Interesting placement of M16 carry handle


The M16 in this photo, which was taken in Afghanistan a few days ago, has a carry handle mounted on the 9 o’clock handguard rail.

I had not seen a carry handle mounted there before so I asked about it on BumpkinBoy and scrybe suggested he has it there in case his optics fail. If it failed he would need to detach the scope and carry handle, then reattach the carry handle.

I suppose it is not a bad idea if you cannot afford, are not allowed, or do not have backup iron sights (BUIS) on hand.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • jm

    I’ve got a similar pic I saved from a couple of years back with the carry handle mounted under-the-barrel. Nice to see some reasoning behind it, now to see if he had BUIS.

  • EzGoingKev

    I read on another forum that this is common with Marines that are using ACOGS. In case they experience a major failure with their ACOG they can replace it with the carry handle.

  • I’ve seen it where troops were forced to have the carry handle like that so they don’t loose the darn thing. That might be the reason for this pic.

  • John Pollard

    This was common in Iraq when I served in the infantry there in 2005-2006. The reason was that the individual soldier was responsible, at the end of the war, to turn in to Supply all the ACOGs, BUIS, Aimpoints, PAQ-4s, etc, and the rifle itself would eventually have to be turned back to the armorer in original condition. The easiest way to keep from losing the damned detachable carrying handle was to attach it to a rail somewhere. I didn’t do it because I didn’t like the extra dead weight, but a lot of soldiers didn’t mind, and preferred to not have to worry about keeping track of loose weapons parts…


    • Ben

      Its terrible that uncle sam puts that burden on our already burden troops for a 60$ item when he so happily blows 60-650$ a minute to run a F14D (that’s simple fuel cost).

      Its too bad more units are not allowed to simply return their upper to the armory and replace it with one they bought on their own (within limits. No Model 1 uppers with UTG scopes). If I was going over I’d want a Noveske and the aimpoint/3x magnifier combo (I’d also say a LWRC upper but a piston system would require different parts then the parts system is likely to have so better stick to DI). I’m sure it would cause some logistics problems but we should be able to stomach that to give our guys better stuff.

      Personally I think we should do like the swiss and issue the guy a rifle and its his from that point forward, forever (he goes home with it). Sure it would be a MG but just loose the 86 MG idiocy and make a “free” stamp for solders taking their weapons home.

  • Matt Groom

    I assumed it would be so they wouldn’t lose it, which most people seem to agree with. However, if you were to buy a detachable front sight and mount it on the strong side rails, they could conceivably work as quick and dirty back-up irons without having to juggle the scope around. Just twist the rifle in your shoulder so that you would sight down the side. Not great, but better than nothing.

  • Brando

    Agreed with the last poster. It’s not uncommon as the individual soldier is responsible for the components of the rifle and it doesn’t take much for a carrying handle to go missing. Losing an E-Tool is one thing, but a weapon component is serious business.

  • Hrmm.

    It would also be an awful handy way to hold the rifle around a left corner too, wouldn’t it.?

  • Carl

    Gotta love those bureaucrats. I’d be pretty upset if I had to go to war with a bunch of useless crap weighing down my rifle. Who cares if some frickin carrying handle gets lost? Does anyone actually use them, ever?

  • Matt Groom

    While I thing the ACOG is the best piece of military equipment fielded in the the last 50 years, I think the M-16A4 was a mistake on multiple levels. I was pissed when they phased out my already heavy 7.9 lbs M-16A2 for the 9.3 Lbs. M-16A4, which included a quad rail that does not free float the barrel, a stock which is not adjustable for length of pull, by the use of spacers or an M-4 style buttstock, and does not make use of a more practical and longer lasting rate of twist, such as 1:9 or 1:8. Oh, and it costs more, too.

    • wow! I did not realize the A4 weighed so much more.

      • charles222

        The A4 is exceptionally forward-heavy. The stock doesn’t begin to balance out the rail system.

  • KP

    The rear peep sight is a part of the handle, Carl.

  • Carl

    KP, yes, but why bother carrying it around if you are not using it? Just turn it in to to the armory or wherever you got it.
    I’m sure the average soldier has enough gear to carry already without adding things he has no intention of ever using. More weight means earlier fatigue which will get you killed sooner, in the long run.

  • Larry

    Some optics are fairly large and don’t leave much room for a BUIS (rear iron). For example the ACOG, the EOTECH with the magnifier flip attachment, the M145, and the Specter DR would all block or inhibit the rear iron from effectively being clipped on the upper reciever.

    We would use a paint pen to mark out the rail number that our optics would attach to, and another color paint pen to mark out where the BUIS would go.

    This Marine using a carrying handle on his rail could be as simple as not having enough flip sites on hand to issue.

    Some guys would put the carrying handle in a pouch.

  • Bolter

    There is a company selling BUIS that are intended to be mounted on one of the lateral rails, to allow you to turn the rifle 90 degrees and fire in a pinch. Just can’t locate it right now. Seems I’ve seen it in Shotgun News or Small Arms Review…same idea here maybe? BTW the guy is a leftie and turning his rifle with mag facing away would make sense (if optics were down). Word from Marines and Soldiers who have BTDT appreciated…

  • rob-sgttype

    I am pretty sure the carry handle is just there so it doesn’t get lost (it’s on backwards and would need a second point of reference for any type of aiming). There is no way to tell lefty or righty in this picture, that could be a transition to the left side to provide a slimmer profile for the cover available (or more likely for a more comfortable lean into those sandbags). It’s a shit place to have your backup sights, but its one of those things where as soon as you don’t have it available, your optics will stop working.

