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Colt M16A2



US Army soldier firing a M16A2 assault rifle in 2018.

Source: US Army (Spc. Iain Jaramillo) - © Public domain

United States
Assault rifle
Entered service
In service
Early 1980's
Belgium - Fabrique Nationale
1982 - present
United States - Colt
United States - Fabrique Nationale
Number produced
Produced in large quantities



The M16A2 is a late Cold War era assault rifle of US origin. It was developed by Fabrique Nationale at the request of the US Marine Corps. The M16A2 is a product improved version of the M16A1. The main improvement is the use of the 5.56x45mm NATO round instead of the older M193 round. When it was introduced in the 1980's the full size M16A2 with iron sights was the main production variant. Nowadays the M4 carbine, derived from the M16A2 design, is considered the main variant.


The M16A2 is a product improved M16A1. The areas of improvement include the round that is fired, the iron sights and a burst fire option instead of full automatic fire. The M16A2 fires a redesigned 5.56x45mm round that uses a faster rifling twist rate. This version of the 5.56x45mm round was also adopted as NATO standard. The M16A2 retains the direct impingement design and rotating bolt. Externally the M16A2 looks very similar to the M16A1 and at a glance only the round forearm identifies the M16A2.


The M16A2 fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round from 30 round magazines, although various other capacities are available. The M16A2 is a select fire weapon with a cyclic rate of fire of 700 to 950 rounds per minute. Many rifles in US service feature a three round burst fire selector instead permitting full automatic fire. The effective range is 400 meters, although with optics targets out to 600 m can be engaged.


The first user of the M16A2 was the US marine corps in the mid 1980's, with the US army adopting it in the late 1980's. The M16A2 and its derivatives are widely used around the world and are the standard issue firearm of various nations.



Right side view of M16A4 assault rifle with quad accessory rail, grippod and ACOG riflescope.

Source: US Army - © Public domain

Variants of the M16A2 assault rifle

The M16A2 is the standard full size rifle. It features a full length barrel and fixed stock. The original models with fixed handle are known as the R701 and R705, with the latter being burst fire. The flattop models are known as R901 and R905 respectively. The R645 as produced for the US army is similar to the R701. In US service the designation M16A2 applies to the R645 and R701 models. The M16A3 is the R705. The designation M16A4 applies to both the R901 and R905. Many M16A4 in US service also feature a quad Picatinny rail forearm developed by KAC. These are known as the M16A4 MWS, with MWS denoting "Modular Weapon System". The M203 grenade launcher may be fitted and will replace the round handguard with a larger squared one.


Facts M16A2 (R705) M16A3 (R701)
United States
Assault rifle
5.56x45mm NATO
30 round detachable box
Barrel length
508 mm
6 grooves, 178 mm right hand twist
Muzzle velocity
948 m/s
Gas operated, direct impingement
Rotating bolt
Fire selector
0 - 1 - 3
Rate of fire
700 - 950 rpm
Stock type
1.006 mm
3.40 kg empty
Iron sights
Sight radius
502 mm


Related articles

Colt M16A1

The M16A2 is a product improved M16A1. The main differences are the use of 5.56mm NATO instead of the older M193 and the burst fire ability.

Diemaco C7

The Diemaco C7 is the Canadian production variant of the M16A2. It differs in that it retained the ability for full automatic fire and several features of the M16A1, such as the sights.

Colt M4

The M4 Carbine is a shorter and more compact M16A2. It was known as the M16A2 Carbine before being type standardized as the M4. The M4 was introduced as a variant, but gradually became the most prominent model of the M16A2 family of firearms.

Colt M4 Commando

The M4 Commando is a subcompact model of the M16A2 series of assault rifles.


The M16A2 can be fitted with the M203 grenade launcher. When the rifle is fitted with a quad Picatinny accessory rail the M203A2 is used.