50-Year-Old XM16 Still In Use In Cambodia

Earlier this week, we blogged about an AR-15 that had seen half a century of service; a weapon originally made by General Motors between January of 1969 and the end of 1971. Recently, pictures were circulated on Facebook of a rifle even older than that firearm: A Colt XM16E1, still in use in Cambodia. The XM16E1, made between the 16th of May 1966 and the second quarter of 1967, was found in Cambodia by Steve Lee, the singer and songwriter for the unofficial TFB theme song “I Like Guns”:

The rifle is a mixmaster. It’s unknown if the upper is original (off-color upper receivers are common, as anodizing is difficult to match between parts ); the barrel assembly is clearly an alteration of some sort, and the handguard appears to be a local fabrication. What is clear is the full fence lower, and XM16E1 markings make the rifle at least 48 years old. It’s commonly repeated that the full fence lower was introduced with the “M16A1” designation, but they were two separate developments. In fact, the “M16A1” designation did not carry with it any design changes at all, and was simply a formalization of the Army’s adoption of the rifle. Incremental improvements were being made during this period, however, which is how we can date this rifle to a period of about nine months in the first half of the Vietnam War.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • N

    Saw an xm16e2 lower at the ROTC barracks in Ft. Knox.

    • Eric

      I had an XM16EI Lower when I was doing ROTC at Ft. Lewis in 2007. I did a rubbing of the lower, but lost it. It looked like it had about 3 extra serial numbers added on at some point and the auto had been drilled out for burst… but it still shot full auto. Triangle handgards too. We got them to replace our M16A2s after we qualified to use for patrolling and the rest of our lanes. Good times

  • YankeeZulu

    Any idea what the barrel looked like?

    • The barrel looks like an XM177E2 barrel to me, so it’s probably not original.

      • Sianmink

        I think he meant on the inside. XD

        • That’s why I mentioned the barrel probably isn’t original.

  • J-

    My question is: after 48 years of 5.56, is this thing still a rifle or is it classifiable as a smooth bore yet?

    • Zachary marrs

      It either doesn’t get shot all that much, or more likely, it has gone through several different barrels

      • J-

        Maybe, but I wouldn’t be so sure. My brother-in-law was in Afghanistan training the local militias against the Taliban, and they had AK’s that dated back to the Soviet invasion that he said had been shot to death. The US Army tried to train the locals in marksmanship and found that their three decade old AK’s were key-holing. I know Cambodia isn’t Afghanistan and an M16 isn’t an AK, but I wouldn’t trust what was a third world country until very recently to do any amount of preventative maintenance.

      • Ken

        If it’s a weapon that tourists pay to shoot, it could have a pretty high round count right now, including a lot of full auto that really heats the barrel.

        • MR

          And in that case, who really cares how accurate it is, or if it’s keyholing? As long as it functions and doesn’t blow up in your face.

  • Al

    The Australians used an indigenous wooden handguard on their XM177E2’s in Vietnam, and it looked very much like this one.

  • SP mclaughlin

    So do Aussies go to Indochina to shoot firearms illegal at home?

  • Esh325

    For a 5.56 gun, it seems to have a lot of kick.

    • Joshua

      No flash hider(which the A2 has some compensating properties), but mostly it comes down to their stance which is absolutely atrocious in every way. I have no idea who those guys are, but their shooting stances say they have never been trained on firearms.

      • They’re Australian, so I doubt they’ve ever been trained on how to shoot a machine gun. Doesn’t look like the Cambodians hosting them have any interest in spending the five seconds it would take to teach them, either.

        • 1leggeddog

          “They’re Australian, so I doubt they’ve ever been trained on how to shoot a machine gun”

          You mean “A” gun. Period.

          Their gun laws are even wrose then Canada’s!

        • Esh325

          Even with the most aggressive Chris Costa forward grip and hunched over old man stance, I imagine it’s pretty useless on fully automatic anyways as nobody ever shoots them that way in combat scenarios except in very rare instances.

          • Sianmink

            Actually a good squared stance with your weight forward and clamping down on the gun really does wonders for controlling full auto.

          • Yep. Shoot a machine gun like you’re boxing, and you’ll be fine.

