A British M16

Simon, aka. Simon_the_Brit, was an Armorer in the British Army. He sent me photos of the M16 he was issued with during the British Army jungle training in Malaysia, which he participated in sometime between 1984 and 1986.

I was surprised to learn that at the time, just before the introduction of the L85A1, the Army had quite a mix of rifles in use, including M16s. This particular M16 was of 1960s vintage.

Now that, my friends, is a nice mustache 🙂
Simon with a L1A1 SLR (FN FAL), the standard issue rifle at the time.

Many thanks to Simon for these very interesting photos.

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.


  • Bill Lester


    The M-16 was fairly popular among Brit SF troops. It may still be today. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t due in part to the negative influence of being at the wrong end of IRA AR-18’s in North Ireland. IIRC, most of the SAS and SBS troops deployed during the Falklands War used the M-16.

    • Bill, yep, the British SAS, as far as I know, still use the M16.

  • Well, the British SAS hasn’t used M16’s in a while. They do use L119A1, the British licensed version of the Colt Canada/Diemaco C8 SFW. It’s also in use in some other places within the British armed forces.

    The L119A1 is basicly a M4A1 with a different top rail on the upper reciever, fatter pistol grip, recoil buffer on the stock, a special heavy 16 inch barrel with a sleeve to fit an H&K AG-C grenade launcger and a different front sight with a sleeve around the barrel instead of the two rings on a regular M4A1 front sight.

    There is a also a CBQ version with a regular front sight and a 10 inch barrel.

    These are the guns you see in the hands of SAS and SBS in the sandbox.

    Here are some more pictures:

    • Johannes, ah true, I forgot they use the C8, as do the Dutch SF among others.

    • Johannes, great set of photos.

  • The UK bought 5,000 M16 in 1965 for use in the Far East, particularly Borneo. By the time of the Ichord Subcommittee Hearings in 1967, the UK was looking at purchasing another 13,000 rifles.

  • Martin

    Too bad US troops aren’t allowed to grow cool facial hair anymore. Honestly, it’s one of two things preventing my return to the service. LOL

  • Blackwater

    I always wondered why the British SAS and SBS chose and stuck with the M16. I guess they liked its light weight. You’d think they’d have upgraded by now to a more modern rifle. Especially since they could probably pick any weapon they wanted. Or maybe not since the lefty Labour Party are cheap when it comes to their military.

  • subby

    The SAS are just like any other special forces unit they make do with what they have and in war time they even scavenge from other military allies equipment if they can. (AK’s in Afghanistan for example)

    If they had anything better available I’m sure they would use it but they don’t. In anycase everyone knows the M16 is superior to the SA80, in almost every way. Of course they would use it, if the British SAS were closely allied with Germany, they’d be delighted to use their G36.

  • The Diemaco SFW beat out the HK G36 and SIG SG551 in the British trials, which included arctic, desert, and tropical testing. It is rumored that the British spent more money on the testing than the actual cost of the contract.

  • The SAS, the Pathfinders, and the Paras used M16 during the Cold War. I examined one at a presentation I attended in the mid-eighties. IIRC it was a Colt without the forward assist (but this was 25 years ago now). Amongst the stuff they had was a Remington 870 Wingmaster, we were told those were used with slugs, at roadblocks in Northern Ireland, to shoot at cars that didn’t stop.

    My sources tell me the British Army just recently (past few months) bought a whole bunch more of Diemaco carbines for use in Afghanistan.

    I’ve noticed the pictures of Israel soldiers make it look like they’re pretty fond of the AR even tho they have the Tavor and Galil in their arsenal.

  • Bill Lester


    While individual Israeli soldiers may like the M16, it’s widespread use in the IDF has nothing to do with popularity. The weapon was furnished to Israel essentially for free, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. Why pay for more Galils when you can get an acceptable rifle gratis? But even at that, the Tavor will be the future IDF rifle. It’s taken a while to get it into the field and I’ve read it was to a great extent because of cost. No more freebies from Uncle Sam.

    • Dubbs

      The IDF wanted a Home built weapon. THEY still like the M4/M16, but their style of fighting is mostly house to house, and to them the M4 is still to long. The Tavor is a modern design and has been tweeked to perform a tad bit better than the M4 but not by much.
      The M4 stocks and retooling is wearing out in Israel, but don’t ever DOUBT that they don’t have and will HAPPILY USE and deploy M4s if the Tavor goes tits up! ( and thats BEFORE they dig out their stockpile of Galils and L1A1s)

  • jdun1911

    The got rid of Galils because it was heavy. Some version weight up to almost 10bls. It is also inaccurate when dealing in urban warfare where there are a lot of civilians next to combatants.

    Tavor isn’t the future. The Israeli will either find it the easy or the hard way. Tavor is a bullpup design and like all bullpup design you are doing everything slower. From loading magazine to clearing malfunctions.

