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From the History Books Historical

What’s the Best Military Longarm Ever?

by Garry James   |  November 10th, 2011 144

No matter how sophisticated things get, it’s always going to be the infantry in a war — the ground-pounders who get things moving, sort things out, and mop things up.

Now, of course foot soldiers existed well before firearms. The role of the infantryman, for the most part, has pretty much been the same through the ages, and if you read some period accounts, it becomes obvious that they all shared similar experiences. I’m sure that if a Greek Hoplite c. 600 BC, an Augustinian Roman Legionary, a Napoleonic period British infantryman, a World War I French poilu and an American grunt in Vietnam sat down around a campfire swapping a few beakers of Flanernian wine, rum, cognac and Jack Daniels, in short order — with the help of a translator — they’d soon all be bitching about their officers, rotten army chow, long hours, bad pay, sore feet and the soldier’s sorry lot in general.

Where things would start to get a tad testy would be in the weaponry department. I’ll bet the Legionary would think his pilum (spear) was last word in individual armament, while the Brit, crushing Brown Bess to his bosom and stroking her titian-toned stock would proclaim her the “queen of battlefields.” The Frenchman and the Yank would shake their heads and launch into animated discussions extolling the merits of the Lebel and M16 — each probably feeling sorry for the other fellows that they were equipped with such second-rate weaponry. You know what, though, they’d all be right.

Given their frames of reference and taking into account the technologies of the times in which they were fighting, all were equipped with some of the best infantry arms available—arms which would have an effect far beyond their own particular periods. That’s what this piece is about—my personal impressions of the world’s most important infantry firearms. Some had longer service lives than others, but all had a great influence on history and in the further development of weaponry. I’ll present them in chronological order rather than by some subjective merit system, for as I said, in their heyday they were all the best there was.

  • Mike Steen

    Guess the 1903 Springfield didn't fit in here?

    • armed_partisan

      It's a version of the Model 1898 Mauser, which is mentioned as #7 on the list. The Pattern 14 and Pattern 17 Enfields are also based largely on the 98 Mauser's design.

    • Steve

      The 1903 Springfield is mentioned in with the Mauser.

  • jarhead

    I have to say the M-14 was the best. The M1 Garand however won the war against Hitler.

    • Don

      I think we need to give some credit to the M1891/30 Soviet rifle and hundreds of thousands of PPsh 41 and PPs 43 sub guns. What won the war in Europe was superior artillery (proximity fuse) and air power. The M1 was the finest battle rifle of the war. The Germans always bit of too much. "Living room" didn't do much for them except extend the lines needing defending. Without the ability to build weapons and supply fuel and food to troops and civilians the Germans dug their own grave. Germany wasted effort on unproven weapons and cost inefficient designs like the big Bertha cannons and mortars. Thank God the Germans have a reputation the does match there actual ability. Hot air and arrogant to their peoples destruction. If they had not wanted to kill Jews and slavs everything they needed could have been worked out in a business contract. Same with the over reaching Japanese. Neither race was superior enough to win a war that didn't need to happen.

      • capt bl

        Actually Don, this is the best thing I have read for a while. I think you have summed up brilliantly. I cant fault you at all, if only history was taught so well.

  • Thom

    I was trained on the M1, carried an M14. Either one would be preferrable to, the M16 as far as I'm concerened but the M16 does have it's place.

  • RRK3

    The 1903 is Mauser in prettier wrapping


    General George Patton wouldn't hesitate in telling anyone that the M-1 Garand won WW-II, and, arguably,even if the M16 had been available at the time, he might not have changed his mind. On the other hand, an M16-based rifle could have turned the tide of battle at the Alamo, the Little Big Horn, or the second battle for Pork Chop Hill. Even in today's Afghanistan where most of our Armed Forces are armed with an M16 variant, there are those who would argue that one of the .50 cal sniper rifles has more influence on the outcome of some battles than does the M16 variant.

    So it's hard to say what the best military long gun is without saying in which war, and perhaps even which battle, it is/was used. I know one thing for sure, any of them beat NO rifle…I not-to-politely traded my 1911A1 in for an M16 when I first arrived in Vietnam.

  • Bill

    H&K Model 91 not on list????

    • Don

      The G3 is wide spread. It often only holds groups like an old AK which isn't very good.

  • Untacticool

    Can't say I have and can appreciate them all, but of thise listed I do have a Brown Bess, Remington Rolling Block carbine, K98, M-1, 3 M-14s and ARs in 5.56 x 45, 6.5 Grendel and .50 Beowulf.
    The M-16/AR is by far the most versatile and is a solid platform capable of fine accuracy. However, each has had its "day in the sun" and I enjoy each of them enormously.
    Shooting a firearm with a "history" and story to tell is a wonderful way to connect – if only in spirit – with those that have gone before.
    A sincere thanks to all Veterans, living and dead, that have answered the call to stand up for our country, their fellow countrymen/women and the freedoms we all enjoy.

    • Alex

      idk about 50 beowolf lol that kinda just an anti material rifle

  • Steven

    "The best military longarm ever". Why all the old guns being mentioned?? M-1, M-14, AK-47, M-16, seem to me the only choices for best "ever". For fighting in the desert or at longer ranges the M-14. For jungle or shorter ranges the AK-47. For urban combat M-16.

  • Cyrano

    I more or less agree with you, Garry — right up until you listed the infamous Poodle Shooter. I had a cousin who was a sniper in Vietnam. When the order came down that all the spotters working with the snipers had to turn in their utterly reliable M-14s for Jam-A-Matics, Tom went to his commanding officer and told him flat out that unless his spotter was armed with an M-14 and not an M-16, he would refuse to go back into the field. His skipper agreed with him and ignored the order from HQ. When some REMF tried to come down on the skipper, he got away with his insubordination by pointing out the M-14 and the Model 70 bolt action fired the same shell, an important fact for teams that usually operated alone. The REMF saw the logic of it and let it slide.

    I have spoken to troops who have carried the M-16 in Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom. Ain't none of them had anything good to say about the Poodle Shooter. That miserable piece of bleep needed replacing in 1968. It is even more urgent to replace the silly toy now. When our troops shoot some insurgent, I want him down and DEAD, not laughing at the coffee house a day or two later and comparing M-16 bullet scars with his pals.

    When the US Army adopted the M-16, they made a fundamental mistake. Our troops are still paying for that misjudgment with their blood. We need to replace the Poodle Shooter with something in 7.62 NATO that actually WORKS, first time, every time. The M-16's Stoner action is not it.

    • Garry James

      Hey. I'll take an M14 over an M16 any day in the week–but as I noted the M14 was basically an updated M1 and I was only given a limit 10 to work with so unfortunately variants of variants kinda' fell by the wayside. I trained with the M14, own one myself (in the Springfield Armory variant) and just love it. Also like the FN FAL lots, but still give the edge to the M14

      • elk hunter

        How about the M-14 in 358 Winchester?
        Good bullets from barnes and Nosler. Plus, one can use 357 Mag. bullets for reloading. A whole lot better than the Ar-15 in 223 Rem.

      • Glenn Wilder

        I have a Springfield Armory variant purchased this summer and it's a great rifle. I trained with the M14 during basic training.

        Glenn Wilder

    • Patriot

      If we are talking about as issued M-16s back in 'Nam I agree the M-14 was a better choice. If were are talking about the modern M-16/M4/AR15 platform then it pains me to say that after shooting some modern AR's I must give the M-16/AR15 credit where it is due.

      The simple truth is that one only has to look at what gun wins virtually every shooting competition to see what gun is on top. In real world applications some of the modern day torture tests on these guns are unbelievable. They are approaching durability and reliabilty levels of the ak47.

      No gun can do every job perfectly. Maybe people have died due to lack of stopping power but nobody wants to say how many lives have been saved by having much more ammo on hand, making great shots that might not be possible with other guns, being able to make accurate follow up shots, and have automatic fire that is controllable.

      For a distance shot I would take an M-14 but in a modern urban warfare situation there would be now question that I would be looking down the barrel of an AR varient.

