Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Mystery of M16A3

The Love, the Hate, the M16A3

 I know, I know, I have same feeling whenever seeing this in game too.

"What a scrub!"

 The M16A3 became so infamous in BF3 after USAS-12 and FAMAS got nerfed. But it's indeed an amazing gun that handles almost every situation. It's fast, accurate, and easy to use, to a degree that even Russian assaults spam it too.

 But sadly there are not much love for the A4 variant, as in shooter games full auto is usually more favored than burst fire. Maybe that's why DICE made A3 the default rifle for US assault.

The real M16A3

 In the early 90s, Colt, the manufacturer of M16, came up with a full auto version of M16A2, officially named M16A2E3. After testing in Navy Seals operations, it was then assigned to Navy Seabee (CB, Construction Battalion), however marine corps and army never issued M16A2E3.

 Its name was never publicly announced and only mentioned in combat handbooks. Thus some soldiers would mistake it as a M16A2 modified to full auto, which is technically true. 
Excerpt from Seabee Combat Handbook, Vol.1

Navy sailors practicing on M16A2E3 (March 6, 2012), from #PACOM@flikcr

So the M16A3 in BF3 is M16A2E3 actually?

 Not quite if we compare the M16A3 from BF3 and M16A2E3:

 The first thing to notice is the upper receiver. The BF3's A3 has a flat top with rail ready for scopes, or a removable handle stock if you prefer iron sight, while A2E3 has a fixed handle identical to the one on M16A2.

 Next thing is the handguard. The BF3's A3 features a KAC M5 Rail Attachment System, known as tactical rail in game, which only came with later M16A4 models, while A2E3 has the classic ribbed handguard from M16A2.

 The only thing they share is the lower receiver, which is identical to M16 and M16A1, hence the capability of full auto fire, unlike M16A2's 3 round burst.

Colt's M16A3 - RO 901

 Beside the M16A2E3, there was at the same time another project from Colt aimed to upgrade M16, called M16A2E4, which the upper receiver was swapped out with Picatinny rail (flat top) to provide better platform for advanced optics. It was expected by the company to be officially M16A3.

 But in the end the military chose M4 carbine over it as the new standard issue rifle, so the project needed to go foreign for sales. Colt then made it into two models - one full auto, called RO 901, and a burst version called RO905, and then began to export them to countries like Israel. The RO 901 was further given the name they wished it could be but failed to - M16A3.

RO 901, with removable head stock

 Later in Iraq and Afghanistan War, the military began to realize that M4 wasn't capable enough due to its short effective range. The long abandoned M16A2E4, then came into consideration again. After a long debate, marines agreed to replace most of its M4 with M16A2E4, which had already been further upgraded with additional KAC M5 rail and officially named M16A4. 

 The RO 901 then later got recategorized under M16A4 family as its full auto version for foreign market. Many believe Colt did this to prevent confusions from M16A2E3.

Model # on Colt's site, the RO945 is M16A4

FN's M16A3

 Although Colt came out with the idea of M16A2E3, FN Herstal, the famous Belgian manufacturer, won some of the contracts of production, too. So when a Navy got his new M16, it could be made by either Colt or FN. Beside quality, the main difference between products from the two factories is the rollmark.

 On Colt's M16A2E3, it would be printed "M16A2E3":

M16A2E3 by Colt, excerpted from Black Rifle II: M16 into the 21st Century

 The FN's M16A2E3 on other hand, would have simply "M16A3". which further implies that M16A2E3 was made to be M16A3:
M16A2E3 by FN, from

So many A3 out there

 There are in total 3 M16A3s that have been rumored for years. One is the real M16A2E3 used by navy, sometimes called M16A3 if made by FN, another is RO 901 from Colt which is actually part of M16A2E4 family, and the other is the imaginary A3 that appeared in many films and video games, which is, well, nonexistent.

The M16A3 in BF3

 The most possible reason why DICE created a fake A3 in BF3 could be that they were confused by Colt's RO 901 and mistook it as the real M16A3. They probably knew that marines don't use A3 though, just put it there because Russian have full auto rifle by default so they needed a equivalent.

So the best M16 goes to..

 Actually they are all fundamentally the same rifle. As a fairly matured design, M16 aren't that much different between generations.

 The only exception is M16A2, as it's vastly redesigned over orignal M16 & M16A1 to make it able to use a new type of round, and some ergonomic and safety issues were solved too. After that, most variants were just either swapping out upper or lower receivers and little parts, like M16A2E3 adopted lower receiver from M16/A1 for full auto; or adding rail systems for newer gadgets, like M16A4.

 But still, the best M16 goes to the imaginary M16A3 in BF3... 



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