It seems like yesterday for many Vietnam veterans. The reality is the controversy generated by the replacement of the U.S. M14 with the “revolutionary M-16” is now nearly 50 years in the past. When troops were embroiled in the jungles of Vietnam, the new, lightweight weapon with a light 5.56 round had heavy shoes to fill against the 7.62 of the M14. There were great concerns about going against the ubiquitous AK-47, which used the 7.62.
Time and faithful service have won the day, however. Today, millions of American and NATO soldiers have known nothing but the M16, and it has faced enemy soldiers using the AK-47 in numerous engagements. In fact, the trust gained by the M16 is behind the worldwide acceptance of the AR-15, the civilian version of the automatic-capable M16.
The AK-47 remains the most widely used modern firearm every produced, with an estimated 100 million still in use, compared to approximately 8 million AR-15 and its variants. After its experiences in WWII, the Russian/Soviet military wanted a reliable weapon that could be easily manufactured in small workshops. The M16 is now considered the second most popular military rife, and the AR-15 one of the most popular civilian versions of any military weapon.
These facts harken back to the early controversy over which of the two weapons is best? Somewhat like beauty, that answer is in the eye of the beholder, or the shooter. Rebel groups have long preferred the rugged nature of the AK-47 and its relatively cheap cost, around $300. On the other hand, the AR-15 has a maximum effective range roughly 50 percent greater than its rival, and can fire about a third more rounds per minute on auto (600 versus 700-950).
If you pick up a stock AR-15 from a supplier such as http://grabagun.com/firearms/ar-15-ar10-and-other-ar.html, you’ll find a weapon 25 to 30 percent more accurate than the stock AK-47. Beyond that initial distinction, you’ll find a world of difference in the ability to customize the AR-15 as compared to the more simplistic AK-47. In fact, the military use of the M16 version has created an entire weapons system with everything from specialty scopes to custom barrels to multiple breakdown models.
Today, the AK-47 is considered to be the assault weapon of choice of most forces the U.S. faces as potential enemies in a shooting war, with the Ar-15 and its variants the primary weapon of the West and NATO.