      • Sam

        Only one disagreement. I have been in both situations and I don't believe the current crop of "competitions" make a good basis for picking a firearm for a battlefield or even a small fight, nor do the "methodologies" used in such competition.

    • Don

      One reason the M14 was withdrawn was it was unreliable. The various makers, H&R, Winchester, TRW couldn't keep the quality control up. The wooden stocks warped in the wet climate. Parts intercahnge was near impossible.
      The biggest issue with the M16 as lack of maintanance, and the issue with the army changing from IMR powder to Winchester ball powder. The ball powder had a high calcium carbonate residue coupled with higher port pressure that over worked the gun and clogged it. Of all of the guns in service the M16 family has more staying power. AK's are reliable, but feature poor sights.

    • terz81

      The Army and the Marine Corps did not want to adopt the M16.
      They were forced by the sec. of Defense Mac.
      I read a book on how it was adopted about thirty years ago.
      when the weapon was first designed it was actually for the South Vietnamese troops they were then carrying
      M1's and were noted to be short of stature.
      The U.S. Air Force had a big role to play in its adoption there security forces were carrying the para-trooper
      version of the M14 or M1 or M2 Carbine, the first was considered just to heavy and the latter two the cartridge was considered ineffective,. Anyways some one in the Airforce heard that Armalite had a assault
      weapon in the design and testing stages by the way it was known as the AR-15, there was little to no real scientific testing done on the weapon and the Air Force signed a contract to buy and replace the M 14 and the M1 and M2 carbines, sec. of Defense had a bug up you know where about the costs of the M 14 and I will say he had some points, but I think his relationship soured with the M 14 team so he pulled the trigger
      and bought the AR-15 changes were made and it became the M16.

    • Don

      The M14 was withdrawn from service due to poor functioning. Attempts were made to fix the stock problems. McNamara gave an ultimatume to the folks at Winchester, H&R and TRW, either bring up the performance of the contracts will be cancelled. They were cancelled. An issue with the M14, M1911, M3A1 were poor quality magazines. Low bid work. We had 36 M1911A1 pistols in our armory, with junk magazines. If you had trouble with the .45 you needed to supply good magazines yourself.

    • Nam Marine

      You Sir, are exactly correct!

    • Alex

      i guess those soldiers are just bad shots
      i would just aim for the head

  • Laramie 1

    Patton had it right. Had one in Korea.

  • Garandguy

    I have 26 years in the military and have shot the M-16 a lot. Yes, it's light, Yes, it's tactical. Yes, you can carry a lot of ammo. But so help me, I've never enjoyed hearing that "sproing" sound (caused by the buffer spring) when I fire it. The M-14 on the other hand, just makes me feel ten feet tall and no, I won't say bulletproof here (why chance fate?) when I carry and shoot it. I'm a fairly large person and the size and weight of the M-14 doesn't seem to bother me. It's just a visceral feeling. I once asked an old-timer why he preferred the M-14 over the M-16. He responded by saying "It makes things happen down range." I never forgot his answer because it pretty much summed it all up.

    • Dreager

      exactly. I'm a big guy, rifle weight is irrelevant. who cares if its light if it doesn't stop what i am shooting at? its why i like my 338-378 weatherby and my 458 win mag. might not always have to, but its nice to have the ability to reach out and touch something far away

      • Don

        Dreager, When action is up close and personal a long range bolt action snipers rifle or lion gun isn't much to go to war with. The M16 series owns the world – it is an exceptional rifle. All of the other modern (post-WW2) rifles in service are just also rans. The AK is a crude rifle. The AKM (sheet metal receiver) is easy to crush. AKs have poor sights. The machined receivers like the Valmet RK62 and Galil (a dressed up Valmet) break at the locking lug recesses. The Yugo uses a 1.5 mm sheet metal receiver and RPK locking lugs – a fine combo. G3s shoot like AKs. FALs have weak and hard to clean parts. The M1 suffered disasterous failures in Korean cold. M14 quality was so poor McNamara cancelled production. A few G36s are in use. Nothing tested in the last 20 years has outperformed the M16.

        • Dreager

          wasnt saying I'd use my 458 in battle, just its nice to stop the threat. and you have to compare apples to apples. maybe M14 quality wasnt always the best, but initial m16s were complete garbage. you compare new ones to 30 year old m14s. 5.56 is a woefully underpowered round for combat. i use mine on groundhogs.
          ARs are everywhere cause they're cheap, not because its better than say, an hk91.

          • Don

            The first M16 were not junk. What was wrong is the army changed powder from IMR to Ball. The ball powder had an extreme level of calcium carbonate leaving fouling. The port pressure went up nearly doubling the cyclic rate. No cleaning gear was provided. The unit (10th) with the biggest issues with failure was the sloppiest didn't take care of any of their gear. Trucks were not kept working. Heavy weapons were ignored. Had the army trained its people in cleaning the M16, had the command staff not failed the troops there would be no issue. The powder change by itself was the most serious issue. Read the Icord committee report. Bad leadership at the command level.

        • John Tremblay

          "AKMs are easy to crush…" Maybe, but I've seen a lot of very old AKMs in service in the middle east. Crushed receivers didn't seem to be an issue with the various IA and Kurdish groups I worked with.

          I've seen a lot 1950s vintage Russian AK-47s in service and aside fron being poorly maintained, mechanically they were fine. Consider the fact that those weapons are about 60 years old now and the tons of abuse that they've been through… I find it amazing that any weapon would still be operational

          Poor sights are a matter of perspective. Since the soldiers of most third world countries have no concept of rifle marksmanship or zeroing proceedures, the sights are in most cases 'adequate' in my opinion.

          I agree with your point about the M1 Garand, as I remember reading of M1s freezing shut and failing to operate. However,I've also 'heard' of K98s freezing shut at Stalingrad. There is no doubt that the K98 is plenty reliable. The M1 had a great reputation coming out of WWII and the winter of 1944-45 was pretty cold, so given the right circumstances, any gun can choke (or freeze shut).

          • John Tremblay

            The M16… in my opinion, is easy to shoot, but more difficult to maintain. It's ergonomic, relatively durable, and in a practical sense is pretty reliable. Unfortunatley, 'relatively durable' and 'pretty reliable' doesn't cut it when spare parts and cleaning kits are non-existant.

          • Don

            AKs do shoot. I talking with Nehamia Sirkus he was with Galili when Galili looked at an AKM. He picked it up, looked it over, dropped it and stepped on it crushing the gun. Galili then commented, "When we build ours it will have a machined receiver". He bought 1,000 Valmet receivers from Valmet, via Interamrs. Used M16 barrelt blanks and Stoner M63 magazines. It is a good rifle. The rear aperture is a bit too small for poor light, and the night sights only allow general aiming. Yes you will see 60 year old AKs in the field. And 100 year old Mausers and Nagants. You will also see 50 year old M16s. OGA analysis of the Iraqi weap[ons in the First Gulf War found almost all AKM rifles out of service due to sand in the magazines and actions. No matter what you are issued you need to care for your rifle.
            On the M1 the Army found that receiver rails failed, cracking, due to the cold.

          • nick

            crushing a ak sheet metal receiver by steping on it or stomping it is a myth! i own a ak47 with sheet metal receiver and i just steped and stomped it and its just fine works great. and as for sand taking ak`s out of action is crap mr. kalashnikov designed the rifle on the principal that you could put a handful of sand in an open receiver put the top cover back on and fire the rifle. and who wants a heavy clunky 4 1/2lbs milled receiver when the sheet metal receiver is 2lbs lighter and is just as tough as a milled one. your right though the galil is a good rifle but its too heavy some 12-14lbs twice the weight of a stock m16 or m4.

          • nick

            like i keep saying akm`s are not easy to crush short of running it over it with a tank or a jeep. don says in his post, galil dropped an ak and crushed it by stepping on it thats bs. i did the same thing and stomped it and nothing, works just like before no damage at all plus its a wasr10 people say thats the cheapest junk ak you can get besides a norinco. but i`ve never had a problem it, no jams or malfuctions ever! read my post about these weapons oh yeah guns freeze up because they dont have the proper grahite dry lube.

