The M16 and AK-47 are two of the world’s most iconic assault rifles. These weapons have been going up against each other for decades. So which one is better?
The assault rifle is essentially a hybrid of submachine gun and rifle. Assault rifles were first used in large numbers during the World War II. Before that submachine gun was a weapon of choice.
The AK-47 was developed in 1947 and was first used by Soviet forced in 1949. It is also known as ‘Kalashnikov’ after its designer. Since its introduction it became the standard infantry weapon in service with the Soviet armed forces. This weapon was so successful, that it displaced all other firearms except pistols, machine guns and sniper rifles.
The M16 is a more modern design. During the Vietnam War Americans faced that their M14 battle rifle could not maintain superiority over the AK-47. A replacement was needed. Subsequently a new AR-15 assault rifle, developed by Eugene Stoner was adopted in the early 1960s. It was designated the M16 and became the standard-issue infantry rifle with the US military.
Concept (IDEA OF THE WEAPON):
The AK-47 is a child of the Soviet total war concept. This weapon is simple in design and technology. It is a low-tech weapon that is cheap to build in large numbers. Its production can be easily established. The AK-47 is simple to operate and to maintain. Simplicity was the key of its success. This assault rifle is perfectly suitable for poorly trained or untrained recruits.
The M16 is overall a more modern and more advanced weapon. It has superior performance to the AK-47 but works best in the hands of a well trained soldier.
Construction of the AK-47 and M16 reveal big differences between East and West.
The AK-47 is a very traditional weapon. It is of conventional design and uses common materials, such as steel and wood. It is made using readily available machining technology. The parts are manufactured to less precision. From an engineering standpoint it is a low-tech weapon.
At the time of its introduction the M16 was a very advanced weapon. The US Army demanded for a lightweight weapon. It forced the designer of the M16 for radical advances in weapon’s construction. This assault rifle was made of lightweight materials. It used aluminum in place of steel and fiberglass in place of wood.
The AK-47 has and advantage of simple construction.
The AK-47 uses 7.62-mm ammunition. This weapon is not really ment to shoot at a ranges of more than 200 meters. Its maximum effective range is 300-400 meters. Beyond that it will hardly hit anything.
Slimmer 5.56-mm bullet of the M16 weighs half as much than that of the AK-47. Also it travels faster. As a result the M16 has longer range and is more accurate. The M16 has an effective range of 400-500 meters.
The M16 has a decisive advantage in range.
The M16 is much more accurate weapon than the AK-47. It is much smoother-operating weapon and has less recoil. The M16 is much easier to control during full-auto fire. Recoil of the M16 moves the weapon very little due to its internal design. Also its buttstock is lined up with the barrel. This feature additionally reduces the muzzle climb.
On the other hand the AK-47 is poorly balanced. Its internal mechanism that recoil are slightly of center. Furthermore internal mechanisms of the AK-47 are essentially big chunks of metal that move violently after each shot. Also this weapon has a traditional position of the buttstock. All of these features combined cause muzzle climb after each shot. It makes the AK-47 very inaccurate during full-auto fire.
The M16 is much more accurate both in semi-auto and full-auto modes.
The AK-47 uses a 7.62-mm round with a heavier bullet. It’s bullet that is slower and less accurate. But its share power is indisputable. This weapon is superior in terms of penetration and stopping power.
On the other hand the M16 uses a lighter 5.56-mm round. It has a slimmer bullet that travels faster. However punch of the M16 is not that strong.
The AK-47 is superior in terms of penetration.
Ease of use:
The AK-47 assault rifle was designed to be perfectly suitable for untrained recruits. Its controls are unsophisticated and this weapon is simple to operate. Even children can easily use this weapon.
The M16 is also an easy-to use weapon. However troop training is required in order to operate and service this weapon properly.
The AK-47 has an advantage of being easier to use.
Field stripping is essential if the weapon jams or gets too dirty to use.
The AK-47 can be field stripped for cleaning within seconds without using any tools. It is made of large parts that are hard to loose in trenches or at night. This weapon is simple to maintain.
On the other hand the M16 is a much more complicated weapon. It is made of smaller parts. The M16 is more prone to jamming.
The AK-47 is much more easy to maintain.
As the US Army required a lightweight weapon, low weight of the M16 was the driving emphasis of the whole design. The M16 benefits from lightweight materials in its construction. Also it uses lighter rounds. As a result the M16 can weights around 30% less than the AK-47. It is more comfortable to carry around and the shooter can carry more of its ammunition. So lighter weapon is better, especially if you are the guy that has to carry it.
