jam was a personal insult to him… so he used special tools he got from a jewelers and polished every internal bearing surface to a mirror finish. I thought the parts were chromed. I thought that THIS was how an M-16 was supposed to be like. Perfectly smooth and slick in every function from trigger pull to magazine ejection and everything in between. No… I don’t remember having any jams with it… but then again, this obsessive compulsive Armourer always insisted upon checking the rifle and detail stripping and cleaning it when ever I was on down time. Not just my rifle… but every rifle in the unit. If you did get a jam, he would be inquiring as to what you did to his rifle! But this guy was unique… and so were “his rifles”. When I went to a different unit, the rifle I was given was regular Mil-Spec and I had jams for the rest of my time in service. I just thought, well, these are old worn out rifles… Not a new customized rifle like I used to run. I had convinced myself that new AR-15’s wouldn’t jam like this.

I was very wrong. I found this out the hard way with the acquisition of a Bushmaster XM-15A2. It ran flawlessly for the first 20 round box of ammo… *sigh* Slowly, suspicion built. Then suddenly realization hit me like a truck load of Clue. The AR-15 sucks. Crap, my little brother was right. I used to argue with my brother about ARs vs AKs, myself being a full fledged AR-15 Apologist. But he was right… Both rifles use an intermediate cartridge. Neither are full sized rifle rounds. To debate the rifle based only on the caliber is wrong. Proof – you can get an AR chambered in .243… but it is still an “AR” with all of the normal “AR” problems. The Design is critically flawed. “Oh, but the AR is so ergonomic!” Ergonomics are a plus – but what’s the point if the gun doesn’t even go Click!?!
Let’s look at some details.

The AR-15 sucks by design. If you lay out the blue prints of the rifle you discover that the design is fundamentally flawed. The design uses tolerances that are way too tight for a combat weapon. It is ammo sensitive to the point of being finicky. It uses soft alloy receivers and is fed from flimsy magazines that are too weak to operate properly when loaded to full capacity. Then there is the gas system. The rifle defecates where it eats thanks to it’s direct gas impingement system. Compounding that bad idea, we have the use of a tiny gas tube and a horrible breach design that is impossible to clean properly without dental tools and the patience of a dentist doing a root canal. The gas tube itself can warp or break from overheating due to sustained firing. I know, I’ve seen it happen and I’ve done it myself. When the gas tube glows brightly at night to the point it’s lighting your immediate area – this is not good it could go “pop” any moment here. If your gas tube had any weakness in it before – it’s only going to be worse now. If it doesn’t break now – it will have a greater likelihood of breaking in the future.

The extractor design is puny and weak, but worse yet is the spring loaded ejector. The ejector plunger can get stuck with the smallest of particles of brass or copper from the ammunition. A jam from a stuck ejector is a special kind of jam that double feeds the next round causing a wedge that prevents further movement of the action regardless of how hard you try to pull on the bolt handle. To clear it, you have to drop the magazine (if you can) and slam the butt furiously against a hard, unyielding object… preferably Eugene Stoner’s head. (the designer) Unfortunately when you start slamming the rifle like this, you can bend the rifle at a couple different points or you can just break stock. It’s a roll of the dice.

Let’s talk about field stripping for a second. At first it starts out not too badly. Push out a pin and the rifle breaks open like a shotgun allowing you to pull out the bolt carrier assembly. Wait, be careful not to lose or damage that T shaped charging handle… it is made out of relatively soft aluminum compared to the bolt carrier. After the bolt carrier is out, you need to disassemble it. There is a firing pin retaining pin, then the firing pin, then the big rotating bolt pin… Now, you can pull out the bolt. Don’t loose any of those pins, if you do, you are screwed. Now gotta take that little bolt and drift out the little extractor pin – careful not to let the spring fly. Then there is the ejector and its little pin and spring.