          • Don

            You are wrong. I have seen AKs destroyed by running a car seat back hard. Soviet AKs use a 1mm sheet metal. Yugos use a 1.5mm shell. They are stronger. I have personally owned nearly 30 AK variants. Having been in the business, I saw quite a few abused guns. As a police officer, I responded to a call of a man beating a car with an AK. He was chasing his mother and beating auto glass with a Maadi. That AKM was trashed. When he saw us, me with an MP5, he sat right down and gave up. Anytime you have sheet metal as weak as the AK or a toaster you can crush it. Obviously, you were not privy to the after action reports on enemy weapons in desert environs. The AK is a good rifle. It needs care or it stops. You can not fill a magazine with sand or mud and expect it to continue working. I don't care what rifle you use. Should an AK top cover become bent or lost the rifle will work. On the RK62/76 or Galils you lose your rear sight. I can stop an FN-FAL by hitting the action cover. Several years ago you could buy de-milled Galils with cracked locking lug recesses.

        • nick

          i think what you mean is ak sights are very crude. m16s were designed in the same principals as the ak, lightweight cheap to make in high volume.the ak was designed to be a quick rifle to put together in the factory. maybe thats why it seems crude, g3s are a high qaulity weapon with twice the effective range of an ak and have much better sights the classic hk hooded post and rear apeture sight. i think the statment that the m16 family owns the world is garbage in the time it takes to make an m16 you could make 3-4 ak47s, theres not a country i can think of where you cant find an ak. p.s. scar 16 and xm8 outperformed m16/m4.

          • Don

            Nick. AK's have poor sights – crude. The M16 was developed for building in high-tech plants. An AR18 is the cheapy version. It isn't for backwards nations. The G3 CAN be a good rifle. Many of them don't shoot any better than a Chicom AK. You should look at who carries the M16 family today. Several former east block countries now issue the AR-types. Third world countries still use AKs, as they are cheap and easy to produce. They are still third rate armiies. Look at Israel the standard issue rifle is normally an AR-type. Even the Iraqi forces are shifting. 40 years ago, the British SAS used the M16A1 over the other rifles available. Where are SCAR or XM8 rilfes being used in serious numbers? Answer? No where. I love AKs. But there isn't one of them except for the Valmet or Galil that can shoot groups like an AR15/16. I guess you are calling Sirkis a liar. He was a designer for Detonics, when I spoke with him. His SD9 was paid for by detonics, and he sort of took the plans to Israel. Detonics wasn't happy with him. Since I have personally seen ruined, CRUSHED, AKs I'll take my word for it.

          • old vet

            Don, you surely have a mind set on the M-16 AR platform. I personally carried a first gen. 16 in triple canopy, rain and all. Babied the hell out of it, and the little bitch still would always let me down at the worst time. We had two M14s in our group and poor quality as you state, or not they always worked. All of us had some sort of problem at one time or another with our 16s. The 16 may have been a great guard or rear ech. rifle but not for when the going got really nasty.

        • capt bl

          I have to say Don, that unless you work for Colt, you have a very limited view. Sorry but I feel that many very good rifles have come into existance which are off your radar. Killing is not a nice thing to have to do, but if its between them and me in the crap that is the battle field, I would want to make sure my bullet killed the bastard. Forget auto, one bullet should do the job, and the better it is seems to make a difference, and the 5.56 is lacking, and by default so is the M16. Saying that, better designed bullets along the lines of the .280 Nato would I suspect negate the need for a large bullet,and possibly make all these 5.56 weapons effective. Perhaps the gun designers should revisit history for the answers.

  • Rich in NJ

    I have and shoot all but two (Matchlock & Needle Gun) and I think you got the list just about right. If it were a list of twelve I would add the Sturmgewehr 44 (first assault rifle) and the FAL (Cold War "Right Hand of the Free World").

    • Alex

      Fal is great choice

  • John

    Couple of comments: The M1 was originally designed to use a .280 cal. round (7mm), but Garand changed it to use the .30-06 at the insistence of the US Army. If I had to pick one rifle over all others to cover all the bases, it would be my 1956 M1.

    As ubiquitous as the AK-47 might be, it is derived from the Stg44 and the 7.92 Kurz introduced by Germany at the end of the WWII. Had the Germans won, it would've ended up being the AK of its day. The Kurz round is also a better cartridge in my opinion than the 7.62×39.

    The AR platform as used by the military stinks — and the 5.56 is even worse. There are at least half a dozen rounds that will work in the AR platform that greatly exceed the performance of the 5.56 and would require only a chance of uppers and possibly magazines. 6.8 SPC II (6.8×43), 6×41, 7.62×40, .30 HRT, 6.5 Grendel plus several others. 6.8 SPC II is the second most popular caliber after the 5.56 in the civilian market, and has gained a rep as a superb rifle for wild hogs and deer as well as personal defense.

    • elk hunter

      The US Army wanted it in 30-06 because of all the ammo they had in warehouses left over from WW1.
      On another note, a TV show years ago said the US Army has warehouses full of left over items dating back to the Spanish-American War, WW1, WW2, Korea. I have an idea. Why doesn't the Army put all this odd, old and obsolete stock up for auction so collectors and reanactors can purchase it. It would free up room in their warehouses and they would raise money to purchase new improved arms. Why bother keeping these warehouses full of stock they can't and won't use?

  • Dreager

    what about SMLE? M14 beats M16 hands down. they may be the flavour right now, but I'll take a heavy 7.62 over a lightweight 223 coyote gun any day

    • Garry James

      The SMLE is simply a superb weapon! I own more variants of the Lee-Enfield than any other bolt action and love to shoot it. Personally, I'd rather carry one of those in a battle than a 98 Mauser, but I have take into account the thoughts of other experts, as well as the pervasive use of the Mauser and tilt the balance in favor of the Hun gun.

      • Dreager

        I'm down to one. although I have some really cool chromed mags i picked up at a gun show years ago, which is neat.

        Do you have the prison guard version in .410?

      • DaveB

        In my view the SMLE should have been there instead of the Lebel.

    • Alex

      Agreed with all above but would like to add for a 7.62 assault rifle i would defintly go with FN Herstal

  • Walter

    You had me in complete agreement, until you got to the M-16. Are you kidding? I would say the FN-FAL instead.

  • Azgunnut

    I really like the M14. We trained with that in the Army. Then they replaced it with the M16, just before our flight across the big pond.
    Gotta admit the M16 was lighter on the long humps.

    • Nam Marine


  • ted

    Why does everyone leave out the AR180, best rifle in 5.56, and the M14 in .308,
    but the M14 did need a 50 round drum mag.

    • Don

      The AR-18(0) had extractor failures. It is prone to dropping the magazine as the release is against the body and gear of a right hand shooter. Like the British bullpup, the release needed to be reveresed or shielded better. Just like adding a fence on the M16A1. The Singapore version had the same issue.

    • Don

      The AR18 never saw much use. It had a weak extractor (quality control) and it dumped magazines at your feet. The latch was placed on the left side of the action and was easily hit. I dumped magazines and stepped on a few. The AR16 in 7.62mm was a pumped up version if the AR18. Both came along at the wrong time.

  • JamesR

    Really like the M-1 Garand in 30-06. But would choose the M-14 in .308 because of the box magazine. The M-16 in 5.56 is an excellent plinker.

  • Paul

    I'm not an expert but I have heard the m-14 caliber was changed from .280 to .30-06 to ace out the FN FAL. They were winning the competion and the Army brass could not stand the thought of fielding a foreign weapon so they changed the rules half way throught he game. FN couldn't make the changes fast enough so the M-14 won. Either is a fine weapon. I like the graceful feel and field stripping of the FAL better but like the traditional grip of a M-14 better. Also like the walnut stock vs plastic. I wouldn't feel bad using either one in battle.

