Improvised M16A1 Wooden Handguards in Myanmar

    Although not Karen, this could be a captured example in use by the Burmese Police Force in Yangon, circa 2006-2008 in front of Shwedagon Pagoda.

    Wooden handguards fitted for an M16/AR15-patterned rifle are nothing new in the United States among the boutique custom build community. Some folks prefer the older, more nostalgic look of the solid wood grips that used to be so common on firearms of all types prior to the switch to polymer within small arms of all types throughout the world.

    But inside Burma, the use of wooden handguards has been noted and is a very real operational requirement on the part of the personnel that actually use the rifles. Far beyond a need for the times of old is the need to have functioning handguards to replace the broken polymer handguards seen on M16-patterned rifles in use inside Burma. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the triangular handguards need to have the correct side that is broken unlike the round M16A2 handguards where either side is replaceable if broken.

    The largest users of the M16A1 within Burma are the Karen ethnic group through the KNLA and the various splinter border groups that exist within Burma. This is partly due to the ease and simplicity of acquiring surplus M16A1s that make their way from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, left over as foreign military aid during the Vietnam War.

    Run by the Burmese Tatmadaw, this is a Border Guard Force fighter with a CAR-15 carbine-patterned rifle with wooden handguards affixed. Image from-

    This picture was taken in 1998 of a Karen splinter group. Note the wooden handguards on what appears to be a Norinco CQ-A Carbine at far right. Image from-


    Taken in 2000, these handguards have been painted green over the brown wood. Note the M16A1 pistol grip. Image from-

    A Karen platoon posing for a photograph. Note the improvised wooden furniture on the M79 grenade launcher, indicative of improvised production.

    Although not Karen, this could be a captured example in use by the Burmese Police Force in Yangon, circa 2006-2008 in front of Shwedagon Pagoda.

    Another image, same sentry.

    Less in use than what the Karen have when it comes to M16s, are the Shan State Army (now North and South). The SSA troops have a differently designed wooden handguard, one that almost resembles a Norinco CQ rifle with the round finger grooves centered on the handguard. So far we have at least 3 different photographs of the design from varying time periods, indicating at least limited production.

    Image from-

    TFB Contributor Image

    Image from-


    Image from-

    Zooming in on the above image from Shan State we see what appears to be a wooden handguard on an M16A1. To the right is a BA-94, a variant of the Burmese license-produced Israeli Uzi.


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]