USAF M16A2 Cobolt Trainer

The U.S. Air Force recently posted solicitation for 150 M4 training rifles coming from Olympic Arms, under the name of Cobolt. This is not at all to be confused with the high end competition AR company similarly named Cobalt. It turns out that the Air Force has been using these trainers for some time now, especially during Air Force basic training. Unlike standard blue trainers made out of plastic, the rifles are essentially a demilitarized version of the M16A2. This is accomplished by turning an actual M16A2 parts kit into a rifle, minus the trigger group and a filled barrel. From what I can gather, either the trigger group has been filled in with some substance, or it just can’t operate if attached to a functioning upper receiver at all. The Trainers can be ordered with either blue or black furniture and are available as a M16A2 or M4 configuration. Olympic Arms made the Trainers, but since the company has gone out of business, this might be an opportunity to provide a similar trainer to the DOD. The need for these don’t seem to be stopping, and they look ridiculously simple to manufacture from existing A2 parts kits.

This is from someone on M14forum.com who used one in the Service

They look, weigh, and feel just like a real M4, and are made by Olympic Arms, but the barrel has no chamber and the trigger assembly is a mock up. They were made to teach how to field strip an M4, and practicing other things, where a real weapon might not be appropriate or safe. Even up close, you’d never know it wasn’t real except for the “Cobalt Trainer” marking on the left side. In fact, many of the parts appear to be actual parts.

From an Air Force basic training video-

One would ask why bother with a half-way working Trainer when dummy “Rubber Duck” Trainers are cheaper and more plentiful. Or why not just issue a working rifle since those using it are after all members of the Armed Services. Having this sort of Trainer does bring some advantages. For example there really isn’t too much of a worry if a rifle gets lost or stolen. Whenever this happens to an actual weapon in the service, entire bases are shut down and every vehicle existing is searched. This happened at least twice while I was on active duty, once at Parris Island, and another time at Camp Lejeune. Having a Cobolt Trainer allows recruits to be acclimatized to an issued weapon system without damaging or severely breaking an actual rifle. Thinking back to my own Boot Camp, the amount of pure savagery our rifles issued to us throughout the 13 weeks was very intense. Being covered in mud, and kicked down stairs (A DI did this down five flights of stairs, to prove a point. What it was, I still don’t know) couldn’t have been beneficial in any way to rifle accuracy on the qualifying range.



Miles V

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the Middle East & North Africa, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, feel free to message me at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Not gonna lie… I really like the blue furniture.

    • Major Tom

      Agreed. Blue furniture is awesome.

    • Anonymoose

      If only they shot Simunitions…

      • UWOTM8

        I could have sworn I trained with blue, Sim-firing A2s during MOUT training….

        • Anonymoose

          You probably did, but these are apparently welded shut. 🙁

  • Ron

    When done properly simulated weapons in the place of live guns can be a good thing. But inevitably, as well as the similar practice of using un-loaded, it is never done properly and the users start to treat them in the fashion of “don’t worry it’s not a real/loaded gun.”

    • Isa Akhbar

      Yeah, I get real twitchy about sims…my kids never had toy guns, because I didn’t want them associating a weapon with playing around. When they were old enough, they got their own, real, guns along with the closely supervised training and practice they needed to be safe and proficient with them.

  • El Duderino

    Miles, when were you at Lejeune? We had a lockdown in ’95 or ’96 when an MP’s M9 went missing during a concert. There were thousands of civilians on base and boy were they pissed about not being able to go home. Marines just sucked it up.

    On another note, these “rifles” seem like a waste of time. Learn on the real thing. Rubber rifles are for the pool and bayonet training. Worried about theft? Don’t forget your weapon and keep it on your body. Doesn’t matter what branch you’re in…just do it.

    • int19h

      You can tell people what they should do all day long, but you still need to deal with the fact that they won’t actually do that – and plan accordingly.

  • JSmath

    Went through AF Basic and can confirm, those trainers were awesome.

