The fact that the Kalashnikov rifle (AK/AKM/colloquially “AK-47”) is the greatest legend among small arms, has been a well known fact for a long time. Tens of millions of copies were produced, in various versions. From the basic AK, through AKS with a folding stock, AKM, AKMS, AK-74, AKS-74, to AK 100, 200 series rifles and modern, ergonomic AK-12 variants. This weapon was a huge success in the Warsaw Pact countries, as well as in Asia and Africa due to its ease of use and maitenance. However, the following text will be about something else.
You can read about the Home Army in one of the previous entries. We will devote it to the greatest competitor of the Soviet invention, i.e. the AR-10 / AR-15 family, adopted by the US armed forces as the M16 line, and later and now – the M4.
Eugene Stoner & Armalite
The creator of the M16 predecessor is Eugene Stoner, who was working for the Armalite company at that time. He wanted to create a light and handy rifle for infantry, to arm the US Military and of course, export to friendly countries looking for a replacement for outdated weapons that still remember World War II.
His first work was the AR-10 automatic rifle (Armalite Rifle – 10) powered by full-size 7.62 x 51 mm ammunition. The same cartridge was used by the then popular Belgian FN FAL or the German G3. This project was not a spectacular success, and the largest buyer worth mentioning was Portugal.
Change of concept
At that time, i.e. in the early 1960s, there was a change in the concept of individual weapons. This was related to the departure from full-size rifle cartridges in favor of a lighter but still effective intermediate cartridge (the differences are described HERE). At that time, the AK already existed in its improved and most popular version, the AKM. Chambered in the intermediate 7,62 x 39 mm.
So Eugene Stoner decided to make his construction smaller and adapt it for firing 5.56 x 45 mm intermediate ammunition. Faster, but with a lighter projectile compared to the Soviet 7.62. This is how the AR-15 carbine was created, which under the name M16 (in the M16A4 and shortened M4A1 or MK18) is still used by all branches of the US armed forces, as well as by many other allied countries.
The M16 entered service and was tested in the mid-1960s during the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. Its first version was notoriously infamous due to its high unreliability and relatively frequent jams. There have even been legends of US soldiers abandoning their early M16s in favor of captured Kalashnikovs.
It was not the fault of the weapon itself, nor its designer, but as it usually happens – bureaucrats. At the last minute, the specification of the 5.56 x 45 mm cartridge was changed to a modified one for which the M16 was not calibrated for. This mistake resulted in increased wear and tear of weapons and a sub-optimal operation of the mechanisms. This was quickly corrected in the M16A1 version, but the stench remained in the air.
Reliability M16 vs. AK
Modern versions of the AR-15/M16/etc family. They are considered VERY reliable and refined. In some respects more so than the Kalashnikov construction. Mainly due to the enclosed structure that prevents dirt from getting inside. The same cannot be said of the AK. In the event that something gets into the trigger mechanism of any firearm – it requires disassembly and cleaning. It is much more unlikely in the M16.
M16 and its variants will run for a very long time without cleaning, as long as the user maintains proper lubrication of the mechanisms. It is also difficult to accidentally allow sand or mud to get into the rifle. The Kalashnikov, on the other hand, will work even completly dry and grind small dirt particles thanks to the loose automatics, but it is more susceptible to external dirt through the large opening on the right side of the weapon when safety lever is off.
In modern times, the AR-15 family has gained immense popularity. First, it was adopted by all western special forces, including the Polish GROM and the British SAS, not to mention the obvious US Navy SEALs or SFOD-D. Later, they switched to its even more reliable, though heavier and harder more recoiling version, the German HK416. In its updated version, under the designation A7, it reigns there until today.
The AR-15 is also widely bought by civilian shooters due to its low weight, high ergonomics, ease of modification, accessories and a wide range of parts and accessories. In the USA, for the protection of property and for sports/hunting. In Europe (including Poland) mainly for the latter purpose. The number of manufacturers and models is beyond comprehension, as is the pool of possible configurations.
M16 at CSA
Of course, many of them can be tried at Cracow Shooting Academy – from the M16A1 from the Vietnamese period, through the M4, to several variants of the civilian AR-15. You can find the entire list HERE, and you can book the date HERE.
It is our duty to mention that everyone with a residency in Poland can have a fully-fledged AR-15 and configure it according to their preferences. Find out how to do it HERE.