          • Esh325

            Hitting what you’re aiming at is a different story though.

          • I am quite confident I could control it, and I have the pictures of a steady AR-10 muzzle to prove it. 😉

          • marathag

            Now pics of you doing an M-14 that goes into anti-aircraft mode 🙂

        • Yallan

          Full auto was used quite liberally to break contact in sas patrols and fired from the hip. Remember visibility was very low.

      • Squirreltakular

        The first guy and the guy in the Glock shirt weren’t bad all. Everyone else, though? Yeah…

    • MR

      Somebody on Arfcom noticed the buttstock looked rather short, possibly a collapsed 607 stock. A too-short length of pull could add considerably to felt recoil and hinder controllability.

  • Speed

    What’s the accuracy on that thing, minute of barn?

  • Joe Schmoe

    I have a picture of an XM16E1 still being used by the IDF that I took. I’ll send it to your tip mail as soon as I delete the serial.

    • That would be pretty cool, thanks Joe!

      • Joe Schmoe


        I only realized what I had when I went back to look at the pictures I took and noticed the designation on the rifle, otherwise I would have taken many more pictures 🙁

        Picture was taken back in 2008.

  • mrsatyre

    Gonna sound like a complete n00b here (and I am), but really? General Motors was making guns?

    • Yessir, they also owned Inland who made M1 Carbines during WWII.

    • 1leggeddog

      Yup. AND Mattel!

      You read right, Barbie made guns 🙂

      • Gabe Is Fat

        Why do you post this? This is a complete Myth that refuses to die. Mattel never made firearms.

        • Very true–I think this got started when the troops in Vietnam called them Matie Mattels or Mattel rifles.

        • Marcus D.

          The rumor when I was a young ‘un back in the ’60s was that Mattel made the polymer stocks, not the guns. Which made a lot of (common) sense back then because everyone knew it had vast experience in plastics injection molding.

    • Dennis Johnson

      Lots of sub contractors made guns for the Govt. I have an old International Harvester M1 Garand.

    • n0truscotsman

      Them, Singer Sewing Machines, IBM, Siganaw Steering, International Harvester, and a large variety of other old names.

    • Budogunner

      Even more fun, IBM made M1 carbines during WWII. Disney made training films for various branches of the military, too. Everybody took part in the war effort.

    • go4it

      Yep, G.M.’s “Hydra-Matic” division – same folks that made automatic transmissions! – had a contract to make M-16’s for the military ….

    • Ken

      In addition, their Guide Lamp division made M3 Grease Guns in WWII. Since they made headlamps, they knew sheet metal.

    • marathag

      Buick used to make Tank Destroyers and Cadillac did Light tanks. Fisher Body did Shermans and TDs, over 16,000 of them

  • TankGuy

    Was that a horse standing off to the right of the uh, errrr target area?

  • Lance

    Why not if it still works why not use it. Cool looking pre-XM-177 carbine though.

  • 1leggeddog

    If that had a compensator, it probably would have been a lot easier to control then… nothing.

  • Sulaco

    Read somewhere/time that steel guns have a “three hundred year shelf life”,
    was in some government report back in the 80’s(?) “fact” was being used to “prove”
    there were too many guns in private hands…

    • zardoz711

      Considering that there are Mosins still being used in Syria, I wouldn’t doubt it.

      • iksnilol

        Considering we have single shot trainer rifles made before WW1 I also wouldn’t doubt it.

        • marathag

          No few Remington Falling blocks and Win 1873s out there

  • Don Ward

    That M16 has some stories to tell. Some good, some bad.

  • TH Barron

    Love all you experts who never carried a “jamomatic” in SE Asia.

    • ed

      Ahh, we love you, too.

      • TH Barron

        Don’t get up. I’m leaving, never to return.

    • n0truscotsman

      According to gun shop “wisdom”, my M4 should have been a jamomatic too. My experiences in SW Asia proved the exact opposite. One thing is certain, somebody must have been talking out of their fourth point of contact…

  • TH Barron

    You didn’t need to remove the handguard to use a GL.

  • Tattooed

    Obama is already trying to ban it.

    • MR

      Another idea he’s stealing from Romney.