After I did a tour in Iraq in 06, I was close to the end of my service, I ended up in a camp guard force. Spend 6 hours on watch, then 6 hours off. Spent that time in guard shacks in 3 walls (and an open side). It is was miserable, we were allowed to wear hooded sweatshirts and keep wool blankets in these guard shacks. During that time I spent a while thinking about how the M16A4 could be improved.
Early 2007ish when I was freezing my ass off in these guard posts (at least they had a roof, better than most USMC accommodations), I had what I thought would be a good product improved M16A4.
My first thought was the free float the barrel. Not so much that the barrel needed to be free floated for military use, but that there were much lighter and nicer tubular hand guards available. The Knight Armament M5 Quad Rail used on the M16A4 works great, but it is heavy and expensive. If I recall correctly, I had learned of the VTAC tubular handguard and thought that would be an excellent replacement for the KAC M5. It would make the gun lighter, free float the barrel, and you could still install rail sections if you needed them to attach accessories.
My next thought was that if the barrel was free floated, we wouldn’t need the silly government profile. The M16A2, M16A4, and the M4 have barrels that get heavier towards the muzzle, instead of any sort of common sense profile. Story goes that M16A1 barrels were failing the barrel straightness tests near the front sight base, so it was decided to strengthen the barrels there. Story then says that it turned out to be copper buildup at the gas port in the barrel causing the barrel straightness gauges to get caught. If we don’t need the government profile, we could use a lightweight barrel like on the M16A1. That would cut some weight off the rifle.
I wanted to keep it a 20 inch barreled rifle with fixed front sight and bayonet lug as back then I still believed all the chatter we were told in the Corps that the M4 was not suitable as an infantry weapon. Having that 20 inch lightweight profile barrel would give up more velocity, less wear and tear on the internals, the ability to mount a bayonet. Lastly, still having a fixed front sight base on a free floating barrel means that if you drop or damage your gun and tweak or bend that barrel. You are likely to still hit what you are aiming at if you are using your iron sights.
I wanted to maintain the ability to use a flip up rear sight, I thought the ACOG would be the best choice for a rifleman’s rifle. I still pretty much feel that way.
Last big change from the stock M16A4 I was thinking about back then was a collapsible stock. I did not like using that A2 stock with body armor.
It might have looked something like this.
In the decade plus since then, I’ve thought less about making “ideal” rifles, and focused more on purpose built guns. I’ve realized that the M4 is plenty good enough as an infantry rifle, but I still love free floating lightweight barrels. Now my idea of the closest thing you could get to an ideal AR15 would be something like a long freefloat tube with an accurate lightweight barrel. Something like the Larue PredatAR.
What would be your ideal AR15 for fighting?