M16A5: The Rifle That Never Was (But Should Have Been)

December 1, 2023  
Categories: Guns

Let’s be really clear. The M16A5 was never a real thing. It’s a bit of a meme of an idea the Marine Corps considered for about five minutes. The United States Marine Corps loves their rifle. Yes, the M4 is a rifle, but it’s better described as a carbine. A rifle is a big full-length weapon like the M16A4. VLTOR released an M16A5 concept that disappeared after a single showing at SHOT Show. The term M16A5 was never a real thing but is often used these days to describe the combination of a 20-inch barrel with an M4 style collapsing stock.

The Beginnings of the M16A5

The Marine Corps and VLTOR didn’t create this idea. Our friends up north in the foreign land of Canada have done just that with the C7A2 rifle. They took the four-position collapsible stock from their M4 variant, the C8, and slapped it on the C7A1 to make it the C7A2. However, both the Army and Marine Corps experimented with the idea. The M16A2, A3, and A4 stocks were known to be absurdly long.

M16A5 build

The M16A5 is still a long boi, just a little less long.

It was the Marine Corp’s desire to have a target rifle double as a service rifle and was something they insisted on with the M16A2, which just carried forward. You have to be my size to shoulder an m16A4 with an armor vest on and feel comfortable. It’s a huge gun that many a soldier and Marine couldn’t control to its fullest because of that stupid long stock. The Marine Corps eventually allowed unit armorers to add M4 style stocks to M16A4s, but I doubt many ever did.

I owned my own very awesome Aero Precision M16A4 clonish rifle. It’s not a true clone, but without an 80% lower, an 80% lower jig, and an engraving machine this is as close as I can get. I’ve since added an M-LOK handguard to make it more modular and easier to handle. However, I then got curious about tossing a collapsing stock on the weapon. I asked around, read some articles, and then decided, hell, let’s give it a try.

But a M16A5?

Well, I love the rifle-length AR-15. It’s a smooth shooter that can be quite accurate and very capable. The 5.56 NATO round is made for the 20-inch barrel, and when fired from one, the round reaches its peak velocity and range. If you’ve never shot an AR with a 20-inch barrel length, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

It’s superbly smooth. Recoil is reduced, concussion and muzzle flash is a mere shrug, and muzzle rise is very low. The rifle-length AR 15 rules. However, adjustability and modularity kind of rules, right?

Adjust it!

Why stick with a fixed stock when collapsible is an option? This concept proved popular in Canada, and the United States military experimented with it broadly until they finally decided the M4 was good enough.

I saw the project as both an experiment and a desire to make the rifle length AR 15 a little bit better. I’m a big guy, so an extra 4-inches of barrel doesn’t kick my butt at the range, and I enjoy shooting the larger rifle more than my carbines. I also like adjusting the stock to make the weapon easier to use.


Palmetto State Armory Jakl banner


The Build

As mentioned, I already had the M16A4 style upper. I split it from the standard fixed stock lower. I acquired a BCM lower with the BCM collapsing stock for a song because it was a ‘blem’ model. I checked around on buffer weights and buffer springs.

The Canadians utilized a standard H2 buffer, which was already in the lower when I received it. The H2 is likely a little light for the rifle-length gas system. However, once the two were combined, I found the weapon to be reliable. I noticed off the bat the gun was much more comfortable.

Short stock + long barrel = a very capable and comfortable weapon.

The ability to take the stock down a few notches makes it much more comfortable and ergonomic. I can shrink the stock a hair and get a better grip near the end of the barrel to better control the weapon. I thought the ‘M16A5’ would feel less balanced overall. I was happily wrong. The balance shifts a bit, but the rifle feels very easy to control and fits nicely into the shoulder.

I had no need to short stock the gun for use with difficult positions or when shooting behind cover. This would’ve been a helluva lot easier to use the ACOG with due to its uber short eye relief. No need to ‘nose to charging handle’ the damn thing.

At The Range

I love the rifle-length AR-15 because it’s a smooth shooting gun. Part of the reason I wanted an M16A5 was to maintain the smooth shooting nature of the gun with a collapsing stock. At the first shot, I realized I had lost a little bit of that smoothness.

The M16A5 proved superior to a carbine in terms of less recoil and a smoother shooting experience, but it wasn’t as smooth as my rifle was with the fixed stock and rifle buffer. This led me to consider my other buffer options. VLTOR makes a kit designed specifically for this idea, but it adds about a hundred bucks to the build.

The velocity and comfort provided by the long barrel make this a great shooting gun. There are those who complain about the lack of a folding stock, but…*shrug*.

I also saw that the Army made an H6 buffer years ago for the same idea. A company called Damage Industries makes a civilian version of the H6 buffer, but it was sold out. Luckily, I have friends who like the weird things I like, and I was able to borrow an H6 buffer.

With the H6 buffer in place, I was in love. The M16A5 did exactly what I wanted it to. The gun handled superbly smoothly and delivered a fantastic recoil impulse paired with that low recoil and reliability I love about the rifle length AR. Yet, I didn’t feel stretched out. My arthritic shoulders didn’t feel stretched out, and I felt like I could better control the rifle.

Gawddang this thing is a smooth shooter.

Rifles Rule

People get wrapped around the axle with close-quarters use and rifles, for home defense, that makes tons of sense. For a general-purpose rifle, longer can be better. However, when it becomes less ergonomic, it starts to suck. The M16A5 fixes all those problems and creates a fantastic general-purpose rifle.

The M16A5 is most certainly a gun that bangs.

(P.S. Damage Industries, please produce more H6 buffers before my friend wants his back.)


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Travis Pike

Travis Pike

About the Author


  1. s kassa

    So let me get this straight;
    You totally dismissed the Vltor A5 option because it was a whole $100? And then decided to go with an unavailable part from a marginally in-business company?
    And how does that build/review help your readers who want to try the concept?


  2. Tennessee Budd

    Well, damn. I wanted to play with the 20″ barrel, and built mine with an M4gery collapsible stock. I had no idea it was considered odd.

  3. Bill

    And to think I was just looking at .223 Wilde 20′ uppers! Now I’m going to have to get one!

  4. Chuck Cochran

    Doggone it Travis, now I’m going to have to build one too. Just when the marriage counseling was over 🤣🤣🤣

  5. L

    The Marines have widely circulated the M-16A4 with collapsible stock at recruit training depots, OCS and TBS for small frames Marines.


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