The classic design of the M16A1 still holds a lot of appeal, for both collectors and shooters alike. Dubbed the C15A1 Sporter, the new 5.56x45mm rifle from Century is a combination of demilled original M16A1 rifles and new AR parts. Shown equipped with an Ontario Knife Company M7 bayonet.
To call the AR series of rifles iconic and influential would be the understatement of all understatements. When first developed by Eugene Stoner and ArmaLite as the AR-10 in 7.62x51mm for the U.S. military trials to replace the M1 Garand, the AR was frankly unlike anything seen before.
In an era of walnut and steel firearms like the Garand—and other classics like the M1 Carbine, the Johnson rifle, and the Browning BAR—the AR-10 was something of an outlier. Its unique characteristics stemmed not only from the materials from which it was constructed, but also the nature of its design and operation. And, thanks to the efforts of Century Int’l Arms, you can own you own version of one of the earliest variants of this classic design.
So what made the AR so unique? First and foremost, the design employed lightweight alloys and advanced synthetics that required not only precision manufacturing but also ultra-modern manufacturing techniques. In addition, the new AR-pattern rifle featured advanced ergonomics made up of a separate forend and buttstock assembly complemented by a vertical pistol grip.
Although the U.S. military did not adopt the AR-10, the M14 in 7.62x51mm it chose had a rocky road ahead of it, and one that led to a second chance for the AR upstart. Shortly after the adoption of the M14 and the new 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, the U.S. military began considering the use of a small caliber, high velocity (SCHV) cartridge. To address this, ArmaLite engineers set about taking the AR-10 design and scaling it down to fire the cartridge that would ultimately become the new 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, but ultimately sold the design (dubbed the AR-15) to Colt due to financial strains.
The early M16s produced by Colt personified the early iconic Vietnam-era rifles, featuring the standard 20-inch barrel and sporting such features as the open pronged flash suppressor and the distinctive triangular-shaped handguard. One of the earliest significant variations to the basic design was the M16A1, a variant developed at the request of the U.S. Army that incorporated a “bolt closure device,” known to most of us today as the forward assist assembly. The Army’s argument was that with no reciprocating charging handle attached to the bolt carrier, there was not way to ensure manually that the rifle was fully in battery. Other additional enhancements included the switch from the open-pronged flash suppressor to the “birdcage” style unit.