Now that you have all of these things taken down… clean them. While cleaning you will notice that in a great many hard to reach places you have a black deposit that must be removed. This is carbon. This is the defecation that I mentioned earlier. It hits the metal flaming hot and under pressure. Do you know what heat and pressure does to carbon? Turns the shit into diamonds that’s what it does. This black carbon is so hard that it has to be scraped off with a tool. Oops… not too hard… you don’t want to scratch the parts. You can use your firing pin, but it’s not the best tool for it and you don’t want to damage the firing pin… that would be a bad thing.

Be certain that you clean out the insides of the bolt carrier where the gas tube is and the surfaces where the firing pin operate. More carbon there… and on the firing pin it’s self. You can easily go through a dozen or so pipe cleaners in the bolt and carrier system. Once all the parts are cleaned and inspected and properly lubed, it can all be reassembled. All of this might take you about 45 minutes to an hour if you want your rifle to “Pass Inspection”. Now there is the rifle it’s self.

There is the lower receiver and trigger group…. More pipe cleaners and some Q-Tips to get down in there. After the lower is done, it’s time for the upper receiver. You have the main tube portion that is hard to reach all the areas in there… then the charging handle raceway which is even more interesting. The gas tube needs to be cleaning as well. Pipe Cleaners, high pressure solvent injectors, harsh language… all required to clean that. Once this is done now you are in for a special treat. The chamber. The AR-15’s chamber is shaped like a retarded star and you have to get behind the lugs in there. Strange brushes, pipe cleaners, language that would make a drunk Irishman blush… all required to get the chamber clean and none of it allow you to get the chamber perfectly clean.

After this chamber of tortures, you can now do the barrel like a normal rifle. There you go. Put it all back together again and then wipe the whole thing down and your done. Through the entire process you have let an entire movie play, eaten some dinner, and drank about 4 and a half Cold Ones. Your Drill Sergeant would no be proud. Try doing all this in the field, during bad weather conditions, stress, hunger, fatigue, the threat of death, and no Cold Ones… not much fun is it? Now remember this… the phrase “It functions well if its cleaned properly.” You will hear that a lot about the AR-15. In fact, in regards to the AR-15, you will ALWAYS hear that. So get used to it. You’ll hear it again. The flaw is the rifle’s gas system. Should the gas system be redesigned to use an operating rod and gas piston to push the bolt carrier back – that would be 75% of the rifles problem, 20% the lack of a fixed ejector, and the last 5% is the chamber and locking lugs design that makes it such a chore to clean.

The only plus for the AR’s gas impingement system is that it has fewer parts. Supposedly, this makes for a more accurate rifle system than one which utilizes an op rod like an M-14/M1 Garand or an op rod attached to a gas piston like an AK. However, the problem is that because the hot gasses are blown back into the action, only certain propellants may be used lest the system suffers total breakdown due to carbon pollution. This was the problem which led to way too many U.S. casualties during the Viet Nam war. Going to the Garand or Kalashnikov type action will produce a gun which is more robust and less sensitive to the type of powder in the ammunition. However, the tradeoff is weight and more moving parts. Supposedly this means less accuracy. Funny how the M-21 sniper rifle system uses this type of action. Go figure. Admittedly the M-21/M-14 is a higher maintenance gun than the AR, and this is one of the reasons why ARs are superceding the M-14 in matches. The other reason is familiarity with the rifle… since ARs are so popular and are the US military’s service rifle, more people know the AR than they do the M-14.

Not only can the AR jam so easily, but it doesn’t even make a good club.

I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this piece… The AR-15 has many advocates and I have just pissed them all off to the man. I’ll get emails about this… here are what they are going to say – Well no… the first thing that are going to say is that I don’t know what I am talking about… I wasn’t enlisted because I don’t publish my unit… Well, I don’t publish my fucking credit card number either… dumbass. So other than personal attacks (which I get the most because they can’t attack the idea, they have to attack the man) here are the arguments:

1) The M16 is so accurate!
Answer: Accuracy isn’t the number one requirement of an assault rifle and does you little good if the gun doesn’t fire when the trigger is pulled.

