POTD: A General Motors M16 Still in Military Service

Bill spotted a M16A2 still in military service 40-55 years after it was made. He writes …

I was working as a range safety this past drill weekend. The usual complement of Colts and FNs filed through and then this thing showed up, M16A2 with a 203… and made by GM?!? I had to do some research on the spot. Apparently, late 60’s/early 70’s production lower and still in service in 2015. Serial number in the 3,000,000’s, the 1 in A1 stamped over with a 2 and Auto crossed out and stamped with Burst… sigh. It must still be working well, the kid shot 37/40 with iron sights (better than I could do).

Nice find Bill. I also was not aware General Motors was once in the lucrative military contract gun business!


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.


  • Pete Sheppard

    Now to find a genuine Mattel M16…

    • SP mclaughlin

      “80% reported stoppages, the other 20% of users died.”

    • MikeF


  • Bob Esposito

    What would it take to get the DoD to transfer their pre-86 M16s to the civilian market?

    • Patrick M.

      flying pigs/hell freezing over

      • Dudemanbroh

        Funny, he’ll was a place in California that actually experienced snow a few times, and pigs do fly in the forms of bacon and live export. But pigs aren’t the pilots, and hell was paved over for a freeway, so that time has come and gone I guess.

      • SP mclaughlin

        Hey, Swine Flu already happened.

      • mosinman

        Hell is in Michigan and regularly freezes over every winter

    • Patrick R.

      An act of God.

      • Bob Esposito

        Sure, it’s highly unlikely. But as federal law stands now, it *would* be legal.

        • No, it wouldn’t. Military firearms are not registered with the BATFE and are not on the NFRTR, so their registration date would be after 1986, hence illegal to own.

          • Bob Esposito

            Weren’t there a bunch of pre86 MGs in the hands of police departments (and other government entities) that were transferred to dealers and latet to individuals *after* 1986?

          • Yes, but police depts and similar civilian law enforcement agencies are required to register their armaments with the BATFE on a form 5.

          • Miles

            Yes. I happen to own one, a Colt M16 (actually M16A1 configuration) but stamped simply M16.

          • Miles

            I think you could get past that as the whole process would be by executive order and thus a process where POTUS would be telling DOD, DOJ, and the ATF just exactly what to do and how to get there.
            But that’s just the way I see it.
            Possible? yep.
            Probable? Only if one of us was POTUS.

          • No, that is not how it works. The president cannot make laws, and the 1986 FOPA including the Hughes Amendment and 922o are laws that are on the books. The only two ways to overturn the federal closure of the MG registry would be: A literal act of congress or a court decision.

          • CliffK

            The president is not needed, though he could make an executive order to do so. Just requires the DOJ AG to institute an amnesty period (executive order is not required, it is the AG’s prerogative) followed by DOD cooperation and authorization to release said assets for private sale. 922(o) does include such stipulations, and there are legal channels to sell DOD assets, though they have never been used for this purpose.

            Acts of Congress and court decisions would only be necessary to strike 922(o) from the books entirely.

          • Bob Esposito

            I know I’m spit balling here, but I’d love to see someone find a way to navigate the law to allow those guns into the transferable pool. If the DoD auctioned them off, imagine what they could turn around and buy with the money from the sales.

            Oh, and as far as law suits to overturn 922o, look up Hollis v Holder

          • iksnilol

            Because the DoD really struggles with finances… /sarcasm

          • Miles

            “Acts of Congress and court decisions would only be necessary to strike 922(o) from the books entirely.”
            I agree, but you’ll have to either find a case the SCOTUS has no way to wriggle out of taking, or find some spine/balls for our jellyfish/wimp congress to repeal said law, and have a POTUS who wouldn’t veto it.

          • Miles

            Well, it’s a fine legal point we’re disagreeing about and IANAL.
            Or, as I’ll add to Cliff’s comment below; back to back, continuous 90 day amnesties. With a POTUS EO to put surplus mgs onto the registry as transferable.
            See? Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s more fun when it’s even ‘legal’.

          • The amnesty was in the text of the 1968 GCA. It was not a product of the executive branch.