    • Dreager

      i like the FAL too. nice choice

    • Don

      The M14 was a carry-on project following WW2. IMR powder left 0.5" airspace in an '06 case. The .300 Savage round tweeked got us the 7.62×51. WE had agreed to use the FAL, until some idiot said we could use M1 tooling to produce the M14. WE screwed NATO. Had the M14 been built to a higher standard it would have had a better life span. Once the USA realised the assault rifle (intermediate cartidge) was a good idea we changed. The Swiss (in the 30's), Russians (1916), Germans, Pederson, Brits and others saw the reality long before the USA. We issued M2 carbines in large numbers through Korea and early in Vietnam. The .30 carbine bullet wasn't up to the job. Soviet ideas for a small caliber rifle made sense, it was lost in the Pentagon. The FAL is harder to maintain in harsh environments compared to most modern rifles. Sand plugs the action spring (in the butt stock). Israel used many FALs and have shifted almost completely to the M16. I don't understand why people think the M16 is hard to keep running. I don't know of any self-loader that runs when the magazine is full of sand. I can stop an FAL or Browning A5 with a little sand and mud in the action spring.

    • Don

      The EM2 was a bullpup, that didn't make sense to Americans at the time. The .280 FAL was a good idea. The .280 was a great idea very similar to the 6.8mm.

  • Paul

    I forgot to add the M-14 sights are clearly superior.

  • Grammarian Poser

    Garry, I am not an English teacher, and I'm not trying to be a know-it-all or a jackass (jury's still out on both), but I have to make a comment on your use of the word "cache." A cache (pronounced "cash") is a hidden hoard, as in a weapons cache. I believe you meant to use "cachet" (pronounced ca-SHAY) which is the quality of authority or prestige. Again, I'm not trying to offend, make you feel bad, or show what a smart guy I am.

    I enjoyed this article, and I have learned a great deal from you and your compadres at G&A. Thanks.

    • Garry James

      You are correct. That's what I meant and intended to use. I do know the difference. Bad editing and typing on my part.

      • Capt Bl

        I am English, Dont Boo. I can tell you the English language has been developing for over a thousand years, and I dont care if you used the wrong word. I knew what you really wanted to say.
        I would have also included somthing along the lines of the invention of the "Lock and Trigger", and I know you love the short Lee Enfield .303, which I feel has had an equally strong impact on World history as say the M1 or Mauser 98 or Label. Perhaps the M16 should be noted as the worlds best commercial success, or mabe we should look on it as a Rolls Royce. After all Ford make a lot of cars, but if you are super rich and want the best regardless of the cost and complications, you buy a Rolls. Perhaps thats why all the Best commando units use the M16 or a similar type of weapon? Perhaps an ex Navy seal or SAS trooper could enlighten my presumption?

  • Garry James

    Nine out of ten isn't so bad. I can live with that, and yes, the FAL is a great gun. Too, If I had my choice of an AK or an M16, 'fraid I'd have to go with Russkie gun.

  • John Doe

    The Garand is the best military rifle ever, of those on the list. I say this because of what it meant when it was adopted. It may not actually be the best ever but it was the best in it's day. Clarification: The Garand was originally chambered in .276 Pedersen. The M-14 was designed around the 7.62×51 because it was the newly adopted NATO caliber. The Stoner design was and is an excellent design poorly executed by the U.S. government and defense contractors. Pushed through before the bugs were worked out, the Stoner rifle was considered inferior to the M1 and M-14, which had the benefit of being refined before widespread issue. A note of interest on the M-16 is that early prototypes exist with walnut furniture on them, as can be seen in the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Ma. Had the M-16 had a set of uniform blueprints distributed to all defense contractors involved there would have been fewer rifles with undersized chambers. Also missing from the rifle was a chrome-lined bore and chamber, things that would have been included had the rifle been thoroughly tested before adoption. Had the design been kept in the original 7.62 NATO chambering and design, the AR-10, it would have been more eagerly accepted and would likely still be the issued rifle of the U.S. military branches. See this link:
    It would have gone through the evolution that the 5.56×45 variant of the Stoner design and would be currently used in the configuration shown here:
    Keeping the original's design features of magazine and belt feeding would allow it to serve as a squad LMG and an individual infantry rifle.

  • Steve

    Wow, a lot of real experience between some of the posted lines. When I looked at my first M-16, I wondered why in the world it had a gas tube stuck all the way into the action. What happend to the piston system that had been so proven in Garand, M1 carbine, M-14, klashnikov, FN FAL, etc.,etc?!?! Also, I wondered why they would do this AND do it to a miniscule action and caliber to just make things worse. Then they gave us the end all, be all LSA?!? What garbage!! The caliber also sucks except for varmints. Would much rather have an M-14 and even better, the FN. Have had both, but would also rather have them in maybe something like the .260 Remington. Thanks for the artical Gary, and for all the comments. Really enjoyed reading them.

  • Frank

    we have to all agree the 7.62 is the round but I think the AR in 7.62 will win all our hearts.

    • JRB

      Agreed! The ergonomics of the M-16 are the best bar none. There must be a reason that more ARs in 7.62 are not being made. As I recall even Bushmaster had problems with their AR .308.

      • Garandguy

        JRB – I'm not sure I agree with you that the ergonomics of the M-16 are the best bar none… I personally prefer the M-14, but I respect your opinion. My assumption as to why more ARs are not made in 7.62 would simply be the recoil aspect. You know – light weapon / powerful round… Some people might find the recoil excessive. Plus the fact that the heavy recoil must be hard on the aluminum parts of the rifle itself.
        Of course, I was assuming that you were talking the 7.62 x 51 NATO (.308 round) as opposed to the 7.62 x 39 (AK round). The 7.62 x 51 would probably also require a slightly longer barrel length to optimize it's performance.

      • R k Ando

        Check out the Remington R-25/ DPMS in .308

  • MMcQuown

    In fact, the musket was used in conjunction with the pike until about the middle of the 17th century. The pikemen shielded the musketeers while they reloaded. Then the musketeers would fire volleys from between the rows of pikes and the pikes would advance until they came into contact with the enemy, which resulted in the literal 'push of pike,' trying to drive the other side off the field. At this point, the Horse would come in and harry the flanks, then run off to loot the baggage train. By the end of the Thirty Years War, the pike had been pretty much dispensed with in favour of massed firepower. Then, in 1675, the plug bayonet was developed, making each musketeer a de facto pikeman as well.

    • Don

      You might remember seeing pikes at the start of WW1. Horseback pikemen rushing towards machineguns.

  • Oleg

    AK-74 best

  • Neto

    Bolt action, Mauser 98.
    Semi auto M1/M14.

  • JRB

    After spending about 18 months working on a USMC rifle range at Camp Pendleton I can tell you that while the M-16 may be under-powered, it is more accurate than most people can take advantage of.(that includes most Marine infantrymen who were consistently outshot by the airwingers and females) The M-16 is not the best infantry weapon available today but the way our military trains is what is truly lacking. Todays military teaches weapon familiarity, NOT marksmanship. The M-16 has a place on the competition range, but it should be replaced on the battle field. However, we will also need to rethink our entire way of doing things. Most of our troops can't handle an M-16, so re-issuing M-14s will not solve the problem, especially if we do not teach better marksmanship. The army actually shoots qualification at ranges starting at 50 meters and no farther than 300. That is ridiculous, no wonder they can't hit anything. Keeping the M-4 as a rear echelon weapon and issuing infantry a more robust weapon would be the best way forward. It worked in WWII. Also, as I understand it, Patton was enamered with the M-1 because it was semi-auto. He could see a future of the spray and pray tactic that is used now. Change the military first, and then change the main battle rifle.

    • Don

      Combat is close range business (snipers excluded). A target beyond 300m, can be engaged with a DMR. The Army issues mostly close range sighting systems. Marines mostly issue 4x optics. Have targets at distance, drop real firepower on target. Use artillery, mortars and grenade launchers. Use are air assets to
      take out the threat.

      • John Tremblay

        Depends on circumstances and especially terrain.
        ACOGs have largely replaced the various CCOs in the units (US Army) I have deployed with. With the 4x ACOG and a competent shooter, it's not unrealistic to get hits out past 400m and maybe out to 500m with the M4 platform. We would occaisionaly shoot out to 600 meters, but in my opinion hitting that far with a M4 is hit and miss (nice pun,eh?). Whether or not 5.56 M855 ball is appropriate for engagements beyond 300m is debateable.

