Story by Lance Cpl. Adam C. Schnell, Marine Corps Combat Correspondent
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. From the days of Marines wielding muskets, to the current day fully automatic machine guns, weapons in the Marine Corps continue to change to accommodate the needs of battle. The Marine Corps is now adding a new chapter to the history of its service rifles. For the first time since being chosen as the Marine Corps future rifle, Marines assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment here were issued and fired their new M-16A4 service rifles recently.
The M-16A4, the fourth generation of the M-16 service rifle, has been in the testing phase for the Marine Corps along with the M-4 carbine rifle more than two years. In August 2002, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James L. Jones decided to stay with the tried and true M-16 verses the M-4.
The Marines are looking forward to testing their new rifles out on the range and in the field, said 1st Lt. John M. Jones, executive officer for F Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
Getting new equipment can be great morale boosters for anyone, but for a military unit receiving new weapons, they need confidence in using them in combat. Gaining confidence begins with training and some times this process is very long.
The rifle is a little bit heavier, but shoots the same as the M-16A2 we used in Iraq, said Sgt. Anthony J. Stewart, a platoon commander for F Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
Every Marine must not only learn how to use the new features, but they also must fire the weapon enough so be confident with its abilities. This new rifle is almost identical in appearance and firing using the same ammunition and existing attachments, like the M-203 grenade launcher. However, once removing the carrying handle the weapon is capable of providing a lot more potential.
Once the handle is removed, an integrated rail system is exposed. This system allows any optic, laser or night vision sight with a rail grabber to slide into place, said Cpl. Randy J. Dunkel Jr., noncommissioned officer in charge of the armory for Headquarters and Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines.
The new rail system is great because you can just take off the handle and put any sight on it, said Jones.
With the new advancement comes change in the way the rifle is stored in the armory.
Everything is going to have to change to accommodate the new rifles, said Dunkel. Were going through some changes right now to make storing the rifles much easier.
As the new rifles are being delivered the older versions will receive an inspection and sent to Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Ga., where they will either be destroyed or redistributed as needed.
The M-16A4 will be better to have in the long run, because in combat you can put on so many new pieces of equipment to make life easier, added Dunkel.