          • Miles

            Yes, you’re right, but you’re not getting the point.
            If you’ll read the law carefully, there’s nothing about only ‘one’ amnesty, multiple amnesties, or a date after which an amnesty couldn’t occur, or the law denying the power for more amnesties.
            Again, IANAL, but those that ARE lawyers have read GCA 68 this way.
            It’s also legal if POTUS tells the SecDef to register those surplus M16s under any amnesty.
            If you’re going to play with law, you play hardball and play to win.
            Our adversaries try to do it, why shouldn’t we?

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Whats the deal with the pre-86 ban?
        So no new MG’s can be made or sold after 1986?

        • Bob Esposito

          Look up 18 USC 922 (o)

          • go4it


        • Yep, that’s why LEGAL full auto is so expensive, there are only so many to be had and the pool of usable ones is only getting smaller as receivers wear out….

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Really? So every full auto weapon out there is built on a receiver made before 1986? And no new ones have been allowed, or will be allowed, on the market?
            That’s crazy.
            Seems like im seeing more and more gun shops advertising sales of MG’s lately.

          • iksnilol

            That’s the American law as I understand it, no new FA weapons can be registered (NFA tax stamp) after 1986. Only exceptions are dealer samples for legal manufacturers and of course LEOs.

            Though illegal full auto is cheap, at least in most of Europe (or at least cheap compared to legal FA in the US).

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Just seems odd that so many places around my area (Houston) seem to advertise sales of MG’s.
            I got lucky, my father bought an M-16 back in 1985 that I got through a trust.

          • iksnilol

            Maybe all the focus on the NFA in recent times increased the interest towards MGs?

            I don’t know, not my country and all that.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Maybe, I just had no idea they were so rare as I only recently came into possession of mine and was not aware of the intricacies of US law other than having a stamp.
            What country?

          • iksnilol

            Consider yourself lucky, you got the best MG you can get legally in the US.

            Best as in you can convert it easily to other calibers and you can easily mainatin it due to the abundance of parts.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Yeah, its fun and definitely unique at the range. I replaced the hand guard, stock and grip and after lubing it up real good it seems to be running 5.56 fine so im not going to mess with it further.

          • iksnilol

            I was thinking about the lower. Nothing is (legally) stopping you from buying a 9mm pistol upper and putting it on your MG lower (it isn’t an SBR if you put it on a MG lower).

            Or getting a .22 upper, .22 LR MGs can be awfully fun.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Yeah, my dad bought a belt fed .22 upper kit a few years ago but could never get it to function and the company basically had no customer support so I think he just returned it. Im fine with it as-is. The sound of that full auto 5.56 fire is pretty awesome, loud as hell.

          • iksnilol

            Ooooh, you could also get a 300 BLK pistol upper. Y’know those with a 20 cm barrel or something. That way you could have a legal stamp free SBR.

            Also, isn’t 9×19 cheaper than 5.56? Might be worthwhile checking into, make a pseudo-MP5.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            So if its already a registered MG I don’t have to worry about the short barrel rifle issue? I can change out and have any length I want? The barrel is already at 10.5″.
            Those both sound like awesome ideas.

          • iksnilol

            Exactly. Barrel length and OAL doesn’t apply to MGs. At least that’s my understanding. Probably best to ask someone with more experience or a law degree.

            Since the lower is the registered part you can use whatever upper you want. My recommendations would be a 300 BLK with 20 cm barrel and a 9mm with whatever barrel you want (10 cm barrel + equally long suppressor results in a small and quiet package).

            Just be careful and make sure your hand can’t slip in front of the muzzle during recoil.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Damn, you just filled my xmas list for the next 3 years.
            I could potentially have 3 MG’s in one.
            I love America.

          • iksnilol

            BTW, since I forgot to reply: I am in Norway, visit my homeland (Bosnia) yearly though (that’s where the fun stuff is).

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Is Bosnia a popular spot for tourism?

          • iksnilol

            Not a bad spot. I would recommend it, then again I am from there. Especially nice if you like hiking, hunting and the whole urban thing (+ lots of history). Nice mix of nature and urban environments.

            I would dare say it is a popular spot for tourism. By “fun stuff” I meant also firearms, as in firearms kept after the war (will have to look for that M53 in the neighbourhood somewhere).

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Ive always wanted to see that part of the world.

          • iksnilol

            I am positively surprised you actually know where that part of the world is. One of my past-times is asking people to show where the Balkans are on a map (at first I tried with Bosnia, but had to expand to Balkans when people searched in China).