        I think the concept of a DMR is a good one, but the execution lacks. Most recently (2011), our DMR was a M16A4 with a ACOG. Nothing special about it. The shooter had LRM training, but otherwise more or less another Joe with a rifle. The Soviets knew the AK was limited in range and accuracy so they fielded large numbers of the SVD. We've sort of followed suit, but would have been better off with an accurate AR-10 with a quality varrible scope. In the past (2005-06) we used M14s for DM rifles, but they were problematic.

        • Don

          Why does the army keep placing new 50,000 unit orders for Aimpoint sights? I like the ACOG as used by the marines. But, it seems like every few months the army places another Aimpoint order. Since most of the threats they face are up close and indoors they make sense. They also work exceptionally well with night vision devices. Once the ranges get long, most enemy forces seem to get engaged with heavier weapons. A mortar dropped on a walls far side does more then a rifle bullet hitting the close side. Yes, there is a place for markmanship.

      • John Tremblay

        Mortars, artillery and CAS are great, but not always available or acceptable (ROE). Grenade launchers, especially the M203, are short range weapons, imprecise and subject to ROE (collateral damage, etc.).

        Having equipment and training that allows a soldier to hit out to 500 or 600m may not be totally necessary, but I believe that we gain a significant advantage over our enemies. We are not the Soviet Army. We have a tradition of marksmanship that I hope continues many generations into the future.

      • JRB

        You are talking best case scenario. We need real marksmanship training. PERIOD. Optics are nice, but sometimes you need to know how to use iron sights. This is the basic problem. Almost no one in the military knows how to properly use iron sights.

        • Don


  • Hubert Gregory

    I have a major problem, when you and others name a rifle like the M-16 as one of the best made. Let's take a look at it. How many rifles are made that has a handle if the round does not seat properly. How many rifles where made that had to be kept completely clean in order to function. This rifle is a piece of junk forced upon the military when they had a completely great rifle in their hands, the M-14. It was not only capable of handiling what you through in it, but it was a rifle that would take mud, dirt, rain, freezing wether. It deid not care in what condition you put it through it was there when you needed it. I trained with the M-14 and was in the switch to the M-16, what a joke. I was in armament repair section in a maintenance gaurd unit for approx. ten years, you could tell when the infatry was on manuvers, because of all the bent barrels we had to replace when they feel on their rifles. When everybody gets of their high horse and realize the M16 was and still is a piece of junk, then they will have come back to their sences. God bless and keep up the good work.

    • Don

      The M-16 family of rifles has remained in service longer then any other rilfe. With the right ammo and good care it works well. Look at all of the contenders in the last 20 years – none of them have out performed the M-16.

  • Moosejaw

    I suppose there is a reason that a whole bunch of AR-16/M-4 manufacturers have switched from the 'superior' direct impingment gas systems, to the 'inferior' gas piston systems that failed so miserably in such defective weapons such as the M1 Garand and the M14.(yes…lots of sarcasm here….no need to reply to that aspect of this post)

    • Don

      Many companies offer the piston rifles. How many are in service with US forces? Just a few field test items.
      When developed Stoner knew what he was doing. The Army screwed things up with ball powder and poor maintanance. The M16 family has lasted longer then any other rifle in US service. People buy piston rifles because of hype. When tested against the M16/M4 all contenders in the last 20 years have proven to be not any better.

      • John Tremblay

        The Army, for good reason, is reluctant to change to a different rifle design, or ever different caliber.
        The fact that the M16 has served this long isn't vindication of it's design superiority. It's simple economics.
        After Viet-Nam, other than Desert Storm, there wasn't enough negative combat experience to justify considering a new rifle design. Somalia raised a few questions about the 5.56 cartridge, but they were quickly forgotten. Combat experience in Afghanistan and latter Iraq spurred another quest for a M16 replacement, resulting in the SCAR, but huge stocks of relatively new M16A2s, M4s and M16A4 rifles made changing to a new design mid-war not so attractive. Consider also the huge inventory of parts on hand at the time. The SCAR may be a better rifle, but it's not 'better enough' for the 'big Army' to dump the M16 series.

        I'm not a M16 hater, but it does have it's flaws, like the AK or any other weapon.

        • WerkinHard

          I would agree with that. You can feel it when you pick up a M16. It is the result of the modern Defense Acquisition Cycle. Here are the requirements: the winner goes to the one meeting the most requirements at the lowest cost, i.e. cheapest to produce.
          Look at all the submissions for the SCAR contract competition. If memory serves, they were all of gas-piston design.
          Any design that directs hot carbon fouling directly into the upper receiver is fundamentally flawed. I dont think the beak open design of the M16 was really a feature (as they marketed it) as much as a preventative maintenance knowing how much cleaning it would require.

  • Pete_TX

    I guess the 1st poster didn't read the Comment under the 1898 Mauser Photo. It said the 1903 Springfield was modeled after the Mauser and was the best battle rifle of it's time.

    • Don

      Pete, The M1903 was inferior to the M98.
      The sights were fragile, the two-piece firing pin broke, the coned breach was not as tough. We should have adopted the M98, but with sights like the M1903A3 on the rear and M1917 style for the front.

  • Kyle

    Oh and yes, I did miss the 1898 and 1903 originally so please, forgive my lousy internet connection ;)

    • Kyle

      I'm not the first poster btw, and I once again failed to realize that my original post… didn't post. My apologies. In my humble opinion tho… I've trained with the M4/M16 for years, I've shot the M14, FAL, FNC, G36, AK47, AK74, AK104, etc… I still love my M4, it's not as finicky as people like to think. Yes it requires some maintenance, yeah maybe the 5.56×45 is a little underpowered, but the truth of the matter is it still works. I know that I can get good, repeatable hits on target quickly with my M4. It'll do the job and do it fine. Maybe the cartridge ins't the best, but the rifle is a champ. It works, and I've seen ARs fired when people said that they would fail, and they just kept on trucking. Maybe you don't agree that it's the BEST firearm, but it's definately been one of the most influential military arms in history, and the M16/M4 will continue to serve well into the future around the world.

      • Garandguy

        Kyle – Good post! I can't disagree with anything you wrote.
        Seriously, it's really hard to assign "The BEST" status to any of these weapons. There's so many different applications where one will shine above the others. The best you can do is just state YOUR opinion, right? Even judging them for when they were introduced is still just one person's opinion. When it really comes down to it, they are all simply tools. If one works best for YOU, in the application that comes to mind for YOU, then that's the "The BEST". All of these weapons were truly great.
        BTW – I always preferred the 1903 Springfield over the Mauser. Don't know why – Maybe I liked the looks better… :-)

  • Snug

    I learned to dislike the M-16 in 1965.Over 40 years of corrections,modifications,and just plain hype have not changed that.The .223/5.56 was ,is ,and ever shall be a varmint round.
    That same McNamara that cancelled the m-14 ,brought us the 151 roll-over machine.

  • Garry James

    As far as I'm concerned, the 1903 is the '98 military rifle perfected. Simply a beautiful piece of machinery.

  • sgt.ret

    4 tours in Iraq/Afgan. I always kept my M4 nice and clean…and left it in the truck 90% of the time. Would mostly grab my trusty folding AK, it was easier to fire from a truck window if need be and ammo was abundant, and when I pulled the trigger it went bang.(this practice was wide spread during my 'stay') That said, with any potential CQC, i.e house searches, the M4 was our choice due to potential proximity to civs when accuracy was a must. Never had a single jam or problem with it.

  • porkchop6209

    Colt made an AR varient in 7.62×39, a friend had one and it seemed to strike a pretty good balance of power vs ergonomics. I've got AR's, AK's, a MAC-90 .223, and I still believe the M-14 is better. An AR in .260 would be about the best all around combo though, I think.

    • Don

      In Army trials shooting hogs, the AK74 and its 5.45mm round was inferior to all others tested. The Soviet 7.62 M43 issue with a long profile and steel core left minor wounds in tissue. US 7.62mm ammo performed well but often left a clean through and through wound. German and FN 7.62mm Nato had a thinner jacket and often upset and made very nasty wounds. Flat based 7.62mm Yugo wounded better then the Soviet round. The 5.56mm (M193 and SS109) left significant wounds at ranges under 200m. I have not seen the latest data on the heavy "Navy loads" with 72-77 gr. bullets. It is accurate at considerable distrance.