    Lets face it the best rifle in the world right now is the AR15 and for the foreseeable future. This has been proven time and time again when Special Operational units prefer it to everything in the market.

    For those people that bring up FN SCAR, ACR, etc. I have said this before. They are repackage/upgrade from older designs. The AR has always been at the for font of upgrades.

  • subby

    Tavor is the perfect gun for Israel. Since they have compulsory conscription into the military, they need a rifle that fits every role, that is not too heavy and that is simple to operate. The Tavor is that, but for more specialized armies like the U.S its not suitable.

  • Bill Lester

    The Galil is inaccurate? The AR15 is the best rifle in the world? Drinking the arfcom Kool Aid!

  • jdun1911

    Bill honestly do you know anything about military rifles? Here some brutal logic. The vast majority of contractors that was in Iraq used AR.

    These people make six figures and are not bond by military regulations. In other words they could have used any rifle they like. If the AR is inferior why do they choose it? Why do they risk their life on a rifle that you think isn’t good enough? They have the money so why do they pick the AR as the weapon of choice?

    How about Special Operators? Why are the SAS using AR instead of other rifles? French commandos use AR, Australia Special Operators use AR, the vast majority of Western Special force unit use AR. Why are the best warrior using an inferior rifle? It doesn’t make sense does unless the AR is the best rifle in the market right now. That the only reason I can think off.

    Bullpup design isn’t simple to operate. It takes more time and more effort to do the same thing in a conventional rifle. Mounting optics and short forearm handguard is just two in a long list of disadvantages that Bullpup has. You are sacrificing a lot of advantages in a conventional rifle stock to make the rifle more compact.

    It is also dangerous. If a bullpup KB! you either dead or won’t have a face left.

  • subase

    Your obviously biased against the AR rifle, you probably think the 1911 pistol is the best pistol in the world too.

    Everyone knows why everyone uses the AR and it’s because the U.S does. How much military aid does the U.S handout? And all the special forces of the world either train with or are trained by U.S special forces. The countries that don’t have a military connection to the U.S, use advanced bullpup rifles or AKs and Fals. And lets not forget the importance of rails and addon accessories, the AR design has alot of rails, unlike older rifle designs. The Russians have only THIS YEAR designed an Ak with a top rail for optics and side rails for accessories.

    Also overseas contractors overwhelmingly use AK’s not AR’s. So that means any rifle that takes after the design of the AK (Galil, R4, Robinson Arms XCR, FN Scar) is probably superior to the AR design as well. I would rather go into battle with any of those rifles before an AR and the majority of the world agrees with me.

    • Dubbs

      The ONLY reason the “rest of the world” goes into battle with the myriad of AK clones is because- basically that’s all they got. The AR is a professional soldier’s weapon- maintained and used by professional riflemen. The G36 and other euro weapons are just as good and sometimes better( STEYR AUG,SA 80, FAMAS, FN SCAR, even the AR platform HK 416/417) but as far as modular weapons systems??? The AR platfrom runs with the best of them.
      Just look at how FAST former soviet Bloc nations DUMPED the AK and went for some form of AR platform, or a more modular rifle that compliments or takes cues from the AR!

      There’s a reason TOP tier operators USE the AR platform, like the SAS and DELTA, including other NATO Spec OPs forces. We are NOT talking the early Stoner model gun, we are talking a modern assault rifle that has stood the test of time- dead nuts accurate, light as heck, and deadly.

      tell me how many photos of enemy combatants do you see holding AKs and standing over NATO troops with M16 variants??? Now take your time and LOOk on the internet and see how many U.S. and allied nations have some form of M16 variant and are collecting dropped AKs from the bullet riddled bodies of insurgents and enemy combatants !!!

      nobody is drinking the Stoner koolaid here- but the fact is even the countries that have their own weapons KEEP sufficient AR/M16 variants in their inventory cause they know the damn things WORK, and work well. Even the anti west russians deploy M4 carbines with their special ops units( Alpha and Vympel) and its not “just for training purposes”….

      Western “snake eaters” carry Aks because they are probably waaay behind lines, and need deniability( Nothing sez the Americans or Brits or euro NATO, like a tricked out M4/ C8 SFW/ HK 416 with SOPMOD kit). Ditto PMC operators as they are running on thin supplies and their companies are concerned with “profit” over expenditures- most PMC operators tend to be former western miltary types and are BETTER trained than the folks they are dealing with, so expect those PMC operators to collect “plenty” of “extra AKs” while “working…

      Now if you are a rock throwing jihadi peasant, a half rusted AK is perfect for you. You can pizz the dirt off, tie knots in thin trips of rags, and drag that rag( dipped in motor oil from a wrecked vehicle in your mudhut village) through the barrel of your AK clone, and voila- all the maintenance you are probably ever going to need in your spray and pray – and PROBABLY short lived- fighting career…..

