Arik, a reader from Israel, emailed me this photo of a XEM16E1 rifle he was issued. He wrote …

I was issued this rifle for a month, belonged to the Nahal infantry battalion and was still in full active service and firing rounds.

The XEM16E1 was produced approximately from 1963 until 1967 when the US Army adopted an upgraded version, the M16A1. The means that the above rifle must be at least 48 years old.

The XEM16E1 differed from the M16 in that it has a forward assist, something Eugene Stoner (and apparently the US Air Force) believed to be superfluous. Whether or not an AR-15 needs a forward assist is still hotly debated today.



  • morokko

    And, judging by the photo, still has some bugs.

    • M.M.D.C.

      A stinging comment.

      • Ethan

        Please don’t bee like that.

        • Gordon J Davis Jr

          Wasp up?

          • Rick W

            There’s been a lot of buzz lately on these older guns

          • RICH


          • MR

            What’s the hive mind think about this?

    • Jack Morris
  • Joe Schmoe

    Hi Steve, thanks for posting the photo! I just sent you a quick update! 🙂

    • Zack

      My babies from a few years back. They shot well, for the little jobnik shooting that I did! Technically its a M653, no?

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Appears to have taken a latke of abuse.

  • Tr Graham

    It would be interesting to see the condition of the inside of the upper and receiver.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Hi Graham,

      Being the proud (temporary) owner of the firearm in the picture, here’s what I remember. The condition itself was pretty poor, I didn’t bother even trying to do full cleaning of the firearm since I was signed on it only for a few weeks due to being sent out of the unit to undertake a course; when I got back to the unit I received my trusty M4A1 to replace it. 🙂

      The upper was an M-16A1 upper, where the original XM16E1 upper is god only knows.

      • n0truscotsman

        thanks for posting that! awesome stuff.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Here is another photo of the rifle in question that I found, this time you can see the whole thing (including the modified barrel and rear stock:

    • Zebra Dun

      Hard carbon coat?

    • john huscio

      Probably a paper wasp nest in there

  • Al

    It’s not a “XEM16E1”, it’s XM16E1, and they all had the forward assist. The forward assist was introduced with that model designation (it’s also called the Colt model 603).
    The earlier models were called AR-15’s, Colt models 601 and 602.

    • The earliest military models were used by the Air Force, and called “M16”. The “XM16E1” was the variant for the Army.

      • Al

        The first AF and Army contracts were manufactured simultaneously by Colt in early 1964. The Air Force order M16 (Colt model 604) was smaller and was delivered earlier, in March 1964. The Army order XM16E1 was delivered in May 1964. The AF rifles are marked AR-15, with M16 stamped below that.

        • “A triumphant General LeMay had seen his third request for AR-15s approved on May 15 1962. Now Chief of Staff of the Air Force, he proceeded to make his own direct contract with the relieved and delighted manufacturers for an initial delivery of 8,500 rifles. As noted in the ARPA report, the AR-15 was thereafter soon officially adopted by the USAF. A second direct procurement of 19,000 more AR-15s was approved for the Air Force the following year.”

          From The Black Rifle

          At this early stage, the .223 round was actually designated “5.64mm”, as well.

          • Correct, the USAF orders mentioned in the quote above were placed in September 1962 and April 1963. Once the Army was forced to adopt the rifle, all future M16 orders for the USAF were placed under the Army’s administration.

          • Al

            Yep, the AF guns were ordered in 1962 and 1963. They were manufactured and delivered in 1964, as I stated.
            My source is also “The Black Rifle”. As well as “The Great Rifle Controversy” and “Misfire: The Story of How America’s Small Arms Have Failed Our Military”.
            A military contract date does not equal an actual manufacturing date.

          • How do you reckon it took them two years to produce less than 10,000 rifles they were already making?

          • According the Appendix 5 of the “Report of the M16 Rifle Review Panel,” all of the 8,500 rifles ordered in USAF contract AF-33-(657)-9413 had been delivered by January 28, 1963. Mike Eklund’s research indicates that the follow-up order for 19,000 rifles had all been delivered to the USAF by December 1963.

    • RICH

      You can see the model designation, ‘XM 16 E1’ on the receiver in the photo….. DUUH ! !