  • david

    I’m currently active duty, and sure enough, he’s probably doing it so he won’t lose it. Most Marines in my unit are issued the M16A4 with the Matech BUIS & and ACOG, and the carry handle can be requested (but is not required, and they actually don’t keep track of them.) In regards to using it as a back-up sight, it’d be incredibly difficult because of the length of the stock vs. the size of the aperture(s). And to be honest, not everyone thinks of having a backup sighting system, such as iron sights, because not everyone is a gun enthusiast.

  • Fiftycal

    I thought it was so he could turn the rifle on the side, “gangsta style” and still have a chance of hitting something.

  • ChuckMK23

    The photo show’s a Marine with a 20″ barrel M16A4. Attaching the carry handle to the side rail of the RAS is actually SOP in many units in the Marine Corps for Marines that carry a 20″ full size rifle with ACOG mounted to the flat top.

    Also if the picture was more detailed, you would see that it’s paracorded to the rifle as well.

  • Tyler

    The Marine Corps does not issue back up iron sights other then the carrying handle. I really dont see a reason why they should it would just be something more to lose and they would not fit behind the Acog or any atvantages over the carrying handle.

  • Jules

    The Marine Corps does issue BUIS, though not to all units, until supply catches up; there are after all standards relating to the issue of the newer M4’s and M16A4’s that have flat top receivers.

    However, not all BUIS available are issued or used when issued; as said, proper eye relief of the Trijicon ACOG\RCO inhibits proper mounting of the BUIS.

    The carry handle is not mounted on the rails as a sidesaddle back up sight, and would be useless as one for several reasons.

    Some units, for example ETT’s managed by MEF following training at the FATG\FATC, issue both an RCO and M68 CCO to each individual, as well as MATECH BUIS; the individual configuration and use of each is up to the individual or unit SOP.

    As others have said, attaching the carry handle to the RAS is primarily for accountability\positive control. A few use it to augment a VFG. The rollup\rollout kit that carries rail covers and such has a space for the VFG in the more recent versions.

    Attempting to fire one’s weapons in an accurate manner following a greater then 45 degree angle, even with sidesaddle sights, is not a viable option.

  • Bill

    Too tired to read above comments, speaking as a motor T marine tho, I will say that’s the most practical thing you can do as not every marine is given a catalog inventory of components to slap on their rifles such as back up irons; you get an m16a4 or an m4 (if you are not still getting an A2 due to your MOS) and that is it.

    And when infantry or another combat oriented MOS unit is out in the field for long periods of time not conveniently located near a computer to order a new Trijicon, because we all know the armory will not be replacing your ACOG anytime soon, yes, you tend to come up with some stupidly simple things to make sure you will still have iron sights when everything goes to hell like it usually does. And I will be damned if I’m buyin my own flip sights.

    Just sayin.

  • Tyler

    That’s what I did in Iraq 3 years ago… just had it there so i wouldn’t lose it

  • We also did the same thing with our M4’s while in Iraq… we were responsible for the Carry handle on our A3’s, and if you lost that SOB…

    Though I did have my guys use it as a dirty CQB aiming device if their M68 failed (attached to the strong side of the rail system) as others had mentioned.

  • Texas_Dave

    hmmmmmmmm….looks to me like with an inexpensive picantinny plate screwed into the top of the handle as if to mount a scope, it would make a great side-mounted flashlight or laser holder .

    Since it already comes with the rifle, it mounts tightly in two places, it’s proven by history to be tougher than $#!T, and it can also serve as a backup sight if the primary goes down….why the heck not use it to mount some Tommy-tacticool stuff to further weigh-down your M-4gery.

  • Mark

    Here’s another way of doing it: Same idea, I presume, but less unbalancing, I’d say.

  • Priest

    I am a 21B with 3/1 STB, out of fort bliss. For a while, we had standard carry handles, and we were required to keep them with the weapon at all times.

    an easy way to mount issued optics and keep the rail on hand was to use the setup you see.

    further instructions included requirements like paracording optics, accessories, and any serialed items to the weapon, in case they fell off.

    this is not an example of anything cool. it is an example of silly ass rules making a soldiers life a touch harder. Happily, they go away after a month or two of deployment, when 1SGs and CPTs see how hard it is to operate an M4 festooned with extra useless crap.

  • Jarrod

    I was an infantryman for 10 years and have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We started getting the BUIS on my 4th tour. Before that we were always required to carry our carrying handle with us. I think it was typically up to the commander. We at one point had a commander who required us to put our optics on the forward rail and keep the carrying handle in the normal place. Usually the carrying handle was just tied off in a butt-pack or somewhere.


    I have never actually been in the army but i do plan to join, after reading these stories about commanders making you keep the carry handle in a certain place and having to put the optics elsewhere. Did any of you resort to puting the optics Ex aimpoint, acog, etc on top of the carry handle via rails or did you just keep the optics on forward rails and such.