Earlier this week, we blogged about an AR-15 that had seen half a century of service; a weapon originally made by General Motors between January of 1969 and the end of 1971.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.