After you watch enough movies and play a ton of video games, you might wonder exactly how hard it is to shoot a rifle. Shooting at targets through a virtual screen and firing at real targets at a range are different things. You need to know how to support yourself while firing and account for the real-world variables that come with shooting a gun. The M16A1 is a standard issue for soldiers in the United States military. If you want some tips on how to best work with this rifle and improve your accuracy, look no further.
How Important Is the M16A1 Rifle to the United States Military?
The M16A1 has been one of the go-to for United States military operations since its formal adoption in 1964. Since its debut in the U.S., other militaries around the world have used it as a template for their own assault rifles.
Right now, there are approximately 8 million M16A1 rifles in the world, easily making it the most widely-distributed assault rifle. Although the M4 has mostly replaced the M16 as the default weapon of choice for the U.S. military, its significance and influence cannot be downplayed.
At only 7.9 pounds, the M16A1 was incredibly lightweight for a rifle of its size and force at the time od its production. During free recoil, the rifle holds a velocity of 5.1 feet per second. You’ll find a rifling twist with 4 grooves, a single turn in 14 inches, and a right-hand twist, very closely resembling the .222 Remington model.
More than anything, the M16A1 was designed for accuracy. With a carrying handle and a rear sight assembly on top of the receiver, it made aiming the rifle much easier than weapons in the past of the military. Thanks to the light recoil of the gun, it remains one of the more reliable assault rifles that a soldier can use. Targets can be measured and sighted up to 300 meters away.
Because of its use in the military, the M16A1 needed a quickly-disposed magazine. They aren’t very durable, constructed of stamped or pressed aluminum. Originally, the M16 used a magazine that held 20 rounds, but this was replaced by a standard 30-round magazine. This didn’t begin until the mid-1970s.
How Do I Shoot with the M16A1?
When using the M16A1, there are several important features to remember when firing.
Maintain a Steady Position
Your accuracy will deteriorate if you aren’t able to maintain a steady position while shooting. When you get to the firing line, you need to remember that any supervision is going to be limited. When using an M16A1, you should establish your position that you learned during dry-fire training with your rifle.
Your rifle hand guard rests on the heel of your hand. Use a light grip with the hand that you aren’t using to fire the weapon and place the butt of the rifle in the pocket of your firing shoulder. The M16A1 already has a very light recoil, but this will reduce it even further. Your firing hand is going to take hold of the pistol grip, fitting the ‘V’ that your thumb and forefinger create when targeting.
The elbow of your shooting hand will give you added stability to balance your stance. When you have a wide range of targets to deal with, along with moving targets and those at different elevations, that’s when you can free your elbow and extend support to the rest of your body.
Your stock weld will give you a built-in line of sight through the center of the rear sight, all the way through the front sight and directly to your target. Relax your neck, letting your cheek rest on the stock. It might feel like the rifle is cradling your head for a minute. Keep practicing this position until you adopt this cheek-to-stock pose every time you pick up a weapon.
The reason this is important is for consistency. If you fall into bad habits with your targets, you’ll lose them and the ability to adapt to a new situation. You’ll also need to remember to relieve your eyes when consistently aiming. Try to touch the charging handle with your nose when taking the firing position.
Remember to stick to this routine whenever you are training with the M16A1. Ideally, you’ll have this position reinforced each time. The sooner you turn this into a habit, the better a shooter you’ll be with your rifle.
Exercise Proper Aim
You’re not going to hit your target if you don’t know how to aim, right? The first thing to remember is proper alignment. Place the tip of the M16A1’s front sight in the center of the rear sight. Get this as perfectly aligned as you can, because any deviation will result in you missing your target. If you misalign your target by as little as a tenth of an inch, your target that’s 300 meters away will be missed by 5 feet.
When in the correct position, you will place your eye directly in line with the rear center. Don’t strain too much, as your eye will naturally take care of most of the work. As long as you know how to align your sights, your brain will do the rest. Once you get the alignment, you’ll see the picture of your target in correct focus.
Once you have aiming and alignment nailed down, you must remember to breathe properly. Too much hesitation or rapid exhaling can result in your missing your target by just as much as a missed alignment. You need to exaggerate your breathing when firing, but not lose the important air circulating through your lungs.
There are two distinct kinds of breathing techniques to use when firing the M16A1. First, when the time is available for you to shoot at a single target, you will naturally pause your breathing when you have exhaled all the air from your lungs. This is the moment you can use to pull the trigger. Make sure you get your shot off in time – you don’t want to take too much air away from your lungs while waiting for a shot.
You will also exercise breath control when taking out multiple targets at once. If you engage in rapid-fire shots with the M16A1, you’ll stop your breath the moment you begin to squeeze the trigger. The technique in practice is very similar to that of the single-target technique, but the duration is longer. Again, don’t deprive your brain of oxygen for too long.
Squeezing the Trigger
Finally, we reach the point where it’s time to fire the gun. If you suddenly move your finger without the proper pull, you will end up missing your target. The same proper placement will help you to avoid the natural anticipation of the gun firing in your hands. If you know that M16A1 is about to shoot, your body will tense and prepare for the burst of light and sound.
Place your trigger finger directly on the rifle, allowing the skin between your fingertip and the first joint to touch. You’ll squeeze it all the way back, ensuring the pull without dropping the rifle entirely. During your training, get a feel for this before you encounter any real-world situations with the M16A1. You don’t want the act of pulling the trigger to interfere with the aiming process.
During a supported position, there should be minimal wobbling. You’ll find how much wobble you have by looking at the front sight’s movement when everything is meant to be perfectly steady. Keep practicing your trigger pull if you are sensing too much movement.
How Can I Improve My Shooting with the M16A1?
If you want more practice with the M16A1, you have several different places you can go. Finding classes at a local gun range that specialize in rifles will be a big help. Whether you are in an individual classroom setting or take a seminar with several other students, there are opportunities to improve your skills.
Practicing breathing exercises outside of shooting can also help improve your focus when using the rifle. Meditation and yoga use breathing as one of their fundamental techniques for inner strength and peace. When you find your center, take what you have learned about breathing and apply it to shooting the M16A1.
Final Thoughts on Shooting the M16A1
The M16A1 is an incredibly efficient and powerful rifle that outclasses anything else the U.S. military had been using prior to its debut. Learning to shoot the gun properly, as a part of military training or civilian exercises, will make you a better soldier and a more alert citizen. Even though the military has made use of other guns since then, the techniques you use to fire an M16A1 can be applied to other rifles.
Aiming and breathing go hand-in-hand, and you’ll come to understand this as you train more. All of it comes together the moment you squeeze the trigger, and before you know it, you’ve become an expert on how to shoot the M16A1.