The thing about Boot Camp Pt.2: The thing about M16A1

The Korean army mainly operates with four different assault rifles: the M1 Carbine (the automatic, lighter kind. Not the bolt action weapon.), the M16A1 (Most of them were made in Korea under a license), the K1 submachine gun (this one is an oddball. It was a service carbine/main weapon when it was first introduced as it receives the 5.56 nato ammunition, but it is now treated as an SMG due to its small size), and the K2 automatic rifle.

As of today, the K2 is the main (and practically only) assault rifle the Korean army boys use. The K-1 is more common amongst SWAT and spec ops units that need a weapon that really sticks to their bodies. We, the reserve and even some boys who are in active duty use the service M16A1 during boot camp. At around day 4 or 5, each and every one of us are given our temporary girlfriends (and the active duty boys would receive their ‘wives’ when they are sent off to their respective stations).

The thing about the M16A1 is that it is never the bullet spitting magic you’d see in the movies and video games. First and foremost, it’s heavy as f*ck. It weighs 3 kilograms (if you’re an american, use google’s conversion feature) and weighs even more so when loaded.  You can’t wave it around like you would in the video games unless you have some serious arm and core body strength. (There is a reason why soldiers keep their bodies in top shape). Secondly, these things get hot. Really hot. It gets so hot so fast that if you continuously unload around a dozen clips (or even less) in full auto, the handle will catch fire (!). Unloading entire clips in seconds and shooting away 300+ rounds is a common sight in video games. Do so in real life however, and irreversibly damaged gun barrel would be the least of one’s problems. Thirdly, the iron sight is bloody hard to aim with. With the round iron sight that makes a full circle, the shooter has to create an imaginary cross and then line up the other end of the sight and the target. This makes fast, accurate follow-up shooting near impossible, and generally makes our lives incredibly difficult. Many of H&K’s signature weapons have adopted a semi-circle front iron sight aiming mechanism which makes our lives a lot easier, and our newest K2 rifle has also adopted the same system, alleviating such issues.

The last and incidentally most annoying thing about the M16A1, is that the dust cover stays open after the weapon has been cocked. Why is this a problem, you say? The AR-weapon’s design allows continuous shooting by pulling the bolt backwards using the reaction from expelling each round. The spring behind the bolt is designed to absorb any energy that is not needed to pull the hammer back far enough, so that the felt recoil is minimized. This mechanism, unfortunately, means that any form of obstacle that absorbs the slightest amount of this backwards force will result in the bolt not being pushed fully to receive another round to the chamber. In such events, three things happen: 1. Your assault weapon turns into a bolt-action paperweight; 2. Since the jam is that of a fresh round, rather than that of a case, you lose a round from your clip in the process of making your weapon fire again; 3. until you clean the chamber, the bolt, and the firing pin thoroughly, the jam will go on. This issue is so bad that having a lot of powder ash sitting in the chamber alone can cause these malfunctions; to a point where it is in the army manual to recommend quick, but thorough cleaning after firing about 200 rounds. Going back to the issue about dust cover: unlike the M4 and other newer-ish AR based weapons, the M16A1’s dust cover stays open once the weapon is cocked even once. This exposes the bolt and the chamber to dust, mud, water, sometimes even fingers (!…), and pretty much anything else one could (and couldn’t) imagine. In a clean, organized setting of a firing range, this is rarely a problem. In a real-life battle though; the weapon would jam all the damn time, and it happened to the lot of us during combat exercises. This happens to lefties even more often because when lefties go prone, the weapon tips to its right side, the side which the weapon’s chamber is exposed.

Thank god our regular service weapon is the K2. This rifle solves most of M16’s issues, and stands out as a fairly reliable weapon that is even exported to many countries.


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