            Like I said; I would recommend going. See more of the world and all.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Ive been to Europe several times and a friend of mine in HS was an exchange student from Sarajevo.
            And ive seen Behind Enemy Lines twice.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Good info, thanks.

      • go4it

        More’n that ………

        Right now? Canna be doon, laddie!

      • billyoblivion

        Or a direct order from the POTUS.

        Which, frankly, would be indistinguishable from an act of God.

    • Bob McGeorge

      Won’t happen, it’s easier to give them to ISIS (tongue in cheek & snarky intended)

    • therapist

      Executive order. It has happened before when the USG wanted Hollywood to produce pro-Vietnam war propaganda. I wouldn’t count on it happening again anytime soon.

  • flyingburgers

    Makes sense. Precision chunks of metal. Like IBM and Smith Corona making Garands in the typewriter days.

    Anyway, GM, at various points, made military and civilian airplane engines (Allison), missiles and satellites (Hughes), armored vehicles (GM Defense), and still does advanced military research (HRL). They also were a major bank (GMAC), IT consultancy (EDS), train builder (EMD), and appliance maker (Frigidaire).

  • Philip Williams

    They aren’t 40 to 55 years old. The A2 was adopted during the ’80s.

    • That is an A1 overstamp lower. You can see where they stamped “2” over a pre-existing “1”. Also notice that it is an early forging due to the shape of the takedown pin area.

    • Graham2

      Do you not read too well?

  • Awesome. My friend has a transferable GM full auto lower.

    • Miles

      If it’s a real deal lower, and not one that John Stemple welded from pieces, he’s got a real collector item as very few of them supposedly made it out into the market place.

  • Bill

    GM’s Guide Lamp division made M3 Grease Guns. Hydra-Matic made a bunch of M-16s through the ’60’s

  • Bill

    And Saginaw and Inland made M1 Carbines in WWII

    • billyoblivion

      As did IBM.

      The original PC. Personal Carbine.

      • DW

        These are indeed International Business Machine(s)

  • LigerNoir

    Ft Knox has a ton of old A1 refirbs. Cadets from all over use them during summer training.

    • Miles

      Yes, and I fixed quite a lot of them when I was at the Holder armory.
      We had many Hydra-Matics and Harrington/Richardson M16s that had to have been rebuilt God knows how many times. M16A1 to A2, even a few to A4.

  • Tassiebush

    Heil Hydra!…

  • “AR-15s aren’t durable” they said… 😉

    • nadnerbus

      I’d be more impressed if it was a matching upper, which it doesn’t appear to be.

      • Miles

        It’s not.
        When the program started, Anniston sent out a package consisting of an A2 upper receiver assembly, pistol grip, buttstock, extension spacer, buttstock screw and trigger/hammer/disconnector parts as a conversion kit.
        The same happened when some of the A2s were converted to A4s
        The old parts were replaced and ouila’.
        The fun part was doing the property book and issue database changes in the computer system since the LIN, NSN and nomenclature changed.

      • It won’t be a matching upper, since it was converted into an A2.

        Watch this site later this week, as I’ll be posting about another old rifle found in service that has its original receivers, however.

  • Lance

    It be a M-16A1 not a A2 only Colt and FN made M-16A2s for the regular military. It could have been a M-6A1 coverted to a A2 for the USCG during a program in the 1990s though. But Hydra matic did not make A2s only A1s during the Vietnam war.

    • CommonSense23

      Do you even read the articles?

      • go4it

        Apparently not ….. ????

      • Dan

        Nope read up until you see something you disagree with and go right for the comments

  • 360_AD

    If only GM made cars that last this long.

    • go4it

      Never gonna happen …

    • Grindstone50k

      This former Chevy owner agrees whole-heartedly.

      Now if only Toyota, Honda, or Hyundai got into the firearms game…

      • GS03

        Toyota kind of did; Its parent company Toyoda Automatic Loom Works manufactured Arisakas.

      • flyingburgers

        Nissan’s former defense operation makes licensed Panzerfausts. That’s decidedly more fun than a M16.

      • swede

        SAAB used to make both awesome cars and awesome jet fighters

        now the car part is dead ):

    • They have. This coming from a Ford guy.