2) It works fine if you clean it!
Answer: A service rifle should still work fine even when you don’t have the time to clean it. Like when people are shooting at you. If it gets too muddy you should be able to open the action, piss into it to rinse the mud chunks out of it, and be back in the fight.

3) It’s very light!
Answer: And it breaks! However this very light AR-15 is no longer light when you add in all the extras that are the style these days… two white lights, vertical fore grip, full length rail for your short compact optical sights… lasers… AM/FM tape deck… There is a whole Gun Industry Sub-Industry revolved around the AR-15. There are so many accessories the AR is nothing more than a Black Barbie Doll for Boys. You can dress it up for a night on the town or a day at the beach in your little pink convertible… it’s fabulous! By the time your rifle is dressed out like one of the guys from the Blackhawk Industries ads… it’s no longer very light. It now weighs as much as an M-249 SAW.

4) I’ve fired blah, blah number of rounds through MY AR, and it works fine.
Answer. Not while on your belly in the dirt crawling through God knows what. Punching holes through paper targets at the range is fine… the AR-15 is a great little .223 target rifle. But a fighting rifle it is not. “As long as you do your part…”
This is a WEAPON… Not a Bench Rest comp-rifle. A weapon gets used and abused… not treated like a Faberge Egg. “Doing your part” should include pissing into the action to rinse the mud out of it – and not much more.

You like the AR? Fine. Enlist and try it out where it is supposed to be used. One thing to think about… The AR was designed back in the 1960s, when people smoked a lot of pot… Not saying that Stoner smoked dope, but it would explain a few things. Since that time there have been dozens of different military guns designed all over the world. The designers of these weapons had the advantage of being able to look at what else was out there and pick what they liked the best. So my question is, over the last forty some odd years, how many new military rifles have come out using the AR gas system? (The .308 version of the AR-15 called the SR-25 or AR-10 doesn’t count) How many have come out using a piston? How many have a spring loaded ejector vs. a fixed ejector? With some form of gas piston or op rod since the AR: K2, G36, SAR, Valmet, Sako M90, Sig 550, FNC, Galil, Tavor, AN 94, FARA 98, Aug, INSAS, AR 70/90, AR 18, Stoner 63. I’m not sure if it is Singapore or Taiwan who has built a copy of the M16, but it even has a gas piston! I’ve probably forgotten a few as well. Who else has used direct gas impingement in their designs? I can’t think of any at the moment.

The best way to improve the AR-15 is to unscrew the front sight, and put a new gun under it.- Kevin McKlung, aka Mad Dog.

Let’s talk about the cartridge now, for just a moment. 5.56MM is another name for .223 basically. In essence, it’s just a big .22 rifle. You can even fire .22 LR through the AR-15 accurately with an adapter bolt mechanism. There are those that say that 5.56MM is plenty powerful enough for combat and even inflict more wound damage than a 7.62X39MM or even the mighty .308. This is completely untrue. Just because you saw a graph that some guy drew with MS Paint that illustrates a wound channel in ballistic gel doesn’t mean that what you saw with the truth.

“Well under 100 meters…” No. No it doesn’t. The .308 fires a bigger, fatter, heavier bullet with a greater power charge behind it. The .308 has a greater range do it’s tremendous ballistic advantage at any range. Muzzle to 1,000 yards out… well beyond where a 5.56MM weapon can effectively engage.

You want to talk power from the AR’s “hyper velocity”? Then how come police tactical units are using 5.56MM weapons because of the reduced risk of over penetration?

Just about any .308 load (WARNING: Graphic Exaggeration Ahead!) will blow a big enough hole through a person to toss a cat through, so don’t even go there about 5.56MM ballistics. Especially when your talking about the shorter 16 inch barreled versions of the AR. When you shorten the barrel of a rifle, your reducing it’s velocity and the only thing the M-16 has going for it is velocity. After chopping it down, your velocity is now just average. Let’s be quite frank… there are some .22LR loads that can almost catch up to it.