      • nick

        i disagree with the comment that the 5.45x39mm is inferior to the 7.62x39mm yugo and the 5.56x45mm. the russians took a good look at the 5.56x45mm during vietnam and from that they developed the 5.45x39mm and is quite similer to the american caliber in killing power and range. as i stated before in my post below theres a reason the afghans call it the poison bullet during the soviet/afghan war of the 80s. its responsible for hundreds if not thousonds of afghani deaths during the conflict and was respected by both sides as a more than adaquit round.

        • Don

          When the army tested the 5.45 Soviet round, the wounds were the shape of the bullet, however it was oriented at the time. It doesn't leave a large permanent cavity. As it passes through muscle or intestines little damage is done. Liver, fluid filled stomach, or bone strikes are effective. The Soviets like the 5.45 because the hit probaility went up by almost 2.5X the 7.62x39mm. The flat trajectory and the new muzzle break gave them a better weapon. The 7.62 M43 lopes along like a mortar and makes distance shot hard. If you notice the AK74 is seen with a scope frequently, whereas the AKM in 7.62 M43 just didn't shoot flat enough to bother. Find the reports in the US Army studies showing wounds in hog organs. The wound is the size of the bullet either going straight, or as it keyholes, but no bigger. The 5.56mm at ranges under 200m, normally starts its end swapping, breaks at the cannelure and goes to pieces. Ugly wounds. Check out Facklers wound track studies. A hit in muscle with a 7.62mm NATO, 9mm or .45 can leave a wound track leaving the surgeon guessing about what caused it.

  • Don

    The Italian army had a nearly perfect cartridge CASE and caliber in 1891. Had they adopted a spitzer bullet, not a boat tail, and at a weight of 120-130 gr. It would perform very well. Look at the case of a 6.8mm Remington, it is built on a Mannlicher case (same as Carcano). The Army tested a fine cartridge 40+ years ago, in the form of the 6mm SAW. We would have had a fine military cartridge in the 1930s had McArthur not insisted on .30-06. We again missed the boat in the early 50s when we rejected the .280 British. The .280 Br., 6.8mm , .276 Ped. and a reconfigured Mannlicher/Carcano case would have served us well. Even the Italian 7.35mm was on the right track. The Italians inserted an aluminum cone in the nose, that like the .303 MkVII, that shifted the center of gravity to the rear. The bullets tumbled upon striking medium denser then air.

    • Kenwing

      You're absolutely correct!!! The rifle isn't the sole problem…it's the caliber.

  • nick

    in my opinion the ak is the best weapon because of its simplicity and reliability, moderate medium range accuracy. mr. kalashnikov`s idea was that battlefield engagements usually takes place at 300 yards or less so why have long range round like a 30-06 or 7.62x51mm accurate out to 600- 800 yards. so in concept the ak was not meant to be a long range rifle.except for the 74 pattern in the 5.45x39mm that i think rivals the m16s 5.56x45mm in ballistics theres a reason the afghans call the 5.45 the poison bullet. to sum it up the ak is always going to be more reliable and simple than the m16. and i feel safe saying the ak will long outlive the m16 being that since its inception in 1947 25-50 million rifles have been made by over 50 countries if could pick only one rifle to take to a battlefield it would be an sidefolding ak74.

    • Don

      Nick, The 5.45mm bullet is TOO tough. Upon contact with tissue the steel core, wrapped in a thin lead coating, shifts forward and causes the tumble to begin. The jacket material is thick so the bullet stays in one piece, unlike the 5.56mm. Wounds in muscle and intestines (not fluid filled) are not dramatic. Surgical treatment is not complicated unless nerves or large blood vessels are clipped. Wound debriding is normally not complicated unless bone or soft tissue like liver is hit.
      An AK with good sights (Valmet or Galil), a new safety (Galil) and 5.56mm would be a great rifle. I suggest you read, "The Great Rifle Controversy" and "The AK47 Story" both by E. Clinton Ezell. Then view the studies by the Army Ballistic Reaserch lab at the Prasidio. The 7.62 M43-PS load is simply OK for short range. It is a very stable and strongly built bullet. Hit potential is the biggest reason the Soviets changed.

      • nick

        i read the ak and sks book by patrick sweeny, in the book they showed ballistic comparisons of 7.62x39mm 5.45x39mm 5.56x45mm. the table charts showed the 5.45 and 5.56 are pretty similer to each other, and pictures of 5.45 showed that they did tumble and shatter after impact. not all the bullets have to be steel core just the ones the army tested they could never accept that a soviet rifle is better than their own.thanks i`ll try to find these books to read.

  • WerkinHard

    I thought the M16/AR15 was the best thing in the world . . . until I was at a NRA Highpower rifle competition and picked up a NM M1A. Felt the weight, the feel of the action locking into battery, the way it shouldered, even the recoil demanded respect and commanded authority. It had the fit and feel of quality parts with mechanical elegance.
    Then there is the M16/AR15. It can do the same job at a lower cost . . . and it shows.
    It is the Honda civic of the gun world. It runs, does the job, has lots of aftermarket parts, and it is cheap.

    Out in AFG, the 5.56mm Ball ammo out of a M4 is next to useless in AFG winds and engagement distances (500m). The 240 and M2 gets a lot more trigger time.
    Then there is the "weight" argument. M16/M4 is lighter then a M14! We are carrying around 45lbs of body armor, add 6spare mags, first aid pouch, hydration bladder . . . with all that crap we dont do extended foot patrols anymore. Maybe a few hundred feet from a MRAP or uparmored Hummer. That is it.
    And for gawds sakes! You are in the military! If a 7lbs rifle is too much for you, man up and get to the gym rather then playing video games!

    • Don

      That is the point. A M240 or M2HB is superior to carbine fire at extended ranges. If the target is a squad, grenades from a M203 or Mk40, 60mm mortar or a Hellfire works well. The M4 isn't designed for long range.
      For close up and packing inside a vehicle would you carry a rifle twice as long? Or would having the SAW gunner hose 'em?

      • WerkinHard

        I'd take the M14 knowing I can get in the fight and reach out and touch Haji Mustafa. The length of the rifle mattered in Iraq where we were going into houses and street fighting. Out here in AFG, not so much! And no calling in arty out here. By the time the AWT gets on station, Haji is already hiding waiting for either us or the AWT to leave.

  • bhp9

    I have had to laugh when some gun writers and gun-smiths bad-mouthed the 98 action compared to modern bolt actions. I have a custom made 22-250 on a 1915 Mauser action made by Mauser and it has a Shilen sporter weight barrel on it. It shot 3 shot 1/2 inch groups consistently when the barrel was not even broken in yet. Yep that slow lock time with the 1/2 firing pin fall that was designed to fire under the severest conditions did not hurt the accuracy one bit. Why do gun-writers keep saying it does? I never could figure that one out as even my Mauser military rifles often out shoot many of my modern made rifles. By the way the plus or minus tolerances that are listed for the Mauser made military rifles as stated in the collector books show that the tolerances were actually blue print tolerances. In other words they were all blue printed.

  • bhp9

    Gary, you cannot be serious. The M16 was and still is the very worst modern battle rifle ever fielded. Its probably gotten more good men killed than any rifle that I know of. Lets face facts when even the new improved version has to be bathed in oil to work it shows just how bad a design the gas impingement system really is. How about the pretty blond and her fellow soldiers that got annihilated by AK-47 toting middle east people just a few years ago when none of there M16's would even fire. Very sad that we are still using such a defectively designed rifle when the AK as been around since 1947. Obviously the U.S. military has never heard of it.

    • nick

      i agree totally, m16s got too many good soldiers killed in vietnam do to the military`s idea to push a lighter assault type rifle into troops hands. before ever taking the time to do proper testing and assement for faults in the weapon. such as unchromed barrels that wore quickley lack of forward bolt assist that later models had, ball powder that in the humidity gummed up the gun so bad that it would not function often resaulting in the user being killed. and the military `s concept of it being a 'space age' rifle that was selfcleaning and needed no cleaning kits or field strip manuals. the ak shoulda been at the top of the list because time and time again it has proved itself as an extremely reliable rifle that will work in any conditon and thats what really matters cause whats accuracy if your gun`s jammed and won`t fire.