      • sam

        Maybe a few over the decades… Blind-squirrel-finds-a-nut kind of thing.

        • It pains me to concede that the 350 sbcs are probably the most enduring engines of all time.
          No dumb luck there, just solid and reliable.

          • Phillip Cooper

            Which is precisely why I am putting one in my 89 S10 Blazer right now…

          • 360_AD

            A broken clock?

          • sam

            That’s an engine, not a car, and its one of hundreds I’d guess. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

          • Because there are no shoebox chevys, bowtie wearing muscle cars, or vintage tin in garages across the world.

          • sam

            GM made shoebox chevys with 350’s huh?

          • That was to address the issue that the cars dont last. But with all them running around with tree-fiddys you would think it was original and correct for them.

          • sam

            Your sarcasm made it unclear.

    • J-

      The funny looking mail delivery vehicles are called Grumman LLV (long life vehicles) and were a joint venture between Grumman Aircraft and GM. They are powered by a GM 2.5L I4 “Iron Duke” engine mated to a GM 3 speed tranny. They were designed for 24 years of 6 day a week stop and go driving. Each vehicle is supposed to have a 1,000,000 mile service life on a single engine. This is the same engine/tranny combo put in the late 80’s S10.

      • UpChuck.Liberals

        Yeah, well I had to take my S10 out back and shoot it, tranny died a horrible death and it certainly wasn’t from over use. or old age.

  • c

    We still have quite a bit of GM Hydra-matic M16A1’s here in the Philippines. Usual conversions done is just to cut the barrel and add maybe add a railed handguard. Most still have their 1:12 twist barrels. Note that most of the issued rifles here are still M16A1’s

  • tony

    30 years is about the oldest it can get

  • Broz

    THe M16 I was issued in Basic at Ft Dix (Jun – Aug ’71 – A-3-3 was made my H&R…

  • idahoguy101

    And I thought all the M-16A2s were new builds. But I have shot old POS M-16s. Built for the Air Force without the Army’s forward assist

  • Nick Eddleman

    While I was in the Marine Corps in 99′ I saw one of these GM M16s when I went TAD to Kusan AFB. I had to check out a loaner rifle from the Security Forces armory. They handed me one of these GM M16A1 mod2 rifles. The A1 and Auto were scrawled out with an Etch-pen, not stamped-out, and A2 and Burst where etched in. On another note, it was the most disgusting rifle I had ever seen. Horribly filthy and no cleaning kit in the stock. The 7 30rd mags they issued me were completely calcified. The rifle nor the mags would have been operational if I had to use it.

  • Of course, that’s just the lower that’s marked, any clue if it still has it’s original upper too? Since the finish on the 2 halves appear different I would assume the upper has been swapped out?

  • BKE Evers

    Go spooking around the National Guard Armories and you will see a lot of cast offs from the regular army. My dad said they had the old stuff a long time after the army got done with it. Including 1911s in the late 80s that were only God knows how old when they finally were recycled. Rattled like a box of bbs.

  • Agitator

    My basic training platoon at Fort Sill had a number of these lowers in 2011. Similar setup, A1 stamped over with A2 and the “Auto” marking ground down and crudely etched with “Burst.”

  • J-

    How did TFB forget about GM’s Guide Lamp division stamping out Liberator pistols or M3 Grease Guns during WWII?

  • Ben Loong

    Interesting find. Coincidentally, a couple months back I took a photo of a similar GM M16A1 with attached M203 at a display for the Philippine Army’s 118th anniversary. Though apparently the rifle in question had already been taken out of service and was being used as a display piece (firing pin taken out).

    • Ben Loong

      Here’s a photo of it alongside some of the newer Remington R4s (M4A1s) that they’re replacing the old M16A1s with.

  • andrey kireev

    I actually had one in my armory in Kuwait, it really threw me off !

  • tony patric

    as a GM guy I wish i can find a lower like that for my collection!

  • MikeF

    In 1992 at Fort Leonard Wood I went through Basic and BRM with a GM Hydromatic M16a1.
    Being a car guy, I noted the fact that it was a Chevy and I was a Ford Guy.
    If I remember correctly, the whole thing matched, but the upper and lower were loose as a goose.
    I sure did love the full auto giggle switch.
    I hated the burst trigger on the a2s I was subsequently issued.