Book Review: The M16A1 Rifle-Operation and Preventive Maintenance

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!


  1. avatar USMCVeteran says:

    I still have my M16A1 O and PM that I was issued in 1971.

  2. avatar BLAMMO says:

    Nice. I have a downloaded PDF of this that’s been floating around the interwebz for years. Quite campy and very entertaining.

  3. avatar DB says:

    Everyone carried break free. It was the only way you could keep your rifle from jamming. Doubly so if you were on a FTX and firing blanks.

  4. avatar jsallison says:

    Ahhh, Connie Rodd… I preferred using PL-S/PL-M instead of LSA. That stuff started to stank after a while. When BreakFree/CLP showed up it pretty much replaced all the lubricants and RBC, Our post vietnam noncoms used to chant ‘wetter is better’ in terms of small arms lube. Which is still my habit today.

  5. avatar Schlegel says:

    I knew that was going to be Eisner’s work as soon as I saw the top half of the pic. Eisner is one my art heroes. He always told very human stories, often from the perspective of the little guys and ordinary people. His use of cityscapes, architectural lettering, perspective, and Noir influenced style changed not only graphic storytelling, but movies as well.

  6. avatar Lance says:

    More than just M-4s in service now. We got a lot of M-16A2s still in wide use. navy has M-16A3s in use. USMC is all board with the M-16A4. Only the USAF Air Police has gone total M-4 now. I see this manual helping shooters out today with some basic maintenance facts. Id take a M-16A2 over a M-4 anytime any wear.

    1. avatar DB says:

      A2 over A4? Have to ask why. Its the same basic rifle/carbine. M-4 was needed so soldies could more easily get in and out of vehicles. The adjustable stock make it easier for many soldiers to shoot in close quarters especially while wearing body armor. The A4 also has a heavier barrel to help mitigate barrel warpage during heavy fire. The full auto of an A4 is meaningless to me as most people can’t hit a thing on full auto and the 3 rd burst on the A2 kills accurate firing.

  7. avatar Deft says:

    You compressed the image too much, now the top bubble starts “do me a favor, nger”

    Not so great…. : /

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      That’s just you. I can read “Do me a favor, tiger” and I’m reading on a 4.5″ screen.

  8. avatar Doc 03911 says:

    Online copy located here:

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Thanks for that. It was interesting to see it before I ordered my hard copy.

      1. avatar DB says:

        This “comic” was put out by the same office that still publishes “PM Magazine” and its still in comoc book format and still in every Maintenance shop in the Army.

  9. avatar Matt in FL says:

    This might make an entertaining coffee-table book.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Also, it’s available at Amazon, currently for $9.08 + shipping.

  10. avatar Taurus609 says:

    I found my copy from way back when awhile back, brought back many memories (good and bad).

  11. avatar AZRon says:


    A $500.00 rifle that is chambered in an inferior caliber and causes owners to spend $2000.00 for “tactical upgrades” because we’re all operators, aren’t we? .

    Rarely shot, it spends most of its time getting caressed, accessorized, upgraded, dreamed about, updated, bragged about, and frotting with Glocks.

    1. avatar DB says:

      And the same people who fawn over 50+ yr old AR and AKs curse the 100 yr old 1911.

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