5 Common Problems With The Marines’ Go-To Rifle


If you’re a former Marine or simply a follower of the military and its equipment, then you are likely familiar with the M16A4 which the Marines used for almost twenty years (until October 2015). What you may not know are some of the issues which caused the Marine Corp to make a change away from this rifle.

I remember, as a younger man, thinking that the M16 was a great go-to rifle, and, as David Grove put it, “They’re accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place.”

But Grove laid out five issues which caused many Marines to hate the M16A4. The first issue is that they are prone to rusting. Fortunately, the solution according to Grove is “that you should carry some CLP and scrub it off regularly — another task to add to the pile.”


The second issue? Cleaning them is a pain. Carbon build-up is, apparently, a major problem, and it seems to get everywhere. That might not be so bad, except that “the chamber gets caked with carbon after firing a single magazine.” You can imagine that, during training or in actual combat, how much of an issue and a constant chore keeping the rifle carbon-free would be.

The third issue is that, though it is accurate, it jams too easily and often. There are lots of reasons why, but you can imagine how much of an issue this is when your life depends on you shooting your enemy before they kill you.

The fourth issue is the length. At 40″ long, it’s not designed for close quarters situations, which is becoming more and more common as urban combat is becoming more a rule than an exception.

And the fifth complaint? The rail covers make the hand guards slippery. Which is just a pain.

So, there you have it, five reasons why many Marines hate the M16A4.

But that doesn’t mean that I still wouldn’t mind getting in some range time with one.



  1. As a Marine I’ve always detested the M-16. I saw entirely too many people dead because of that firearm, 17 in one day, was 17 too many. Lucky for me my MOS allowed me the choice of primary weapon. While the 14 is a bit unwieldy and it and its ammo are somewhat heavy, it never failed me, near or far. The 16 has always failed in its fundamental purpose. It deserves to be thrown in the dustbin of history, never to be heard of again.

  2. Well, despite the fantastic precision and all the good things about the Colt M-16, there was and will always be people who favor other rifles such as the AK-47 or the M-14 and so on.

    From what I have seen, doesn’t the military have various M-16’s to suit different missions. Besides, I thought that all the branches went with the M-4 versions that are fitted with shorter barrels.

    In any case parts can always be changed. Out in the wide open areas, those longer barrels will be welcomed. But armorers can change parts or cut those barrels down if it’s ordered and approved.

    • I can only go by my experience and I was in VietNam from dec ’67 to Jan ’68 so I have noexperience with the later models. It was and is the case of ‘first impression’ for me.

  3. If our military would retro fit them for the new style piston drive system, this would fix 90% of the problems. I am a
    custom gunsmith and I know this to be true.

  4. I personally hated the M16 when I was in VietNam. I’m a former Marine and back then if you fired the M16 you could plan on cleaning it for up to & including 1 hr. The carbon build up was so bad that after firing it for 5 to 20 rounds it would jam, and I mean that a cartridge would be firmly jammed chambered and that cost a lot of lives. It wasn’t until 1996 that I found out that that was due to a faulty blow back system involved in the gas operation. Gas was escaping out that wasn’t supposed to, which meant that the gas used for ejecting the cartridge was only partial and not fully blowing out the carbon. This meant that after firing only a few rounds that the carbon built up so much that a round would forcefully be chambered and not be able to be ejected with the partial amount of gas blowback-this meant jammed weapon which meant death in a firefight. So yes, I absolutely HATED the M16.

  5. All of the above suggestions are fine…when you are on the range, but when you are in combat and you go from an empty “desert” to a town, with houses wall to wall, you don’t have time to change to a shorter barrel, nor do you have time in the midst of a firefight, to stop, clean your weapon because of all the “gunk” you have accumulated in firing several clips, then get back into the game. If the M-4 is this bad, then its past time that we changed our soldiers into something more reliable and easier to maintain. (Written not as a soldier or past soldier, but as a committed shooter with 40+ years of shooting experience.

  6. Nothing but love, honor and respect for you old Gyrines, but, as a weapons training instructor for the DOD for well over 30 years, I can state, unequivocally, that the only “Problem” that has any validity in this list is number two! And, the weapon that the Marines are replacing the M16 and all it’s variants with, is also an M16 variant, too! There may be some truth to the gas impingement system dumping too much carbon and crap into the chamber, but, blame that on the DOD Bean Counters who changed the powder used in 5.56 MM ammo. If DOD hadn’t gotten cheap with the powder, there may not have been so many casualties, and a whole lot fewer guys who listened to their Uncle Bob about how the M16 jammed so much! Also, on the ‘cheap’ side, had DOD not changed the powder, there may not have been as great a need to clean and maintain the early M16s, just as Eugene Stoner designed! But, not fielding suitable cleaning kits, because the rifles were “Self Cleaning”, well, chalk that one up directly to the Bean Counters, who were, by the way, primarily Democrats, under Johnson! I seem to recall that the Marines are going with the H&K variant, using a gas piston, instead of direct impingement. As superior as that system is, if the GI using the M16/ M4/ whatever, just did their PM, most of the problems complained about disappear. Even problem #5 has more validity than 1, 3, and 4. Just my humble opinion, but, as good as the AK system is, I’ll stick with the M16, personally. Now, given the choice to hump an M-14, and battle rattle, well… MSgt (Ret) Jess F. Tiede/ GS09 Training Instructor

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