FACT: AR-15/M-16 based rifles SUCK. The Army has done its damnedest to make people think they don’t… but let’s not take my word for it – let’s take it straight from the horse’s mouth. Read THIS. If the AR is so great, how come they have been trying to replace it? Why has the Special Forces just awarded a contract to FN for their new SCAR rifle? Why? I’ve told you why. I’ve yet to get an email from a real combat veteran who has seen more than a single instance of action who thinks the AR-15/M-16 family of rifles is a good weapon. Even when I was in, there were XM-X or some designation rifle trials… to include new variants of the M-16, one of which was the flat top, and apparently that won… Even though it was still the lowest scoring rifle in the mix according to the grunts they let play with them. Reading this article, you find a nice little phrase about using an operating rod to improve the reliability because like I have said, it self pollutes. It shits on it’s own dinner plate. I like the XM-8, but I’d like it better if it was in .300 Whisper.

PS:

I wrote this piece a long time ago… It has garnered me more flak than anything else I have ever written. It is linked to many discussion forums all over the net where people who disagree with my opinion elect to voice it through personal insults and asking questions to their forum – but not to me. That’s fine. I don’t consider myself to be taken to task by zit faced, roll-playing, counter-strike addicted pussies.

What REAL SOLDIERS have to say about the M-4/M-16:

3rd ID soldier: “I know it fires very well and accurate [when] clean. But sometimes it needs to fire dirty well too.

25th Infantry Division soldier: “The M4 Weapon in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan was quick to malfunction when a little sand got in the weapon. Trying to keep it clean, sand free was impossible while on patrols or firefights.

82nd Airborne Division soldier: “The M4 is overall an excellent weapon, however the flaw of its sensitivity to dirt and powder residue needs to be corrected. True to fact, cleaning will help. Daily assigned tasks, and nonregular hours in tactical situations do not always warrant the necessary time required for effective cleaning.

75th Ranger Regiment member, SOCOM: “Even with the dust cover closed and magazine in the well, sand gets all inside; on and around the bolt. It still fires, but after a while the sand works its way all through the gun and jams start.

The 507th Maintenance Company, ambushed outside Nasariyah in 2003 during the opening days of the ground invasion of Iraq, might concur with all of the above. The post-incident report released by the US Army had this to say:

“Dusty, desert conditions do require vigilance in weapons maintenance… However, it is imperative to remember that at the time of the attack, the 507th had spent more than two days on the move, with little rest and time to conduct vehicle repair and recovery operations.”

The last word will be left to SOCOM’s Major Chaz Bowser:

We buy new laptop computers every few years across the gamut, so couldn’t we do the same with our single most important piece of military equipment? …. Waiting for a leap-ahead technology based on a kinetic energy weapon platform is a waste of time and money, so we need to look at what is out there now…. What the Army needs is a weapon that is now ready for prime-time and not a developmental system…. The requirement comes from the field, not from an office in some garrison activity, not from some consultant and definitely not from a vendor.

Let’s do this quickly without all the bureaucracy typically associated with change. Find someone in our ranks who can make a decision – who hasn’t floated a retirement resume with a gun company – and make the decision now. Just look how fast we were all issued the ‘highly coveted’ black beret or the digital uniform. Find that recipe card, change out the word ‘Velcro’ with ‘battle rifle’ and that may be a start to finding a solution [DID: which, he acknowledges, could be Colt's M4 if that's what the competition shows]. Our men and women deserve much better than we are giving them, and shame on us.

29 thoughts on “Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 Rifle”

  1. No matter what year it is, or how many times you do it, shooting a hornets nest with a pellet gun is fun.

  2. Counter Strike…wow, that really dates this piece. Does anyone even own this game anymore? George, I don’t know why you even bring this up again considering AR’s are Crusader’s bread & butter. This horse needs to be 6 feet under.

