M16 & AK47/Galil

A common debate in the small arms world is the M16 Vs. AK47 - which one is the better assault rifle. As one of the few western armies in the world that have used both an AK47 variant (Galil) and the M16 on a large scale, the IDF is often mentioned as a real life example.

The pro M16 claim is that the IDF usage of the M16 is a clear evidence of the weapon's quality, while the pro AK47 claim that the reason why the IDF switched from IMI Galil to the M16 is since it received them for free from the U.S.

The truth is that the M16 is by far the superior weapon. It's lighter, more accurate, more versatile, and with proper maintenance it is very reliable. Indeed, it might be less sand proof then the Galil/AK47 series. However, all you need is to clean it once a day and it will work properly. Since modern armies clean their small arms on a daily basis even during combat deployment this is a non-issue.

In fact, most of the myth regarding the M16 unreliability date back to the Vietnam War when the M16 was first issued. The 5.56 mm ammunition used at the time was based on a low quality sticky gunpowder that caused massive buildup of dirt in the M16 mechanism and eventually to jamming problems. When the ammunition was replaced with a proper one, the misfire problems disappeared as well.

One the other hand, the IMI Galil is heavy, inaccurate and it is difficult to attach optics and other accessories to it without special adapters. Many people also don't like the Galil/AK safety mechanism but that's a personnel preference issue. The M16 design, however, is very user friendly and allow numerous modifications to be made such as interchangeability between the different M16 families. The large number of M16 variants used by the IDF for decades of continuous combat deployment is a clear evidence of that.

Thus, the reason for the IDF usage of the M16 over the Galil isn't the cost. It's the pure quality of the M16 over the Galil. Most of IDF troops dislike the Galil and will prefer a CAR15/M4 over it.

Those who are using the cost factor are simply unfamiliar with the IDF assault rifles history. Short review - up until the mid 1970's the IDF standard issue assault rifle was the FN FAL. At that time most of the Israeli elite units were using the AK47, which was considered as better then the FAL.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War the U.S. made a massive airlift to Israel containing large numbers of brand new M16A1 and CAR15. However, shortly after the war ended the IDF had adopted the IMI Galil as its new standard issue assault rifle so most of the M16 remained in storage. The Galil wasn't a big success to say the least. Most of the IDF elite units weren't impressed with the new weapon and remained with the AK47.

In the late 1970's few SF units tried out the CAR15 and were tremendously impressed. A decade later, by the late 1980's, almost all elite units were already armed with CAR15, which was gradually replacing the IMI Galil SAR and the AK47. Note that this was years before the IDF had officially adopted the M16 in the early 1990's. The IDF SF units that adopted the CAR15 didn't had any cost issue at mind. They could have used either the M16 or the Galil. It made no matter budget wise, since both weapons were already available in masses. The decision was purely quality based and no one told the units which weapon to use. More clearly - in some IDF elite units the Galil was simply never used and they always preferred the CAR15 over it.

Following the influence of the SF units, in the early 1990's the IDF had officially adopted the M16 family as its new standard issue assault rifle for all infantry oriented units, including both SF and conventional units. Today, the IMI Galil is mainly used by auxiliary and rear line units.

Lets again review the situation in the early 1990's. The IDF had large sums of Galil variants it procured over the years, and it also had large sums of M16 it received in the 1973 war as well as via U.S. Army surpluses shipments over the years. Both weapons were available in masses and there wasn't any current or near future need to procure either weapon. The IDF also had thousands of AK47 that were captured over the years. So the IDF could use the AK47 free of charge over M16 or Galil.

Eventually, the IDF chose the M16, so again cost wasn't really an issue. Further more, even if there was such a cost factor, then the IDF could have simply supply all rear line troops with the cheaper M16 and issue the more expensive Galil to the front line troops. The fact that the exact opposite was done speaks for itself.

Moreover, some times the cost is less of an issue. The IDF often buy expensive Israeli weapons. For example, the Israeli Police bought the Jericho 941 handguns, while the IDF managed to get the better Sig Sauer 228/226. The AIL Sufa is yet another example. The fact that despite the domestic pressure the M16 was chosen over the Galil is yet another evident of its superiority.

Let's review the situation today. The IDF no longer receives M16 for free. Instead, Israel receives from the U.S. few billion dollars per year of FMS. However, the catch is that most of this money must be spent in Dollars back in the U.S. The M4 series is indeed cheaper then the Galil or even the new Tavor series. In order to buy gear and weapons using the U.S. FMS the item must be at least 50% made in the U.S. This is why the IMI is currently looking for ways to manufacture the Tavor in the U.S. - so that the IDF could buy the Tavor using FMS.

To summarize, the IDF chose the M16 over the AK47/Gail because the M16 is the better assault rifle in all parameters that matter. As for reliability, the M16 is reliable enough. As for cost it's a non issue. Modern small are relatively cheap. In fact, for modern armies who buy large sums, most optical sights cost much more then assault rifles per unit.

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