      • Don

        Blame the Army. When Stoner developed the AR15 it worked. Colt built the gun to spec. That included the use of IMR powder. The guns passed muster. A Pentagon puke switched to ball powder. Port pressure went up. The guns ran too fast (out of spec) and ball powder had a high calcium carbonate residue. Geniuses called it a low maintanance rifle. Ever see the Vietnam era cartoon book about up keep? Did you ever study the Icord Congressional investigation. The unit with the most problems in VN were equally negligent in caring for all their gear. The rate of twist was too slow (1-14) for artic conditions. When the Army took rifles to Alaska for field trials, they reported issues. Don't remove the front sight base or use nails as replacement pins. Icord resulted in changes. Chromed bore like the Japanese used in pre-WW2 days. Heavier buffer to adjust for the powder change, a stronger butt stock and sling swivel, and the forward assist. The M16A2 performed very well. Demands for a smaller weapon brought us the M4. My unit had 125 M16A1 rifles. The only issues were broken stocks and bent sight wings. The A2 stocks fixed that issue. Many soldiers are negligent in the care of their issue gear.

  • Rolf

    the stoping power of the m-14 maybe exagirated, and the stoping power of the ak is exagirated. I have seen perfect shoots whit expanding bullets in 308win (9,3*62 to) fail to stop game in there tracks. And i have seen 223 rem agin whit expanding bullets stop game clean in there tracks. what does that say, whell that bullet placement is fundamental and that game/enemies will contiune untill the central nerva system shuts down.

    Also here in sweden we shoot a lot of runing moose, range whit moving target at 80m. There you see that low recoil and weponds that are easy to stay on target whit make everyone a better shot.

    So in the m16 is fine, becouse the round will do its job if it hits the vitals and it does allow for back up shoots.

    • nick

      stopping power of ak is not exagirated, you`ve obviously never shot an ak. i own one and the softpoint and hollowpoint ammo i`ve shot has more than enough stopping power to kill any big game even those tough eurasian boars you have over there. your still right though bullet placement is everthing when hunting big game but dont bash the ak because some guy is hunting or shooting fmj`s in an ak. get the proper expanding bullets for hunting and see the results on a water jug or ballistic gel.

      • Don

        Nick, Military ammo is not expanding point. A 7.62mm M43 PS bullet pokes nice little holes. The bullet given enough tissue will more times then not will do a bi-lobed turn and come to stop base forward. Unless bone is struck, most AK wounds are not significant (unless it is you that was hit). A soft nose 7.62x39mm reacts like a low end 30-30 load. That still isn't an issue bullet. You suggest Rolf look at ballistics gelatin. I suggest you do as well. Also view the wounds left in pigs. Communist era Yugo studies showed how their AK and 7.9mm weapons were more humane then the 7.62 NATO or 5.56mm.
        The jackets on US 7.62mm ammo is 0.008mm thick whereas the German and FN production is normally 0.005mm. German NATO bullets blow to pieces like a 5.56mm leaving a nasty wound. M43 (123 gr. BT)
        punches clean. The Yugo flat base is more effective in tissue then the PS.

        • nick

          and i have looked at such tests but they never test hollow points or softpoint that do expand upon impact. i have an ak47 and have tested these rounds. and what rifle has killed more than any other single weapon system on the entire earth the ak47, with no nicknames such as poodle shooter or mattel rifle, jam o matic.

    • Nam Marine

      You should really learn to spell if you are going to post!

  • Stephan

    For me, a rifle that needs a forward assist, that blocks the mounting of a scope with a handle and that can't be fully taken apart and cleaned, is a faulty design. And that's what the M-16/AR-15 is in my eyes. Even the loading handle is completely inconvenient and cumbersome to use. I would never trust my life on such a rifle. Even if precision might be okay, that's not what counts most in the end.

    • Don

      Did you ever notice that the optics issued to your average trooper doesn't interfere with the charging handle?
      Troops issued conventional optics get a special operating handle and QD mounts for every thing. The M16 family is easy to keep working.

    • Don

      What can't you clean on an M16? Only earlier rifles had a fixed carry handle. Since the A3 and M4 the carry handles dismount. Optics adorn nearly all of the guns in service. Even our M240 and M249 GPMG/SAW carries optics (Alcan). As others have reported, in Vietnam and the sand box, the M14 has been problematic. A good M16 with a Leupold scope can serve as a DMR/light sniper. The new Navy loadings have beat all of the old 600 yard records, beating out the M14NM.

  • Richardn

    If I had to carry just one rifle, it would be the AK. Pull the trigger, it fires every time. It will also put down what it hits, no flesh wounds, no getting up.

  • James Walton

    No room for the Lee Enfield series, huh? Surely this rifle did every bit to protect freedom – in TWO World Ward – as the M1?

  • Steve

    I'm surprised that there are no Lee Enfields (SMLE or No. 4s), Two World Wars, a 'Policing Action' (Korea), as well as countless bush wars (including Afghanistan) and protecting an Empire! I'm also a little bemused by teh inclusion of the M16 at number one spot…

    I'm not quite as anti-Armalite as some fo the American commentors, it served well as the AR15 which was bought for our Royal Marines – people tend to forget that we Brits bought the AR15 BEFORE the US Army did! Our Marines conrinued to use it up to the Falklands (and beyond).

    Reading between the lines I guess the main theme of this list was lasting influence – and in that case you have to admit that Eugene Stoner's design has had a huge impact. Although I would say that it took Heckler & Kock to finally get the design right with the HK416! ;)

    • Don

      Stoner had it right. The Army screwed it up with poor command choices as to powder and cleaning. Stoner also designed several other rifles that worked well. The poormans AR (AR18/Sterling) never saw widespread use even though it was engineered for third world production. Good piston system, bad extractor (QC) and poor magazine latch placement. Much like the British bullpup[, it took years and Germans to fix the issues. It is now going on 50+ years for the M16 to get where it is. It is a fine rifle system. Where are the G3, FAL, M14 in use today? Third world countries.

  • Don

    Ammo developement could have stopped around 1908. The Mauser cartridges and Mannlicher cartridges covered every need in a battle rifle. Once the spitzer bullet came on scene, fitted with an aluminum plug or fiber plug in the nose, the killing effect was grand. The .303 British, 7.5 French, 7.5 Swiss, 7.62x54r and 6.5 Mannlichers with rims removed with a good bullet did 100 years ago what we need today. Compare the 7.62x51mm with the French, Swiss or Russian round and OUR modern cartridge is just so slightly tweeked from those as to be insignificant. The Russians were working on small bore intermediate cartridges and rifles in 1916. The 6mm LEE Navy (1895) fitted with a good bullet could have been the answer. Russian fielded selectfire rifles using the Japanese 6.5 round. Nothing is new except for the rifle itself, and they just rearrange the parts and use plastic in novel fashion. Many nations had assault rifle test beds before Germany. The MP43/44 was a poorly configured gun. Once again we see poor sights, a magazine button prone to tripping, no heat shields and a sling on the right hand side of the gun. It was built for left handed people.

  • Chris B

    The best weapon is the one you have on hand. Let's look in another 30 years time when these modern rifles are considered antique. Most of these cast actioned lightweight weapons would be non functional. Most of you are American and In love with complicated pea shooters. Learn from your enemies – over complicated semi disposable weapons are only as good as its supply chain. Garand / m14 is the best Rifle – sub calibre Carbines in .223 doesn't cut it when compared. An 1888 Lee with it's 8 shot magazine or 1886 3 shot Lebel will still be working when your plastic fantastics are crumbling. I don't see how an M16 carbine is a rifle in any sense.

