By Melvin Johnson
The M16 rifle has been in U.S. military service for nearly five decades. Some features such as barrel length, calibers, sighting options, and choice of hand guards may have evolved over the years but the basic components and operating system designed by Eugene Stoner remains unchanged. With the M16’s continued use into the 21st Century, much has been written about preventive maintenance, care and cleaning of this rifle in recent times. With the present use of the M4 Carbine, it is easy to overlook the lessons of the past . . .
I don’t normally review books–there are those who doubt I can actually read–but I do come across a gem every once in awhile. One recent find is the M16A1 Rifle, Operation and Preventive Maintenance published by Skyhorse Publishing. This little book is a reproduction of the M16 comic book made famous during the Vietnam War. The original comic book is dated July 1st 1969 and was illustrated by Will Eisner. This reproduction is more than just a copy of the old military manual. It is as much an instructional aid as it is a tribute to Mr Eisner, who died in 2005. This book contains a short tribute to Will Eisner and his professional accomplishments followed by an authentic reproduction of the military comic. The book is then finished with a very brief history of the M16 rifle in both military and civilian service.
Unlike the original, the book is hardbound but the full color format and size are true to the paperback original. The book is nicely illustrated and is more than just a comic book. Between the illustrations is full text on the proper care and maintenance of your M16. As an example, the idea of running the M16 generously lubricated or “wet” might be a recent idea in some schools but the practice goes back to the Vietnam War. Also included are detailed disassembly and parts inspection information as well as care and maintenance of magazines.
Being written and originally published in a different era, some of the illustrations found throughout might seem a bit bigoted in our modern inclusive society. The book is printed in China and I can’t help but wonder what the folks in the overseas publishing house thought when they were working on the book’s layout.
The book retails for $12.95 and is available online from the printer. If you’re a collector of militaria, a U.S. history buff or comic book collector you’ll enjoy this book. Same goes if you’re a shooter, instructor or armorer of the M16. Something old is new again!