On the other hand the AK-47 uses little weight saving methods.
The M16 is a lighter weapon.
The AK-47 is a durable weapon with robust design. It can take any abuses that soldier can throw at it. If the battle is deteriorated into hand-to-hand combat you can really smack your enemy with the AK-47s buttstock.
On the other hand a fiberglass buttstock of the M16 is not durable as wooden buttstock of the AK-47. So low overall weight of the weapon was a trade-off at this point.
The AK-47 is a more durable weapon.
Weapon’s jamming is one of the worst things that can happen in battle.
The AK-47 has made itself a reputation for being a reliable weapon. It has a relatively simple operating system with generous clearance between its moving parts. That’s bad for accuracy, but the mechanism is not that prone to jamming. The AK-47 can function with little or no maintenance. Clean or not it will fire. And this assault rifle keeps on firing, no matter how fouled, clogged or dirty it gets. Even in case of stoppage it can be easily fixed in field conditions without using any tools. The AK-47 has a malfunction rate of 1 per 1 000 rounds fired.
The M16 has a more complicated design and this weapon is more prone to jamming. In the jungles of Vietnam this weapon had a number of problems. It appeared that the first M16 assault rifles were issued to troops without cleaning kits and instructions how to look after this rifle. Also the weapon used ammunition with a different powder mixture, it was not designed for. Later many problems were fixed and reliability problems decreased greatly. The M16 has a malfunction rate of 2 per 1 000 rounds fired.
The AK-47 is a more reliable weapon.
It seems that ergonomics was the last thing that bothered developer of the AK-47. This weapon is poorly balanced. Also its controls are not well thought-off and are stiff to operate. It takes more time to change the magazine on the AK-47 than on the M16.
On the other hand the M16 was designed with ergonomics in mind. All of its controls are well designed, well positioned and easily used. Also it has a built-in carrying handle. The M16 is considered one of the most ergonomic weapons in the world. In terms of ergonomics it is superior to the AK-47 in most respects.
The M16 is superior in terms of ergonomics.
From the design of the sights it is clear that the M16 was designed to be more accurate from the very start. American assault rifle has a little ‘peep’ sight on the back that can be flipped for ‘short’ or ‘long’ range. The front post sight is called ‘bunny ears’. Similar sights are used by Americans since the World War II.
Sights of the AK-47 are very crude. It is clearly not as good as that of the M16. It has an adjustable notch on the back that can be set to a range of up to 800 meters. However it is more of a psychological boost for untrained recruits. In reality maximum range of effective fire is limited to 300-400 meters. Beyond that it will hardly hit anything.
The M16 has better sights.
Use of various accessories can improve performance of assault rifle in combat.
The AK-47 was not designed to mount any accessories, except the bayonet. Though some accessories were later developed for this weapon. The AK-47 can be fitted with a 25-mm underbarrel grenade launcher. The AK-47 has a capability to launch 22-mm rifle grenades by using adapter. However this capability is rarely used
The M16 assault rifle can be fitted with a bayonet. This weapon was designed to mount a simple clamp-type bipod. It is also compatible with a 40-mm underbarrel grenade launcher. Furthermore all M16 rifles can launch 22-mm rifle grenades without the use of adapter. This assault rifle can also mount a 12 gauge shotgun under the barrel. With the advent of the Picatinny-type accessory rail the M16 has proven to be an extremely adaptable weapon.
The M16 has advantage in terms of accessories used.
Since its introduction was churned-out in millions. Soviet Union was shipping giant caches of these weapons to its allies and friendly states. Also a number of factories were established around the world to produce the AK-47, its copies or clones. So the gun has spread all over the world. It also made a significant cultural impact. Mozambique even displays this gun on its flag.
The AK-47 and its derivatives are now used by the armed forces of around 100 countries. No one knows how many of these assault rifles are in circulation, but this number might approach 75 million units.
On the other hand the M16 was more popular among countries, where the Soviet Union had less influence. United States also supplied the M16 to its allies in large numbers. Around 8 million of these assault rifles were built. This weapon was also widely cloned and copied. The M16 and its derivatives are used by more than 70 countries. Also the M16 is the most produced firearm in 5.56 mm caliber.
The AK-47 was produced in much larger numbers.
To sum it up both of these weapons have their own strengths and weaknesses. Both of these weapons continue to demonstrate their effectiveness. And both of these weapons remain in demand.
The M16 has technical superiority in 3 key areas, including range, accuracy and weight.
The AK-47 has a remarkable advantage of simple and easy to maintain construction.