    I can only speak for my flight, but we didn’t act like asshats with them, even after having had them for a while. No issues with people pointing them at things or people, or mistreating them. You kept it with you, and occassionally you broke it down and reassembled it. The trigger group/lower pocket was solid, iirc, so there was no point in dry firing at anything other than to look like a toolbag.

    We didn’t have our own fancy mats to reference, though, just a poster on a wall and a blurry picture on a page in our Basic Training Manual.

  • FYI :As far as I can determine, the Cobalt Trainers date back to a August 5, 2005 solicitation from the USAF’s Air Education and Training Command at Lackland AFB. Olympic Arms received an award of $2,583,750 on September 23, 2005. Initially, the USAF used the designation Cobalt Blue Trainers; however, Olympic Arms adopted the designation Cobalt Trainer. Judging from Olympic Arms’ trademark for Cobalt Trainer, the first deliveries were likely made December 22, 2005.

    A March 2008 solicitation give further details on the Cobalt Blue Trainer. Barrels are unchambered, and are drilled with a 0.212″ size bore. Bolt carriers cannot accept standard bolts. Lower receivers have no hammer, and a larger hole has been drilled so the standard hole can not be drilled for a hammer. The trigger hole is drilled out of place, making it impossible to convert the lower for live fire. The pockets for the other fire control components in the lower receiver are either absent, or have alternate dimensions.

  • Johanne Johanne

    Used one of these “smurf guns” in Basic. Taught me alot about the platform.

    • Otto

      I used an actual M16 in Basic Training. It taught me a lot more about the platform than some replica ever could: How to live with it, disassemble and reassemble it, how to clean it, how to shoot it, how to guard my post with it. Most of all, it taught me that my command viewed me as responsible enough to be entrusted with a fully automatic weapon.

  • Brad

    Waste of money but it is the Air Force…

  • FightFireJay

    Boss – “Johnson, how can we get rid of all these AR-15 blem parts at a profit?”

    Johnson – “Well, boss, I know a guy in USAF procurement…”

  • noob

    hmm. bayonet lug looks fully functional. has anyone made a big, blunt rubber training bayonet you can fix to it and cover with dye?

    You could do force on force bayonet training to build aggression – sort of like a pugil stick but with a pistol grip, realistic weighting and greater chance of injury.

    • FulMetlJakit

      Cold Steel M9 Trainer

  • Steve Truffer

    The FCG pocket is only milled for a trigger and spring. the top is solid with no way to add parts without involving power tools. On mint the “barrel” was just a profiled blank- Had a bore, but no chamber or rifling.

  • Nick L

    The ones they had at basic 2 years ago when I was there were Olympic arms A2 style M16 trainers exactly like pictured above. Contrary to your article, however the barrels are not solid. I remember cleaning the bore and chamber of our rifles that were these blue training rifles. I do not particularly remember if they were rifled, so I cannot tell as to whether or not they were actual barrels or just machined out bar stock. As for the lower, if memory serves, I believe the pocket for the trigger and other parts was not machined out, though the safety still clicked when rotated and put in each position. There was also a trigger in it that pivoted but obviously didn’t do anything. I could not figure out for the life of me how they got the triggers to work like that. Seemed dumb not to just give us a real firearm with all the work they put into making those ones inoperable.

    • Wm Reich

      Please share which branch you were in,

      • Nick L

        Sorry for failing to mention: USAF

  • gatorbait

    American soldiers in training not trusted with weapons? This will scare Isis right off the battlefield.

  • Wm Reich

    No No No No No No..

    Other than the Swim Tank or Close Combat Training where rifles spend the day in water or banging heads.. there really is no valid reason to issue fake rifles to boots or “Trainees:? (Swim Tank is really not such a problem)

    What an incredible step backwards in training and as several here mentioned especially in the constant reinforcement of safe firearms handling especially in initial training.

    The Air Force once again proves it really should be re-integrated into the Army .. Idiot Commanders who if the truth be told are uncomfortable at the thought of subordinates being armed.