    1. This was written, what? 8 years ago or more now?
      Why bring it up? Well, thats a good question. I guess it goes to show the faith that I put into Crusader’s guns. Their reliability is above anything else I’ve seen in other AR’s.
      You see, with the other guy’s AR’s its all about what’s ON the AR. With Crusader, you put on whatever you want… but Crusader is all about what’s IN the AR. There is a fundamentally huge difference. This is why a Crusader is better. I wouldn’t have been a part of Crusader if it was any less.

      1. Still true today. Crusader is just selling what it’s customers want.

        I have three ARs ( a DCM rifle, a Cavarms plastic in 6.8 SPC, and a lower dedicated to a .50 BMG upper ) … but the emergency rifle I keep loaded and hanging from coathook is an AK that I built from a Romy parts kit for under $200.

        I know that regardless of what else happens, that AK will shoot.

        My truck gun, which takes even more abuse, is a Mosin Nagant carbine …

    1. Worse than it has been for the last many years? It goes in cycles… some times I hear nothing about it, then suddenly I get a bunch of emails about it. Some from “You Don’t Know Nothing” types, and others from professional soldiers and contractors who serve in front line, point of the spear units, who know what makes a good fighting weapon… and those guys generally all say that the M-16 isnt it. Quite simply, if it was all that, then why would SOCOM have bothered with the FN SCAR?

  3. I enjoyed this article long ago, and again now…however I don’t see value in saying Crusaders are the only AR’s which focus on what’s inside. IMHO you would be better off claiming status among other premium quality brands like Colt, BCM, and Noveske…unless you are tweaking the platform a’la KAC…

  4. Kristopher, you can add the FN49, Swede Ljungman (sp.), Egyptian Hakim & Rashid to the list of DI rifles…but they are all mid-century designs. Nothing wrong with an AR for 95% of the shooting population, but for people who’s lives depend on it…well I would think they are the experts on what is best for them instead of someone pretty much dropping whatever in thier laps and telling them to have at it. George, trust me when I say that I believe in Crusader but I just don’t want this to turn into a contridiction or something that is thrown up in your face and forcing you to explain yourself. I just don’t want to see this affect Crusader’s business in any type of negative way.

    1. Not the FN-49 — unless they stuck that operating rod/piston in there just to add weight or fill empty space.

      1. OK … and the other two are just Ljungman knockoffs.

        So you have just two other direct impingement rifles, a french, and a swede ( + copies ), all of which were abandoned after a decade or so.

  5. Amen. I went through basic training late 2008 and was not pleased by what I saw. The rifles we were trained on were so carbon fouled that they had all but given up on keeping them clean. The procedure we were taught was to douse the insides in CLP and use the threads on the eyehook attachment of the cleaning kit to scrape as much carbon off the bolt as possible, which wasn’t much. It works if you keep it clean? That’s fine until you realize that a complete GI cleaning kit is a mythical creature on the order of bigfoot, except that some people claim to have actually seen bigfoot. My flight had to mix and match to have functional kits for even half of us and cleaning brushes worn down to olive drab tongue depressors were the norm. I would have no confidence in this weapon if I were issued one and, in my opinion, the sooner we replace it the better.

  6. I got out of the army in 1970. This was well known, even then. What politics has kept the thing going all this time?

    I’ve forgotten the numbers; so I’ll make them up: In the late 60s, an AK cost about $40.00. An M16 cost $850.00. Who got all the graft? The M16s persistence must have a political explanation. Has any book attempted to explain it?

    1. An AK is also a dirt simple rifle designed to be made with simple tools. The AR, not so much. It’s complicated and requires special tooling to manufacture. The American Way is to go with the more expensive weapon system.

  7. Dump the M-16!!! its high time it went away. There are many other guns better than it for cheaper. You shound never have to clean a gun every ten mins, and the 16 fails in that. I have a Valmet M76, 1000rds in it, no cleaned yet, works with reloads, any bullet type.

    1. I used think the same way… In fact, I wrote the “Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 article that became the bible for AR Haters.
      But you know, my Crusader tweaked Rock River has never – ever – jammed on me. And I’ve not cleaned it in over 3000 rounds… not since Spring of 2010.