      The AR Platform sucks??? Really??? check this out then shut your uninformed mouth:


  • Getting somewhat back on topic, at least of L119A1:

    This is a VERY interesting picture:

    It is a Swedish soldier in Afghanistan. The interesting part is the gear and weapon. Swedish soldiers use the Swedish made Stridsväst 2000 (Combat vest 2000), AKA Sv2K. Some soldiers in the sandbox that are vehicle bound have been able to buy and use BHI vests and some other guys has gotten the new Stridsgördel 2000 (Chestrig 2000). Weapons for soldiers are pretty much always AK5C (modified FN FNC80) with the occasional PSG90 (AI AWM) and MP5.

    The soldier in this pictures seems to be wearing a EI CIRAS and using a Colt Canada C8 SFW/L119A1. This probably places him as a special forces soldier with either Särskilda Skyddsgruppen (Special Protection Group) SSG, Särskilda Inhämtningsgruppen (Special Reconnaissance Group) or Fallskärmsjägarskolans insatskompani (Airborne School Special Purpose Company) FJS IK.

    These groups have been seen with G36K on special operations in Africa, and a newspaper article states that FJS IK got an express delivery of weapons straight from Canada when their shortened AK5s malfunctioned.

    This is of course very smal unconfirmed tidbits and nothing is verified about these very secret groups, but the most amazing thing about this picture is that it was released by the military itself as part of an article on http://www.mil.se/

    That concludes todays trivia lesson. 😉

  • Bill Lester


    I think you should look to yourself before casting disparaging stones. Or, more accurately, pebbles.

    As I pointed out to you in the “British soldiers also complaining about 5.56mm NATO” thread, American private contractors are inclined to use what they were trained with in the U.S. military, what their employer buys and what makes sense from a logistical standpoint. Is the AR-based platform popular among that group? Certainly, but not for the mythical reasons you’d like to attribute the weapon. And it is far from universal among PC’s. It won’t take long searching the web to find numerous photos of PC’s using weapons other than an AR-type.

    As for your list of SF AR users, you may want to do a bit more research. The Brits have a general issue rifle that has had even more reliability issues than the M16/M4. It has only recently gotten to the point it can be fairly trusted in combat. If photos published online are any indication, the French SF are just as likely to use their regular issue FAMAS, MP-5, or Sig 550-series as any AR-based weapon. Finally, the Australians work so closely with American SF that they’re almost indistinguishable from an equipment standpoint. Virtually everything they use is of Yankee origin, so why would their rifles be any different? Hell, if this photo is any indication, the Aussies even eat our lousy MRE’s! http://www.defence.gov.au/media/download/2006/sep/socb060927/images/gallery/20060927/20060927adf0000_010.jpg Just like the PC’s, logistics drive choices for armies a lot more than you apparently realize or are willing to admit. It’s also why Delta and the CIA used a lot of plain Jane AK’s during the invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent hunt for Bin Laden in the Tora Bora region. Photos of several Delta operators carrying AK’s can be seen in Dalton Fury’s book “Kill Bin Laden.” Gary Berntsen reported in his book “Jawbreaker” that his CIA personnel were trained on and issued new Chinese AK’s upon arrival in-country. Both Delta and CIA knew they’d need to rely on ammunition, magazines and the occasional spare part available among their Afghan allies. The advantages of an M4 or M16, real or perceived, were negated by more important factors among the very tip of the OEF sword.

    In all fairness, the popularity of multiple rails favors the M16/M4 family. Few if any of our allies’ rifles are as easily accessorized. When much (most?) of the killing is done at night courtesy of crew served or airborne weapons illuminated by PEQ/PAQ designators, is it any wonder a multi-railed rifle is popular?

    As for bullpups, I personally prefer a more conventional layout. But then again I’m not riding in the back of cramped APC’s or helicopters. Nevertheless, neither my or your opinion has any impact on the decisions nations have made in choosing the FAMAS, improved L85, AUG/F88 or Tavor. They seem to be satisfied with their decisions to the tune of billions of dollars and probably something approaching a million individual rifles.

  • Pete Sheppard

    The Brits refer to them as “Armalites”, after the original maker.

    • bongmanbaby

      we still refer to it as the “armalite rifle” here in the Philippines.

  • Jimmy S

    Why do most contractors use AR’s? Do they, sounds like an ill informed generalisation to me. I know a lot gunslingers that swear by AK’s ( modified or SU’s) Besides,99% of the time it comes down to what’s available not what’s on the wish list ( did you think I could lay my hands on a AUG/F88 in Kabul???)