      • 624A24

        Do you even read the article before you DUUH? The article misnamed it as XEM16E1 and Al explained the mistake.

  • Lance

    It started out as a XM-16E1 as the US well gave them amny during the Yom Kippor war in 73. But Id bet it was upgraded to a Israeli Menusar (Mekutz’rar) carbine.

  • Pike0331

    I used the forward assist on my M16A4 maybe half a dozen times, Once I know for sure it was a dented ammo issue. The other times were right after heavy use of blanks. (I don’t count the times I used it on blanks, which was a bit more frequent.)

  • William C

    Weren’t the XM16E1s plagued with all sorts of issues because Colt was still working the problems out of the manufacturing process? Did the Air Force’s M16s fare any better?

    • Fegelein

      Yes, they were. A friend from Singapore called it the “Civil Servant”, because you can’t fire it or make it work.

  • Simcha M.

    Kol HaZayin b’Nachal!!

    Steve Marcus, Machzor P”V (June 1986) Nachal Garin Pezer, Kibbuts Manara

  • Rodger Young

    Stoner never said he disagreed with the forward assist, just with the design of the one that was adopted. He had the version used on the AR10 already designed.

    • Actually, he did say that during the Ichord Subcommittee Hearings. On Pg. 4545 of the transcripts, you’ll find the following exchange:

      Mr. Ichord.
      Are you acquainted with the history of the requirement for the bolt closure devices; how it came about?

      Mr. Stoner.
      I wasn’t in on that, except I was told the Army insisted on it. There were reasons for it. One reason was that they felt that due to the fact that the M-1, the M-14 rifle, and the carbine had always had something for a soldier to push on; that maybe this would be a comforting feeling to him, or something. I could never quite get it through my mind that it was necessary. I didn’t really advise it. I thought that it was a mistake, myself. But I made my thoughts known to the people.

      Mr. Ichord.
      You recommended against it?

      Mr. Stoner.
      I recommended against it; and if they insisted on it, I recommended a system that could be easily taken off.

      Now, the system they have I don’t think detracts from the weapon any. I think this was a Colt design—I am not sure. As far as the function of the weapon is concerned, under normal conditions I don’t think it has any effect on it whatsoever.

      • Rodger Young

        “under normal conditions”

        • Ichord and company were trying to float a narrative that the forward assist was causing malfunctions.

          There are other examples of Stoner saying that he believed the forward assist was unnecessary.

          Mr. Bray.
          Do you believe it did any harm?

          Mr. Stoner.
          The closure device?

          Mr. Bray.

          Mr. Stoner.
          Well, in my opinion, in all the development—and I tested this weapon pretty much in India and Europe and all over the United States; I was on many testing programs—I never saw an instance where it would have done any good.

          • Here is a snippet from Stoner discussing the features of the Stoner 63A:

            Mr. Stoner.
            ….This also—we put a bolt assist mechanism on, more or less to satisfy the Army requirements if they were going to hold out for this thing.

            Mr. Long.
            You still don’t believe it is necessary?

            Mr. Stoner.
            Not really. But why fight city hall? We have this capability, where if you want to give the bolt an assist, if you want to push it forward, you can push down on this plunger and shove forward on it. Actually, you can engage it to the bolt this way, by shoving down and putting some forward pressure on it. But it is on there, it is technically an assist closure device, but I don’t think the thing will ever be used. However, it is there; it is available. It satisfies, you might say, a requirement. . .

          • Brian M

            WHAT A PIECE OF WORK!



          • No Soldier or Marine died for the lack of a forward assist. The US Army and USMC’s XM16E1 all had forward assists as soon as production began. Stoner didn’t include one in the AR-15’s original design because no one insisted on it at the time. When the Army eventually adopted the rifle and demanded a forward assist, Colt’s own engineers developed the version that is still part of the design today.

  • Zebra Dun

    The oldest M-16 I ever saw, shot and carried was issued to me in 1970 at Camp Geiger CLNC during ITR.
    It was so worn it was white, had a three prong flash suppressor I don’t recall the serial number but the Troop Handler’s said they were very old and hard used rifles.
    It had the tendency to jam if a magazine with more than 16 rds was loaded.
    I recall we all were issued these old rifles.

  • Core

    I’ve used the forward assist several time to seat a round. I’m a believer.