      1. Ok I am really confused and I don’t want to sound retarded (who does) but when you say ar15 suck do you mean armalite produced versions? Or do you mean any ar15 even gas bolt versions suck? I thought ar15 was just the basic name give to the design attributed to ArmaLite and that many guny manufacturers made their own like the rock river LAR-15 (or is that even a ar15 design?)

        1. At the time I wrote that – 20 years go – I meant all AR-15 rifles. All of them. I’ve not changed the article as I do not re-write history… but since that time, the AR-15 has come a long way. Makers know how to build them and generally speaking all of them are pretty dang good now. I don’t know any that are actually bad now. Some better than others… Crusader Weaponry, Daniel Defense, LWRC…

  8. I also own a Rock River AR. I’ve been lazy lately and haven’t properly cleaned it in over 1,000 rounds. Never has it jammed. I shoot mostly budget range ammo, too.. Amreican Eagle, and even some steel cased Russian stuff.

  9. Tell it like it is Brother. I’m right there with you and have been for years. My SHTF gun is an M14 and if I need something really accurate I’ll use my M24.

    Semper Fi
    SSGT Ret.

  10. I’ve been saying this since my Army days. I love it how AR people get an AR and then say “I went out and shot 200 rounds and didn’t have any jams.” WTF? Did you expect some jams after only 200 rounds? If it can’t fire 200 rounds without a jam it is a piece of shit.

  11. I agree with you the design is flawed and they have been issuing the AR for way too long with no significant alterations. One thing I have heard is that the ORIGINAL 5.56mm cartridge powder for the AR burned very clean and created very little carbon build-up. Then Du-Pont came and made a powder that was cheaper but burned poorly with lots of carbon build-up. Just something to think about as far as why Eugene Stone designed some of the parts the way he did. However aside from that there were still design flaws. With so many different guns to choose from I think It’s time the Military lay the AR – aside. Like you said [paraphrasing] a dolled up AR doesn’t do you good if it wont fire!

  12. As a combat vet Marine Infantryman that has fired thousands of rounds through the M-16 family of weapons I can honestly say that I disagree with much of what was written in this article. I know for a fact that Marines in WW2 had their issued weapons jam. And yes so do current issued Firearms. The problem is mostly due to:
    A. Bad magazines
    B. Bad ammo
    C. Worn out springs
    An AK with the above 3 listed factors can and wilp jam. Ive seen it.
    There are however undoubtably better systems. The ARAK21, the TAR21 and X95 Tavor immediately come to mind. Before I deployed with 1/5 to Afghanistan I made sure that all of my fireteams weapons had:
    Good mags, good springs, and new extractors. We did fine.

    1. You sound like a much younger infantryman… The Platform has improved greately from the time this was first written. Since that time was a half owner in a company that made AR-15 type rifles. I now own one particular AR that has had a stellar record of reliability.

  13. MadOgre, I have a honest question. I own a Ruger Mini 14 Tactical and I am honestly wondering about giving it up. I have two questions: First, I am also prior Military, shot the M16A2, but I’ve never seen combat. However I’m wondering if you would take the new designed Minis to combat over the older AR designs. Second, Because I’m on a budget, Do you suggest an AK? Or should I actually take my chances with a newer style AR?

    1. Honestly the only actual problem the Mini-14 has is it’s proprietary, single source magazine. There’s only 1 decent source for mags, and that’s from Ruger. They are expensive compared to the AR Type, and not as easy to find.
      So like many other rifles, invest in a good supply of magazines. That’s it. You are good to go.
      Now if you are wanting something different, that’s fine too. I love the AK, but the cost of a good AK now is only slightly less than a good AR, so really price doesn’t matter on that choice. It’s the ammo. In your area, what ammo can you get good and plenty is going to determine which rifle you might want to get.
      I’ve got my personal AR as my go to rifle now. Because since I wrote this, AR’s have become very good now. Over 40 years of constant development will do that.

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