    As for the old F88 vs M4 thing in the Australian army, Granted, the AUG isn’t as modular as the M4 (something LEA and DMO are working to overcome) and the SF use the M4, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a better gat. I’ve spoke at length with Land Engineering Agency and they assure me that the only edge the AR/M4 has over the AUG is in water ops, regarding fine sand whipped up by outboards (especially in one particular training area out west) since water ops aren’t the flavour of the month in ‘Stan, that’s a mute point. More a horses for courses thing

    Yep, used them both and a few other and I’d have to say the AUG shoots better and is good for what it is. Which brings me to point 3 ‘Simple to operate’??? All you need is a left hand to operate the AUG with out losing a sight picture. I think that says something to me! Besides, we’re talking about trained blokes here, not amateurs. That said I still laugh when my yank mates that should know better ask me if I’ve ever grabbed the mag by accident… NO

    However I’ve got a soft spot for the HK416, even if it heats up quicker than a AUG and needs a front grip, still better than a abo-pack AR but, so I’m not 100% bias.

  • adi ginat


    Where can I buy the Stridsväst 2000?

    Kind regards

    Adi Ginat


  • Bartee

    “abo-pac AR” to describe a plain-jane standard issue M16/M4 Thats GOLD!

  • snmp

    In Falkland Armlite Rifle for UKSF

    French commando use SIG550, AR15 platform (M16 & M4) now replace by HK G36 (Dive Commando) & HK416 cause they need to not say ther are French in few second (with FAMAS) to adverse force.

    The avantage of the AR15 platform, many option and aftermarket part, every body have this weapon (like AK) ….. and the lightweigh

  • Destroyer

    JimmyS, i agree with you that the AUG is not a bad rifle, especially for a bullpup (which i have much disdain for to begin with). What is interesting is Microtech’s civilian AUG, which has a weaver rail system (solving the modularity problem) and adjustable firing port (which solves the left handed shooter issue rampant with bullpups). While they are heavy, the new AUG rifles are outstandingly accurate and effective weapons.

    Why don’t special forces have them? availability. Because of long treks deep into enemy territory, they are most likely to use weapons that have a healthy supply of spare parts. The M4 has its serious faults, though it still remains in use by many elite units and is a decent rifle for special operations forces (who cannot fire the quantities of ammunition that lead to M4 failures). Nevertheless, many units are phasing the M4s out for gas piston designs, such as the H&K 416 or FN SCAR.

  • RAB

    Having operated, field stripped and lugged around most of these rifles, I can truly say from a personal standpoint, I prefer the HK roller lock mechanism. The positive extraction rips the shell casings out no matter how dirty the chamber. I’ve run them in the mud, the rain, the sand and the bitter cold. The AR is lighter, and to the average grunt that may be the winner. However as a designated marksman in combat, I would only want the gun that always works and is most accurate. In my experience that has been the HK roller lock (G3, Hk33, HK53, etc.). The FAL system was a close second, although they were tempermental with sand (ergo the sand/dust cuts in the carrier on later models). Widespread use is most often the balance between reliability and cost. My experience with US combat acquisitions, is that they would go with the cheapest weapon that functioned. To me, the AR is the worst rifle for combat. Too complex and too many tiny parts that can get lost in the field. The AK is probably the best for the casual, inexperienced soldier balancing ease of use, cheap manufacture with the poor accuracy. As for the bullpups such as the AUG. Great rifle for shooting, not for quick reloads or versatility.

  • Marco

    I have seen some pics from the 70s of the Brits fighting the IRA and there using the M16

  • David

    the SAS dont use the M16 they use the C8 SFW. Also other countys dont come to do training in the U.S, actually the U.S go to britain to train.

    • Dubbs

      Wow.. HOW WRONG you are! Now if you say we( US and NATO nations “cross train” that would be true) Lets just say that not too long ago UK marines were hanging out in San Diego- “doubt” it was for vacation. DITTO French Foreign Legion and Troupes De Marine training with U.S. Army Rangers.
      And the DIEMACO C8 is in the family of the M16- just a few minor parts, like different barrel /barrel shroud et al- DIEMACO is NOW COLT CANADA

  • Adrian

    The Galil rifle is not inaccurate ,but it´s hevier than the M-16,here in Colombia we are fighting a true war and we could buy cheaper m-16´s than the Galil but we buy the much durable,rugged accurate and reliable heavy Galil for long battles,two or trhee days of sustained combat The Galil is a winner,for SF or assault groups m-16 plattform is issued ,and the “Plan Colombia” gave us some thousand of M-16 rifles for free ,as an ex-military I can tell you that a Galil it´s heavier than an M-16 ,but it´s stronger and it´s reliability it´s superior to the M-16 reliability an inacurate rifle’ ask to your fellows instructors here in Colombia how a Galil shots.
    By the way now we are making the galil in our state owned company INDUMIL ,the Galil ACE and the older model.

  • Parakitteh

    It’s hardly surprising.
    The M16 rifle series, along with others, have been in service (largely with Special Forces) in Britain for a number of decades.