    • WerkinHard

      Chris B,
      Right you are ol boy!
      The M16 was forced upon the military by a Chair Force General, some Sec Def, and the met the most requirements at the lowest cost mentality.
      Another example of lowing the bar to meet the lowest common denominator.
      The idea of hot carbon fouling injecting into the receiver, and the "break open design" and sold it as a "feature" all in the name of being able to lower production costs was a brilliant marketing idea. Marines keep their rifles clean, but to sell a "feature" to ease cleaning to gloss over lowering of production costs is doing the military a great dis-service.

  • Crazydawg

    Has to be the M1 Garand. Very good rifle, always seems to work when you need it. Even a pretty good long range gun.

  • Thomas

    As much as I hate to say it, but the AK-47 is probably the most successful mass produced rifle since WWII. MP44 was the best in WWII, but the Garand was more mass produced.
    M-14 was and is a good full power rifle seeing a resurgence in Afghanistan.
    I always thought the Ruger Mini-14 and the Ruger AR variant were under rated.

  • Thomas

    Mauser 98 bolt action rifle belongs on this list. Very influential gun.
    Russian PPSh sub machine gun as well.

    No shotguns? Grandfather was very fond of the Trench Brooms in WWI. They served in WWII and Vietnam. Winchester Model 12, Ithaca 37, Remington 870, Mossberg 590 at least need a mention.

  • Bob Scott

    Naming "10 Best" is an ambitious goal in practically any category of firearm. In any event it was a great article from an historical point of view. I highlighted it in a post on my blog, The Second Amendment ( because I have had personal experience with a number of these firearms as a course of duty and of personal interest.

  • Nam Marine

    The tried and true M-14. It was the only "Woodstock" I knew in 1968!

  • old vet

    I've held off blabbing about this for a while, since some of these comments blend with my thoughts. I was one of those dumbfounded when they took my '14 away and gave me a "Mattel" marvel. After some training I ended up in a RECON platoon in V.N. Republic of. I had ample experience with the '16, A.K., and others. I say the only reason the '16 was passed to us was dollars and politics. I agree it functions fine when everything is cool, but combat is dirty, nasty, chaos. Murffy's law rules on the field and if it can go wrong, it will. No one should have to deal with a weapon that nearly has to be detail stripped to clear a hard jam. If the powers wanted something lighter why didn't they scale down the M14? Because Colt couldn't have made a buck.

  • Rob in Arizona

    My first tour in RVN (67-68) with the M16 was a disaster. In small unit actions in the field; if we captured one of "CHUCK'S" AK's we kept them and our "Point and Slack Man" used them (of course the Cmdrs back in the rear) frowned on this, but the facts were (and the troops knew it also) that the AK's were superior to the M16's .Ever hear the difference between the sound of an AK and one of the old BAR's (30-06) Hell of a difference. Found one (BAR) on one of our sweeps; (probably one left over from the old "LEND LEASE" program) It was all rusted and wired up, but the insides were greased and cleaned and firing wildly like the "grand lady" she was in her HEY DAY. A lonely "trail watcher" used one on us "Grunts". The sound alerted us but one round from the old M79 40mm (remember that one?) silenced her.

    • old vet

      In our A.O. we also took many old BARs, they looked pre-Columbian, but still worked. We even took some old French weapons (Pistols and rifles), and other "museum" pieces. If they still launched bullets they used them. Lord, that was some kind of place.

  • Michael

    Kinda reminds me why I think the M16 series used for the past 30 some odd years (not the original test it in the jungle model) is pretty good for the list. I liked the nice over under gun it becomes with the M203. That 40mm makes up for any lack of stopping power the .223 cartridge suffers from. My thanks to that long forgotten 1st Sergeant that told me to go to the range my first day in his unit and "qualify with every weapon they have out there" since he had no idea what squad I would be assigned to… I carried the 203 as my primary from then until i got out many years later.

    I guess we will have this debate again each time the technology improves and the next battle rifle comes out. And those kids with their rocket rifles or lasers or whatever they use by then will swear what they were issued was the best rifle every made… just like us old timers do now.

  • Steve

    One rifle that is worth a mention is the Enfield .303. It packed more punch than a Mauser or a Garand, held 10 rounds and didn't have a loud "PING!" when it was empty, which as we all know was a fatal flaw of the Garand. The Garand was lighter, allowed you to carry more ammo and was a semi auto so it's higher on my list for thous reasons only. I own both and prefer to hunt with my .303. Ok so really it's because it was Bubbaised and is far from original and my M1 is 100% perfect.

  • Robert Johnston

    From what I heard, the US Army screwed over the M-16 program by "economizing" on the propellant used in the 5.56x45mm cartridges. They switched to a cheaper powder that produced boo-koo amounts of fouling. Then they had the audacity to tell the grunts and doggies armed with the new weapon that it was "self-cleaning," hence no need for a cleaning kit (anybody who has handled a firearm knows that a clean gun is your best buddy out in the field).

    Somebody must have reamed the Army's Logistics Command out properly, for soon, cleaning kits and cartridges with better powder were making their way to the lads in the field. When kept clean and properly lubed, the AR family of weapons do the deed well enough. The 5.56x45mm cartridge, however, needs to be 86'ed.

    I've always felt that the 7.62×39 Kalashnikov (Russian Short) will do the deed in any battle, except where long-range performance is needed (then I'd be happy with a .50 BMG-fed Barrett semi-auto). It has the power of a .30-30, which has laid both game-and-people to waste for decades. The recoil is easily managed, and ammo is easy to find (if you do not mind shooting East-Bloc Surplus, just remember to clean the weapon after your range time).

    According to the History Channel show "Tales Of The Gun," the reason the AR-15 was so opposed by the Army Ordinance staff was that they had a heavy surplus of both 7.62×51 NATO and .30-06 Springfield ammo warehoused. Since the M-14 used 7.62×51 NATO rounds, Army Ordinance would just as soon kept the M-14 and had done with it.
    It took some pithy, pungent feedback from "Budget Bob" McNamara to have Army Ordinance see things differently–but then the "powder scandal," plus the Bravo-Sierra regarding M16 cleanliness, basically hosed the M-16 program (until all problems were settled).

    So, I can see why the "Mattel Toy" is so hated–yet is still in the field even today.
    Time–and rifle evolution–marches on.

  • guest

    The newer versions of the M16 and M4 will run when dirty. You just have to keep it wet with a good lube such as Slip 2000 EWL. CLP burns off too quick. Keep it wet and she'll run.

  • 101st ABN

    The M-16. America's Rifle. Mediocre and unreliable. We were issued M-16s prior to going to Vietnam, They earned, from most of us, our undying hate first few times on the range. We had been humping M-14s for a few years, in my case, as well as others, with jungle warfare units. Yes, they have improved. I have talked with a few Soldiers/Marines back from the sandbox. Their opinion of the rifle was it is an "enabler" only. The M-14s and heavy support/air/arty racked up the kills. Most thought of it as a personal defense weapon, not a "battle rifle". It still runs hot, it still jams at the worse times, and it still takes too many rounds even if you hit the target. A tinfoil covered box will stop the 5.56, the Russian 7.62 will blow right thru most anything. But, Colt bought everybody off. Yes, I know, range warriors love it.

  • Nishat Shah

    hi, i am querying about a shotgun my family posseses which the have had since 1962 it is a webley and scott 729 which was made in birmingham it is a 12 gauge single barrel shotgun and thats all i know i greatly appreciate if you could give me some information and rough price of what its worth.

    thanks and kind regards

    nishat shah

  • Nagabhushan Varadaraj

    The Best Long Arm for MILITARY OF MOST BEST IS ” M1-GARAD” WITH EIGHT ROUNDS FEED FOR THE LONG RANGES IN THE POPULAR AMERICAN CALIBRE 30-06 or 7.62×63 M/M. known- which is more Trusted & Mass produced -, Though the AKL-47 came in Existance for fast shoot -SPRAY- ONLY AT SHORT RANGES.!! Kudo’s and praise to the Candian inventor & Designer John..Garad !! American “PRIDE” OF Military was in the Winning lines in the many WARS – Battles FOUGHT IN THE Earlier Days on this Arm ONLY !! Nagabhushan Varadaraj.Yore hunter- Shooting sportsman-Mysore City.Karnataka state[-India.

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