Whats the difference??? M16 vs. M4

Some of the best shooting we have experienced is done outdoors with our favorite long guns!!!   Most of you wacky gun-nuts that follow the PSA blog know that we love to get questions from our readers.  The nerd in us can’t allow those times to talk about gun history a pass!!!  Today we decided to answer a question from Jamila C. from Fairburn, GA.  Jamila wanted to know more about the differences between the M16 and the M4 platforms.  Well Jamila….you’re in luck!!!  We at PSA love to talk guns, especially long guns!!!!

m16 vs m4

Jamila….before we get started, understand that these two platforms are very similar in nature, as you can easily tell from the picture above!  Historically, we want you to understand that both of the rifle platforms, the M16 and the M4 carbine, are semi-automatic rifles that were born right here in the dear ole’ United States.  The M16, introduced into service for the American Military in 1964, was originally designed for select-fire mode (capable of being manually changed between semi-auto, short burst, and automatic fire potential).  In 1994, the United States Armed Forces decided to replace the M16 with the M4 (produced by Colt under the name XM4).  The United States Armed Forces as well as armed forces around the world now call on the M4 style rifles to protect their lives as well as the lives of the citizens that they protect.

The M16 is usually identified by a longer barrel than it’s counterpart, the M4.  The M16 has a standard barrel length of 16 inches, while the M4 comes in with a barrel length of 14.5 inches standard.  This shorter barrel length made the rifle lighter (among other things), and led to the adoption of the M4 over the M16 in the mid 90’s.  Both rifles accept any standard STANAG magazine (which includes G.I. Mags, P-Mags, Lancer, DD, and the list goes on!!!!).   On the M16 you would usually find a solid stationary stock, while on the M4 the stock is usually collapsible (to provide better purchase of the rifle based on shooter preference).  Again, this is one of those features that made it a more attractive option for the Armed Forces.  If you will notice, the standard M16 came with a handle on the top, used for carry purposes and even mounting specialized shooting glass.  The M4’s usually come flat-topped with some sort of rail system (M1913 Picatinny, Key-mod, M-Lock, etc.). This difference makes the M4 models more apt to tactical applications.  Once again, leading to the selection of this rifle over the M16.

Jamila, one thing to note is that both the M16 and the M4 platforms (military rifles) led to the offering of AR style rifles for civilian use.  The main difference between the military rifles and the ones used for civilian use is what we at PSA like to call “the FUN switch”…….or in laymen terms….the ability to fire automatic bursts of shots.  Which is probably for the best!!!  Who wants their crazy Uncle Rob to have access to an automatic fire capable rifle?!?!?

***Remember…the safest rifles are those that have an open bolt, empty chamber, and empty magazine well.  If you are unfamiliar with firearms and want to learn more, PSA strongly suggests that you find, enroll, and attend a comprehensive and reputable firearms safety course. Firearms safety is all of OUR responsibility.  

We want to thank you for taking out the time to stop by our lane at the shooting range!!  We hope that you enjoyed your stay and hope that you stop back by early and often to catch up on all PSA updates!  We truly hope that we were able to hit the target, and if you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to shoot them our way!!  We look forward to shooting the breeze with you soon again!!

And as always….remember to watch your six and stay low!!!

7 thoughts on “Whats the difference??? M16 vs. M4

  1. No sir the m16 and m4 did not lead it offering the ar15 for civilians. The ar15 was in use long before the military adapted it.

    1. Ken, thanks for the comment and sharing!

  2. Short burst selection wasn’t available until the A2 came out around 1990.
    Woody Rowe, SFC Retired, US Army

    1. Thanks for the response SFC!

      1. Thanks for the correction . I was working in electronic security a non- combative position in those years and while in Honduras during the later 80’s we onlt had the A1 and not really in touch with the update Other units than mine in the 18 ABC got weapons upgraded before us. Thanks

    2. Actually the M16A2 was first adopted by the Marine Corps in 1983 and the Army in 1986.

      1. Thanks woody for your comment!

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