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History of the M16 History of Airsoft The Airsoft M16 Rifle

The M16 rifle was created in response the US Air Force’s need in the 1950’s for a lightweight, small-form “survival rifle” for self-defense in the event of a hostile landing. The order went out to Armalite Company, which had recently merged with Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation. A designer at Armalite named Eugene Stoner soon developed the 5.56mm (.223) cartridge and reworked it until he had 55grain bullet traveling at 3250fps and an effective range of about 500yds. With a reliable cartridge in place, Stoner began work on the rifle itself and soon came out with the AR-15 rifle. The AR-15 was a drastically different rifle in both design and function from anything that had been used by the US Air Force before. The AR-15 employed a direct gas system of operation instead of the conventional piston operation and made extensive use of light alloy and precision casting to reduce weight. The rifle had a straight line design instead of the traditional “dropped-butt” of conventional rifles and the sights were permanently attached to the carry handle. The radical new design, along with the rifle’s plastic furniture, led the US Army and Air Force brass to dub the rifle “cheap and nasty”. Nonetheless, in 1962 the US Air Force bought a number of AR-15s for use by guards at Air Force bases. Then, in 1963, the USAF sent a detachment armed with AR-15s to Vietnam and were surprised to find that the South Vietnamese Army felt the new rifles would be perfect for the smaller stature soldiers that made up the majority of their ranks. The South Vietnamese army soon bought AR-15s and reported favorably as did the US Special Forces serving in Vietnam at that time. Eventually, the AR-15 was taken into regular US Army service as the M16 Rifle.

The Airsoft sport can be traced back to its inception in Japan during the early 1980’s. At that time it was illegal for citizens to own firearms Japan, but the interest in firearms there was significant nonetheless. In response to the demand, some Japanese companies began tentative production of a few spring powered Airsoft guns modeled after a selection of famous modern firearms. These original models fired the same 6mm plastic BBs that are still used today. The sport soon caught on and by the late 1980’s it had swept through neighboring countries such as Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines. By the early 1990’s, Airsoft had made its way through Europe and across the Atlantic to North America. Airsoft has been somewhat slow to catch on in the US due in part to the fact that private gun ownership is legal in the US and many firearm enthusiasts saw Airsoft equipment as toys. In recent years however, Airsoft has begun to carve out its own niche in the outdoor/sporting market with customers who appreciate the relatively low cost of Airsoft guns when compared to their firearm counterparts. Airsoft has also come into favor with military and law enforcement personnel who see it as an inexpensive and safe way to train.

Today you can find Airsoft guns modeled after an abundance of real life firearms. HK, Beretta, Benalli, Desert Eagle and more can be found in an Airsoft version that closely resembles the real deal in look, weight, operation and feel.

The M16 was one of the first Airsoft rifles to become popular with the Airsoft community due to the rifle’s stature as a symbol of American military prowess. Today the Airsoft version of the M16 rifle can be found in a variety of forms from an ever-growing number of manufacturers. The spring-powered single-shot Airsoft M16 rifle is the most common and simple design and is very affordable. The spring version is usually made of plastic and can fire from 150 to 350 fps depending on the spring design and the BB weight. The spring operated Airsoft M16 can retail anywhere from $20 for the ‘mini’ small scale version all the way up to $175 for heavyweight, adjustable spin versions with metal uppers and lowers. For the moderate to serious Airsoft enthusiast, an M16 AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) is a better choice due to its higher BB capacity, realistic look, weight and feel, and of course the ability to go full-auto. Some of these AEG's are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing because they have all the markings and dimensions of a real M16. Manufacturers such as Tokyo Marui, ICS, and Classic Army have gone to great lengths to achieve this realistic look and feel and have even bought the rights from firearms manufacturers such as Armalite to copy the markings and design of the real guns. Other manufaturers, such as Colt, which owns the rights to the M4 carbine, do not allow airsoft companies to use thier name or markings. As a result, the M4 type carbine produced by Classic Army is known as the M15 and the ICS vesion is called the PCR-97. These high-grade AEG's are usually made of metal, can fire upward of 450fps and are designed to perform under harsh conditions.
Variations of the M16 Rifle
Model Description
M16A1
The M16 has been produced in several different models each with its own unique characteristics. The M16A1 was the original M16 built to original army specifications, but after extensive use in the field, it quickly became apparent that the design needed to be modified.
M16A2
The new, modified version of the M16 beacame known as the M16A2 and was superior to the M16A1 in many ways. The buttstock and pistol grip material was changed to tough injection molded plastic to prevent breakage. The fixed rear sight was removed in favor of a rear sight that could be adjusted for windage and range. The upper reciever was modified to better deflect spent cartidges away from the firer. A heavier, stiffer barrel with a 1 in 7 twist replaced the 1 in 12 twist barrel from the M16A1. The new barrel was designed around the NATO standard SS 109 type(M855) ammo for greater effective range and penetration. Full-auto fire was swtiched to 3-round burst to conserve ammo and increase accuracy and a muzzle compensator was added to improve accuracy further. Lastly, a redesigned handguard, consisting of two identical round halves, replaced the old trianglular handguard for a sturdier grip.
M16A3
The M16A3 is similiar to the A2 but uses a detachable, rail mounted carry handle and can fire in semi-auto or full-auto mode instead of the three round burst mode of the A2.

M16A4

The M16A4 Rifle is identical to the M16A2 Rifle except it is equipped with a flat top upper receiver and detachable carrying handle. When the carrying handle is removed, the flat top upper receiver rail system can be used to mount optical devices to the weapon. There are no differences between the internal dimensions of the M16A2 Rifle and the M16A4 Rifle.

M4

US Special Forces groups and the US Army Ranger Regiment use a carbine version of the M16A2 known as the M4 Carbine. The M4 has a shorter barrel and a collapsible stock for a noticeably more compact profile. The M4 can also be found in several different forms.
M4A1
The M4A1 is a compact lightweight version of the M4 Carbine that features a detachable carry handle and flat top rail system for mounting accessories. The M4A1 Carbine is capable of full-auto fire.
M4A2
The M4A2 is similiar to the M4A1 but has a fixed carrying handle and is capable of safe/semi-auto/3-round-burst firing modes.
M4A4
The M4A4 is virtually identical to the M4A1 except it utilizes a safe/semi-auto/3-round-burst firing mode instead of the A1's safe/semi-auto/full-auto.
M4RIS
The RIS in the M4RIS stands for Rail Interface System and is used to accomodate the SOPMOD Kit (Special Operations Peculiar Modification) The RIS is comprised of a series of rigid grooved rails of the Picatinny type, that replace the normal or stock hand guards. The SOPMOD kit was designed by the US Special Operations Command to allow the M4 to be a more effective weapon from close quarters battles (CQB) to longe range engagements. The SOPMOD kit consists of a 4 X Day Scope, a Reflex Sight, a Visible Laser, an Infrared Pointer / Illuminator, a Visible Light, Backup Iron Sights, and a Forward Hand Grip.
The Airsoft M16, M16A1, M16A2, M16A3, M16A4,
Carbine A1, A2, A4, and RIS
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